How They Keep Winning
By S4CC(16) Lau Adrian Wai Yin & S4WC(13) Kan Chi Yan Ethan
It’s no secret that our school is very fond of the development of its sports teams. Over the years our sports teams have accomplished feats on par with the athletic big guns of Hong Kong secondary schools, which is rather inspiring for a young institution like ours. Be proud of yourself, HKUGAC. As the saying goes, the young ones always win in the end.
This year has been an unusual year for us, to say the least. Online classes and Google Classroom assignments have replaced the face-to-face classes and homework. Physical activities have been suspended, with many promising sports careers being bought to a sudden halt. Questions and difficulties were increased as a result of uncertainty over the sports scene and the future of sports development in Hong Kong.
Everyone faces their difficulties, but as brave and bold individuals we learn to overcome them. We asked Miss Esther Li, who has seen the progress of our sports teams over the past few years, to share some of the hard work and commitment some of our students have put into the sports teams during this hard time.
During our interview with Miss Li, we talked about the difficulties that athletes have to face when it comes to training and keeping themselves fit. At first, online meetings were attempted, but it was difficult to cope with due to the space limitations. Athletes could only conduct basic aerobic and fitness exercises, or talk about sport theories. With the lack of face-to-face contact, coaches could not fine-tune the athletes’ movement and positions, which may affect their development.
There was a sign of relief when face-to-face training was restored in November, stated Miss Li. While social distancing measures were applied, students remained keen on training, staying after school during lunchtime to grind with their coaches. This doesn’t come without its challenges of course, with many teams having to cope with a myriad of issues. The track team, for instance, requires cardio to stay fit, and cardio would burn out athletes a lot faster due to the need of mask-wearing. Although the choice is theirs to make, the athletes seem to enjoy the challenge that motivates them to improve their technique. Miss Li appreciates the effort that S1 track team members put into their training, turning up at the sports ground at 7:30 in the morning regardless of the tests or assignments they might have to complete at school.
But the track team wasn’t the only group to show effort and commitment to the training. Miss Li highlighted S4 students Kristy Wong and Eunice Lin, members of the school swim team, mentioning how they came to her with proposals, plans, and even calculated budgets for swimming training. As our school does not have a privately owned swimming facility, swimming lanes would have to be borrowed, which might cause inconvenience to other trainers due to the compact layout. Fortunately, team members were very disciplined and didn’t interrupt other swimmers as they practiced, cherishing every second of their training opportunities. Miss Li was very proud of the sense of belonging some students showed to the school, wearing the school swimming caps during their training.
The pandemic has hit sports development hard like a rock, forcing many sessions to be conducted online. In the PE department, teachers have used this to their advantage, taking the time to educate students and athletes on sports science and psychology, allowing students to understand morals athletes should strive to keep, like sportsmanship. These sessions include film appreciation like the movie Leap, which followed the stories of the Chinese Volleyball Team, stretching over 40 years. Miss Li also stated that maintaining a healthy body and lifestyle is important in the midst of this pandemic, which is why sports nutrition and core muscle exercises are so vital. Due to the limited activity that one can conduct during this difficult time, it has motivated Miss Li and her students to maintain their fitness, focusing on their core and building up muscles.
Promotion is vital to the longevity of our sports teams and while the pandemic has certainly affected some promotion opportunities, Miss Li is proud to have such capable members around her that are committed to the future of our sports teams. She highlighted Gordon Lai and Vincy from S5, who took the time to promote the vision of the sports team to each of the S1 classes, successfully recruiting upwards of 20 students. There will also be promotional sharing sessions with potential talents from P6, who will be looking for schools that would take them on. Over the years, our school has shown an ability to pull in gifted athletes, with talents rejecting schools like Heep Yunn or Diocesan Girls’ School. One student, Matthew Kwok from S1, who was part of the 4x100m champions in the Pacers Youth Athletics Championships 2021, initially rejected very attractive offers from traditional schools that would have offered him a lot more. Instead, he chose HKUGAC over them, and committed his future to the school. It is great to see that although we are a young school, our reputation can not be underestimated.
Competitions are a major factor in an athlete’s career. The motivation they find for the sport is closely related to the achievements they can potentially gain after so much hard work and effort. With the ongoing pandemic, Miss Li pities star athletes like Keith Lee and Gordon Lai, who could have potentially broken more records with the wasted two years that went down the drain. “It feels bad to see,” she stated. Fortunately, our student athletes have grown a lot as a result of the pandemic. Miss Li observed a change in attitude in the sports team members. They have learned to value the skills and qualities learnt during training despite the lack of constant competition. “The team spirit is improving massively despite few major competitions,” Miss Li pointed out. She is pleased to see that the school culture is being passed down from one generation to another, and the emphasis on correct morals is highlighted over personal achievements and awards.
Two Students’ Perspective
Now we follow up on two of our school’s most valued athletes, Keith Lee from S5BC and Gordon Lai from S5LT. We asked them a plethora of questions, and it is surprising that a lot of their answers hold the same spirit of undying determination.
Both Keith and Gordon have training 4 days a week, lasting for about 2.5 hours each. This means that more than half of their week is spent on their training, so respect to that. While many may expect athletes to drop off massively in form during the pandemic, Keith and Gordon have continued to push themselves to personal bests. Keith is ranked second in both 100m and 200m under-20, and Gordon has reached both Hong Kong open ranking and junior ranking in 400m, and has represented Hong Kong overseas as part of the Hong Kong Junior team. They are both at the zenith of their game, and continue to shine.
Now, one question that most people will have for student athletes is, how on earth do they balance their sports training and their academics? School is not exactly easy nowadays, and adding sports training on top of that seems to be the epitome of pain. But here is how Keith and Gordon responded to that. Of course, striking a good balance between sports and academics is challenging, and Gordon has admitted to that. He said that despite being an athlete, he spends more time training and resting than normal students. However he also needs extra time to catch up on his homework, dications and UT revisions. Therefore he needs to prepare wisely when he gets free time on weekends, for example by squeezing lunchtime so he can “purchase more time” for academics, using travelling time to do homework, and much more. Keith says the exact same thing, that he uses his travelling, recess or lunch time to get his studies in. We can see that they both have paid huge effort in achieving this balance, so hats off to them.
You might be thinking, how does this relate to you? Should you skip this page of the yearbook and move on to looking at your crush in the class photos? The answer is, yes, please do, but first read this, since here is where the connection with every single one of you comes in. We are sure many of you are endeavouring to pick up a sport yourself, so if you are, what do you have to keep in mind and how do you make this sport long-lasting?
The first step, according to Keith, is to find a sport that you are truly passionate about. If you are not passionate about something, you will give up in days. After you have found something that excites you, Gordon has some advice for you. He says that keeping your own passion is one of the key factors to be long-lasting in sports. As training sessions are boring and tiring, if you lose your passion for that sport, you will throw in the towel. Apart from that, setting goals is very important. By setting some short term goals like a certain amount of training sessions per week and long term targets like winning a major competition, you can stay focused on the sport and keep yourself motivated.
Of course, we are all humans, and we want to give up way too often, especially when we are pursuing a sport. To solve this, Gordon suggests you watch motivational speeches by athletes to see how they have fought through this insurmountable urge of wanting to call it quits, and you can even give yourself some pep-talks, to tell your stubborn brain to not give up. It sucks sometimes, but the key is to overcome these moments. Keith pointed out that you can also remind yourself about why you chose this sport in the first place, and try to not go back on your own choice.
You may ask, how do these athletes get to where they are today? The glory and the glamour of it all? Truth is, there is no secret mojo. Gordon gives it his all in training while developing and correcting his weaknesses after feedback from the coaches. He has mentioned self-evaluation and setting targets as some of his most important learning opportunities, thriving for more after every competition. Keith reminds us to be graceful in defeat, because who wins everytime? He wants you to learn from failure, not fall into the dark void of sadness and disappointment.
Now being an athlete has its fair share of glamorous moments, the first metal, the first record… things that Keith and Gordon have both experienced. But few know the sacrifices they must make. Keith must control his diet to avoid unhealthy treats like snacks and milk tea, instead consuming protein shakes and energy supplements on a daily basis. Gordon mentions sacrifice in his “originally'' free time, where he could have spent time on games or went out with his friends. He must be very cautious in the planning of his timetable, so it will not affect any of his academic results. Remember, readers, you should be grateful for what you have when you are sipping milk tea or consuming nachos on a free night out with friends!
Trying to maintain your form in such a competitive athletic world is tough on the human body. It does things to your mind, especially when you are faced with major setbacks. When we asked these two bright individuals whether they ever regretted pursuing their athletic career, both gave us fruitful insight into their deepest thoughts. Gordon said regret was never a route taken, reassuring us that running is his favorite activity and he enjoys every second of it. Keith expressed his views too. While his career so far may seem glamorous, he admits negative thoughts have sometimes crossed his mind, especially in difficult times when he tries his best in training but still fails to improve and up his game. “Sometimes I think I should just go back to focusing on academics when things aren’t going well,” Keith stated. The pressure to maintain good performances is always piling on.
Dear reader, we thank you for sticking to the end of this article. As a parting gift, we have asked Ketih and Gordon to say something directly to the readers. Keith wants to remind us that “training doesn’t mean you will succeed, but if you don’t go to training you will never succeed... also it is important to believe in yourself [and believe] that everything is possible.” Gordon, meanwhile, urges everyone to “follow my IG (glhl412) :D” as well as keep your passion alive. But all jokes aside (actually, no, please go follow their socials, this is a very serious matter), whether it’s sports or whatnot, we should always keep that fire in us.