Acting like champions

In both scholarly endeavors and in athletics, Harvard-WestlakeWolverines have distinguished themselves in local and national contests, competing honorably and with grace. In just the last few years, Harvard-Westlake has been home to International Science Olympiad medalists, nationally recognized debaters, and state championship athletic teams. A few weeks ago, the California Interscholastic Federation recognized the top 10 girls’ athletics programs in Southern California. Citing State and Southern-Section championships in girls’ basketball, cross country, soccer, and track and field, CIF placed our girls’ athletics program at the top of the list, awarding it the CIF Commissioner’s Cup for 2010. There are Harvard-Westlake students who have earned the right to call themselves champions, and their outstanding achievements and stellar reputations reflect on the school and make us all look good.

All champions are winners, but not all winners are champions. There’s a big difference between being a winner and being a champion. You can’t become a champion by earning the highest score on an exam or by winning a single game – or even by winning many games. And champions can quickly lose their status: Think of the “champion” who wins and then acts like a fool!

Winning is merely an outcome – at its most basic, one of two outcomes in any competition: win or lose. Becoming and being a champion is not an outcome; it is a process, a way of acting, a way of behaving. True champions are relentlessly positive and gracious always. True champions respond to a challenge with dignity. They rise above the fray, don’t involve themselves with the pettiness that can accompany longstanding rivalries. Aware of their strengths and their weaknesses, champions display confidence and humility in equal measure.

Harvard-Westlake is commonly regarded as a “school of champions,” and so it was disappointing when, last year, the California Interscholastic Federation (the same CIF that just awarded us the Commissioner’s Cup) cited our school for unsportsmanlike conduct during two of our competitions. Some of our fans – students and athletes – behaved poorly at those games, and while it would be easy enough to marginalize the incidents (only two competitions among hundreds that took place last year), we will instead seize upon this as a teaching opportunity. This year, in class meetings and faculty meetings, we will decide for ourselves what good sportsmanship means at Harvard-Westlake and recommit to supporting our scholar-athletes in the most positive way possible.

Our students’ achievements have given us the right to call ourselves champions: Harvard-Westlake Champions. We all benefit from that reputation and have the responsibility to maintain it. To BE a champion means to live the life of a champion, to act like a champion – at athletic competitions and in our everyday interactions with each other. Our motto for this year, then, is Act Like Champions.


— Jeanne Huybretchs, Head of School