Photo credit: Andy Yeung
At WISE HK, we often talk about the life and leadership skills that playing sports equips us with, such as resilience and mental toughness.
Research and anecdotal evidence supports that champion athletes display traits such as motivation, strong sense of focus, self-discipline, ability to manage stress, and humility.
For Agnes Tse Wing-Kiu, the journey to becoming a professional rugby player was testing. It required her to adopt champion athlete traits in order to overcome the obstacles she faced and pursue her dream.
Agnes first discovered her love for rugby whilst working as a flight attendant for Cathay Pacific. Knowing that she wouldn’t become a professional rugby player overnight, she put in many hours of hard work into training.
Not everyone is passionate enough to balance both career and playing a sport at an elite level, but with her resilience, she was able to make it work. She even changed her work schedule to only fly short haul flights so she could have more time in Hong Kong to attend training and games.
In spite of the sacrifices that Agnes had to make to balance sports and career, she believes they are worth it. When we asked what advice she would give to her younger self she said,
“No regrets, and trust yourself. Once you make a choice, give it 100% or even 200%.”
This sense of motivation and commitment has helped her get to where she is today.
Strong sense of focus
In 2018, Agnes made it into the Hong Kong Women’s National Sevens team. Soon after, she realised that she needed to be fully committed to the sport, and decided to quit Cathay Pacific to pursue being a fulltime athlete.
“When I want to do a thing I will go for it. Being on a national team is a once in a lifetime chance.”
She was willing to give up everything for her dream, and invested all her time and energy into making it a reality.
Even her coach at the time had described her as “a level, mature girl, who I’m sure will just put her head down, take it all in stride and work hard.”
Photo credit: Andy Yeung
Before Agnes was chosen for the Hong Kong National Seven’s team she played in the Hong Kong National 15s squad.
She was one of the few selected players who had started playing rugby at a later age, and who was not a fulltime athlete.
This required Agnes to have grit to be able to practice and improve whenever she had free time.
This also required her to have great time management to balance the pressure of playing in the Hong Kong National 15’s whilst maintaining a fulltime job.
Once she became a fulltime athlete she quickly realised the importance of having self-discipline for optimal performance – which did not come as naturally to her as some of the other traits.
Aspects such as getting enough rest on days off, eating the correct types of food to ensure her body is getting the nutrients it needs to perform, and sleeping regularly were never something she needed to think about as a flight attendant and part-time rugby player.
Now that she is an elite athlete these, small things make all the difference. Agnes admits that self-discipline is tough but it is what she needs to help her improve on the field.
Photo credit: Andy Yeung
Ability to manage stress
Many aspects of Agnes’s journey to become a professional athlete were stressful. She felt the pressure of representing Hong Kong.
However, she dealt with this stress by directing her focus on her teammates, and trying to be the best teammate she could be. She quickly realised that her teammates were there for her on and off the field.
“Here your teammates are like your family, there is a tight connection.”
Being able to get to know her teammates allowed Agnes to become more adaptable to her teammates, and to learn from them.
It helped her become closer to them, to the point where they didn’t play as individuals on the field; they played together as one team, winning and losing together
This is one trait that is most evident in Agnes. Although she realises that her story of how she’s become a fulltime rugby player differs from many other’s stories, it is also clear that Agnes is humble about her accomplishments.
“I got into the Hong Kong team, and two weeks later I was playing at the Rugby Seven’s, and while I’ve improved, there’s still room for improvement.”
This yearning to strive for excellence whilst still appreciating her accomplishments makes Agnes one of the most down to earth, yet inspiring athletes that she is.
One thing we can all learn from Agnes is that there is never one set path to becoming a great athlete. There are many different roads to take, but there are certain traits that will help the athlete overcome adversity and be the best that they can be.
For Agnes these traits along with her grit, determination, and inner strength helped guide to her to becoming the great athlete that she is today.