The Value of Sport

Sarah Tisdall (12O)

‘The most important thing in life is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.’ – Pierre Baron de Coubertin.

In honour of the founder of the modern Olympics and all that he stood for, the Pierre de Coubertin Award was created, which is awarded annually to one student from each high school in Australia. The award aims to spread awareness of the Olympic values and increase participation in sport. This year, I was extremely lucky to receive this award. Over two days, all of the Pierre de Coubertin Award recipients from around Queensland attended a two day workshop which included leadership activities, a high ropes course, a presentation ceremony and a seminar with a panel of five inspiring Olympians – Sally Callie (BGGS Rowing Co-ordinator and triple Olympian), John Callie, Duncan Free, Natalie Cook and Leiston Pickett.

The workshop inspired me to think differently about sport. I realised that sport is so much more than a game you win or lose. It is so much more than building physical strength. In fact, I now realise that sport is about learning values and life lessons, which can be applied in our everyday lives for the greater good.

Of the many valuable lessons that I learnt at this workshop and through sport, three stand out to me: to focus on the process rather than the outcome, to embrace failure, and to give it everything you’ve got. All of these lessons can be learnt and developed in a safe environment in sport, ready to use every day.

I began to learn about focusing on the process rather than the outcome at the free throw line in basketball. Mr Fogarty taught me that it’s not so much about the ball going in the hoop, as it is about the process: balance, elbow, elevation, follow-through. If we focus on the process then the outcome will take care of itself, but even if it doesn’t, we can improve our shot far more by focusing on the process. You don’t win a rowing race by focusing on the finish line or the gold medal, you win by focusing on the process of each individual stroke, which Pierre de Coubertin refers to as the ‘fight’. If we can put everything into the ‘fight’ and have no regrets, I believe this is triumph in itself, and more important than the gold medal.

During the process, it is inevitable that you will fail at some point in time, which brings me to my second realisation, that failing is perhaps more beneficial than succeeding. I have failed many times. One example was last year at rowing, where our crew was determined to be the first ever BGGS First VIII+ to win the Head of the River. We trained incredibly hard for months in preparation, and were shattered when we placed third. Looking back, I realise that we should not have based our success on the end result, but rather, the grit, determination and mental strength that we learnt along the way, as well as the friendships and memories we made. Whilst I’m not saying that we should fail on purpose, if we put in 100% effort and still do not achieve our goals, we build more resilience and determination than if we had succeeded. Win or lose, I believe that taking part means that you have already beaten those who never even gave it a go.

Finally, I’ve learnt the importance of giving it everything I’ve got. John Callie (Olympic rower) said that if he could give one piece of advice it would be to give it ‘every iota’, meaning we can’t half-heartedly commit to something if we really want it—and we can’t just want something, we have to REALLY want it and be willing to make sacrifices. Our rowing coach Paul Pettigrew lives by the rule ‘near enough is not good enough’, and said that if we can lay our heads down on the pillow at night and know that we have no regrets then we should be happy. Yet again, this value learnt in sport can translate into every aspect of life—whether it be achieving a certain academic standard, taking a driving test, or making a toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwich—we should give it everything.

At Brisbane Girls Grammar School, we have so many opportunities to become involved in sport. I strongly encourage everyone to get involved, enjoy the process, embrace failure and give it everything. More importantly, we must use the lessons and values learnt from sport after school to contribute to something greater than ourselves.