Principal’s Assembly 2 Oct 2018

Last time we met I mainly concentrated on ‘why’ working hard is so important.  You are in a race, not against your friends here, but a national race against motivated pupils across the country.  When you get your A Level results you will be measured against their performance.

Today (and next time) are more about ‘how’ to go about it.

We start with a short reading:

It was a bitter, depressing March morning, the bruised cloud so low that you felt it could hardly sink much lower without smothering the whole of Headingley like the thickest of pea-soup fogs.  It was damp, which made the grass soft and skiddy, and so cold that you’d have thought the hollow of winter was still with us.

In addition – we even got some sleety snow later on – only the slightly insane would have headed anywhere except indoors.  But I knew I needed to sharpen up my wicket-keeping, which meant I also needed Bruce French.  The work we had to do required space and fresh air.  That’s why we found ourselves in such miserably awful weather in front of the Western Terrace, the dark-blue rows of seats where, during a Test, it is almost obligatory to come in fancy dress.

There wasn’t a soul about.  If anyone glimpsed us, it was from behind glass.  Bruce and I had the run of the place to ourselves – at least once I’d sweet-talked Yorkshire’s groundsman Andy Fogarty into letting us train there.  After months of work, the new season almost on top of him, he wasn’t too enamoured by the prospect of the two of us tearing chunks out of his turf.  Like a good golfer, we promised to flatten any divots afterwards; he made sure we did, too.

He’s a hard taskmaster.  There’s no mucking about; Frenchy isn’t slow or shy about letting you know when something is wrong.  I needed his clear eye and his straight talking.

There is also a session with the slip cradle, the design of which hasn’t fundamentally changed since its invention before the last war.  French slung balls into it and I stood at close range.  He peppered me with catches that came very fast and very hard.

I’ve been through practices during which I’ve felt as though medieval torture would have been easier to handle.  Once, in India, the day was hot enough to melt metal.  If I made a mistake, I had to take off all my kit – gloves, inners, pads, box – and then put them all back on again, beginning from scratch.  I hated it.

Nothing nonetheless was more arduous than my day with Frenchy.  I got angry and frustrated with myself, with the drills, with everything.  I was catching balls on my left hip … my right hip … with a single hand … with both hands.   I was thinking about my natural foot movement … the dives I had to make … holding on to the ball as my elbow jarred against the grass.  The lonely sound of the ball against the cradle, off the board or from the bat and into my gloves echoed around the ground.  The other noise came from the strangled shouts I made whenever I dropped or couldn’t get near a catch.  At the end my palms throbbed, my fingers stung.  I was soaked to the skin too.

The events took place during a period of Jonathan Bairstow’s career when he’d been dropped from the England cricket team.

I’m sure you recognised some of the themes from previous assemblies:

  • practice like the Beatles in Hamburg
  • more practice = more confidence
  • success needs burning desire and someone to show you how.

Jonny has had some ups and downs this year, more of the downs of late. As a boy, Jonny experienced one of the worst things that childhood can bring. He has the perspective that tells him that life is not always straightforward. He certainly has the attitude to learning that will get him through his current loss of form.Next week I want to talk about the science behind the importance of practice.

Today I’d like to finish with a story.  It starts in 1968 in Seattle, in the far north-west of America, and it’s about a boy called William.

He’s a relatively normal 13 year old, easily distracted at his local comprehensive school.  His parents  are middle class and can afford  to send him to the local private school.

Every morning they have to wake him up and he looks terrible.  He’s not ill, he says he’s sleeping fine but he looks shattered every day.  What’s happening?

Well, his new school – and remember this is 1968 – is one of the first to get a computer – and William enjoys playing on it when it’s his turn.

The private school has also afforded some coding software and he enjoys playing with that too.

His new best friend is the son of a successful local businessman.  That business is one of the first in town to get a mainframe computer.  It is the size of this room but I suspect could process less data than your phone!

William and his best mate sneak out of their homes every night to go and experiment on the business mainframe.

William left school in 1972 after 4 years of non-stop trial and error.  Three years later he started a business with his friend and it did OK.  Of course, William is Bill and the company was Microsoft.

Apparently Bill Gates is now worth $95.6b.  Since 2009 he’s pledged to give half his wealth to charity – to save lives by eradicating polio and improving global healthcare.

Next week’s Assembly will focus on our school charity.

Final thoughts:

Life can be tough – accept that fact and move on.

Don’t expect perfection. Success comes from trial and error.

When you are successful, find a way of helping someone else up the ladder

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