“Deeds’ are his argument – not words, claims, hopes, estates or privileges.” (Percy Cerutty)

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” (Confucius)

Recently I observed a full day of athletics at the APS finals (Associated Public Schools of Victoria) Lakeside Stadium, Albert Park. I wasn’t totally impartial nor did I have the luxury of purely spectating: I was there in my role as a Geelong Grammar coach (one of many). So I assisted, along with our other coaches, in making sure individuals and relay teams got to the start line warmed-up and on time, while watching as many races as I could that involved our athletes. There were some excellent performances and I enjoyed watching the younger generation battling it out on the track and field; but it also made me envious. Envious of them straining to the finish line, running scared, gasping for air, hands on knees, body full of lactic acid; The anticipation of the race, the joy of a good result and the post competition glow that includes the knowledge that there are many more competitions ahead, regardless of result.

APS athletics, Victoria
APS athletics, Victoria

I used to be in their shoes: nervous, anticipating, straining. And back then I was envious of the ex-athlete on the sidelines observing. They’d already gone through all the training, competing and associated nerves; they’d already gone through the blood, sweat and tears of it all, coming out the other end with their titles, medals, fast times and Australian singlets. Now they could just relax, kick-back and watch, while we, the athletes, smashed ourselves on the track. Of course, I was wrong.

I would guess that a fair percentage of those ex-athletes would have jumped into our shoes – the athlete’s shoes – in a heartbeat, more than willing to trade places. So, on that APS Saturday, I was the one wanting to trade positions; instead, I ordered another latte and walked over to the warm-up track, left Achilles feeling tender, with the old cliché about the grass being greener on the other side ringing in my head.

APS Albert Park
APS Albert Park

And maybe it is greener? The ‘doer’, the person participating, gets to the core of it all – sampling the sweetness of victory or the bitterness of defeat while everyone else gets a faded version of both. But maybe I’m being unfair? If it wasn’t for watching the Olympic Games on television when I was younger, I doubt if I would have been as inspired or motivated in trying to emulate the athletes on my screen.

And obviously most people, myself included, couldn’t hold that youthful intensity, vigour and motivation indefinitely – there is a time for everything, including a time for being a spectator and working off stage. As Confucius said:

Old age, believe me, is a good and pleasant thing. It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as spectator.”

Not that I’m old yet: Just older than I once was. And ultimately I enjoy both doing and not doing. It’s nice to have balance: Yin and Yang.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” (Theodore Roosevelt).

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