Winning the Cup

KeyThe Melbourne Cup is the race that is said to ‘stop a nation’ each year because it has become a cultural icon in a country that delights in sporting competition – whether the recent Rugby World Cup or the annual Melbourne Cup.  Along with the rest of the country, I take an interest in the Melbourne Cup each year, but for me it is a reminder of my family history.

In 1861, my ancestor, John Cutts, was the jockey who rode the famous Archer in the first Melbourne Cup; followed by a second Melbourne Cup win for horse and jockey in 1862. Cutts’ son-in-law and my great-grandfather, Tom Brown, rode Calamia, the winning horse in the 1878 Melbourne Cup. Not content with the thrill of riding a Cup winner, he became the trainer of Grand Flaneur who won the Melbourne Cup two years later, in 1880. Unbeaten throughout his racing career, Grand Flaneur retired to stud and sired two Melbourne Cup winners. It is an exciting family history. Histories about family members’ accomplishments are often passed on through generations and become a cause for great celebration.

Family stories are powerful in shaping early understandings of optimum performance, highlighting challenges and adversities overcome and support environments where individuals are nurtured, trained and encouraged; where clear goals are communicated and appropriately structured to enable a sense of achievement and self-efficacy; where success is a shared goal that individuals strive towards and where families acknowledge and celebrate accomplishments. Whether through distant family histories or in current day-to-day family activities, understanding the family environments that play an important role in shaping optimum performance is critical.

Power pumpAs students undertake exams (for some students, these are their final school exams) and as students move towards the end of the academic year, it is important to consider what can be learnt about optimum performance from other contexts. Home, school and community environments that encourage individual endeavours and provide both physical and emotional support will create a facilitative environment that enables optimum performance to flourish. Research about talent development has clearly identified that when families are able to create an environment in which nurture as well as high expectations come together (one without the other does not work), psychological wellbeing, success and achievement are the likely winners in a wide field of possible outcomes.

The Melbourne Cup may be ‘the race that stops the nation’ in November; however we can stop at any time to consider how we can structure family and school environments to nurture and facilitate optimum performance within any student’s field of interest and academic endeavour.

© Michele Juratowitch