The 2017 Student of the Year (SOTY) sportsperson is expected to be not just an elite athlete, but a model citizen, too.
“Sportsmanship is a big part of it; that is why it’s not the called the ‘best athlete’ award,” explained SOTY judge and SCMP Sports Editor, Noel Prentice. “There are a lot of people who are great athletes, but aren’t able to use their talents to inspire and help their community.”
SOTY is open to secondary students from Form Four to Form Six, or Year 10 to Year 12.
The sportsperson category recognises students who have “excelled in a chosen sport or sports and reached a noteworthy standard”. However, community service counts for 20 per cent of the judges’ voting criteria. All athletes are welcome, from those who excel in individual sports like swimming, tennis, running and badminton, to team sports like basketball, football and rugby.
“Team sport athletes should show good leadership skills. Part of being a team player is being able to lead by example and make your teammates better,” said Prentice. “It’s not about being the best at the sport, but helping your team be the best.”
Although confidence and ability are essential attributes for nominees, humility is equally important for Prentice.
“I’m looking for someone who has the right attitude,” he said. “Sure, you might be good at your sport now, but I look for someone who understands that no matter how good you are, there’s always room for improvement. Those are the people who will go far in their sport and be able to represent Hong Kong at the next level.”
Another judge, Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, vice-president of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, believes that consistency is key. “The SOTY sportsperson should show that they are capable of sustaining elite performance over a long period of time, and should always be looking to improve,” said Fok.
SOTY also judges sporting success in relation to physical ability. “Some people are just born with natural talent; they are just bigger, faster, and stronger than everyone else,” said Prentice. “What’s more inspiring is to see those who got to be the best at their sport by working hard and never giving up. That is the kind of example we want the SOTY sportsperson to set.”
SOTY nominees are expected to be part of a group, association or organisation which contributes to the sports community.
“It’s not enough to just be good at the school level, we want athletes that show initiative and have a real dedication to their sport,” Prentice said. “Someone who loves their sport will make sacrifices to become great – that means giving up free time to train at other sporting organisations.”
The SOTY sportsperson is expected to be academically strong, too, as meeting passing exam grades is a minimum entry requirement.
Fok believes competition for the award is getting stiffer as Hong Kong’s sporting culture continues to grow, so it’s important to do the “little things” to stand out among the other nominees.
“Sometimes when you meet the athletes in person, you can tell there’s something different or special about them,” he said. “The way they speak, the way they carry themselves, you can tell they believe they will be future professional athletes.”
The Student of the Year Awards competition is organised by South China Morning Post and Young Post and sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club.