After losing the first game in the boys’ finals by a narrow margin, the Renaissance College (RCHK) ball hockey team gathered outside the arena, anxiously waiting for their coach to devise a new game plan.
Holding the whiteboard, however, was not an adult coach, as you might expect. It was one of the teenage players, Marco Yan, who was still catching his breath after the tiring match and giving instructions to his fellow teammates.
Thanks to the best-of-three format, RCHK still had a chance to defend the champion title it claimed at last year’s International Schools Sports Federation Hong Kong Ball Hockey Tournament – but only if they could beat German Swiss International School two games in a row. Regardless of how slim the chances seemed, Marco and his team weren’t yet ready to throw in the towel.
They first snatched a narrow victory of 4-3 in the crucial second game to put themselves back in the running, then repeated their success in the last game, besting GSIS 7-6 to lift the trophy for the second time.
Speaking to Young Post after the competition, which took place in YMCA King’s Park Centenary Centre last month, coach and team captain Marco said the key to recovering from an early setback was the team’s mentality, as well as a change in tactics that caught their opponent off guard.
“I think our team was able to control our emotions better; we played with a more calm and relaxed mindset,” said the 18-year-old. “At first we played quite aggressively, but later we focused on defence and pulled off some counter-attacks.”
While most players in Hong Kong’s school ball hockey league only have one or two years’ experience in the sport, Marco was already a skilled ice hockey player with 12 years’ experience when he joined his school’s ball hockey team. Seeing the team’s potential, he began coaching them in the hope that he could give the sport the exposure it needs.
“I wanted to bring what I’ve learned from top ice hockey coaches, as well as the experience that I’ve accumulated over the years into the school team, and draw people’s attention to the sport,” said the Year 13 student.
Marco now practises ball hockey at school, and ice hockey outside school. With experience in both sports, he’s quick to dispute the idea that ball hockey is easier than ice hockey because players don’t need to worry about balancing on ice.
“Both sports require slightly different skill sets. Ball hockey needs more stamina because there’s a lot of running, while ice hockey requires agility,” he said.
He added that both types allow each player to play to his or her strength, whether that’s speed, strength, or skill.
And while Marco may be his team’s star player and this year’s male MVP, he explained that what makes him a valuable member of the team is not the fact that
he’s a top scorer, but that he’s willing to create opportunities for his teammates.
“Some players want to score all the goals by themselves, but the team’s victory is what matters the most to me. I’m always happy to help others score goals,” he said. As much as he has enjoyed juggling the two sports, Marco has decided to concentrate on ice hockey when he starts university – most likely in North America, where the sport is more prevalent.
“The level of hockey there is much higher. Hopefully I can compete in the NCAA [National College Athletic Association] championships and see how far I can go.”