Just so you don't think this blog is all about me, what follows is Paul's speech to the Cross-Country team, presented at the team dinner the other night. He has over 70 boys on the team, 50 of which were at the dinner, 36 of whom competed at the nationals in Ashburton last weekend. For the first time ever, Paul came home with quite a stash: socks, a Cars mug, a bottle of wine, a bag of fudge, six boxes of chocolates and most importantly, some very thoughtful cards. So I guess his speech went over pretty well! Here it is:
Cross Country Speech 2011, by Paul Dominikovich
The standard of speech making has been very high this year. Feeling some pressure here I decided for my address to seek inspiration from the classics. The Titans went to Gettysburg, but I couldn’t get any help from “four score and seven years ago”. Churchill rallied the troops well, but tonight hardly seemed like a night to “fight them on the beaches”. Baxter used “not many have died from running cross country” to good effect, but the moment for that quote had passed and he was probably lying anyway! But then my inspiration arrived and it was the merging of ideas from a familiar movie trilogy and the great Martin Luther King himself.
I have a dream. Well, actually, if it’s all the same with you, I had a dream. I had a dream that I found a DeLorean which could hit 88m/h and had 1.21 gigawatt of energy at its disposal and a fully functioning flux capacitor. And in my dream, I went back to the future to the year 2036 a mere 25 years from today. It was a strange dream though. Half the year 9s had married the same girl, Olivia I think. Dean Coplestone had gone rigid on a bridge hold and seemed stuck their forever and Justin Bishop was still trying to get young boys to take off their clothes!
But there were other visions too. Guys sitting around reminiscing about races won and lost, recollecting various anecdotes about trips and training and sharing their lives and families with their teammates of oh so many years previous. It was a great dream.
And there was me, off in the corner - looking remarkably trim and fit - with a stupid grin on my face feeling as proud as can be of men who had shared enough in their youth together that made it natural for them to return and pick up after years or decades apart.
So, is there any foundation to my dream? Do the experiences of today have enough substance to make possible the reunion of the future? They should. The older guys in the room will tell you and you young guys have worked it out that we have a team spirit and unity like no other. Life has taught me that long after the cups have been returned and the medals misplaced there is a bond and a brotherhood that goes deep with those whom we choose to share life with. The post-modern world we live in has got it wrong. Fragmented families, high pressure jobs, neighbours we don’t know and cyber friends are no substitute for an inclusive team of motivated, purposeful individuals who care for others as much as themselves and genuinely want the best for those around them and a few laughs along the way.
So what makes a team special? What sets one group apart from another? What have we done that many have failed to grasp? Well, leadership is important. I’m the figurehead and Chaz gets the cup, but there are numerous leaders in this room. Tidying the bus, training regularly, dressing well, considerate language and encouraging talk are a few of the many traits of leaders.
Culture and tradition must be established. Be it “go hard no excuses” or “Year 9s on the dishes” there are things that make us unique and not a carbon copy of other teams. Add to that unity. All are of equal value, dissent is not tolerated, cliques are avoided, jokes are respectful and discipline is present. And finally, we must also acknowledge our place. We aren’t the centre of the universe, many have gone before and others will surely follow. We are a just a small part of something much larger than ourselves.
So, as the DeLorean returns and the space-time continuum appears intact and the dream reveals itself for what it is, I look around the room with thankfulness for the time spent over many years with the men of the team, I gaze with optimism at the next tier of senior lads who offer just as much in the coming year or two and I choose hope for the youngsters here who still have their schooling before them. And finally, I have this one over-riding burden for us all. And that is that we are all better people from our time in this team. The lessons we have learnt, the times we have shared and the experiences gained have contributed to our character in such a way that we really are changed for the better. I say with all sincerity and with some emotion, that it is emphatically true in my case and I am forever thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the New Plymouth Boys’ High School cross country team.
So with that thought in mind, and as is our tradition, let’s stand, and raise our glasses in a toast, to the Boys’ High cross country team.