A few weeks ago, we shared the story of Adela and Apilia Comsa, a mother and daughter pair who regularly join our WISE Start With Sports: Mothers and Daughters Sports Day. We’ve been enjoying playing sports with families such as the Comsa’s on a regular basis and it’s been gratifying to witness improvements in their functional skills and techniques over time, such as being able to throw farther and catching balls more consistently.

Like with most things in life, we don’t come to sports on the first day immediately knowing how to play, and it’s certainly not true that children automatically develop sporting skills as part of their development. There are so many different sports out there that even the most “athletically inclined” of us won’t possibly be good at every sport. Too often we hear women tell us they don’t play sport because they “aren’t sporty.” Research shows that one reason why women and girls don’t continue on with physical activity is they believe they don’t have the necessary skills or confidence to participate.

At WISE HK, we don’t believe that there’s such a concept as being “bad at sports” — we believe there is a sport out there for everyone and all it takes is for us to find that one (or few) sports that we enjoy enough to participate in regularly. The important thing is practice – it’s consistency and persistence that helps us improve skills over time, which builds up our sense of achievement and confidence.

As we continue to spo(r)tlight families who join us regularly at our WISE Start With Sports: Mothers and Daughters Sports Day, today we share another mother-daughters story.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for length).

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Vivian is a mother to two girls, ages six and four. Having grown up in New Jersey, USA, with plenty of access of sports, and now raising her daughters in Hong Kong, Vivian realises how different their sporting experiences will be to her own.

How have sports and the participation of women in sports changed from when you were a child?

Growing up, it was important to my parents that my siblings and I were well rounded and that included playing sports all through our childhood. For me, that meant being a young child in ballet classes and joining the softball league, then playing volleyball and running track in high school and university. Most of our friends in the neighbourhood played sports, so participating in sports was just one way to be involved in the community. I’m so glad my parents emphasised sports, because now as adults, my siblings and I will always have fitness in our lives. I tell my husband and friends, “if I stop working out, you will know something is wrong with me.” Sports have been such an integral part of my life both physically and mentally. And I want to pass that on to my daughters, but I do find it’s more of a challenge here in Hong Kong.

When I was growing up, you would never really see women playing sports on TV, except during the Olympics, and when the Olympics did come on, our TV was always on, and we would watch it with our dad. He loved it, and he loved how inspiring it was for us to watch those elite athletes. And back then, there were fewer sports for women to compete in. Women’s equality in general is still struggling, but thankfully there has been movement, and that includes more exposure to seeing women in sports.

Do you feel that your daughters have female sport role models?

I hope I am a role model for them. I try to work out in front of them, and I always emphasize that movement is important for our health. I believe I’m their biggest influencer because they are still quite young and haven’t been exposed to as many people. My eldest used to have a female PE teacher, which was nice because then she got to see a woman in a sports role.

In general, anytime there is a woman doing anything, I want them to see it. For instance I took one of my daughters to The Fringe Club to see a jazz gig, and there was a female drummer AND she was the front woman for the band with her three male bandmates. I loved everything about that.

What have you found to be the most challenging aspects for your daughters playing sports in Hong Kong? 

I grew up doing sports after school and they were an extension of the school’s athletic program. We would sign up for the season and it wasn’t something parents had to pay extra for. It’s costly here to have your kids participate in sports. And often it’s not on school grounds; you have to take them somewhere else, which then becomes time consuming.

I come from a culture where there were many sports to choose from as part of the school’s athletic program and the majority of kids would join something.

To be a part of a team sport was motivating and positive.

I wish that schools in Hong Kong would have more programs that were financially and logistically more accessible. I understand that it is a vicious cycle here because to rent space is expensive, and therefore you need to make up that cost in some way.

Having space, venues and natural grass where my daughters can ride their bikes or scooters have also been an issue. We taught my oldest how to ride a bike in Australia this past Christmas break because we knew there was enough space to do so there. Lack of space is an impediment, and often the Hong Kong park rules don’t allow playing sports on the grass or bike riding in the park.

Why do you think it is important for your daughters to play sports?

I would never think of having a child not be involved in sports. It’s essential for raising a healthy child both physically and mentally. Early learning of the importance of physical activity is something that they can adopt and integrate into their lives as adults. I think it’s empowering especially raising two girls, I want them to feel strong and that they can accomplish anything.

By playing sports it gives them confidence and self-worth, and I can already see that through the sports with which they are engaged.

For example, we enrolled our eldest in swimming lessons and at first she found it hard to coordinate the arm and leg movements for breaststroke. So before her next lesson, I showed her some YouTube tutorial videos to help her visualize it. The next time she got in the water she was so much better.

Even for reading, they learn that you might not be good at something right away and the real lesson is that it takes practice, and time, and they must learn how to deal with disappointment and frustration. They are learning the lessons of perseverance and about grit and doing things even when they are hard.

What about the mother and daughter sports days do you enjoy that encourages you to come back?

I love the exposure it gives to my girls. For example, I didn’t know there were netball and dodgeball teams in Hong Kong, let alone women’s teams. It gives us an opportunity to try something new together, and it lets my girls acquire an introduction to new skills. It reminds me that I can work on skills such as jumping and ball-throwing with them at home. They enjoy seeing themselves improve. They appreciate it when their progress is tangible to them. They can see themselves getting better, and that is motivating.

In fact, after we joined your functional assessments day in January 2019, I was inspired to practice the skills from that day with my daughters. I’m more inclined to leave balls laying about the house instead of putting them away so they’ll be more inclined to throw or kick them around — and I taught my four year old how to dribble the ball and even jump rope. She started the day being able to do one jump, and by the end of the day got to 18 nonstop and she was so proud.

What do you hope your daughter is getting out of these sports days?

That we can do something together. That it’s not just me taking them there and watching them play. That it’s about taking them to learn something and them watching me participate in sports alongside them — the idea of modelling and being their biggest influencer.

I’ve been reading books on mindfulness and mind-set, and how failure needs to be modelled. I want my daughters to learn how to fail and struggle, and be able to move on with a positive mind-set, and the sports days help and give a safe, and positive environment to do that.

Also, there are lessons to be learned that go beyond sports: such as overcoming shyness and learning to listen.

I also enjoy how these days are for women, mothers and daughters, and I want my children to be exposed to that and have women empowerment role models.

What advice do you have for other mothers who may want to get involved in sports with their daughters?

I would say, bring them to anything that you can, anything fitness related. And even better, if it’s an activity with which you can also be involved in and be an active participant alongside your daughter — for her exposure and for you being a role model.

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We hope you found this interesting, to read how a mother has found sports to be empowering for her daughter, and what keeps her motivated to play sports together with her daughter.

We encourage you to come and join us at our next mother and daughter sports day, scheduled for 10 March 2019 from 9AM – 11AM. Details here. We’ll be teaching handball, with coaches from HK Giants.

Written by: Ela Howard