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Talking to Ash Barty – questions and activities

05 June 2020

Read ‘A letter to Ash Barty’ in Australian Catholics’ 2020 autumn edition and take part in the following questions and activities.


  • What does Michael McGirr mean when he says Ash Barty takes her tennis, but not herself, seriously?
  • Why might that trait be important for a leader or role model?
  • How can mistakes and setbacks be good learning experiences?
  • What other traits make good leaders and role models?
  • Why does the author think St Ignatius (and his philosophy) would be a good fit with Ash Barty’s philosophy?


  1. A letter to Ash Barty mentions on the philosophy of St Ignatius. On Saturday (6 June) is the feast day of St Marcellin Champagnat, founder of the Marist Brothers, and passionate advocate of education (see Bible reflection: ‘This poor widow has put in more than all’ for a brief reflection on St Marcellin). Select a saint (it does not have to be the two mentioned) and write a report on why they make good role models. What character traits do they have that you admire?
  2. Set aside 10 minutes a day to practise the examen (or STASH) as itemised by Michael McGirr. Stop for a while and be present in the moment, give thanks, take time to be aware of the significant things, consider how you could be more loving and compassionate, then look ahead with fresh energy.
  3. Write a job description for a leader. What traits would you emphasise?
  4. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and role models: Ash Barty is a proud Ngaragu woman. She is among many great Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and role models in Australia, a list which includes fellow sportspeople such as Adam Goodes and Cathy Freeman, political leaders such as Pat Dodson and Malarndirri McCarthy, writers and artists such as Anita Heiss and Archie Roach, and a great many others from many different fields. Research and write about an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leader and role model, exploring their background and story, what they’ve said about their culture and its importance to them, and what they have given us all through their work and life.


Read or summarise ‘A letter to Ash Barty and ask the students to think of other people they admire. They can be sportspeople or leaders in other areas. Ask the students to explain why they admire them. What are the qualities they would like to have?

Activity: You are what you think

The objective is to help young people gain a deeper appreciation of the thought required to make a moral decision.

  1. Write on the board the following chart, which shows how habits are formed.


  1. As you point to each word, explain that what comes through our SENSES is translated into THOUGHTS. The thoughts create DESIRES, which lead to ACTIONS. Repeated actions develop into a HABIT that builds a part of the CHARACTER.
  2. Offer examples of this process and then invite the young people to share examples. Have the young people compose a paragraph on the topic, ‘You Are What You Think.’
  3. Invite volunteers to share their paragraphs.


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