Principal’s Correspondence Regarding GPS Scholarships
17 March 2022
Dear Parents, Carers and Friends of Villanova
If you read this morning’s Courier Mail you may have seen on page three an article detailing the Associated Independent Colleges (AIC) stance on sporting scholarships with reference to the GPS approach to our students and the offering of enticements and significant fee reductions to move to their schools.
It is our position that every parent has the right to choose the school that they believe will offer their child the best opportunity to develop, learn and establish a strong foundation in identity, spirit, and character. We explicitly state at enrolment our Augustinian identity and mission and our educational philosophy and intent. Subsequently, all College staff work each day, to the best of our ability, to deliver this to every child and in turn each family. At Villanova College, Sport, Music and The Arts have a key role in the embedding of that identity and culture. We believe that the character of our young men can be strongly influenced by the experiences and learning they have with friends and opponents in the competitive sports arena.
Sport and extracurricular activities are an integral element in the education process and often allows one to highlight the value of collaboration, practice, mentorship and problem solving in a very tangible and self-effacing way. In all teams at our College “winning” is the outcome of focused effort, repeated and spaced practice, having an explicit focus on areas of weakness or failure, analysis of skill and the subsequent focus and execution of those specific skills to their premium by all members of the team. This is done while developing knowledge of the game, it is strategy, and establishing and executing game plans. Often this approach will often result in a ‘win’ on the scoreboard. At other times we will be beaten, despite our best efforts, but in defeat we will not have lost. There are always lessons to be learned and improvements to be made. As a standard we leave our game gracious and dignified in our losses and with humility and gratitude in our victories. If we do not do this, that is when we have truly ‘lost’; we have lost our way!
As extension and reflection, can I ask that you make the application of these strategies to your own studies, work and/or business life? You focus your effort, you run models and repeat quality practice, you analyse successes and failures to look to constantly improve, you look at ways to develop a strong team and collaborate, you develop a depth of knowledge of your industry and its practices so you have clear strategies and plans for success and finally as a person and a business you act and behave in a way that is legal and ethical. The parallels between what we teach boys through Sport, Music and other activities are clear and it is why scoreboards, while important, aren’t so important that we should commodify and ‘trade’ in children so that we get the win! Yes, businesses recruit talent, and should, because their purpose and mission is vastly different to that of education. This is where schools and education differ to corporate business and ‘for profit’ organisations.
When dealing with adolescents, and guiding their learning, we should stay faithful to those families who chose our College of their freewill and because of its values and practices. Not because of the size of the gym or the amount of money placed inside athletic programs. Therefore, we do not, and will not, offer sporting scholarships. We want our families to enrol and attend our school because of the fullness of education that we offer and the uniqueness of the Villanova graduate not just because we have an excellent Basketball, Volleyball, AFL, Rugby, Music or Drama program. For nearly 75 years the College has supported families in need and will continue to do so but not on the basis of sport nor in the incentivising of enrolment to secure sporting talent.
In the end, while very supportive of the AIC schools position, I have a firm belief that our role is to create a school and community where, regardless of the enticement, a family would not want to leave even if another school has better facilities or makes the promise of a more secure pathway to professional sport. By constantly ‘looking over the fence’ at what others have, or how they behave, we can create an ‘excuse culture’ in our College and with our boys. I have heard it already where boys, and perhaps some parents and staff, wish to highlight all the reasons why we cannot win, or why a certain school or team is ‘better’. We will never achieve at our premium if we are always shaping excuses as to why we can only be second. Excellence is delivered through a mindset that says, “I can” not one that says “I can if”. Talent opens the door, effort and attitude secures success.
In conclusion, a student leaving our College delivers a new opportunity for another Villanova boy to be their best. Conversely, it takes away an opportunity for someone at their new school to fully develop their skills and talents. That is an issue for the GPS schools to manage and deal with according to their mission and ethics. Having worked in senior leadership in GPS schools I have seen the benefits of scholarships to young men, but equally have seen the detrimental effects and I can say rarely did I find these in balance. Of the eight Olympians and countless professional athletes I have had the privilege of teaching or mentoring over the last 30 years, very few were recipients of sporting scholarships.
We will be Villanova College, we will focus on the values of humility, interiority, community, and the restless search for truth. We will support families financially and otherwise as they need to be supported considering both their individual and the collective need. We will challenge boys and look to provide a robust environment intellectually, physically, and spiritually. We will succeed and fail but we will always look to improve, and in doing so dare I say ‘win’, on our terms, inside our values and with our community.
A link to the AIC Website is included should you wish to read the correspondence sent from the AIC to the GPS Headmasters: AIC to GPS March 14 2022 copy – AIC (aicsport.com.au).