Posted by David Gledhill
St Bernards First XI Football
Still keeping it in the family, sort of, this week's address was by  Paul Olsthoorn, the son-in-law of Paddy Wells, one of our distinguished members.
Paul, with his wife Melissa, coach the St Bernard's First X1 Football Team.  (It could also be termed the last St Bernards football X1 as it is the one and only).  Last year it triumphed over enormous odds.  Paul has always been keen on football.  He started playing at age eleven, played 100 games for Petone, and was Player of the Year for the Central League in 1992.  After retiring from playing he turned to refereeing and then to coaching at St Bernards.  In 2022 St Bernards won the National Schools Football Tournament, by penalty shoot-out, even though it was ranked only ninth of the nineteen teams competing.  In itself this was remarkable, but to do it after overcoming three major challenges was inspiring.
The first challenge was in numbers.  St Bernards  has only 650 students, a paucity compared to the local St Patrick's schools which also, incidentally, have professional football coaches.  St Bernards students mostly play rugby, union or league, and only 40 of the 270 senior students play football.
The second challenge is that there is no affiliation with a local adult club and they were always short of funds and equipment compared to their rivals.  There were only sixteen members in the 2022 squad, in five of their fourteen games they had only eleven players available so no reserves, and on one occasion they could feild only ten players.
The third challenge was that St Bernards grounds were largely unavailable and so all their games were "away" games.  But Paul's motto of "Pride, Strength and Commitment"  and the boys' great attitude brought success: they won that national tournament, the first St Bernard's team to ever win a national tournament.
Paul   introduced the Sports Captain, Amon.   Amon  has played football since the age of five and has been a Maori Under Eighteen Football Representative. His aim is to win this year's tournament as well.  Paul also introduced Edward, who was proud of his family's prowess at St Bernards and similarly hopes to repeat last year's success.  Both are very fine young men and we wish them, and Paul and the rest of the team, every success.