Association of Boys' Schools of New Zealand Conference

By Isaac Ottrey | Posted: Tuesday May 10, 2022

Last week I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend the Association of Boys' Schools of New Zealand Conference in Auckland.

This is an annual conference where head students and rectors from boys schools across the country come together. This included schools such as Wellington College, Christchurch Boys', St Peters and Auckland Grammar.

On the first night all the head students attended a meal on the Auckland Viaduct where we listened to the Auckland Grammar and Rosmini College head boys from 2017. They talked about their experiences in their time as head students and shared some useful advice and tips about the role. They also talked about the challenges of head boy and how to combat them, which will come in very useful as I progress through the remainder of the year. It was a great night that was made more interesting when our group was caught in the middle of a police foot chase on the main street.

On the second day we headed to the Dilworth school junior campus. Here we were hosted by Jamie Pennel. Jamie is the head of the campus, and as well as being ex New Zealand SAS, is also a leadership consultant for professional sports players such as Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Jamie took us through a number of leadership and team building activities as well as talked to us about the concepts of leadership and how we can be the best we can in the roles we are in. One of these was an activity that required groups to play a game of chess without being able to make direct contact with each other. Through these activities I learnt some very useful skills that I will be able to take forward and utilise throughout the rest of the year.

After arriving back we had a nice meal at the hotel where we were privileged to listen to 2015 Christchurch Boys' head boy Jake Bailey. Jake caused global sensation after delivering his prize giving speech a week after being diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, the most aggressive cancer known to man. Jake talked to us about his time in the role as head boy and the challenges he faced. He also gave us some very useful advice that will certainly come in handy not only this year but once I leave school also. He was very inspirational, and personally he was my favourite speaker as he was easy to relate to as he knew what it was like to have the responsibility of being head prefect first hand.

On the final day we listened to Black Ferns sevens coach Alan Bunting, and New Zealand Basketball player Jack Salt. Alan talked about his life and coaching career and taught us some skills about how to maintain a healthy balanced lifestyle. Jack talked about his career where he played for the Virginia College basketball team who won the national title, as well as Brisbane Bullets and the Tall Blacks. But more importantly Jack talked about how important it is to be resilient. Because when he was on the fringe of the NBA he got glandular fever, and then suffered a serious cartilage injury in his knee which kept him sidelined for two years. Both Alan and Jack were terrific to listen to and provided us with some strategies surrounding leadership and how to lead effectively.

Overall it was an awesome couple of days. I was fortunate to make connections with some great guys from different schools around the country and learn about their different leadership styles and ideas. I was also very lucky to listen to some amazing speakers who I learned a lot from. The main message that I took away from the conference is that “In a leadership position it's important to be yourself, and not try and be someone you're not.”