While most principals achieve their positions after decades of teaching combined with years of tertiary study, the newly appointed principal at Queensland’s Australian Christian College (ACC), Darren Lawson can also claim the unique status of being an Olympian on top of his decades of education experience, which includes seven as principal at Heights College.
At 24, as a member of the Road Cycling Team, Darren was at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. An early lesson from his time as a member of the Australian Olympic Road Cycling Team that still pays dividends today, was learning to stay focussed on what is really important.
“I had started cycling competitively at 12 and made state teams from about age 14. So, it was 12 years of training 6-7 days a week. The last few years involved more time racing overseas and also as part of the Australian Institute of Sport when they first added Road Cycling in 1991, the year before the Olympics,” Principal Lawson said.
No time for fun and games: Darren said his team had to miss the Opening Ceremony prior to their race due to the timing of events. “Our race started at 9:30am the next day, but the pre-race routine and first warm-up started at 6:30am, and we wouldn’t have gotten bussed home from the stadium until around 1am if we’d gone to the Opening Ceremony,” he remembers.
Remaining focussed on the end goal helped Darren when it came time to transition from cycling to education. “When I came to retire from cycling, I had a very mixed background – an economics degree, some time in banking, time as a full-time athlete and some Bible College. Teaching just seemed to be a way of tying it all together.”
What are the common traits for individuals training to be an Olympian and those on a journey to becoming a principal?
In the unique position of having accomplished both goals, Principal Lawson told us:
“Both should involve a real striving for excellence, a shunning of mediocrity, a willingness to look for and learn from the best, including those doing things innovatively.
“A degree of discernment – all things new are not necessarily better.”
Yet: “There is a cost – it is quite consuming, and some other things will have to take a back seat.
“The big difference is that preparation for the Olympics is mostly concerned with yourself, whereas as a Principal, it is all about others and helping them to perform.”
Australian Christian College is unique in that it comprises two schools in one—an on-campus school of 670 students and a Distance Education school with almost 1,300 students—and the surrounding community is set to benefit from Darren’s unique experience as he helps the school grow and develop during his tenure.