With a long appreciation of the opportunities sport provides – for structure, friendship, resilience and life lessons – to stoke his commitment on and off the pitch, Rob Aitken has made first-grade cricket history.
The Year 5 teacher and sports coordinator at Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Primary School Fairfield has surpassed the record of NSW premier cricket matches played in the competition’s 125-year lifespan, achieving more than 11,000 runs and 600 wickets across 473 matches.
While Mr Aitken is humble about his success in the game, students at the school are often bowled over by the sporting opportunities he supports them to take.
Teams and sports provide that important social connection.
Access to Catholic and all-school regional, NSW and national representative sport pathways, soccer, netball and touch football gala days, and a famed school handball competition are regular offerings at OLR.
This year, they are joined by specialist six-week cricket and AFL clinics aimed to get more girls participating in sport, and swimming program for refugee students.
“I love being able to give children opportunities to participate in sport because the opportunities that I’ve received have helped to shape the person I am,” Mr Aitken said.
“Teams and sports provide that important social connection that is nice to have through adolescence. I know many of my friends through sport, and it has provided a bit of a structure and framework through which to live my life.”
There are those children in class who are just living for that moment they can get out and play sport.
Mr Aitken currently plays first-grade cricket with the UTS North Sydney Bears and is happy to juggle filing end of year school reports with a hectic weekend playing schedule and additional training. “You get out of it what you put into it, just like with anything,” he said.
Sport also provides an opportunity for students at OLR – where English is an additional language for more than 98 per cent – to interact with their teachers and peers in another setting.
“At Our Lady of the Rosary Fairfield we are fortunate to have had leadership, past and present, who are very keen to allow children to have those experiences knowing that it is very much about educating the whole child, not just Maths and English.
“We know there are those children in class who are just living for that moment they can get out and play sport.
“You don’t all have to speak the same language to participate. With a lot of classroom activities it’s harder for children who haven’t quite got the language yet to engage as thoroughly, but sport allows for you to become part of things quite quickly.”