“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr Seuss

24th Jun 2020

Here at the Hong Kong Rugby Union, we’re strong believers in the need for continuous learning, questioning and progression. Whether it be querying tactics on the pitch or in the office, there’s no room in the Union for complacency, which is why we encourage our staff to strive for new learnings, new processes, and new thinking in everything we do.

Amongst the staff and players there is an abundance of academic achievement, with a Masters Degrees, Doctoral Degrees, and even a couple of PHD’s thrown in for good measure...So we thought we’d reach out to our egg-headed big hitters and get their thoughts on the benefits of further education.

First up, and the inspiration behind this article, our Senior Manager of Player Welfare & Medical, Lucy Clarke, who recently added to her already prodigious list of qualifications a Postgraduate Certificate in Health Professions Education through Hull & York Medical School that in turn has resulted in her recognition as a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. This fantastic achievement means that Lucy and her team are now able to train both our local and regional medics in provision of pitch side care at all levels of competition, recognised by the UK Professional Standards Framework.

Lucy’s passion for First Aid and Immediate Care Education over many years has resulted in her numerous ‘instructor’ qualifications, and led her to set up  the first Pre-Hospital Immediate Care in Sports international training centre in Hong Kong back in 2010.

Remarking on this amazing achievement, Lucy said ‘Although I had years of teaching experience, the programme allowed me to develop a better understanding of assessment, teaching and learning in a professional practice and provided an opportunity to consider how the theory can help me in my own practical teaching context’.

To add to Lucy’s degrees of delight, one of her key Emergency Medical Services (EMS) volunteers, Lea Choy, has just proudly graduated from Open University with BSc in Nursing. Lucy first taught Lea first aid when she was a school student at Renaissance College about 10 years ago, and she was one of the first school students to join the EMS team and went on to become a first aid instructor. She is now an EMS leader, arranging cover for events as well as helping to train up other school students via the Union’s ESF CAS programme and she has also volunteered with the training for Child Fund “Pass It Back” programmes in Laos and Vietnam. 

Lea reflects, “…it all stems from my first aid class at school, joining EMS which allowed me to meet and mix with other health professionals, watching the players and learning from their resilience both on and off the field that has encouraged me to finally succeed in pursuing my dream career.”

Other staff members to add to these prestigious accolades include some scholars within our coaching department, namely, Leigh Jones, General Manager of Rugby Operations, and Andrew Hall, Head of Men’s Performance & Development.

Leigh Jones comments that one of the big attractions of his relocation to Hong Kong was the HKRU’s willingness to support his PhD studies. Leighs PhD, credited by the University of Wales, focused on various aspects of coach-education and development, specifically, a psychology-based study on ‘what coaches really need’ to best prepare them for the challenging world of professional coaching. After finalising his qualification in 2015, there have certainly been several situations when this learning has come in handy... Leigh spearheaded the Hong Kong National Men’s teams RWC Qualification efforts, resulting in a final place play-off with Canada, a position never before achieved by the Hong Kong team. Not only has the Hong Kong National team grown from strength-to-strength, but Leigh was also heavily involved in the creation of HK’s first ever professional rugby team, the South China Tigers, competing in the brand new APAC tournament, Global Rapid Rugby.

Looking back on his qualification and the impact on his career progression, Leigh said ‘[My PhD] has provided a level of confidence in knowing that I have amassed a sound base of both applied and academic knowledge, which I believe, has made me a more rounded coach’.

Not only has Leigh’s further education helped directly with his coaching career and team, but has also inspired his colleagues to follow his lead.

Enter Andrew Hall, HKRU Head of Men’s Performance and Development. Fully supported by the HKRU, Andrew collaborated with Leigh on a published paper on talent development, a process which then encouraged him to start his own PhD, examining high performance cultures.

In consideration of further education at the HKRU, Andrew said ‘One thing the Union has always encouraged is exploring avenues for further personal development. This began with their support through my teaching qualification as well as both my coaching levels three and four respectively. As always the extra-curricular challenges I have taken on have unquestionably assisted with my various roles at the Union and my PhD is no different. My particular line of research will naturally assist my day to day delivery as Head of Performance as well as providing key transferable insights into the creation of high performance cultures, managing change, leadership and team cohesion applicable across sports and business.

So there you have it, a showcase of scholastic success to be proud of, and the Union remains committed to supporting our staff and players to realising their potential on and off the pitch…and in the classroom!