Human Powered Vehicles at St Margaret’s School turns 10 this year. It might seem like they’ve been part of the field forever. Over that ten years they’ve won 65 categories, fostered 180 riders and built a groundswell of support from parents and ex-students who have kept the show on the road.
Sure, many other schools have been involved for longer (Bairnsdale Primary School and Maryborough Education Centre have actually been to ALL 24 Energy Breakthroughs), but at this important milestone we felt it was worth looking a little closer at the man who has been at the helm, Terry Trevena. Terry is Head Coordinator of cycling and HPV at St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar Schools.
Our regular writer and ex-SMS student, Katie Harris, spoke with Terry recently to take a look back on the first decade.
Katie: Let’s start at the start: when and how did the HPV program begin at St Margaret’s?
Terry: I had just retired from Berwick Secondary College as an administrator and was with the Berwick HPV program and two of the SMS girls saw me at Maryborough and asked why SMS couldn’t do it. I told them I did not think girls were up to it (to see if I would get a reaction) and they came back and asked me to try forming a team so our first team competed in 2005.
Katie: How big is the squad at St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar School?
Terry: We have somewhere between 60-70 student riders and around 50 parent and ex-student riders who train with us on a regular basis. I think our biggest entry in an event was nine student and two parent vehicles. Our record number of people training (on bikes) on a Sunday morning is 123. We self cater for Wonthaggi and Maryborough events and the popularity is amazing given SMS and BGS combined secondary population is around 500 students.
Katie: How do you select who rides in which team? Considering there are different age requirements for each race.
Terry: We are somewhat different from most schools in this regard in that we just invite anyone from grade four up who is interested to come along and try out. This creates a very inclusive program, but it makes it a nightmare to work out which teams will go in which category to make sure everyone gets a ride. This method is only possible because we have built up a bank of vehicles that can be made ready to race.
Katie: How do you think your teams would perform if they were all mixed teams rather than single sex?
Terry: No real difference, if it worked out we had the correct mix then we would enter more mixed teams.
Katie: Name one thing that the St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar HPV Community wouldn’t be successful without?
Terry: Given the size of our squad we are totally reliant on parent ‘buy in’ to our program. Without the parents and ex-students we could not run a program successfully. Parents run various ‘sections’ of our program: I have people in charge of transport, catering, parent rostering, timing at events, maintenance and building of vehicles etc etc.
I have seen very successful programs vanish because one person (or a few) did everything and then that person left.
Katie: How do you motivate parents to participate and be involved in your program?
Terry: Because of the large age range we have (grade 4 to year 12) I have parents who stay involved for a long time, those that have been around for years are the ‘role models’ for all new parents. I tell the parents my expectations (which are high levels of involvement) but the better lesson for them is seeing what the ‘old parents’ do. A massive plus for our group was when I decided to actively invite parents and ex-students to train with the students. This has really enhanced the motivation factor.
Katie: How was the decision made to run St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar under one school banner rather than two separate schools? What advantages and disadvantages does this give you?
Terry: The decision probably came about because we always had boys at our SMS Junior school so when we decided to enter a team in the primary section (Try-athlon) it was a mixed team and then those boys went across to Berwick Grammar School and we just kept the link. So it really has never been seriously considered to break the tie.
I cannot really see a disadvantage in this set up as we all train together and then have maximum flexibility in forming teams. It varies from year to year but sometimes there is a strong preference to form mixed teams and sometimes single sex.
Katie: Coaching a squad of such a large size is no one man operation. Who are you wingmen in assisting you in this?
Terry: ‘Coaching’ is a strange word as I feel that it is really a ‘know your riders’ role more than anything. We train mostly on bikes so the training is centred more around cycling and the variation in skill and ability is gigantic. Many of our riders are also racing with cycling clubs as well. I break the squad up into various sections and have ex-students running my primary riders. I make considerable use of experienced parents and ex-students to assist as well. When it comes to actual HPV training I have a strong group of parents and ex-students who know what is expected. My other key person is a teacher from BGS who oversees the boys program that I set. He basically knows everything I do as he started with me as a Year 8 rider at Berwick Secondary College.
Katie: What can you tell us about your very successful Junior Try-athlon team?
Terry: As I mentioned earlier our first entry into the primary section was in Try-athlon and this was because of the very positive experience I had with Try teams at Berwick Secondary College (where I entered a team in the first ever Try event). Several parents and ex-students saw the fantastic team and skill building that goes on in this event and so we have worked very hard at training these teams in basic driving, cornering and change-over skills. Catherine Downey (Cat) a member of my first ever SMS HPV team is the leader of this training.
Parents have also worked extremely hard with our teams at developing high quality presentations. We have now competed for seven years in this category and been fortunate enough to win for the last six of those years. We have now developed very high expectations that our riders have lived up to.
Katie: In 2013 at the RACV Energy Breakthrough you had a very successful year: Winning Open Girls, Open Secondary and Primary Try-Athlon (A). How have you and the squad prepared mentally and physically for this year, as there is a lot of pressure to win back to back?
Terry: We base everything around ‘doing this to the best of our ability’ and the results will possibly follow. I don’t think we feel under pressure to win these categories again but I am sure we would be disappointed if we felt we didn’t give it our best shot. We believe strongly that ‘the game is more important than the result’ so how we compete is really emphasised.
That being said, we would love to experience the same level of success again. Last year we won what I called ‘the big five’: the three you mentioned, plus State Champion Cycling School and State Champion Mountain biking School. We have again taken out the cycling and mountain biking so we have our fingers crossed.
We know that each year we must improve or we will go backwards compared to the outstanding competition, particularly in Open Secondary with ‘giants of the event’ such as Bendigo Senior Secondary College and Woodleigh being such contenders.
Katie: 10 years is a long time to be head of a sport at a school, which is run outside school hours. What motivates you to keep going?
Terry: In brief it is twofold: the parents & ex-students enthusiasm, combined with the joy I get out of seeing riders improve so much and achieve so much. This year my two HPV captains (male & female) are in year 12 after starting riding with me in grade five. Success in events is good but the growth in the people is the key motivator.
Katie: It must be hard to pick one favourite moment. But do you have one?
Terry: I think it would have to have been the end of the 2013 twenty four hour event where it became obvious with about an hour to go that if we stayed on the road we would win both the Open and Senior Female sections. I then got two of my very best riders at the last change to watch for my signals to speed up or slow down for the last 20 minutes of the race and they did it to perfection to ride side by side for the last six laps to cross the line together.
Katie: How is the team funded? Is there much support from local community?
Terry: To keep so many vehicles on the road for the events we compete in is very expensive, particularly when we are attempting to develop new vehicles at the same time. We have enormous community support generated through our fund raising group. We now run an annual golf day and dinner which is supported heavily by parents and local business which supplies sufficient funds for our annual budget.
Katie: Many of your riders believe you are an inspiration and positive role model. Who inspires you?
Terry: In terms of HPV I gained my initial motivation from people and schools that had ‘done it well’. I owe an enormous amount to Lew Arthur from Wonthaggi Secondary College who not only assisted me when starting my program, but who also had the belief that the event and the kids were always more important than the results.
I also derive motivation from interacting with and watching other schools- I have massive admiration for Bendigo Senior Secondary College for their continued innovation and success and schools like Catholic College Bendigo who have such a wonderful attitude to the event.
Katie: What has been your greatest achievement over the last 10 years?
Terry: I think it has been to develop a structure/system/attitude that works for so many people so that they feel the benefits and become better, more skilled people.
Katie: How far has St Margaret’s progressed in HPV over the last 10 years?
Terry: We have moved from one team of 8 students to eight teams and from no non- students riding to over 50 and from no parent leaders to a massive number.
We have also experienced wonderful success over the past years: with our senior female team winning Maryborough four times in seven years, the Try team winning for six successive years and the Open boys winning for the past two years. In addition to this the teams have had remarkable success at other HPV events and at cycling and mountain biking.
The individual development of the riders and the build up of the parental support structure have been the most important developments.
Katie: What is the plan for the next 10 years of HPV at St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar?
Terry: My plan is two-fold: to keep improving in everything we do from vehicle building, organisationally and performance wise but also to make sure that there is strong structures in place for when the next person who takes over running the program. We still have a massive appetite for success.
Open invitation: St Margaret’s School and Berwick Grammar – HPV Presentation Dinner
St Margaret’s and Berwick Grammar are pleased to open up bookings for their 2014 HPV presentation night and 10th Anniversary Dinner. If you wish to join them in celebrating 10 years, you can now book online here >
Event Dates: Friday 5th December
Location: Villa Adriana Function Centre, Dandenong South
525-531 Frankston-Dandenong Road, Dandenong
Arrival 6.00 pm
Ph: 9703 8133 or 0400 703 42z
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