Athletes who choose to pursue further education are preparing for their own futures, but can also help other young athletes to excel.
Their training has taught them the importance of setting a goal and working hard to achieve it, meaning they have also acquired attributes like determination and endurance, along with teamwork skills and the ability to handle both success and failure in tough competitive situations. In one way or another, all of that experience is transferable, which helps athletes take the right approach to their other academic and work pursuits and find success there too.
“Sport is an important part of my life and will continue to be,” says Sabrina Kwan Wylam, a former member of the Hong Kong water polo team and a Year 4 student taking the Bachelor of Science Education (Honours, Sports Science) at The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK). “In class, I’ve learnt a lot about helping athletes to prevent injuries and train better. We collect data and analyse it to help determine the best way to perform certain actions.”
Kwan and her classmate, Ken Chan Ho-hin, a former Taekwondo athlete, have taken a course on preventing and managing sports injuries as part of their degree programme. It showed how shortening recovery times for athletes can be as important as finding ways to improve performance and gave new insights into how this can be done.
For example, students were asked to record data from a set of “Cortex” devices to assess the physical fitness levels of members of the Hong Kong swimming team. They conducted a series of MVo2 (maximum oxygen consumption) step tests to record heart rates, lactate levels and so on. They also took blood samples from all the swimmers involved and, after completing the data recording and sampling, they did further analysis on lactate and heart rate changes with the help of the latest technology.
In this way, they were able to monitor the intensity and effectiveness of training for each of the swimmers and report on their findings.
“With the right tools and information, we can really help athletes to perform better,” Chan says.
According to Dr Andy Tse, assistant professor and BSE programme leader, students acquire technical knowledge, which can be used to motivate athletes, as well as academic credentials and real-life work experience to improve their career prospects and help them find the right path.
Cheng Kwok-fai, a veteran windsurfer and a Medal of Honour recipient in 2015, is now an assistant coach at the Hong Kong Sports Institute and a student at EdUHK. His coaching commitments mean he is often away from Hong Kong, so it was important for him to find an academic programme that offered a certain amount of flexibility. That turned out to be the Bachelor of Heath Education (Honours) programme which offers him the right course content and a flexible part-time study option.
“I’ve found that the content covered in classes is relevant to my work, and that really helps to keep me motivated,” Cheng says. “One of the core courses is on research methods. It teaches evidence-based learning and has enhanced my analytical skills. “I’ve also learned how statistical data analysis can be used to help athletes perform better, and I am already applying that knowledge in my own coaching work.”
Cheng will soon be featured in a book published by EdUHK which encapsulates the unswerving determination of 12 elite athletes who have managed to balance their university studies with demanding training schedules.
The BHE (Hons) is a top-up degree programme and Dr Louisa Chung, assistant professor (BHE), explains that it is designed to be highly relevant for professional athletes and offers a high level of flexibility to fit in with training and coaching schedules.