As DGS badminton team captain Chloe Yeung Sin-kiu took a deep breath and raised her racket, the fervent cheers faded to silence. It was the final game in the gold medal match between Diocesan Girls’ School and Heep Yunn School at the All Hong Kong Schools Jing Ying Badminton Team Tournament in May.
There were five games in the team event – three singles and two doubles; the team that won three of the five games would win the match. The long-time rivals are used to meeting each other in finals, but what shocked both teams this year was seeing a tie after the fourth game. It has been years since Heep Yunn, who has held the title since the tournament inaugurated in 2013, had been forced into the last leg.
While her teammates were on tenterhooks, Chloe seemed surprisingly calm. As usual, the DGS captain played defensively with some deceptive overhead drop shots. She also held her own in long rallies, showing off her agility and endurance. The match was nip and tuck – so close it’s nearly a tie – to 18-17, until Chloe held on to the narrow lead and scored three points in a row, anchoring DGS to eventual victory and ending to Heep Yunn’s long-running streak.
Shouts of euphoria filled the arena, and Chloe’s teammates put their arms around her as they celebrated their emotional victory. It was a milestone past DGS captains had only dreamed of achieving, but the title meant even more to Chloe, who said she had not always felt comfortable being the leader.
“I’m not the typical type of captain who is charismatic enough to bring the whole team together,” she said.
“I’m shy. I don’t talk a lot and I didn’t know how to communicate with my teammates.”
The 18-year-old believes one of her teammates, who is more outgoing and expressive would have been a better fit for the role. But because that player did not spend as much time with the team, the coach picked Chloe instead.
At first, it all seemed very overwhelming for the then-Form Five student, who was not used to being the centre of attention.
What gave Chloe a headache was having to evaluate her teammates’ performance and give them feedback, which put her in a rather awkward position when they performed poorly. But the timid captain found her way around it, and decided to express her thoughts in “1,000-word texts”.
“I’d wait until I get home and [then would] draft some really lengthy messages to my teammates to tell them how I feel, that made it less uncomfortable giving constructive criticism to my friends,” she said.
To Chloe’s surprise, her term as captain was extended when she went into Form Six this year. Her coach hoped she would continue to lead the team while they scouted for a suitable candidate to fill her shoes.
Chloe believes the best way to establish leadership and unite a team starts with the basics, which includes asking her teammates to set up the nets for training together and taking turns to lead the warm up exercises, so that everyone on the team feels involved.
“I made sure I didn’t do everything on my own, it’s important to get my teammates as involved as possible,” she said.
As much as she loves being on the team, Chloe has to leave her captain days behind and prepare to be a rookie again as she enters university next month. The DGS graduate will study Chinese Medicine at the University of Hong Kong, and she looks forward to playing in intervarsity competitions.
“I will spend six years in university for this degree, and I’m excited to see what the university team is like,” said Chloe.
“I guess I will also play for my club in some local league competitions, and [will] try to get better results in mixed doubles.”