In April 2017 we released our first-ever interview. It came shortly after the 2017 Rugby Sevens, and on the back of meeting Samantha Feausi from the Hong Kong Rugby Union. We had invited her to moderate our inaugural panel discussion, and as we talked about the landscape of sports for women and girls in Hong Kong, she suggested we meet Adrienne “Rocky” Garvey. So we did … and that’s how the WISE HK Interview Series started.

Creating an interview series was not an original intention of ours. Yes, we did want to find ways to spotlight (or, sport-light as we say) women and girls in sports in Hong Kong, but we weren’t exactly sure how or in what format. In fact, we initially thought we’d do this via research and hosting speaker series. And so, at first, we set out to launch our inaugural survey in January 2017 and hosted the inaugural panel discussion in March 2017. Very quickly though, we came to realize we needed more ways to showcase the unique stories and perspectives of the women and girls who play sports in Hong Kong.

We needed other channels.

The survey results helped us refine our efforts. We had learned that for our under 18 year old respondents, “fewer role models” was the second largest challenge they felt women faced compared to men when playing sports: 19% of our under 18s had indicated so, compared to 8%, 7% and 11% for our 19 – 29, 30 – 39 and 40 – 49 year old respondents respectively. We felt it was quite significant that our younger respondents were twice more likely to feel that fewer role models were a challenge.

We wanted to do more to address this.

Once we met Adrienne, it clicked that we needed to put together an interview series. Except, we didn’t have such experience on the team. We were neither writers nor journalists by background, nor did we have curating experience. The easiest thing it seemed was to start by interviewing friends, and asking them to suggest friends we could speak with. We kept an eye out for women and girls who’d already been in the media. Then others started noticing our work and they’d sometimes suggest friends we could speak with. The list of women we could interview started to grow. We even put together our inaugural video, “What Do Sports Mean To You?”

One year on we’ve shared the stories of over 35 women and girls in Hong Kong. We’ve met some amazing individuals who have spoken with authenticity and wisdom, and who have touched us in so many ways. Our guiding principle was – and still is — simply to try as much as possible to share the diverse backgrounds and uniqueness of thought of the women and girls.

Through this experience of starting an interview series, we have learned so much. So we thought we’d take this opportunity to summarize a few takeaways:

Get involved

One of the reasons why we love sports is the ability to be able to build on skills and in doing so, experience personal growth and development. As Jess Cole, Aussie Rules Football player put it: “I think the first thing I’ve learned is simply to be involved. Don’t sit back and don’t wait to see what will happen. Because that’s how you learn, and it’s by being involved that we can show that women are interested and keen to play AFL. I’ve been guilty in the past where I’ve said I’ll just watch and see what happens … but this is not how team sports work. You learn by doing, listening and asking questions.”

Sharing a sport with a parent is a great bonding experience

There’s no doubt that sports can draw people closer together. Teammates bond together by working towards goals. And families can bond over sports too. We heard from Yasmin Daswani where she learned to play cricket together with her mother, and Christie Cheung who plays ice hockey with her father. As Yasmin shares, “To share a sport with her [mother] and to have the same friends when we started was quite special and I really enjoyed it. It was a good idea because our weekends were spent together. And yes there were times when as a kid I did feel embarrassed, and think, “mom why would you say that,” or “mom what are you doing,” or if she mis-fielded a ball and I would feel embarrassed. At the same time it was so much fun and such a good experience.”

Not to mention that parents can be fantastic role models to their children. Vicki Chi shares this about bringing her daughter to sports: “It is so nice to be able to show her what I love and have her support. She tells me: mommy I want to play [underwater] hockey too … and shows me how good she is at diving. I would say it doesn’t get better than sharing the fun of sports together with the little one.”

Sports really do instill confidence …

There are many anecdotes and research that say sports bolster confidence. A “GIRLS & SPORTS: A GIRLS’ INDEX™ IMPACT REPORT” that surveyed over 10,000 girls in the US found a positive correlation between playing sports and increased confidence, body image, academic performance and personal relationships. But there is no better way to exemplify this than Tsang Yee Ting, who shares, “When I first developed vitiligo, the white patches first appeared on my back and my legs and feet. I felt different and even if my friends around me didn’t notice it or ask me about it, I myself was very conscious about it and I wanted to hide it. I also didn’t have much confidence in school because I was ranked so poorly in class; I was really always the worse student and the one with the worse grades. But karate gave me the confidence to accept myself for who I am inspite of my skin condition and poor grades. I was good at karate so I could at least say I was good at something. I can honestly say if I didn’t practice karate, I wouldn’t have been able to cope with vitiligo as easily either.”

… And teach us plenty of life skills

We’re well aware that sports can teach teamwork and communication. Some other skills our interviewees have shared that they learned:

  • Commitment, self-discipline and responsibility. Anna Pinder shares what she hopes she can instill in her children through sports, “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.”
  • Courage and ambition. Danielle Taylor shares, “I definitely think the mind set of being an athlete helps you have the courage, confidence and ambition to be a business owner. In the last 2 years, I have started up a business in a completely new industry, so I really feel it is like learning a new sport. You have to be coachable, have a good mentor and know that there maybe some times of failure along the way. In sport I have always wanted to win and be the best, and I certainly think this do or die attitude is what gives you that killer instinct in business as well.
  • Coping mechanisms and overcoming fear. As Florence Pang shares, “It wasn’t until later on in high school did I recognize the tremendous stress I forced upon myself and the unhealthy amount of time I wasted on doubting my abilities. I picked up old hobbies that I almost forgot I once had. I began enjoying learning a lot more than before. I became happier. Going back into sports pulled me out of the dark pit that I was sinking in. I stopped putting down myself, the fear that was bottled in me vacated and I learned to face failures with poise while rejections with grace.

We’ve highlighted just a few of the reasons why sports matter to some of the women we have met with in the past who shared their stories and we know there are so many more reasons. We hope to continue to uncover more!

To everyone who’s been a supporter of WISE HK, have read one or all the interviews, or if you’ve been interviewed in the past – a huge huge huge thank you to you all! And if you’re only stumbling across WISE HK for the first time, we hope you will keep coming back. We will continue to share the stories of more women and girls who play sports in Hong Kong. If you have any recommendations for us to meet with, or just want to leave some feedback, please do let us know by emailing us at wisewomenhk@gmail.com!

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