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FOBISSEA Speech from the head of Prep
Time: 2013-04-12    BY Peter Rizzardini   From: Harrow International School Beijing   Clicks: 1274
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You see before you a short, middle aged, balding man whose best sporting days I am sad to say are far behind him. So what you may ask am I doing here tonight standing in front of you making a speech about sport? The truth of the matter is that in many ways, events like the last 3 days are exactly for people like me, not the elite athlete, but the ordinary one.

The harsh reality of the world is, that despite all of our dreams and plans, most of us don’t end up being professional sportsmen or women. And for most people the chance to represent their school at a sporting event, either local or international, will be the highlight of their sporting career.

And even those of us who did, all too briefly get to taste what it is to be a professional athlete. We all end up the same, an older person, with the memories of our past achievements. So the last 3 days has really been about creating memories and trust me, those memories can last a lifetime.

I first got to travel away from home for a sporting tournament when I was 10. I was picked to represent my suburb in hockey and travelled by train to a rural town some 5 hours away.

I grew up above a corner shop in the inner city, crowded by terrace houses all side-by-side, we had no yard to play in and so we played in the streets.  My dad was an Italian refugee from WWII and for the last 80 years he has eaten the same thing for breakfast every day, a pot of milk warmed on the stove, into which he puts small pieces of stale bread. Growing up as a boy that’s what I thought breakfast was.

Well you can imagine my surprise when I arrived at my billet’s house in the rural country side, not only did they have a garden to play in, but they also ate something called a ‘full English breakfast.’

I don’t remember any of the matches we played in that weekend or whether we won or lost, but do remember that it was the first time I saw a front lawn covered in frost and learnt about what a cooked breakfast really was.

So even though these last few days have been filled with events like swimming, athletics, football and basketball it hasn’t only just been about sport. And I’m sure if you ask your children on the way home what the best part of FOBISSEA was, someone will say the food and some will say the snow.

At the age of 13 I’d switched to basketball and I got to play in the Combined Catholic Colleges Competition.  I still have one friend from that team that I meet up with every Christmas.

Last year, 40 years after the event, we were still reliving the memory of the 3 pointer that won us the grand final. Our memories of the event were almost identical, there were only seconds left on the clock and we were down by 2 points.

The ball was passed around the perimeter and just before the clock ran out, one of us shot a 3 pointer and we won that match.

There was only one difference in our memories and that was… who took the winning shot. I was convinced it was him and he was convinced it was me!

I still have that trophy with the blue and gold ribbon attached and the memory is still strong (even if we can’t agree on who took the winning shot).

The reason I have that memory is because of a man called David Gould. Mr Gould was my Geography teacher, but he was also my basketball coach. He gave up his time to train us and to take us to the tournament, I hope where ever he is, he still shares that memory too.

By the age of 17 I had switched codes again and was lucky enough to be drafted by one of the Sydney teams. As a schoolboy I was living the dream of being paid (a very modest amount I have to admit) to play football.

I remember sitting on the bench for most of my first season, but what I had learnt from my coaches will be with me forever. They taught me the importance of training and that how you played the game was just as important as winning or losing.

My aspirations of stardom were short lived, when my club switched to the new national league they didn’t renew my contract and my brief career was over.

By the time I’d reached university I was just like everyone else, ordinary again but I still look back on those days and treasure my memories.

For most of my adult life I’ve been a coach of football and basketball I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Olympians and stand on the sidelines talking tactics with Premier League footballers as I’ve coach their sons in matches.

I never got to be rich or famous like some of the sports people I’ve worked with, but if you google my name you can read about me as a coach taking a team of U/12 boys to the NSW Combined Catholic Colleges Basketball tournament and winning, the same tournament I played in when I was 13.

So coaches, please don’t discount the part you have had to play in this event, win or lose you have given a group of children the chance to create a memory, a memory that will live with them forever. And who knows, when they are in their 50’s maybe they’ll be sitting around at a friend’s house remembering you and thanking you for all your efforts.

Maybe they will be a famous sportsman or women, or maybe like me they end up a coach, helping to keep the tradition alive.

Thank you for making the effort to be here this week. We all know how time consuming it is. Not just to put together such an event, but to take part in it.

Thank you
P Rizzardini

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