In our July 2019 Women in Sports Inspire! interview series, we spoke to Kandy Ho about her journey to promote tchoukball in Hong Kong by introducing it to different schools. This month, we hear from Vien Tsang on how she uses a different approach to build the floorball scene in Hong Kong.

Vien Tsang has a dream to start the first Hong Kong Women’s National Floorball Team. Making that a reality is proving harder than one may think. With constant struggles of finding venues, players, and coaches, it would be easy for Vien to lose hope. Fortunately, fellow floorball players from around the world have helped and supported Vien’s dream, and kept her moving forward.

Vien first started playing floorball just two years ago. Originally she played field hockey and through her hockey friends, was introduced to floorball. She instantly fell in love with the fast pace and rhythm of the sport.

Growing up, Vien wanted to spend more time in sports than she was able to. She now wants to make up for this by not only investing most of her time into promoting floorball in Hong Kong, but also working as a sports journalist, and for the Floorball Federation of Hong Kong. Since being introduced to the sport, she has had plenty of opportunities to travel around the world. Whilst travelling Vien tries to train with different floorball clubs. This not only helps her improve her skills, it also gives her the support and proof that she can successfully start her own floorball team in Hong Kong.

Building interest and skill in a new sport

“I’m still trying to figure out the most successful way to promote the sport.”

The biggest issue was knowing what to prioritise. Marketing leads to interest, and interest leads to more players, and once there’s enough players it’s easier to get venues. But venues are difficult to come by because of how little space is available. So they may need to use more expensive fields, which increases costs, which can turn away players who want to play recreationally. Sometimes it can seem like a never-ending battle. But Vien thinks she may have found the solution, which is, investing in the players.

“One thing that is quite obvious but didn’t expect. I am super passionate [about floorball], I freelance and I can be flexible. But because it’s a team sport, you need to gather people.”

Vien explains that by investing in the players, you invest in the sport. The best way to do this was for her and her teammates to gain as much experience as possible. She signed them up for a tournament in Guangzhou, which didn’t go quite according to plan. They were by far the newest team, and it was a mixed-gender tournament, which meant there were a lot more men than women playing. They also went to play floorball in Singapore, where the sport is more developed. Not only were they able to train with other floorball players from Asia, it was the first time many of Vien’s teammates had received proper coaching. The skills and lessons they learnt in Singapore were a significant stepping stone for Vien and her push to have floorball be recognized as a serious sport in Hong Kong.

“After all, the most important thing is to keep your head down and improve your skills.”

Although Vien’s dream is to start the first Hong Kong Women’s National Floorball team, she realises that she still has far to go before that becomes a reality. This was made evident when she talked to other sports federations in Hong Kong. They indicated that just because a sport has enough players, it doesn’t mean they should go out and represent Hong Kong; if they go out and they’re not ready, they may not live up to the reputation that Hong Kong has created in international sports. In such situations, it’s better to focus on training hard, making the sport sustainable, then going to international tournaments to represent Hong Kong.

(Editor’s Note: On the other hand, training hard within yourselves without exposure to more advanced levels of play sometimes is not helpful to furthering a sport. Playing in competitions globally, learning new strategies, meeting other players with different techniques and coaching styles is often one of the best ways to gain new experiences, and losing is sometimes an impetus for improvement.)

One way to help make a sport sustainable is by getting sponsorship and different organizations to support you. This relieves the burden of trying to finance everything from the players. Although Vien has not yet secured any long time sponsors, she has been able to create opportunities to promote the sport, and received products from small companies. Vien introduced floorball at the SportsExpo on the 16-18 of August.

Learning from others

Vien has been able to learn from other clubs around the world about how they built up floorball in their country. In Shanghai floorball was pushed in universities and generated interest from university students. Now they have a solid base of graduates who have continued to play, and the floorball federation has a good relationship with the universities, so they are able to use their facilities. Vien realises she needs to do the same and build relationships with organizations to help promote her club and the sport.

You can also look towards tag rugby in Hong Kong as an example. They were able to recruit players because they marketed themselves as a fun way to continue playing rugby but in a different and more inviting environment. Maybe floorball can market themselves the same way, seeing as it is similar to field hockey.

In the context of Hong Kong

“In some ways when you try and start any sport, the barriers are the same regardless of what country you are in.”

It was refreshing for Vien to see that while these clubs also had problems in the initial phases, some issues are unique to Hong Kong, like the lack of fields for instance. Whilst Shanghai has an abundance of space, recreational sports are not prioritised. Venues are therefore easier to book there than in Hong Kong.

Vien’s believes Hong Kong’s sporting culture is not yet established. Many Hong Kong athletes win medals from international tournaments. Even when they do, their name might be known for a week or two, but afterwards the general public forgets them. This can be both good and bad. Bad in the sense that you don’t get the recognition that you deserve, good in the sense that the barriers to entry are quite low, and it is still possible to build a national team from the ground up. There’s still a long way to go to grow floorball in Hong Kong, but there is hope.

Vien has been able to hit some milestones on this journey. Setting up a sports team (Hong Kong Kiddos Floorball Team) in March and winning their first-ever local championship this year, were huge successes in her books. And getting the green light from the floorball federation to build a Hong Kong Women’s Floorball team has laid the groundwork to make her dream a reality.

So what makes Hong Kong different to other countries when it comes to floorball?

Vien summarized this quite perfectly when she said “Hong Kong is not a big city or place, but everything is possible because it’s an international city.” There will always be someone who is interested and passionate, people come in with different experiences that can help propel your sport to be the next great sport of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is constantly changing and adapting which means new opportunities present themselves on the daily. Vien would never have thought that 2 years ago she would be able to invest so much energy into the sport and also gain so much support for it from third parties. But today she is able to make her dream a reality and even though it may be a long journey, she knows that it is possible.