Roger Moses has left Wellington College after 23 years as headmaster. A passionate advocate for sport at one of New Zealand’s leading boys schools, College Sport Media caught up with Roger for some reflections on his long tenure at the school
What’s the best sporting moment your saw at Wellington College?
That’s a really difficult question because there have been so many. It would be unfair to single one out, but I guess winning the coxed fours at Maadi Cup in 2001 was a standout. I have seen many outstanding rugby finals. In 2001 we won the Gillette Cup cricket and last year we won the Wellington basketball title for the first time in my tenure with a bucket in the final second.
Who are the best athletes you saw at Wellington College?
We’ve been lucky to have a number of outstanding athletes across several codes. James Franklin was a fourth former when I started as headmaster. He is one of the few cricketers in test history to have scored a century, taken five wickets in an innings and claimed a hat-trick.
We’ve had some tremendous rugby players. Lima Sopoaga is a tremendous young man and became an All Black. All four of his brothers captained the First XV.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona is the biggest man in the NRL and when he made the Kiwis last year I was lucky to spend two or three hours with him when the team was in Wellington.
In rowing George Bridgewater and Peter Taylor went to the Olympics and became World Champions. Leo Bertos and Tim Brown in football were All Whites and original Phoenix players.
There have been many more internationals, but just as important as the superstars are the hundreds of good boys who have enjoyed their school sport.
Who are the biggest disappointments, those who you thought would kick on but didn’t?
Unfortunately that’s all too common. I think there is so much pressure placed on many to perform in sport that it becomes the exclusion of everything else and eventually results in burnout and disillusionment.
How do you deal with sportsmen with big egos disinterested in school?
That’s a good question. I think many of our top sportsmen are very decent citizens. Their approach to life is becoming increasingly holistic due to professionalism.
However I believe it's our job as educators to provide balance. I’m reminded of The Great Gatsby, a book I used to teach when I was an English teacher. There is a character in the book named Tom Buchanan. He is a rather unpleasant guy, but he had it all. By the age of 21 he is described as having reached an acute limited excellence that everything afterward savours of anticlimax.
All too often we have seen the lives of retired sportsman turn to custard because of they have limited their excellence to one field.
What’s the biggest challenge running sport in a high school today as opposed to 20 years ago?
I think there’s a greater concentration of top sportsmen in fewer schools and that’s not necessarily a good thing for local competition. There are a number of athletes being lured into careers by agents. They are being promised a great deal, but those promises don’t always come to fruition.
There is research that suggests young men are better off playing more than one sport before they turn 18, but out of necessity to compete at the top level they find this increasingly difficult to do.
The level of expertise required to coach a leading First XV and First XI is far greater today than what it was 20 years ago. This presents challenges around coaching and resources.
What is your view on repeat sportsmen?
I’m mixed about this and genuinely so. It’s easy to be cynical and suggest boys are only returning to school to play sport and win a championship.
On the other hand keeping boys in school can open up real pathways both sporting and academic, which improve their lives. We’ve occasionally had repeats at Wellington College. In 2009, I think we had five or six in the First XV.
We must remember some boys are immigrants with little education in their background. If staying at school for another year can open up real pathways for those boys then I think there is a strong argument in defence of repeats.
Does the McEvedy Shield have a future? It’s been a source of pleasure and angst?
I think the McEvedy Shield brings out the best and worst of a boys school. The athletics is always fantastic. The boys train hard and compete hard which is fantastic. The McEvedy Shield is tribal which can have negative connotations, but at the same time it's great to see boys take pride in their schools.
Have boys become too mollycoddled?
If you come to the top field at Wellington College at lunch time there is all sorts of things going on, games of rugby, football, touch. I think we have to be careful not to deny boys a physical outlet for their restless energy. By the same token boys are much bigger these days and collisions so we have to be careful to avoid serious injury. Sometimes I used to visit the medical room at Wellington College after lunch. It was pretty interesting.
What’s the biggest personal difference you have made in sport as a headmaster?
I guess that’s for others to judge, but one thing I learnt from my old boss Sir John Graham was to take an active interest in sport. You can’t run a boys school without appreciating the positive impact sport can have on the lives of young men. John used to walk the sidelines every weekend supporting Auckland Grammar boys. I have put hours into supporting Wellington College boys, everything from 55c rugby to underwater hockey. I think it’s been a great way to connect with the boys. You can’t underestimate the impact of the boys knowing they have someone in their corner, even if I have barracked too loud at times.
What would you like to see change in high school sport?
I would like to see more youngsters involved in sport and if that means a diversification of codes then so be it. Sport is a great way to make friendships, build character and enhance personal development. We need to ensure sporting experiences are as rich for the elite as they are for the average competitor.
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