There is a difference between doing your best and being the best. This secondary assembly discusses the distinction in light of the recent successes of Great Britain’s Olympic team, and reminds students that doing their best is good enough


Photos of our Olympic winners with their medals. You might like to project these during the assembly.

You will also need 3 readers.


Reader 1: Before the Olympics began in Beijing, a high profile bet was placed between the sports minister of Great Britain, Gerry Sutcliffe, and his Australian counterpart Kate Ellis. It was agreed that whichever country won the most medals would be able to see their international colleague appear at a high-profile sporting competition between the two nations, after the Olympics had ended, wrapped in the opposing country’s flag. The British minister joked at the time: “It’s all healthy fun.”

Reader 2: Healthy fun indeed! When he made the wager, many people thought that it would end with Mr. Sutcliffe wrapped up in an Aussie flag at Old Trafford. But the tables turned during the course of the games because, as you are probably aware, Great Britain finished fourth on the medal table, and Australia sixth. The final gold medal totals for the two rival countries were 19 for Great Britain and 14 for Australia, while Great Britain won 47 medals in total and Australia won 46. So, after team GB’s best Olympic Games for 100 years, no matter how you add them up, Great Britain came out the winner.

Australia, a sports-mad country, has apparently found this defeat hard to come to terms with. It was reported, the day after the Olympic squad arrived home, that Australia was considering setting up a lottery to help fund their athletes’ future training; as Britain did 12 years ago, following our dismal showing at the 1996 games.


Leader: Many of you will empathise with Olympic teams’ disappointment at not doing as well as they hoped. Perhaps, even though you worked hard last year, your results were not as good as you wanted them to be. There is only ever one person who comes out at the top when you compare results, and the chances are it wasn’t you who got the gold. If you let it, that can get to you, making your self esteem go down and affecting your feelings of personal worth.

If you watched the Olympics you will realise that for every gold medal winner, there were many who entered but didn’t get any medals. Perhaps Britain’s most famous athlete like this was Tom Daley, the 14 year old diver. When he was interviewed after arriving home, though, he said he was just proud that he got there and took part, recognising that what he achieved was enough for now. He did his best, and he was satisfied with that.

Doing your best means different things to different people. Some people think that doing their best means doing better than everybody else. For some, doing their best means getting a mark that they can take great pride in, even though when compared with others it seems low. It all depends on your perspective.


Leader: We all have days when we feel that we aren’t as good looking as someone else, or as clever, or perhaps that we’ve got two left feet on the sports ground or we can’t sing or play a musical instrument. Sometimes we might just feel as though we’re not as good as someone else. That feeling applies to adults just as much as it applies to you.

Two different faiths give us food for thought on this subject today:


Jesus said that many who are first shall be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19 v 29)

We don’t know exactly what he was referring to when he said this – it certainly makes sense within the context of the Aussie/British rivalry at the Olympics! The Aussies are certainly not enjoying coming last in relation to the bet, any more than we have enjoyed it when they’ve beaten us in sport before (as they so often do).

But perhaps Jesus meant that the people who seem to have been born with many talents are no more important than the people who feel that they have little to offer. That we will all be measured in the end with a different scale – not one that looks at how many medals you win, or how much money you earn, or how fast your car goes, or even how many A*s you get, but by something else. Perhaps it will be to do with the quality of the life that you lead and how you relate to others. Perhaps he was saying that it’s how hard you try that counts. That some of you who seem to have got lower marks actually did better than some of you who gained the gold.


Buddhists believe that it’s not what you were born with that is important, but what you become. That you have within you the ability to live the best life that you possibly can, no matter how many inborn talents you think you have or don’t have.

Whatever you believe, each one of you here has a lot to give, and much ahead of you. You can choose how well your life goes at school by your attitude and how you relate to others. You are the person who decides how hard you work, how much effort you put into your training for sports, practicing an instrument, or singing with a band.

Go for gold – do your best. And then you will always be first, even if it seems that you’re coming last. Because you will know that you did your best, and that’s all anyone will ever ask of you.

I’m going to say a prayer – you might like to say ‘Amen’ at the end, or just listen to the words:

Sometimes, life is hard.I never seem to win, to come out on top.Other days, life just goes according to plan.Help me, on every day, to live to the best of my abilities.To give all that I can,And end the day smiling.  


This e-bulletin issue was first published in September 2008

About the author: Ronni Lamont