Lessons in Character: Self-Control and Resilience

Do we ever stop growing, in terms of character?  Over the last three weeks, I have been reminded that character development is a lifelong pursuit.

mastersIt has been said that “sports reveals character.” Certainly this was true at this year’s Masters Tournament.  I was privileged to be invited to attend the tournament this year.  It was a very windy Saturday, and I felt for the players as they tried to battle both a challenging course and extremely windy conditions. As I stood near the 7th green, it was hard to watch Justin Thomas’ ten-foot par putt get blown forty feet away from the hole. Billy Horschel had the worst luck, as the ball he marked on the 15th green proceeded to get blown into the water as he watched in disbelief (click here to watch). Of course, many of us ached for Jordan Spieth as he hit two balls into Rae’s Creek on Sunday.  Driving home, I reflected on each golfer’s reaction to the hardship.  None threw a club, cursed out loud, or yelled at their caddie. While each was understandably distraught, each maintained his composure, persevered, and played on.

This week at Walker, two student-athletes exhibited self-control and resilience in a way that made me exceedingly proud.  The varsity girls tennis team, competing for the region katiechampionship, was locked in a very competitive battle with St. Francis.  Needing to win three of the five matches, Walker was leading 2-1, with senior Katie Busch (left) and junior Alice Jiang (below) each trying to capture that final victory for the team.  Unfortunately, both Wolverines were battling physical hurdles. Katie’s right leg was wrapped because of a strained quad; Alice was in severe pain dealing with a blister that covered the length of her left foot.  Both girls had split the first two sets with their opponent and needed to persevere to win the final set.  Wincing often and moving slowly, Katie, urged on by lots of Wolverine fans and heralice teammates, managed to take an early lead in the final set.  Alice, having just lost the second set 6-1, gathered herself and likewise jumped out to an early lead. As I raced back and forth to watch each match, I was inspired by Katie’s and Alice’s determination, resilience, and stamina.  Unfortunately, I had to leave the match before its conclusion to participate in Senior Day activities for the soccer team.  Not long after those activities concluded, I saw Katie headed for the soccer game carrying the region championship trophy (pictured with Holland Martin).  While I was certainly elated that the team FullSizeRender (33)had won, I was even more impressed with the character Katie and Alice had displayed in the midst of a challenging situation.

Life has a way of mixing hardship and joy that is often unpredictable.  As parents and educators, we have an important responsibility to teach our children/students this truth from the Greek philosopher Epictetus, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”  Facing hardship with self-discipline, resilience and courage will enable each of us to find long-term success.

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About Jack Hall

Jack Hall is the Head of School at The Walker School in Marietta, Georgia. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre at Davidson College and holds a Master of Science in Athletic Administration from Georgia State University and a Master of Arts in Education Administration from Columbia University where he was also a Klingenstein Fellow at Columbia University.

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