A Metaphor

The rowing teams of Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview were triumphant at the Head of the River Regatta event in March and Principal Dr Paul Hine highlighted the importance of gratitude.


March saw one of the finest sporting performances in Riverview’s illustrious 143-year history. Out at Penrith the schools and their communities gathered for the 130th regatta that culminated in the Head of the River: the holy grail of Rowing pursuits in New South Wales.

So competitive is the 1 VIII event that Saint Ignatius’ had only taken 1st Place on the podium twice in the last 50 years, but in a truly memorable race, the College took line honours with an emphatic win – three seconds ahead of the rest of the field. In addition to the success of the Premier Team, of the six Senior Teams, Riverview secured 1st Place in five events, and only missed the clean sweep by virtue of 0.7 of a second. For those who know how competitive the sport of Rowing is, to perform at this level is an exceptional achievement, particularly in context of the quality of the crews and the training regimens to which they all subscribe. Congratulations are extended to all – the rowers, the coaches, the managers, and the parents who give so generously and willingly to a sport that demands so much.

In many ways, what took place on the water in March and across many aspects of the summer co-curricular program is a metaphor for life. At the outset is aspiration – a willingness to aim high and to challenge oneself against the very best. It is complemented by a work ethic that must be maintained over intense and sustained periods. If it is not, then the performance and the culture of the team suffer. And it is the individual and collective energies of all where that indefinable sense of spirit and culture is generated, one which forms its own self-sustaining momentum as the challenges of competition are faced in the crucible of expectation and commitment.

The College students cheering on the triumphant rowing team. Photo by Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview.

Sport, like life, brings with it adversity. In the demanding realm of Rowing there is a complex web of tripwires that can impede performance on the day. Despite every effort to prevent it in advance, the sophistication of equipment and the fine tuning associated with it can lead to failure, often quite unexpectedly. In all sports, there are the vagaries and interventions of sickness and injury, which can take their toll and lead to disappointment for the individual and the crew. Training and skill development are integral to success so the endless hours of practice to maintain proficiency in the heat of competition is a challenge of its own. And perhaps above and beyond any of the technical elements, there is the psychology of success, which can be compromised by self-doubt and the pressure of competition on the big stage. The fact is, out on the river at Penrith, in front of over 10,000 spectators, there was nowhere to hide. It is a very visible and public demonstration of prowess, teamship, strength of mind and body; a coalescence of so much under the compress of a program that comes together on the day.

When success is achieved there is elation in victory, particularly when goal setting, self-sacrifice and discipline have combined to produce a much yearned for result. But victory celebrated proportionately and well entails humility. It recognises the commitment and the endeavour of all others who compete but, on the day, have not experienced the same success. It acknowledges that while there is much to celebrate, there is much to be grateful for: fine equipment, good coaches, and the support of so many others who feature in the outcome, including teammates, parents, supporters and the list goes on. Herein lies our own distinctive spirituality – gratitude. Without the assistance of so many in any code and sport, outcomes would be severely compromised. And one of the central elements of winning with grace is realising that while there is cause for deep satisfaction when it all comes together, with the passage of time it will become ephemeral. Life invariably moves forwards – in Rowing to a higher stage of competition – nationally or even internationally, where goals need to be reset and renewed commitment is required for higher order competition and the demands that will accompany them. And that too is like life: as one stage brings with it its own consuming challenges, a little further down the road much more lies in store to be pursued.

While success brings with it moments to savour, let us be mindful of the all-encompassing nature of sport and opportunities for personal growth. Let us be grateful for them. To the Rowing confraternity – Dan Noonan as Sports Program Coordinator, James O’Meara as Captain of Boats, the boys who have committed so strongly across the summer along with all of the support coaches, managers and crew – we offer a statement of heartfelt congratulations.

May the lessons of the river, the sporting field and the court be aligned with those of life, where adversity will appear and need to be navigated, ambition will sometimes fail to accord with outcome, and where gratitude for opportunity is recognised through the multiplicity of variables that can lead to triumph or disappointment.

By Dr Paul Hine, Principal of Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview.

This article was originally published in Edition 09/2023 of the ‘Viewpoint’ newsletter for Saint Ignatius’ College, Riverview.

Head of the River Regatta

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The Riverview students cheering on the rowing team. Photo by Angus McPherson

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