The headteacher column with Mark Ronan

Pocklington School headmaster Mark Ronan.
Pocklington School headmaster Mark Ronan.

We had an exciting end of term at Pocklington School, as not only did our Under-15 Rugby Union team reach the NatWest Schools Cup Bowl final, but a recent former student, Lewis Wilson, represented England Under-19s in an international game against France.

Two of our pupils, Georgia Rothwell and Evie Hirst, represented Humberside at the England Schools Cross Country Championships, and last weekend [April 7-9] another Old Pocklingtonian, Kyle Edmund, represented Great Britain in the Davis Cup.

Pocklington Under 15s score a try in the NatWest Schools Cup Bowl final.

Pocklington Under 15s score a try in the NatWest Schools Cup Bowl final.

These were huge achievements for the individuals concerned and a reflection, not only of their talent, but also their resilience and the massive amount of hard work they put in. Our U15 team’s achievement was particularly remarkable because last season, they won only two games.

But instead of starting this season resigned to suffering more of the same, they focused on team motivation and confidence-building, to help create an invincible team spirit.

They held more team meetings focusing on self-analysis and feedback, as our coaches encouraged each player to take responsibility for and control of their own performance, as well as to encourage team-mates whose self-belief was flagging.

Within weeks, the U15s’ match results reflected their new, more positive attitude, and the resurgence of confidence that joint endeavour often brings.

That same team spirit and drive is shared by Old Pocklingtonian (OP) Lewis Wilson, a former School 1st XV and Pocklington RUFC player who already has three caps for England U18s. He left the Upper Sixth last summer and is now on the books of Leeds-based Championship side Yorkshire Carnegie.

Lewis, a 19 year-old flanker, is currently on loan from Carnegie to League Two North team Wharfedale. Moving to a lower league side must have been quite a contrast after the thrill of being signed for Carnegie. But he’s shown his strength of character in accepting that getting first team experience is vital for his development, and focusing on improving his game. Lewis’s continued dedication and resulting great form was recognised by his inclusion in the England U19s team for the friendly against France earlier this month [April].

Adopting a positive mindset isn’t always easy, particularly when the weather’s grotty and you’re running on soggy ground. But Georgia Rothwell (Lower Sixth) and Evie Hirst (Fourth Year) dug deep into their inner resources to put in superb performances at the English Schools Cross Country Championships last month.

Both were at the lower ends of their age groups but refused to be daunted by the competition and put in fantastic personal performances.

Georgia, for example, finished 16th out of 300, out-performing her previous result of 40th in last year’s event. 

Another OP, British tennis No 3 Kyle Edmund, also shows that determination and inner resource which makes us proud. Kyle, 22, must have felt under pressure last weekend when Andy Murray’s injury left he and British No 2 Dan Evans carrying Britain’s hopes in the Davis Cup quarter-finals.

But when asked about it in an interview beforehand, he said: “I feel in a good place. It’s about gaining experience and moving forward.”

That, to me, is the secret of success in life, as well as on the sports field. First, like our Under 15s rugby team, you have to reach the right frame of mind. This involves recognising our own potential and being brave enough to scoop it up from under that bushel and run with it.

Second, whether we win or lose, every experience is part of a valuable learning curve which can only make us stronger as we progress.