Be a Contender

30 October 2023

1.8 MINS

The acting genius of Marlon Brando, considered by many one of the greatest actors of all time, is on full display in the 1954 movie On the Waterfront. Brando’s famous I coulda been a contender monologue, opposite the brilliant Rod Steiger, goes down as one of the most iconic in cinema history.


As @caitlinjane92 so poignantly points out in one of the more than fifteen hundred I Coulda Been a Contender comments on YouTube,

‘What made Brando’s line so powerful in this scene was the fact that it gives you the sense that he’s speaking for any and every person in the world who has felt like an outsider or who has had a missed opportunity in making a great achievement in their lives.’

The truth is, we’re all contending for something. You might be contending for your health, or contending with providing for your family, or simply, crucially, contending with just getting out of bed each morning. Whatever it is you might be contending for, keep at it. As Winston Churchill so eloquently encouraged: ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’ Whatever you do, don’t stop!

In addition to my role with Dads4Kids, my wife Jodi and I also have the honour of overseeing the Kids Program (aka Sunday School) at Awaken Church Wollongong. A few Sundays back, to my surprise, one of the 12-year-old boys in our program challenged me to an arm wrestle.

I objected, but my protestations were pointless. The boy wasn’t taking no for an answer, and so, with his mates cheering him on, we sat opposite each other at a table. The boys eagerly, excitedly crowded around. The girls in our program were totally indifferent. This was a surprising experience for me — I hadn’t arm-wrestled in years! The contending began.

One by one, with their shoulders back and faces beaming, the boys who will one day be men took their place at the table. Gingerly at first, I arm-wrestled each of them. Their audacity was admirable, inspiring even.

I learned two things that morning:

  1. Boys are stronger than you think. Here I was, a grown man awkwardly arm-wrestling boys a quarter my age, and they put me through my paces. Every single one of them.
  2. Boys have a deep need to contend with someone, or something. The pure, buzzing joy their contending created was amazing. Like a bolt of valiant electricity through their beings.

Fathers, don’t ever underestimate your importance in the lives of your children. Put simply, keep contending for your kids.


Don’t be like Brando’s character Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront; instead, be a contender! Fight for your family – your kids will thank you one day.

Yours for contending,
Nathaniel Marsh


Originally published at Dads4Kids. Photo by Alena Darmel.

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One Comment

  1. Jim Twelves 30 October 2023 at 8:14 am - Reply

    Nathaniel, brilliant, brilliant! Thank you for this. It brought a great smile to my face this morning.

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