We hear about some of the sporting goals being kicked at Hong Kong Academy (HKA) from SIMON ROBERTS, the school’s Athletics Director. Plus what’s new for the school’s Physical Education programme and its football team, and some insights into the ISSFHK (International Schools Sports Federation Hong Kong) competition.
Simon hails from the UK, where he qualified as a Physical Education teacher and first taught in Leeds for four years. He has a football background and is unsurprisingly a huge Leeds United fan. He also enjoyed supporting the Lionesses, England’s women’s football team, in the recent World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Simon left Leeds in 2015, moving to Shanghai as head of Physical Education and sport at a big international school. Then, in 2019, he moved to HKA to take up the role of Athletics Director and to teach Physical Education at the school too.
Best of both worlds for facilities
Simon says that Hong Kong Academy has plenty of places for keen students to get active and hone their sporting prowess. “We have a really big double gym, with two basketball courts and two volleyball courts. It’s an awesome teaching space – and we can also host events for around 400 people there. There’s also a six-lane climbing wall, which is very big for a school – lots of staff are now qualified instructors, too.”
On campus, you’ll also find an indoor dance studio and a fitness centre with a gym and weights equipment, while outside there are two outdoor areas for football teams, one a five-a-side space and the other with an astroturf surface. Along with these great additions, HKA also utilises various sports facilities in and around Sai Kung.
“We’re so lucky with our geographic location here,” says Simon. “Next door is quite a large concrete football area; we hold classes there and some of our teams use it. And we run our swim programme in the pool across the road.”
Squash courts and tennis courts are also within easy walking distance, and there’s a running track where HKA’s cross country and track and field teams practice. Just out of town is the Hong Kong Golf & Tennis Academy, where the school runs some golf and tennis programmes. And only slightly further afield is Hebe Haven, which hosts HKA’s sailing programmes.
Stingrays and Dragonflies
With Hebe Haven just nearby, it’s no surprise that sailing is growing in stature at the school. “We’re developing a strong sailing culture,” says Simon. “We have members from the sailing community who know each other and who sail together on weekends, and we’ve now got some international-class sailors in our student body.”
Utilising the experience of these sailors, HKA competes in the Hong Kong interschools sailing competition with a school team.
That’s not to say that more traditional sports aren’t a permanent fixture at the school too. “The ‘big three’ are basketball, volleyball and football teams,” says Simon. “And netball is massively popular too – the local club is the Sai Kung Stingrays, and we’ve engaged a lot of girls, including some who hadn’t played netball before, to play not only for our school teams but also to join the Stingrays.”
Speaking of teams named after creatures, all HKA student athletes are known as Dragonflies. The name came about when students voted to become Dragonflies during the school’s 10th anniversary year in 2010.
With over 300 varieties of dragonflies in Hong Kong, students felt they reflected HKA’s commitment to diversity. Dragonflies also grow and adapt through their life cycle, and this was seen as an appropriate metaphor for the lifelong learning HKA provides and inspires.
“Being next to the water and priding ourselves on utilising the outdoors in education, we continue to feel a strong connection with this active, aquatic insect that is part of the local community,” says Simon.
ISSFHK competitions and championships
There are opportunities galore for HKA Dragonflies to test their level against other students in Hong Kong and beyond. In particular, the ISSFHK (International Schools Sports Federation Hong Kong) sees all the international schools in Hong Kong competing against each other across four different seasons. “Each ISSFHK season prioritises different sports, and kids can engage in all four, if they want. There’s a gold and silver division – HKA is regarded as a gold division school. Hundreds of our primary, middle and high school students from around 60 to 70 sports teams compete in these competitions.”
Other competitions include the HKSSF (Hong Kong Schools Sports Federation), where HKA competes in the primary tennis school competition, plus the Interschools Equestrian Challenge, and some independent sailing events, including the 24 Hour Race at Hebe Haven, and the interschools championships run by the Hong Kong Sailing Federation at Deep Water Bay.
What about competing against schools from further afield?
“We’ve got a middle school sports federation, SCISAC (South China International School Athletic Conference), which involves six schools from the region in Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong and Mainland China, who come together three times a year to compete in football, basketball and volleyball,” says Simon. “And the high school equivalent is ACAMIS (Association of China and Mongolia International Schools), where students aged 15 to 17 do the same thing – play the ‘big three’ sports in competition three times a year.”
The Hong Kong Academy policy of inclusion
One thing Simon is particularly proud of when it comes to sport at HKA is the level of engagement. A reason for this is the school’s open-door policy. “We don’t do try-outs,” he says.
“We don’t say ‘OK, you’re in the A team, you’re in the B team.’ We open the door to all students, which means our engagement is great. Close to 90 percent of students in the last school year competed for the Dragonflies. Some might say the flip-side to this is that we end up being not quite as competitive; in fact, I find that we are still very competitive – last year, our girls volleyball team were the ACAMIS champions of the region. We’ve had other big successes too, in sailing, netball and more. In any case, the policy is there to facilitate active, healthy lifestyles, and we literally see the rewards of that with the number of students signing up for sport.”
What’s new in Physical Education at HKA?
There’s more good news for those HKA students who love playing sport and see a future in it for themselves. The school has just developed an IBDP programme for Sport, Exercise, Health and Science. “It’s a genuine science course, like biology and physics,” says Simon, “and it really engages a lot of our students who are keen to pursue careers in sport, health and fitness. This is a huge industry today, and there’s loads of interest and a real passion for pursuing it among our students.”
With this in mind, don’t be surprised to see a former HKA student turning heads on a court or a pitch, or even in a boat, in a competition somewhere in the world. Who knows, maybe there’s a future Lioness at the school!
This article first appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.
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