After 23 years of teaching at St Paul’s Collegiate School, Garth Littlejohn is taking a short hiatus to follow
international sporting athletes, his children. Over the next two years, Garth will travel between home and the United States of America to watch his two youngest children compete in their chosen sporting fields.
Ben Littlejohn (Fitchett 2016-2020) is in his second year at Harvard University, where he gained a scholarship for swimming to study engineering and science. Laura Littlejohn (Year 13) is heading to the University of Tennessee next year, also on a swimming scholarship, although her academic subjects are yet to be decided. Kate Littlejohn (Harington 2015-2017) has now finished her Bachelor of
Human Biology from Standford University; she also received a scholarship for her rowing abilities.
Having missed Kate’s international rowing races due to work commitments and Covid-19 restrictions, Garth and his wife Jenny decided that if they wanted to catch their two other children in action, they better get to it now. The pair will head over to watch Ben swim in the Ivy League Championships as he
represents Harvard early next year.
After representing New Zealand at the World Swimming Championships earlier this year, the University of Tennessee was an obvious choice for Laura due to its world-renowned swimming programme. With Kate, Ben, and Laura having achieved significant success in the classroom and their sporting fields, Garth and Jenny have simple methods for supporting their family:
“I honestly believe Jenny and I have continually focused on the fun and enjoyment in their chosen sports. If they aren’t enjoying it, it becomes a real grind. Ever since they were young, we have never focused on
numbers or results. Kids put enough pressure on themselves. Our focus was always to try and ensure they were still competing in their late high school years rather than get burnt out earlier,” says Garth.
A household name in many St Paul’s families, Garth has been an integral part of sport
throughout his tenure. Having coached and managed many sports, he understands the ins and outs of developing teenage athletes. His main advice for success: stay calm and focus on the process rather than the outcome.
“Why do any of us play sport?’ It’s because it’s fun, we meet new people, we get fit, we develop social skills and learn to handle pressure – those are the things we get out of it. Most of us don’t become the world’s best athlete. There are so many other reasons why we participate in sport!”
In 2009, Garth and the Littlejohn family had one other small break from St Paul’s, where they completed a year-long stint in Ireland. This expedition allowed the three children to get a taste of different languages, cultures, and international travel.
“I’m so pleased we took the family away back then. This took away the fear factor of moving overseas, and it allowed the kids to see what other opportunities are out there for them.”
Garth and Jenny will return to New Zealand during the times when Ben and Laura aren’t competing. Garth will take on relief teaching during his downtime back in New Zealand before formally returning to St Paul’s in 2025.