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How Our Gryphons Have Embraced the “New Normal”

By Ali Doerksen and Duncan Brice, Co-directors, Pemberton Woods Athletics
The last fifteen months have been an extraordinary time in all of our lives.
As we take a pause from what we all knew as ‘normal’ and wait to resume a regular routine of interests and pursuits, we have found this break to be a time of considerable reflection. Part of this reflection has been considering some of the unexpected benefits of COVID-19. Research has shown that during the pandemic a number of positive, ‘hidden consequences’ have emerged:
 
  1. The joy of extra family time.
    Never before, in modern history, have so many parents spent so much time in one place with their children. The coronavirus lockdown has provided a unique opportunity to reconnect, create memories and evaluate priorities.
  2. A temporary retreat from hustle and bustle of the ‘real world.’
    Some of the constant pressure that people used to feel to do all of the things has been removed.
  3. Less driving for work commuters.
    Working from home has resulted in people getting more exercise and reduced pressure on the environment from excessive car use.
  4. Breathing cleaner air.
    Lockdowns around the world have slowed down environmental destruction—more factories are shut and fewer cars on the road, resulting in cleaner air.
  5. Getting to know our neighbours.
    The lockdown has brought people together and helped form new friendships.
  6. Spending more time in nature.
    Temporarily, our physical worlds were reduced to what we could see from our gardens, windows or on our daily walks. Exploring our neighbourhoods and parks became a welcome distraction, bringing genuine happiness in rediscovering our innate connection with nature.
 
From a school environment perspective, it has forced educators and students to open their minds and get creative in participating in and delivering academics, arts, service and athletics. First from an online platform, and then under the current mitigation strategies such as physical distancing, sanitizing and wayfinding. We are here tonight to celebrate those students and coaches that have creatively enabled us to continue with a strong athletics program here at GNS.
 
Our positive consequence has been that this year we found our overall participation numbers have been the highest ever. Students have participated for the sure joy of participating. Coaches have persevered despite the limitations. Together, we have ensured that all of our teams continued to train and compete this year.
 
As the Athletic Directors, we have been reminded of the importance school sport plays in the development of our school community. While many of our students get involved in school sports for inter-school competition, we have learned that most do it for the sheer love of the game. This year the Night of the Gryphon allows us to recognize our 2020/2021 GNS student athletes, who embody the character traits and work habits that lead towards positive leadership and impactful global citizenship.
 
 
As we conclude our athletics activities for the year, we are also honoured to recognize our Gryphon Award winners. This award is one of the most prestigious awards of the evening as it recognizes a small, elite group of athletes, who have participated on two or more teams in each of their years in the Senior School. These graduating athletes are a big reason why we, as a small school, are able to have as many competitive teams as we do, and we want to recognize them for their contributions to the GNS Athletics Program.
 
Gryphon Award Winners for 2020/2021:
  • Stefanie Chen: badminton, ultimate
  • Francesca Cumberbirch: badminton, field hockey, basketball, rugby
  • Madi Davits: soccer, basketball, volleyball, field hockey
  • Parker Dix: basketball, soccer, rugby
  • Ava Dryden: soccer, basketball, volleyball, swimming, field hockey
  • Ian Ferguson: soccer, basketball, rugby
  • Tara Golonka: basketball, sailing, volleyball, soccer, field hockey, badminton, track and field
  • Zoë Hammond: soccer, basketball, rugby, field hockey
  • Leo Huang: soccer, basketball, badminton, rugby
  • Gabby MacPherson: rowing, ultimate
  • Grace Poole: ultimate, cross country, sailing, badminton
  • Kelley Poole: sailing, ultimate, badminton
  • Finnbar Sweeney: basketball, rugby, soccer
  • Brooke Taylor: soccer, rugby, ultimate, climbing, field hockey, basketball, cross country
  • Sophie Van Cuylenborg: basketball, volleyball, track and field, field hockey, soccer
  • Corin Wallace: basketball, ultimate
  • Lily Watters: basketball, soccer, volleyball
  • Sarah Zarzour: basketball, volleyball, rugby, field hockey

We have some heartfelt words for our graduating students.
 
As we all know so well—and no one more than the grads of 2021 themselves—this was not a ‘normal’ year. For many of you, the goals that you set for your Grade 12 year needed to be revised and adjusted, requiring you to ‘pivot’ based on the limitations put upon you as a result of the pandemic. For many of you, at times, this proved hugely disappointing. At the same time, we know that many of you, due to your resilience to overcome adversity, found positives in the ‘new normal.’
 
To prepare for this evening, we thought about what significant change in perspective we had experienced; something that we considered a ‘positive’ from this past year. We determined that the more recent attention to mental well being and having a healthy mindset could be a lifelong benefit that we all take from this past year. As life across the entire planet grew increasingly more stressful, the global society was made more aware of the importance of monitoring one's mental health and we became more conscious of strategies to maintain a balanced healthy mindset. More and more advice was given to “live in the moment.”
 
Living in the present moment means no longer worrying about what happened in the past and not fearing what will happen in the future. It means enjoying what's happening now and living for today and acknowledging that the only important moment is the present moment. Staying in the present helps us live life more fully. Rather than worrying about the future or ruminating about the past, we should savour every moment. Researchers have found that people who live in the now are happier, more optimistic, and more satisfied with life overall.
 
There is nothing wrong with examining the past or looking toward the future. We need to do these things if we’re ever going to achieve our desires and goals. We just don’t need to LIVE IN the past or the future. Salvation is not in the future. Setting goals for ourselves and determining how to achieve them is critical to self-improvement and realizing our potential. But we need to be careful. We are never happier than when living in the present moment. If you’re focused on figuring out a plan for how to achieve your goals, then you are meaningfully engaging in the present moment. In other words, you’re being present even though you’re planning for the future. Fantasizing about the future simply distracts you from doing the work that will bring your desires and goals into reality.
 
It is possible to find happiness and satisfaction in the steps you take, on a daily basis, that move you toward your desires and goals. This is the key to finding fulfilment, happiness, and satisfaction in the present moment. Happiness is the joy you feel striving for your potential. It is not found in the achieving, but in that striving—in the steps. The more we focus on our destination, the more we push our happiness and satisfaction into the future. The more we focus on the process, the easier it is to see the joy and satisfaction in the work we are doing today because we understand that we are doing the work that will ultimately get us to where we want to go.
 
 
So this is our advice to you: remind yourself frequently that the present moment matters because it’s the only place where you can do the work that will allow you to achieve your goals. And remind yourself that, if you’re doing the work necessary to achieve your goals and if you’ve chosen your goals well, there’s literally nothing else in the world that you would rather be doing. Try not to fixate on future outcomes. Do your work, here and now. This will lead to your happiness.
 
In conclusion, as you leave GNS to pursue your future endeavours, here are the thing we would ask you to consider:
  • Focus on the now
  • Pay attention to the small things in the world around you
  • Smile
  • Give thanks
  • Perform random acts of kindness
  • And don’t worry—if you put in the work, everything will all work out.
Finally, we would like to thank all of our coaches and teacher sponsors and acknowledge all of the time and dedication that they give in helping to provide our students with great athletic experiences during this truly extraordinary year.
 
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