Originally from New Zealand, Anna is currently a netball player with the Hong Kong Cricket Club and co-captain of the Hong Kong Netball team. Between 2004 and 2008 she represented Scotland in netball. She had left New Zealand for Scotland to pursue her big OE (overseas experience) – a traditional path many New Zealanders take – and to join her husband who was playing professional rugby for the Glasgow Warriors in Scotland.
Netball has always played a pivotal role in Anna’s life so naturally she immediately joined a club team in Glasgow upon arrival. After qualifying to represent Scotland, she was selected and played in her first test-match against South Africa. While representing Scotland in netball, she also played in the professional league in Manchester; she loved the game so much she was prepared to make the 6-hour round trip journey between Glasgow and Manchester for training during the week. She also traveled with the Manchester Thunder team on weekends to Superleague matches throughout England.
Prior to moving to Scotland she had played in the professional league in New Zealand. Her netball career highlight was representing Scotland at the Netball World Championships that was held in her native New Zealand: it was an amazing experience that she was able to share with family and friends.
After moving to Hong Kong in 2009 with her husband and their two and a half months old daughter, she focused on being a mum and discovering the vibrant lifestyle and many opportunities that Hong Kong offers. The best thing she did was join a netball club within that first month she arrived, as it opened up opportunities for new friendships, as well as enabled her to continue her passion for fitness and sport. Currently, she teaches PE at KGV, and on weekends she shares her passion for netball with her junior netballers from SCAA Causeway Bay Netball Club. Outside of teaching, coaching, netball practices, fitness training, and local and overseas competition, she’s a mother to three young children – Abby 8, Emma 6, Luke 4.
What has the experience been like playing netball in HK after having children? How does playing netball nationally for Hong Kong compare to playing in Scotland, England, and New Zealand?
I feel like each country I have lived in has encompassed a different stage of my life. Moving to Hong Kong was never on our radar until an opportunity was presented to my husband for a different career path. Moving countries and starting a new life journey with a baby was exciting and I was looking forward to enjoying being a mum, exploring a new country, and what the next chapter of our lives had install. I played club netball on and off between having two more children and kept coming back because of the friendships I had made through playing netball.
Last year I was selected for the Hong Kong Netball Squad in preparation for the Asian Championships in Bangkok. Preparing for a campaign like this is a huge time commitment; making myself available for the various weeknight evening and weekend trainings requires dedication and good time management. I enjoy being part of a team: working hard together, sharing common goals, experiencing highs and lows at the same time, and making some personal sacrifices, so I can perform at my best for my team creates everlasting bonds and memories that stay with me forever.
In Hong Kong, netball is still very much an amateur sport. Players don’t get exposure to regular top level competition, which makes a huge difference on the international stage. The number of people playing netball is growing fast thanks to some extremely dedicated and passionate individuals working to raise the profile of the game and secure funding to allow more opportunities for not only the Hong Kong squads, but most importantly for the grassroots level. It is an exciting time for Hong Kong Netball as more sponsors are wanting to support and be involved in the fast paced and skilful game.
With continued dedication and support, I believe Hong Kong Netball could grow to mirror countries such as New Zealand, Australia, and England where netball is one of the top female sports in these countries, and where there are dedicated High Performance Pathways for players to have access to high performance specialist coaching and fitness trainers. Some players are paid to be professional players, and games are televised live weekly – exciting prospects for our young players.
Outside of netball, you’re a PE Teacher. What are the some crucial sporting mindset and skills that you think sports can instill?
- A positive, can do attitude – give everything 100%: Everyone leads busy lifestyles, but make time for physical activity. Don’t just go through the motions or be a passive participant; fully engage in the activity and get the most out of it.
- Respect: For yourself, your team/peers, your coach/teacher, your opponent, your parents/supporters, and for the umpire/referee. No matter what happens in the competitive environment, always act in a respectful manner.
- Enjoyment: Find something you enjoy that is active and allows you to gain the benefits of a healthy active lifestyle. Life isn’t always about being the best at something, it’s about your individual progress and determination to be the best you can be. I think people are often put off trying something because they’re scared of failing. But change your mindset, don’t compare yourself to others, find something you enjoy doing for yourself, and enjoy the journey to improvement. Observe those that are further along the journey, learn from them, and progress.
An SCMP article in March 2016 referenced a study that indicated prisoners in HK get more outdoor exercise than our school children. It’s such a shame. What do you think we can do to improve this situation?
Educating parents and children on why being physically active is essential to not only children’s, but the whole family’s holistic wellbeing. Families grow up with different priorities and if we are not made aware of just how important physical activity is to our wellbeing, we will continue to prioritise other aspects of our lives.
I think early on we need to nurture physical activity into being good habits. This starts in childhood and carries on into adulthood. As a parent, your position as a positive role model is vital. If you promote regular exercise, your children are likely to follow suit. Kids love to be like their parents when they’re young and copy what they do. Choose activities you and your children find fun; trying to stick to something you find a chore to go to isn’t going to last or be beneficial.
Many kids are active in after school clubs in their younger years. Yet, I see often that when our senior students have extra stress and time restraints arising from examinations, the first thing to go from their schedule is physical activity. Students gain so much from staying active; not only the physical benefits but the mental benefits. Exercise allows them to refresh the mind between study sessions, and helps to relieve stress and tension. It also contributes to increased self-esteem/confidence, enjoyment of life, and a general sense of wellbeing. Students are under so much pressure that one way to alleviate this is by insisting students make physical activity part of their daily routine; it will definitely help them in the long run. Getting enough sleep is the other important factor in a daily routine, students need to identify when, and for how long they can study productively and have a regular bedtime. Daily exercise is necessary for better sleep, sharpened focus, improved memory, and a better mood.
What are some important life lessons you learned from sports that you hope your children will also be able to experience themselves?
I have learned many important life lessons through my experiences in sport from a young child right through to adulthood that are transferable into other aspects of life and I hope my children will learn them too:
Commitment, Self-discipline, Responsibility: I want to teach them that if they commit to something, they stay with it for the duration. I want to teach them to be disciplined in their approach and have the willpower to achieve and set goals. I also want to teach them they are responsible for ensuring they are on time, and giving 100% mentally and physically. This is a life lesson my dad strongly believed in that he has taught me: to put in the necessary time commitment, be prepared to work hard, and be disciplined enough to go the extra mile, even if it meant missing out on other things my friends were doing.
Be gracious and humble in success & defeat, and to learn to deal with disappointment: This is one very important life lesson I have always embraced from my mother and have passed onto my own children.
We often hear that mothers don’t have time for sports and activity when they have children. You have three. What do you do to set aside time for physical activity? Why do you think mothers should not deprioritize sports and physical activity?
Everyone leads a busy lifestyle and has different circumstances to factor into their daily routines. Since having children my time allocated to training has definitely decreased and I’m not performing at the level I used to, but I make sure I still fit in as much as I can and I make the most of each session to gain the maximum benefits.
For me I really value and enjoy being involved in sport and physical activity, since I was a child my daily schedule has always revolved around planning life around training rather than trying to fit it in somewhere. During the netball season my netball trainings and games are generally from 8pm on weekdays so it allows me to spend time with the kids once I’m home from work; playing, doing homework, dinner, bath and bed routine before I head out to practice. It does mean my day is very busy and I have to do work late at night once home from training, but the bonus of that is it keeps me organised.
I also enjoy running some mornings with my husband in the serenity of Hong Kong’s country parks, we keep each other going and the kids love to hear ‘who won’ when we return home.
Recently I’ve started training early mornings three times a week with a friend who also has a young family of three. The alarm goes off early and because we’ve committed to attending a class together, we can’t just turn off the alarm and go back to sleep. The things that make it work for me are:
- It’s easier to motivate myself to exercise when I have a friend doing it with me
- My workout is done for the day, I don’t have to worry about scheduling time after work
- I’m back home by 6:30am, breakfast and showered
- I have time to spend with the kids before I head to work and they head to school
- After work the evening is free to spend with my children and husband
- I enjoy the workout, it’s something I’ve always wanted to try, it’s challenging and takes me out of my comfort zone, I’m learning new skills, the trainers are inspiring, and I enjoy the group dynamic
- I feel great after the class, it’s hard and I’m knackered after completing the session, but I head to work with a bounce in my step
- I sleep well at night after having a good workout
In our family physical activity is part of our daily lives, the kids have their classes they attend but most importantly we enjoy doing activities together. Whether it’s practising gymnastics in the lounge, going to the local park to have running races/ride bikes/skateboard, swimming, touch rugby on the beach, throwing a ball around, hiking, my husband wrestling with the kids, we just enjoy each other’s company and being active together. We also enjoy entering family fun runs and events. Most recently we did the Spartan Race which we all got a huge buzz out of completing.
Being a positive role model to my children is really important. I want my kids to be proud of me as much as I’m proud of them. Above all, I love to see the satisfaction my children get from being active, and that spark in their eye when they do something for the first time or meet a goal they have been working toward.
I value the skills my children gain through physical activity and sport, not just the physical skills but practical day to day life skills – packing their bags and ensuring they have the correct equipment, being on time, using their manners and being respectful to their coach, communicating in a positive way with their siblings and peers, learning to take advice and act on it, dealing with conflict, and being committed even when they’re too tired to go to a training session.
WISE HK was at a primary school a while ago and while chatting to a group of five students, asked what the sports participation among their parents were like. All fathers played sports in some capacity, but only one mother played sports (running and hiking). It’s only one anecdote, but if that is somewhat representative of HK, we could say that there are fewer “sporty / active” mother role models than fathers. We want to encourage more mothers to become “sporty / active” role models. How would you encourage mothers to do so?
Get involved in coaching or assisting at a club; if you’re new to an activity go along and watch a few sessions to get a better idea of what’s involved. Offer to help out in some way – scoring, timing etc. Even though our lives are busy, it is important to my husband and I that one of us, if not both, are at our children’s activities to see them participate, learn and develop, and enjoy themselves.
Both my husband and I had very supportive parents who took us to all our activities and competitions, helped coach or support in some capacity, took other kids to activities, and best of all engaged with us after the activity, giving us feedback on what we did well and what we needed to work on, and supported the important life lessons like being gracious and humble in success and defeat, and being committed even when too tired or the weather was bad.
My husband and I started a Junior Netball Club (SCAA Causeway Bay) when my eldest daughter was five years old so we could teach her the basic skills of netball and the fundamental skills needed to be successful in sport. We had like-minded friends and by word of mouth our little club has grown. The main aim of our sessions is for the girls to have fun while learning fundamental skills through adapted games, full court netball, and we also play in the HK Netball Association league on weekends.
We promote a family friendly club where we encourage parent involvement, each session we ask parents to join in the warm-up and help as taggers and defenders, and assist with passing and catching skills with their daughter. Some parents are new to the sport so it is a chance for them to learn skills, rules, and strategies alongside their child. If we’re short of players parents often fill the vacant positions and play netball with the girls. It’s always a laugh to see parents competitive side come out! It’s a great social element for everyone, the little brothers and sisters sometimes join in the warm-up, or make up their own games on the side-line, or sit and eat snacks together. After training families often go for lunch together. At tournaments parents are actively involved in umpiring, scoring, timing, and bringing snacks for the players to share together between games. We have a wonderful group of families who prioritise sport for their children and value fun and a fair play attitude.