In Their Words: Ms Jo Duffy

Director of Sport, Ms Jo Duffy, reflects on the value of resilience in the face of adversity, defeat and disappointment—a skill she learned from participating in sport, and one that has proven useful in these unusual times.  

I have worked at Girls Grammar for more than two years, and one of the things I love about the School is its clear emphasis on service and giving back to BGGS and the broader community. Our girls have a strong sense of who they are and our proud to be part of the Girls Grammar sisterhood, and eager to support the activities, clubs and sporting teams they are a part of. They look out for one another and support their peers to embrace and overcome challenges in pursuit of their goals.

As a lover of sports, this resonates with me; there is a clear parallel between the spirit of our School community and the positive culture of team sports. The solidarity of our girls reminds me of the connectedness and community pride found in the sporting arena. Like many sporting clubs, Girls Grammar offers an inclusive space for people to unite around common objectives and to be proud of their shared purpose.

Being an only child, I enjoy time on my own and the challenge of individual pursuits, but I also revel in the opportunity to connect with others through sport. My first real team sport was rowing. The freedom of being out on the water with your crew mates was really enjoyable. At School, I won a state title in the Schoolgirls Cox Four and I represented Queensland a number of times while at university.

Aside from rowing, I participated in cross country and to this day, I still enjoy running; it’s an individual pursuit, but its benefits apply to team sports. I was drawn to these sports because they are mentally and physically challenging—I have always liked to push myself. I’ve run a few half marathons and in 2016 I completed my first full marathon at the Gold Coast—it’s probably the hardest thing I’ve physically done. Athletes often talk about ‘hitting the wall’ and I guess I did as I eased to a walk to collect some water at the final drinks stop. It was really tough for me to start running again. I had to overcome my mind’s demons and my body’s physical exhaustion—the blisters were well-developed and my glycogen stores were depleting. I mustered all of my internal fortitude to cross the finish line that day.

I’m also quite a competitive person, so the disappointment of missing my 42.2km goal race time by just a few minutes was very frustrating, despite the significance of my endurance achievement. In some ways though, I had triumphed; I bounced back after hitting the wall and had won, by putting one foot in front of the other. I think this is one of the most important lessons you can learn from participating in sport.

You begin to understand that sometimes things don’t always go to plan and you have to deal with those disappointments—you might not have agreed with the referee’s call, you weren’t selected in the A-team or you didn’t achieve the personal best you had been training for. Sport is a natural arena for disappointment and it’s important our girls learn how to negotiate the variable highs and lows of team performance, and practise the skills of losing with humility and trying again, emerging with confidence and enthusiasm to give their best at every opportunity.

The past couple of months have certainly reiterated the importance of these skills and our girls have been nothing short of exceptional. With all QGSSSA sports currently on hold and their academic year not quite what we had imagined, Grammar girls, and staff, have adapted creatively to learning remotely.

This year, I had hoped to compete in an over 30s Football Competition with a team I toured New Zealand with almost a decade ago. Football is my current sporting love and I was really looking forward to playing again, but like many of our plans, this has been put on hold. Instead, I’m able to focus more on my other hobby—gardening. My father had a large collections of orchids—his mum was also an orchid enthusiast—and I inherited that from him. I love pottering around the garden and I’ve been able to spend more time looking after my plants during the past couple of months. It is a simple joy, but I think this crisis has emphasised the importance of relishing such moments.

I hope to play football again soon but I’m also trying to focus on the positives of staying home. This is only but a moment in time, and I look forward to when things return to ‘normal’ and we’re all back at school together.