Women in Sports Leadership #3: Wanda Yuen — VP of HK Ultimate Players Association — on being a tournament director and leading a sports association
This week is the last of our inaugural three-part “Women in Sports Leadership” interviews, a series where we share one weekly interview with women in sports leadership in Hong Kong to hear 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!
Wanda is currently the Vice President of the Hong Kong Ultimate Players Association (HKUPA), the National Sport Association (NSA) of the sport Ultimate Frisbee in Hong Kong, running leagues, socials and tournaments as well as coaching and training sessions for the public.
In her capacity as the Vice President, Wanda is one of HKUPA’s key liaisons with the government, including working on getting HKUPA approved as a subvented National Sports Association. She was also the tournament director for the quadrennial Asia-Oceanic Ultimate Championships (AOUC) that was held in HK in November 2015 with over 20 teams attending from countries such as Japan, China, Taipei, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, UAE, India and Australia.
Wanda has been playing Ultimate Frisbee since 2009, introduced to the sport by a former colleague. To Wanda, the community welcomed her with open arms and taught her with patience even though she was so new. She hadn’t been allowed to play sports while in school but had always longed to play in a team sport. Through playing now and being on a team, Wanda is realizing many of her aspirations related to team sports. Wanda is super passionate about Ultimate Frisbee and has so much fun and desire to give back to the community — which is why she’s the Vice President of HKUPA!
By day, Wanda is now working for a start-up, having worked at CLP Power previously as an engineer. Outside of work and Ultimate Frisbee, Wanda attends Union Church, sings in the choir there and is also extremely passionate about Youth Group and volunteering.
Can you share a bit about what you do to help HKUPA apply to become a subvented NSA?
First I needed to work with my HKUPA board to assess if it is worthwhile to become a subvented NSA. There are many reasons why it makes sense to become a subvented NSA, but the requirements are strict so we had to weigh the pros and cons based on our community and what makes sense for us. Second we needed to assess what our HKUPA capability gaps are in order to become a subvented NSA. Thankfully what we’ve done in the past has built us a good foundation. One of the things I did on behalf of HKUPA during the process is to set up a limited company and I had to spend quite a lot of time speaking with the government to understand the process and requirements. It’s a long process!
How do you like being part of an organizing team for a sports association?
I really enjoy working on the board. First, we all share a huge passion to grow Ultimate Frisbee in HK. You see people taking on new initiatives and taking extra steps to encourage engagement in the sport, get sponsorships, or make things better. Second, I see a lot selfless acts: running errands for others, helping here and there on tournaments without asking for rewards. Third, there is no nonsense or dramas – we are all business and even if we disagree we make our points politely (the Ultimate Frisbee spirit!)
Can you share a bit about being tournament director (TD) for 2015 AOUC? What were some of the memorable and challenging moments?
I was asked to become the TD — if I can help I usually don’t turn down such requests. Also, being TD presented me with challenges to oversee a million things and people at the same time. It’s fun and I came away feeling a stronger sense of self.
To me what is memorable are the friendships I see in the process. Since budget was tight, we couldn’t pay for everyone’s labour. I entrusted friends to do things like print brochures and make player/coach passes; the extra effort they took to verify player information gave me a huge relief. Many volunteers and field commanders were simply amazing!
In terms of challenges … there were so many! The time schedule was one hugely difficult task. We had three divisions (men, mixed, women) in two separate locations. We needed to allow reasonable play and rest time for each team and also travel time between locations. We usually divide one field into two halves to allow two games simultaneously, but this wasn’t accepted by the world governing body of Ultimate Frisbee as they had stringent requirements on field dimensions. One field didn’t have floodlights — if I hadn’t visit the venue and then we arranged late games on that field, imagine the chaos it could create if teams showed up and couldn’t play! I learned that chalk doesn’t work on artificial turf so in the end we had to resort to using tape to draw field lines. One surprise was with one of our venues, Mongkok Stadium. We booked the grass pitch for the whole day on Sunday, only to find out very late that we could only use it for 2.5 hours. It forced us to overhaul our game schedule and be creative in game arrangements.
Running a tournament demands you to see the broad picture and be attentive to details at the same time. For instance, I envisioned every single detail for the whole opening ceremony: the order of teams marching in and where did they stop, how the lion dance would come in, who would pass equipment/souvenirs to guests. But at the same time I had to remember if all team fees had been collected, if visa application letters were written, if commodity/food orders were made/delivered, party details were finalized and if finals games were live broadcasted etc.
What do you think have been some of the necessary skills you need in order to become a TD / organizer of sports?
I see one goal of being a TD is to bring a good tournament experience to participants. Having a heart for people will give you a good start because you will put yourself in players’ shoes and think of what a team/player needs: food, drinks, reasonable seeding and game schedule, transportation, shade from sun and rain etc. Then you need the gift of organizing events and people management.
What are your biggest takeaways from being Vice President of HKUPA?
Getting to work with amazing people. It also forces me to think more strategically about how to grow Ultimate Frisbee in HK, and know more about the dynamics of the sport industry in HK.
What value or meaning does being in a leadership role in the sports association mean to you?
As a player you train hard to empower yourself only. A leader can empower more players. In a leadership role, you can run promotions to engage more people in the sport. You can run programs to enable athletes to become elite. You can shape policies on how club teams can be formed and how national team members can be selected. In all cases, leaders will represent the sport community and make our voices be heard by the government when the latter shapes its policy. I think this is important to grow the overall sporting community – not just in my sport but all sports – in HK.
If other women were interested in pursuing a leadership role within their sports organization, but were 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?
I had never thought of being the Vice President – I always think I am not good enough. But in AOUC I’ve built good connections with LCSD staff, and helped to form a very good opinion of Ultimate Frisbee and HKUPA on them. Being a board member of HKUPA, I can capitalize on this and further the good of Ultimate Frisbee in HK. I still remember in 2002, TIME magazine selected FBI Agent Coleen Rowley, WorldCom Vice President Cynthia Cooper, and former Enron Vice President Sherron Watkinsas as Persons of the Year. They drew attention to evidences hinting to 9-11 attack, told the board of directors accounting irregularities of nearly $4billion, warned Chairman of Enron the accounting irregularities sufficient to bring down the company. Unfortunately their advice fell on deaf ears, but I see women can use their knowledge and expertise to, at least try to, change things for the better. Maybe I can also use what little I have to do something. It always takes me a long time to learn a thing and learn how to do it well, but I did it, and learning gives me sense of achievement. It’s like hiking. You start low, you make one step at one time, but eventually you find yourself at the summit, and the view is rewarding! So if you want to see changes and you see there is a leadership role to fit in, go for it!