The handball team from TWGHs Sun Hoi Directors' College made history last month. For the first time ever, they claimed the boys' title in the Bonaqua All-Hong Kong Schools Jing Ying Tournament. But instead of just sitting back and enjoying their success, they would rather focus on inspiring other players to maintain those high standards.
"We just managed to make the final eight last year, so we did not have high expectations," says their teacher-in-charge, Wong Yat-cheong.
"To be honest, the success came quite as a surprise."
Going into the Jing Ying Tournament as slight underdogs this year, the team's performance throughout the event stunned spectators, even though they did not have proper training.
"We were all A-grade players playing in the Jing Ying Tournament this time. Most of us have to prepare for the upcoming HKDSE, which made it more difficult to have a full team for every practice," explains Form Six student and star player, Lee Ka-ho.
"After finishing first runner-up in Tuen Mun's Inter-School A-Grade Competition, we reduced training to devote more time to our studies. So we trained only twice a week before the tournament."
Before they beat Ho Lap College (Sponsored by Sik Sik Yuen) in the Jing Ying final, the team had to get through some tough battles.
In the quarter-finals, they defeated the 2012-2013 champions, Shek Lei Catholic Secondary School. Then in the semi-finals, they took on defending champions, Ying Wa College. Despite trailing for most of the game, they mounted a comeback and won 11-10.
"Our rapport is the key to our success. We've played handball together for years and we know each other's positions well," says Ka-ho, the experienced left back who will turn 19 next month.
"One of our players was not confident in the first game, so I gave him a pat on the back and assured him by saying 'you still have us'. In the next game, I was not in good form and my teammates did the same to me. I was so touched."
The team's coach, Ho Yui-cheong, felt that sense of unity, too.
Being a past student and former team member, Yui-cheong knows what it takes to win a big tournament. Playing for City University, he won this year's University Sports Federation of Hong Kong, China handball competition.
"When I was in Form Two and Three, a lot of us were members of the Hong Kong junior team. Compared to now, it seems like we had a stronger and more experienced team, but we were never able to make it to the finals of the Jing Ying tournament," says Yui-cheong.
"I am now in a different position, but these boys have finally made our dream come true. I am deeply moved."
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So what were the changes that led to this year's success?
"We used to pay more attention to individual performances and often forgot about team work. Now, I always remind the boys of the importance of team work," says Yui-cheong.
Ka-ho adds: "I remember in the past, when Yui-cheong was still playing for the team, we, the younger boys, didn't have the courage to talk to the seniors. But the junior boys now are more willing to ask questions, so we are improving as a team."
In fact, players still share experiences and train with the younger students even after graduation. A lot of them also represent the school in the Hong Kong league.
"I have always known that handball is a proud tradition of the school, with the girls' team winning the Jing Ying tournament about a decade ago," says principal Chow Hing-chung. "It is such a motivation to see the boys' team crowning themselves with glory in the same event. Their spirit is an inspiration for other students, and we want to pass it on."