Steve Jones – A Story of Resilience
At the Headmaster’s Assembly on Monday, 17 February, I had the opportunity to tell our students the story about Stephen Jones MBE a Welsh long-distance athlete who is a former world record holder in the marathon. In 2010, a video went viral featuring the Welshman's dramatic, tenacious finish to outrun the Tanzanian runner Gidamis Shahanga in the closing 80 metres of a 10000 metres race after being got caught with 110 metres remaining. Due to the vivid commentary the video is often featured in videos of "inspirational sports moments" or "remarkable comebacks".
In the race, Jones was leading from the start with 30 metres margins up until the last 400 metres, at which point the commentary noted "But they are closing. And of course, he (Jones) has got very little finishing speed". Then Shahanga closed in rapidly. With 200 metres remaining, Jones glimpsed back and saw Shahanga, with the commentary famously noted, "Jones' looking for trouble and the trouble is there". Shahanga caught Jones with 110 metres remaining, when the commentary noted "the African is going to steal the race in the last 80 metres", yet as soon the comment is made, Jones managed to comeback, accelerate and win the race with the time 27:55.2s.
I equated Steve Jone’s epic performance to one of our Core Values, that of Resilience. According to Wikipedia, “Resilience” is a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual's passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective. This perseverance of effort promotes the overcoming of obstacles or challenges that lie within a gritty individual's path to accomplishment and serves as a driving force in achievement realization. Commonly associated concepts within the field of psychology include "perseverance", "hardiness", "ambition", "need for achievement" and "conscientiousness".
According to our St Peter’s College handbook, Resilience refers to:
- Internal locus of control
- Show commitment despite adversity
- When I fail, I try and try again
- Persevere despite adversity
I was able to reflect on 3 sporting fixtures of the previous weekend where our students showed the grit, determination and resilience to succeed:
- At the St Peter’s College Annual Invitation Gala, our swimming team was behind by a fairly large points margin but fought back in the final relay to win the gala against two very strong opponents.
- Our basketball girls were playing against St Mary’s DSG in Pretoria and after being behind on the scoreline and struggling in the initial stages, they fought back to win comfortably in the end.
- I had the pleasure of watching our 1st team basketball match against St John’s College where they were completely outplayed in the first quarter and were down by 17 points. What I presumed was going to be a very long and taxing morning, turned out to be an exciting and evenly contested match. Our boys won the last three quarters and even though we didn’t manage to close down the points deficit, it was not about the points but the manner in which our team never stopped playing and gave a fantastic account of themselves.
Unfortunately, trends show us that modern parents, do not allow their children to build or develop resilience. Allowing children to develop Resilience, gives them the skills to overcome obstacles or challenges. Most parents try and “remove” the obstacle, rather than guide and support their children in the process of trying to overcome this perceived “obstacle”.
Our children need parents to parent, not counsellors, au pairs, uber drivers, tutors, and even in some extreme cases, lawyers. Let’s work together to develop a future generation who show Resilience and accountability for their actions.
However, it has been reassuring to witness our students showing the ineffable quality of Resilience, that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever as together they journey “Bravely Into the Future”.
“In Futurum Fortiter”