Women in Sports Leadership #2: Gessy Li — netball captain, organizer and umpire — on learning to be a captain[:zh]「女性體育領袖」系列二: 學習當起隊長 — 黎嘉詠 (Gessy Li) — 投球隊隊長、籌劃人和裁判
Last week, we launched our inaugural three-part “Women in Sports Leadership” interview series, where we share one weekly interview with women in sports leadership in Hong Kong, hearing their stories about being a leader in their respective sports. Our aspiration at WISE HK has always been to get more women involved in sports: not just to participate in, but also to organize, to coach and to lead. In these series we will learn about what it means to these women as they go about being generally bad-ass in their roles!
Gessy started playing netball eight years ago when she entered secondary school and has never stopped since. She has been on the Hong Kong U21 Netball Team since 2015 and was also selected into the Hong Kong Netball Squad. Earlier this year, she captained the Hong Kong U21 Netball Team, who came second runner up in the Asian Youth Netball Championships held in JeonJu. It was the first time in over 20 years that Hong Kong was placed top three. In Hong Kong, she represents Hantang Netball Club in the premier division of the Hong Kong Netball League. She was also the vice-captain of the HKU team, who have been champions in the Joint-University Tournament for the past three years.
Other than being a player, Gessy dedicates her time to the development of Netball in Hong Kong. She was Chairperson of Netball Club, HKUSU, and is currently Secretary for Hantang Netball Club. She also coaches netball at her alma mater, and umpires netball games as well. Her love of sports has led her to try rowing and dodgeball in the past year, but was forced to quit the both due to her tight schedule. When there is time to sneak in a break, Gessy enjoys having some quiet time to herself, as well as spending time with family and friends.
You were the captain of the Youth Netball Team. Can you share a bit about what you did in this role?
I would consider myself the figurehead of the team, the one responsible to make speeches, oaths, do the coin toss for centre pass with our opponent (to see if we can have the first possession in the match). One thing I really love about this team is how everyone had a say, and we all had each other’s backs, so there wasn’t much left for me to do. Except that I have a pet peeve with collars, so I had to make sure that all my teammate’s collars were upright; also to safeguard our team’s image 😀
I tried to make use of this opportunity of being a captain to motivate my team: before, after and during each game. I also tried to reach out to each and every teammate, especially the younger ones, to understand and share with them my experiences as I know it can be quite intimidating to make their first debut. I was also the bridge between our coaches and the team, and was the messenger in between.
Did you have anything that you wanted to learn from being a captain?
I didn’t have anything in particular that I wanted to learn from being a captain; I took the role with an open mind, and just wanted to embrace any opportunities that would come along.
Did you have any expectations before you were a captain?
I’ve heard in interviews of the Australian Netball Team — the Diamonds — about the capabilities of their team captain, and what they could do to motivate the team. So I hoped to make good use of this role given to me, and to try impact the team in any way I could.
Were you scared or nervous about being a captain? If so, how did you overcome it?
I wasn’t too scared about being a captain, rather I was more worried about how others would see me, and whether or not I would be able to meet their expectations. I was neither the oldest on the team nor the most experienced, so initially I was worried that the team would be even more scattered because of me. To overcome this, I didn’t go in trying to take charge, but tried to listen and understand the players. Fortunately, everyone was really supportive of my role.
What do you think is different about being a captain versus being a player?
During matches, it was really different from being a player. I was more proactive in doing things because I knew that if I didn’t take the initiative, no one else would. I had to lead warm up, be switched on all the time, come up with short motivational pep talks for my team before games and during quarter breaks, and have a short debrief after games. I can still remember that there was so much going on in my mind during the first game we played. Usually as a player I would only have to worry about myself, my own body condition, and focus on the game … but as captain, my thoughts included my teammates. Is she switched on and focused? How is she feeling? Does she need a pat on her shoulder? I quickly learnt to balance between the team and myself so I won’t be distracted by my own thoughts.
Off the court, I would put down my “title” as captain, so I could just be everybody’s friend, and that was no different from being a player.
What do you most and least enjoy about being a captain?
I can’t think of anything that I didn’t enjoy about being captain. I really enjoyed my whole experience and journey. The thing I enjoyed most was the look in my teammates’ eyes during our huddles, where I saw passion, confidence, and determination.
What have you learned from being a team captain? What are your biggest takeaways?
Communication skills. For a team to be united, you really need to get to know each other, and talk to them. Understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and try to help each other out. Without talking about these things, you’ll just be playing on your own. Even after we talk amongst each other, we also had to let the coach know what we thought, and likewise, we needed to make sure that everyone is on the same page about what the coach wanted for the team. So communication is the key. More importantly, having that trust to be able to communicate honestly with each other made it more effective.
I was really honored to be given this role as team captain. At the same time, I didn’t want to be hung up on the title of “captain”, so to me it was just another role. I didn’t do incredible things to lead my team to victory. I was given this role, I tried my best, and tried to do things that I wouldn’t have done as a player, such as reaching out to my other teammates, to talk about more personal things, such as their troubles and worries. I saw this as an opportunity to help me grow, and it was a memorable lesson.
If other women were interested in being a captain, but are afraid of the commitment or just generally feel that it’s a lot of pressure, what words of advice do you offer to encourage them to try?
If you’re afraid of the commitment, I urge you not to be a captain. Playing sports is all about commitment, dedication of your time, your effort, and if you’re not sure if you can be committed, I have to say it’s a bit hard to take up the responsibility when you’re not even at the trainings, or at the games.
But if what is stopping you is your concern about all the various problems you may face as captain, don’t let that deter you. Just give it your all. There is no ‘best” captain in the world. Because every team needs a different captain. And every captain has their own style. If it’s your first time, that’s even better, because you won’t have the pressure to perform, and the pressure to do things the same way you did last time. But if you still think that there’s a lot of pressure, remember that you’re an athlete, and athletes are trained to deal with pressure.
Also remember this: you are not alone, there is always someone to talk to, even to your team. As captain, you do not need to have the solution to everything, you can be weak at certain times too, and its okay to let your team know that. So I say to you, if you want to be a captain, go for it.
「女性體育領袖」系列二: 學習當起隊長 — 黎嘉詠 (Gessy Li) — 投球隊隊長、籌劃人和裁判
Gessy 由初中開始接觸投球至今已8年，過程從未間斷。2015年，18歲的她已是香港二十一歲以下青年投球代表隊的成員，現在更於香港投球隊集訓。今年年中，她以隊長的身份帶領青年投球代表隊在韓國全洲的亞洲青年投球錦標賽中摘季，這是香港投球二十多年後再次擠身三甲。 而在本地賽事方面，Gessy為漢唐投球會出戰香港投球超級聯賽，她亦是大專投球三連霸的勁旅-香港大學投球隊的副隊長。
特別在比賽的時候，球員和隊長的身份尤其不同。身為隊長，我會表現得更主動，因為我知道，若果我不以身作則，隊員們很難自動自覺去做。我需要帶熱身、每刻保持狀態，還要預備簡短而富鼓勵性的講話於賽事前後激勵士氣。我還記得在亞錦賽的首場比賽裡我未太習慣隊長的思考模式，思緒有點混亂。因為當我只是一個普通球員時，我無需有太多顧慮，我只需管理好自己，包括我的身體狀態和專注比賽等就可以。可是，作為隊長，我需要為我的隊員去想，究竟她在不在狀態呢? 她的感覺如何? 她需要我拍拍肩膀作鼓勵嗎? 但我也很快地學會了如何去平衡自己和隊員的需要，好讓我不被自己的情緒影響到。