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Jules de Courtenay realises a dream

Ormiston College is delighted to have recently received an update from Marianne de Courtenay regarding her son Jules, who is achieving his goals and aspirations in elite competition:

A Year 9 English assignment at OC, provided the inspiration for Jules de Courtenay (Class of 2012) to change the direction of his life. By his own admission, at fifteen, Jules was anything but focused on the future. He was just getting by at school, playing sport and enjoying it without any great aspirations. Life was really about friends and food and fun.

Looking for a topic to inspire him on his upcoming assignment, I suggested he interview ex-Olympic basketballer Trisha Cockrem. Trisha, shared with him her experience of being an elite athlete, explaining the hard work and the commitment, and the rewards of the team environment at the highest levels. Jules was impressed.

Not long after that, Jules had the opportunity to be coached by a visiting American coach at a club tournament. The coach, Jason Wright, was running clinics in Brisbane and stepped into the team coach role when the designated coach was offered a job elsewhere. Jason decided to give the team a “college-like” experience. During their week away, they trained at 6am, analysed their game tape, and played harder than they ever had. More than that, Jason placed expectations on them.

Though completely exhausted, Jules came home exhilarated, and he set a plan. He wanted to win an athletics scholarship to play basketball and study at a US college. That meant getting A LOT better at basketball and school. As parents, we supported the idea with the understanding that if his grades were affected, basketball had to scaled back.

From Year 10 onwards, he kept a strict and, at times, gruelling schedule, which included strength and conditioning training, individual skill sessions, running training, basketball training and playing six days a week (we tried to enforce one rest day a week, but it wasn’t always possible), and insisted that he demonstrate good time management skills and study discipline. Schoolwork first. He rose to the challenge.

But despite his efforts, he still wasn’t being picked in the teams he needed to be in, so as a u/16 club representative player, he played in division 2 but trained with division 1 as well. That meant two extra trainings a week in an already loaded schedule. That decision paid off. The following year he made the extended u/16 Queensland squad. The year after he made the extended u/18 Queensland squad. Finally, in Year 12, he made both the Queensland Schools and Club teams and was voted Captain of the latter.

OC really helped him develop his leadership skills when he was chosen to be Athletics Captain alongside his classmate, Catherine Birch. Their partnership was indomitable! And the OC athletics staff and Year 12 coordinator supported their ideas and mentored them. Their flash mob is legendary.

There were sacrifices and disappointments during that time as well. Jules didn’t get to spend time with his friends and in Year 12, he had to choose between his senior formal and the National Schools tournament in Dandenong. Basketball won out.

In the end, Jules completed his high school education at OC with an OP 4 and the groundwork in place to give him the best opportunity to realise his dream.

Fast forward to 2017: Jules is now in his junior (3rd) year at D2 St Thomas Aquinas College in New York. He earned an athletics scholarship to a small school with both an excellent basketball program and high education standards. This year he co-Captained his team and they made it to the NCAA D2 Elite Eight championships, which means they are one of the top eight teams in the nation. This was the first time a St Thomas Aquinas basketball team has ever made it this close to a National title. On the eve of the Elite Eight play offs, the NCAA held a banquet for the players. As the evening went on, Jules had possibly the biggest surprise of his life. He was called up to accept the 2017 Elite 90 Award. The Elite 90, is an award founded by the NCAA, which recognizes the true essence of the student-athlete by honouring the individual who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the national championship level in his or her sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers. The Elite 90 is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s championships.

With another year left on his scholarship, Jules’s college journey is not quite over, and the team has their sights set on a National Championship in 2018. And if you ask him if it has been worth it, he will simply say this, ‘It changed my life in the most positive way!’

Ormiston College gave him the support, the education, and the opportunity to realise a dream. He just had to work hard and learn to be the best version of himself.

So many people helped Jules along the way at OC, but in my memory, two educators stand out. In year one and year two, Jo Waller Brown taught Jules how to ‘be’ at school, and the beginnings of how to ‘be’ among others. Her humour and creative intelligence helped an energetic, strong-minded boy learn and grow. And when Jo had days of tearing her hair out with Jules, Glenda Seawright stepped in with the same humour and consideration. Thanks, Jo and Glenda! Look what you’ve accomplished.

- Marianne de Courtenay