By Felice Cheng
Photography by: Amber Liao
All athletes strive to be the best of the best, whether it be basketball players, swimmers or volleyball players. As student athletes, being the best of the best can often be perceived as unachievable due to the copious amounts of school work that must also be dealt with. Yet if we look around at the community around us, we are surrounded by amazingly skilled and talented athletes.
For me, netball was not the sport that I willingly invested my time in. At a young age, I participated in many sports such as volleyball, swimming, football and basketball. I only decided to undertake netball when I was 11 under the persuasion of my parents. Out of all the sports I played, I seemed to progress extremely quickly in netball, and unknowingly, it slowly became my favourite sport. A few years ago, I decided to drop all my other sports and devote all my time and energy on netball, trying to focus on advancements in this one sport. Because of this, netball has slowly become the center of my attention.
Every year, I was able to achieve my goal of joining the school team and attending as many tournaments as possible to increase my exposure to people of different skills. Last year’s South East Asia Netball Tournament held in Singapore was especially compelling to me. It was the first time I had felt such a strong urge to win a game, the first time I had experienced such ambition within me. I still remember the game we were playing for 2nd or 3rd place. We had played all 4 quarters and ended up at a draw. Within the last 2 extra minutes, with adrenaline running throughout our body, we scored the last point and prevailed to win silver. The anxiety built up throughout the game was suddenly mitigated at that last second, causing the whole team to erupt in overjoyed cries. Because of this experience, I have shed even more positive light to playing the game of netball. To most people, netball is just a competitive game, but to me, I see it as another social place, where people can come together and feel their sense of belonging.
When I mention the word “netball”, people often refer to it as being the sport for “basketball dropouts”. However, individuals who make such statements often don’t realise the substantial amount of skill that is needed to excel in this sport. Netball is Australia’s national sport and is most popular among commonwealth nations. According to the International Netball Federation, netball is played by more than 20 million people in over 80 countries. Though netball has not been able to make it into the Olympics yet, it became an International Olympic Committee recognised sport in 1995 and has surely made itself popular within the Hong Kong community and the CIS community. Hong Kong has an extensive community for netballers, providing each and every one of us with a myriad of opportunities to advance and prosper as a netball player.
A good netball team is always made up of a group of hardworking and talented players and the CIS netball team is certainly astounding. Zenia Wong, one of CIS’s star players and a member of the Hong Kong Cricket Club Demons and Hong Kong National team, agreed to answer some questions to bring more recognition to the netball community.
Your advanced netball skills must have taken a lot of time and effort, when did you begin playing netball and what actually got you started?
“I started when I first joined Glenealy School in Year 5. All my friends played it so I decided to give it a try! Ever since I picked up that ball I fell in love with the sport. I started playing competitively when I joined HKCC (Hong Kong Cricket Club) Netball and CIS netball in Year 7, and I have been trialing for the Hong Kong Academy programmes and teams ever since.”
Why do you think netball is beginning to gain more recognition within Hong Kong?
“Netball itself is also expanding internationally and in Hong Kong, such as the introduction of more teams and leagues. There are now more opportunities for younger kids to play netball and with more leagues and programmes being introduced, kids are able to play netball outside of school. HKNA (Hong Kong Netball Association) has built a players pathway which not only helps netball gain more popularity, but also nurtures young girls to play from academy programmes up to national and competitive levels. It’s also come to my attention that more international and local schools are also joining interschool HKSSF and ISSFHK netball competitions, introducing a great way to have fun with friends and learn a new sport, therefore also attracting more people to netball.”
Being both a CIS student and a member of the Hong Kong National Youth team, how are you able to be fully committed to both roles and manage your time effectively?
“The training process for the Asian Youth Netball Championships during the summer of 2019 was very tough, especially balancing school and club netball as well. In terms of managing my time, I had to make sure I was organized (doing my work and preparing for tests as soon as possible), as well as fitting in the training and recovery time required. I usually try to make use of every minute, even if it is on the way to netball training, however, I make sure that when I step on the court, my mind is only on netball, the team and nothing else! The most important thing for me was rest, knowing that I had to take breaks and sleep when I was tired rather than pushing myself too hard to finish work.”
What are some tips you have for younger players who are looking to improve or are aiming to join the Hong Kong netball team in the future?
“Take the first step: if netball is something you love and something you want to be better at, you have to make the first move. You’ll encounter challenges along the way, may it be injuries, not making the team, or being disappointed with your own performance, but picking yourself back up and putting in the effort behind the scenes is so important! Do some extra training, set goals, trial for a new programme, challenge yourself because you’ll never know what you’re truly capable of until you try! Just remember that you have a wonderful group of teammates who are always there for you, the netball community is so friendly and welcoming!”
Hearing Zenia’s journey and experience with netball has really deepened my thinking within this sport. My relationship with netball has been increasingly integral in my daily life and will without a doubt be something that extends past my highschool career. I realize that sport is such an empowering source – something that should be part of everyone’s stage of youth, the journey of growing up. Just like every other player, netball has brought me both highs and lows, but the process of my growth as a netball player is what makes it so incredibly gratifying.