Connacht Review Jem Woolcock
I’ve been honoured to lead Connacht House this year in what has felt like a revitalisation of the men in green. It’s been a good year to be a Saint! Spurred by the disappointment of years prior, it would an understatement to say that, along with the house system as a whole, Connacht have kicked it up a gear.
I often find myself questioning why we put in so much effort and care so much about a competition which ultimately won’t hold life-altering consequences – win, lose or draw. And while there is no simple answer, often I come back to the experiences which we can create. The boys in Connacht know I relentlessly bang on about winning, and while I care about the result, the more important job I have is to bring out the best in each and every boy. How can I as their leader, and the House system in general, push them to a point where they are the best versions of themselves?
This might best be demonstrated at the inaugural Lip Sync battle. It’s not a surprise to say that standing in front of all your mates and being asked to make a fool of yourself doesn’t often appeal to a lot of boys. I always remember the first one we did three years ago and how uncomfortable I felt being asked to just do some simple dance moves, and for many boys this experience is shared. As such I made a concerted effort to create an environment this year that enabled boys to feel comfortable about performing and encouraged them to step out of their comfort zone.
Creating environments where boys feel valued and comfortable isn’t some grand utopian modern concept. Talking about the benefits is one thing, but actually coming up with a system and being the leader and nurturing such an environment, is another. And that is why the House system is so important for us as a College, because when done right, the benefits are immeasurable. When I saw boys who hardly have the self confidence to speak in class, dance like their life depends on it, made me feel very proud.
Another lesson which I’ve learnt over time is the power of authenticity. A simple phrase so often tossed about, ‘the ability to know yourself and communicate in a way that draws on personal experiences and beliefs’ is the first stepping stone to getting people to follow you. As a community of young boys and men, it isn’t a stretch to say that inauthenticity is easily spotted. I think it’s vital when growing and developing young boys that as leaders we display this. Too often in wider society we see our leaders bending their messages or beliefs often for the benefit of power, meaning it’s imperative that we as student leaders, teachers or role models for young men provide positive models of authentic leadership for them to expect later in life.
It’s been an honour to serve and lead Connacht this year. Watching the Year 11s grow and mature over the year, I’m proud to pass on the baton to the Class of 2022. All House leaders have strived to set an example of authentic leadership and healthy competition and I am confident the leaders of 2022 will take their Houses and the College to new heights.
Leinster 2021 has had one focus. Be the first house to go back-to-back. Buying into the culture that Leinster has to offer, has driven our house to a very comfortable spot in the house shield rankings. This culture has been cultivated by the captains and seniors before me. As house captain in 2021, it has been my job to not let the standards drop. Starting off as the smaller house in the competition and now being a firm contender, we feel we mustn’t let ourselves fall from such heights. It has been a combination of spirit, culture, grit, and fun that has carried along this journey. The seniors and I have been enjoying every second of leadership and the opportunities it’s provided. Leinster’s stand out moments for the year would be the preparation and performance of our lip-sync battle dance, the endless war cries at house events and the inter-homeroom competitions.
These moments have brought everyone closer together and have displayed the unity we have as a house. Although the role hasn’t come without its challenges. Organising house assembly’s and events have led to some pretty late nights and early mornings. In particular, our lip-sync battle choreography took me many hours to complete and at times I was doubtful we would have a complete performance. But like I said earlier, the practices with the house and final performance made it all worth it. As captain, I’ve learnt that I don’t have to lead the house alone. I’m privileged enough to have several captains and leaders in my house who have helped me steer the ship this year. I’m forever grateful my peers put me in this position and will never forget the amazing ride that’s been 2021.
This year, Munster House has focused on “rising to lift each other”, creating a sense of comradery, support and spirit in all events and aspects of House life, and can I say, we’ve done this brilliantly. Some highlights of this year’s House competition would definitely be the energy at the Athletics Gala and Lip Sync Challenge. The spirit and passion that all the Houses brought on these events were electric and an it was an amazing atmosphere. Although the result at times was not always what we wanted, we kept of fighting our way and rising to the challenge. It has been an absolute pleasure and privilege to lead Munster with my two co-captains, Sam Jones, and Tom Wilsford. We aligned closely with Mr Towner and the Year 12’s of Munster, asking the rest of our House, “Who’s in?” calling for everyone, from Years 4 to 12, to get actively involved and support in all House events. One memory I will cherish was starting the Athletics Gala, when the whole House started a ‘dance battle’ to music as we had so much energy built up in us. It actually got to the point where Mr Finn had to call for calm! These are moments that I will forever remember.
We Munster Men rise by lifting each other, and I thank each and every one of the boys for rising to great heights to carry each other through a sometimes challenging, but thoroughly rewarding year. I feel incredibly proud to be part of this Munster legacy and I will stand tall and proud as a Munster King. Again, while we haven’t always taken an emphatic victory, the spirit and brotherhood is what truly makes us winners at every event. I hope that continues, and I challenge next year’s Seniors to continue to build on the spirit made by the 2021 Munster men. Now, “Who’s in?”
This year, Ulster has had many great achievements from winning the Lip Sync battle to the incredible buy for our Friendship Groups with Legacy and Sense Rugby. The boys have given their all through the House Challenges, ultimately taking home all but one in the Senior school. The biggest highlight of the year has to be taking our third consecutive Lip Sync Battle victory. Along the way, the Captains of Ulster have realised the importance of showing up and being present. Regardless of physical ability, this year’s challenges have shown how having high participation rates rival a stronger House.
To build on this, the atmosphere that was created when Ulster men got around an event has been electric and nothing can beat that feeling as a Captain, seeing your House come together. Overall Ulster has had an extremely successful year and we wish our 2022 Ulster leaders the best of luck as they continue our legacy.