The Council’s Views Why Participation In Water Sports Should Be Supported By
The Youth Development Commission
The Chief Executive's 2017 Policy Address stated that a new high-level Youth Development Commission would be set up around the first quarter of 2018 and would subsume within its remit the responsibilities of the current Commission on Youth. The Council firmly supports any initiative by the Government that would encourage and assist the youth of Hong Kong to achieve their full potential to become valued members of society.
In anticipation of the establishment of the new Youth Development Commission, in December 2017, the Council set out its views in a letter addressed to the then Chairman of the Commission on Youth, Mr Lau Ming-Wai, GBS, JP. The substance of that letter was subsequently reflected in an article published in the magazine, Fragrant Harbour. (See page 33 of magazine Issue number 293, dated 12 April 2018, at https://issuu.com/fragrantharbour/docs/number_293)
Building on those two earlier steps, the Council wishes to use this website article to elaborate further on its argument that the new Commission should look seriously at encouraging the participation of youth in water sports.
The policy of the current Commission on Youth has been oriented very much towards developing a meritocratic society through encouraging individual young people to become leaders of society, “with horizons, creativity, leadership and commitment … ". But not everybody can ultimately become a leader. In reality there has to be a majority who have to be happy - or may even choose - never to lead. Moreover, "horizons, creativity, leadership and commitment" focus on specific mental traits to be encouraged in individual young people, not their general mental health and physical wellbeing, and especially that of being a happy and valued member of an inclusive, more egalitarian society that seems necessary to protect the long-term stability of an increasingly complex Hong Kong community.
The medical profession today recognizes the basic truth of the long-held saying "healthy body, healthy mind". For example, regular physical exercise has been shown to:
• Reduce the risk of and alleviate mental depression
• Relieve stress and improve sleep
• Increase and protect brain function and memory
• Protect and improve joint flexibility and bone density
• Improve self-confidence, self-discipline and physical posture
• Improve social interaction and reduce antisocial behaviour, especially through participation in team-based activities
• Help in the fight against obesity in young people and thereby reduce the risk of them developing serious life-threatening health problems in later life at significant long-term cost to the community
Although the Council cannot claim any depth of medical expertise, its Members collectively have many decades of hands-on experience in working with young people from all sectors of society. The Council's Members could all quote examples where participation in their respective sport has wrought considerable changes for the good in young people who might otherwise have fallen by the wayside or failed to achieve their full potential.
An example is that of the Hong Kong, China Rowing Association, which in its early days established a school visit programme to invite students to take up rowing. The Association immediately noted that the highest uptake came from students in lower band schools. The enthusiastic response from these students was also strongly backed by parents and teachers because of the marked improvement seen in the attitude of those students participating in the programme. Higher levels of attention in class and improvements in grades were noted, as were changes in their personal behavior and happiness outside the classroom. Participation in an outdoor physical sport, in a competitive team environment under qualified coaching, was seen to have provided a beneficial focus and outlet for the restless energy that often proves troubling for young people. Indeed, support for the programme led to the HKCRA being the first sports association to receive funding from the then Quality Education Fund.
A second example is that of the Hong Kong China Dragon Boat Association. Two-thirds of the members of Hong Kong’s national dragon boat team come from underprivileged families. They were recruited mainly through the Association’s school programme and outreach efforts to youth in the Tin Shui Wai area. At first, many of these new young people were socially awkward, lacking even simple social graces, such as making eye-contact when addressed and offering meaningful responses when spoken to. But through team building efforts and heathy exercise under supervised instruction, and participation in local and international competitions, they came to recognize their own self-worth and how, if they were to be successful, they needed to cooperate and communicate with others. Today those early team members are now the confident core of the Hong Kong team, increasingly assuming leadership roles in a wish to pass on their knowledge and experience to the following generations. But of equal if not greater value to them as individuals was that the confidence and discipline they acquired as being part of a water sports team was successfully applied to their other areas of life, being reflected in good academic grades and worthwhile employment.
Another example is the Hong Kong Life Saving Society’s long-standing youth sport development work. The Society has organized youth lifesaving training programmes since being first established as the Hong Kong Life Guard Club in 1956 (renamed as the Hong Kong Life Saving Society in 1996). Along with lifesaving training, the first lifesaving gala was also held in 1956. In early 1968 the Society was the first organization to respond after the 1967 riots to the urgent call of the Government to provide youth recreation programmes for under-privileged children. In cooperation with the former Urban Services Department and using funds donated by the Society’s President and Councillors, thousands of youth from 1968 onwards were taken to enjoy the summers at local beaches safely with the Society’s honorary lifeguards on duty. Nowadays, the Society continues its success in organizing lifesaving and water safety programmes, especially for children and youth beginning as young as seven years of age. Today the mandate of the Society is continuously carried out by many dedicated volunteers bound to serve not only the Society but their fellow men. In addition to training and qualifying lifeguards for beaches and swimming pools, the Society provides opportunities for qualified youth to render other humanitarian services by serving as honorary lifeguards for events like the Cross Harbour (swimming) Race, the Hong Kong International Dragonboat Race, etc. Since 1956, the selfless acts of the Society’s members have saved over 33,000 lives.
The Council is of the view therefore that the Commission's current policy should be broadened to include actively and widely encouraging young people to participate in sports, particularly team sports, the purpose being to develop healthy, well-rounded and balanced team players who would willingly participate in and contribute to the Hong Kong community and from whom the best would then naturally emerge and receive general community support as our potential future leaders.
While there are many sports that young people could be encouraged to take up, water sports are widely recognized as one of the best forms of physical exercise. They offer a wide range of safe, non-contact, outdoor and indoor individual and team activities suitable for people of all ages and physical abilities, including those with physical and intellectual impairments. Moreover, out of the total area of the HKSAR of 2,754 sq km, at least 1,650 sq km or 60% is water area, four times more in area than the 443 sq km of the country parks. There is thus considerable scope to expand the current level of local water sports activities at relatively little cost and minimal use of scarce land resources.
In making the case for young people's participation in sport to fall within the policy remit of the future Youth Development Commission, the Council recognizes that the Sports Commission was established in 2001 to separately advise the Government on the policies, funding and implementation of sports development. The Council is not suggesting that the Sports Commission's remit be changed, more that the two Commissions should be tasked to actively collaborate to establish a holistic policy and implementation framework to encourage participation in sports as part of an overall youth development policy.