For the first 13 years of Ashley Chan’s life, she had never picked up any sport. She might have gone to the gym occasionally, but she would certainly not have considered herself an athlete. This all changed three years ago, when she stumbled upon ball hockey.
Fast forward to this year’s International Schools Sports Federation Hong Kong Ball Hockey Tournament, which took place in February, where in the girls’ finals Ashley stood out as a star player for her school, German Swiss International School (GSIS).
The 16-year-old led the GSIS team to crush last year’s silver medallist, Victoria Shanghai Academy, two games in a row, clinching the champion title for the first time. She was also named the Most Valuable Female Player, for her remarkable performance as the team’s attacker.
Considering Ashley only started playing the sport three years ago, the individual and team awards were milestones to be celebrated.
“When they showed me the champion banner, I started crying because it was one of the most important moments of my whole ball hockey career,” Ashley told Young Post after the match.
Without a lot of experience in sports, Ashley, who was 13 at the time, had a hard time trying to grasp the basics.
“The first year was the worst. I had no idea where to put my strength, or how to use the stick, which is hard to control because of its length,” she recalled, indicating that the stick reaches up to her nose.
While she was not athletic, Ashley was surprised by how much she enjoyed playing this fast-paced and physically-demanding sport. She gradually developed the stamina needed for running back and forth across the court, as well as seeing the contact aspect of the sport a means of spicing up the games.
“The contact aspect may make players more prone to injuries, usually mild ones, but it is what makes the sport interesting,” she said.
Now that Ashley is more experienced, learning new stick techniques or getting injured hardly faze her any more. Yet one thing she still struggles with is getting up early for her weekly morning practice.
“We have a session at 6.30am and it’s torture for me to have to wake up,” said Ashley, laughing. “But what keeps me going is my genuine love for the sport, and the fact that I have a team training with me.”
Since ball hockey is relatively new in the city, there were very few teams in the school league at first, and all of them were mixed teams, made up of mostly boys and just a few girls. It was only two years ago that the International Schools Sports Federation Hong Kong finally started a separate league for the girls.
When asked if there is a difference between playing against boys and playing against girls, Ashley chuckled and said, “I don’t find it that different, though sometimes girls play even rougher.”
The MVP of the reigning ISSFHK ball hockey girls’ champion team said she and her teammates are looking forward to taking on more schools in the future, and hope more people in Hong Kong will get to know about this young sport.
“Right now, we have fewer than 10 schools in the league. I think the best way to promote the sport is to encourage more schools to join,” she said.