Framed values

Next up to bat with his Grovian Values Staff Blog is our Director of Sport, Roger Howard – on the importance of being Committed & Resilient.

Roger discusses why these Grovian Values are vital in school life and beyond – and how Grove Sport is the ideal medium through which our pupils can learn what being Committed & Resilient really means.

I am Grovian – I am Committed and Resilient

Roger Howard, Director of Sport

“ Man is a contradictory creature, throughout history we have assiduously sought security and comfort and ease and plenty, provided with these blessings we soon become restless and discontented. Deep in our nature is a yearning for the hard and perilous road, for the difficulties and dangers which test our skills and courage. Faced with such challenges our spirits rise, our heart beats faster and life takes on a new and fuller meaning. Confronted with the unknown, the difficult, the unattainable-on the seas, in the deserts, at the Poles, in cosmic space, our response is swift and joyous. Recognizing this it seems less strange that men and women climb mountains.” – Eric Shipton, Distinguished British mountaineer of the early-mid 20th century.

Slogans, strap lines, mottos, mission statements – whatever the current terminology – are all well and good, but the true measure of their worth is their effectiveness in practice and, in an education setting, how they are understood by all stakeholders, particularly pupils but also by parents and staff, where a grasp of how these values, qualities and characteristics manifests itself in school life, teenage years and relates to the world and life beyond school. I hold no original thought on these matters, just a synthesis of ideas gathered during these long undergraduate years at the “University of Life” (I have been “held back” on a number of occasion!). How many of us, as we age, have not wistfully thought ‘if only I had known then what I know now?’ I’m sure we would not wish to deny the exuberance, follies and experiences of youth and the rich learning experiences involved, but we would wish to offer mechanisms, knowledge and skills for students to assist and in some ways protect them from the increasingly complex challenges (and sometimes catastrophes) that face them in contemporary society.

As a school we can be justifiably proud of the broad range of opportunities available to pupils. Invariably, to get the most of these, commitment is required and this is directly linked to our motivation and aspirations. This is an essentially personal matter, but having drive or a sense of purpose is vital, regardless of the level one is seeking to achieve. Within Grove Sport our overall aim is to provide opportunity “From Participation to Performance”. An individual may seek recreational sport, opportunity to pursue a physical exercise and lifestyle away from intense competition, while others may aim for B or even C team sport and the experience of team spirit and to measure prowess more directly against others. Many of course seek the ‘A’ team and ‘First-team’ and/or representative pathways. 8 or 18, boy or girl, introvert or extrovert, all and everyone has their individual ‘Wants’. This is our motivation. Commitment is the process by how we ‘Get’ these ‘Wants’. Some choose a narrow path to suit preferences and aptitudes; particularly as they progress through school, many follow a broader church blending sport with culture and artistic expression and an even greater range of creativity. Whatever the activity, commitment is required and this involves sustained determination and dedication. The discipline involved includes sacrifice and compromise, alongside skills such as prioritisation and time management. This manifests itself in such challenges as pre-season training, after-school practice, high levels of sustained exertion, potential injury and the frustration of recovery, being late home then having to apply yourself to prep, getting up early for training or fixtures at weekends (sometimes even earlier than schooldays!). Commitment needs a support network and appreciation of your motivation from those around you, but above all else it involves a sense of understanding that single-minded application to a purpose is not the same as selfishness, a challenge in itself for both adults and the young, to consistently appreciate, apply and enjoy.

Resilience is a vital wingman to commitment in facing and responding to the challenges of life. The two work together with resilience being required to sustain challenge. However, resilience needs to be utilised in so many aspects of our life as it is that ‘bouncebackability’ or the ability and skill to rebuild and grow out of situations and circumstances of adversity. I cannot count the times I have used phrases such ‘man up’, ‘deal with it’, ‘move on’ in my dealings with pupils over the years. Such phrases would fall under the banner of ‘mental toughness’, the sort of approach required to survive in a ‘school of hard knocks’ environment but on their own arguably producing a hardened but more brittle individual, vulnerable to succumb to other challenges and shocks. What actually is required is a specific set of tools or skills that can be applied to enable us to respond and face the challenges and adversity that life inevitably confronts us with, on occasions relatively predictably, often unexpectedly and sometimes in extreme forms.

Through school and everyday life, especially within sport, we experience such challenges, which enable mental skills and strategies to be developed to cope with setbacks and circumstances we would not have wished for. Included in these skills are clarity of thinking (rationality) manifesting itself in personal awareness and proportionality, combined with the thought process which enables us to know when and how to seek support. In solitude it might be that emotion prevents our effective interpretation of a situation. Another not directly involved can help rationalise the effects of emotion which may have been complicating the issues and clouding judgement.

We train physically, we train as a team. We face difficult opponents and occasions with apprehension – but through collaboration share the triumph or defeat together. In what in reality are less formidable challenges, we learn and hone skills which can enable us to deal with life’s more serious causes of stress and anxiety. Awareness of the process involved is crucial. To train and develop these skills is a key aspect of this.

A long hard run or the distraction of a hard training session, the enjoyable fixture and pleasurable social occasions might enable some clarity of thought to rationalise a problem or might indicate that the scale of one’s disquiet makes you resolve to seek trusted guidance. The problem may remain and not be overcome, but having a strategy and support to deal with it, may be the only way for us to effectively ‘move on’. How many of us have been told by parents or grandparents in the past, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’? Such pragmatism and commonsense offers a sense of proportion and can detangle the web or massive boulders that can obscure and appear to block our way forward.

As a player we should be encouraged to reflect on the game and our performance. As a coach or teacher we also should reflect similarly, so too we should reflect on life and the events and situations that lead to stress and anxiety. This is a vital part of our tactics to deal with adversity. What form this reflection takes is an individual matter: contemplation, written blog or diary or even a private conversation – whatever suits and works, use it.

The stakeholders here are all important. Consciously or unconsciously we should all have a team around us with the knowledge and awareness, combined with the will, to know how to help or where the expertise is. Parent, family member, teacher, coach, friend we all share this responsibility for each other. There is a host of psychological knowledge and research supporting this – especially educational and sports psychology. There are answers too in literature. Aspects of Kipling’s ‘If”, though written in the early 20th century and undoubtedly influenced by his Victorian upbringing, offer particular relevance, while the US writer Maya Angelou, whose work ‘Still I Rise’ (1978), though written as a comment on civil rights discrimination, has an insightful and inspirational application to all aspects of life today. You can catch Serena Williams reciting this as part of her inspiration ahead of her 2015 Wimbledon triumph on YouTube.  Resilience may have been known by other names in the past but is more essential than ever in meeting the challenges of modern life both as a teenager or adult.

In closing and by means of some concluding simplification directly related to sport, always remember:

‘A setback is a setup for a comeback’, just don’t be reluctant to ask for help!


“ In the race to be better or best, do not miss the joy of being” -Anon