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A higher goal for special minds

Published on Thursday, 16 Jun 2011
Jim Sze-chung seeks fair play for Hong Kong’s mentally handicapped.
Photo: Berton Chang

Jim Sze-chung, executive director of the Hong Kong Sports Association for the Mentally Handicapped (HKSAM), loves to compete in sports, but winning is not the most important thing for him. It is the process of fighting together as a team that he finds fascinating. 

Despite his love for sports, Jim concedes that he is not a gifted athlete. But his passion for sports has allowed him to contribute to the planning of sporting events.

Jim was awarded the Timothy Fok Scholastic Award for Sports and Recreation Management last year while he was studying for his master’s degree in sports and leisure management at the Hong Kong Baptist University.

Jim took up the position at the HKSAM in 2010. When he decided to study sports and recreation in 1994, Jim recalls that it was a very new topic in Hong Kong. Nobody knew what to expect. But with dedication and a heart to serve, Jim believes he was able to help more people enjoy sports and inspire himself to reach higher career goals.

How has your experience helped you in your current position?

I love ballgames, but to be honest, I was not really good at it. So most of the time, I just sat on the bench. I spent my time observing how to run a sporting event. I enjoyed well-prepared competitions or activities and I apply [what I learned] to my work. I help arrange athletes’ training and competitions, and lead my colleagues in planning a successful event. I used to be a benchwarmer so I understand how it feels to be one. I not only share the glory with the stars but also pay attention to every team member. 

Why did you get into this field?

I love helping young people. I had wanted to be a social worker but realised I may not be able to face the sorrow of troubled youth. I wanted to do something that makes people happy. “Recreation” means to re-create and in Chinese it means health and happiness. I believe people could re-create their energy through a fun process and lead a healthy life. I want to make people around me happier and inject positive energy into their lives. 

When were you most inspired?

I learned a lot during my two years’ stint as an instructor at the Hong Kong Outward Bound school. My duty was to conduct various types of courses to help clients develop leadership, teamwork and to grow as individuals. I interacted with people from different backgrounds. Some of them were youth at risk, others were senior managers. I got to observe and listen how they handled difficulties and face challenges. They impressed me a lot. 

What was the breakthrough point in your career?

Joining a private membership club as sports and recreation officer was one of my breakthrough points because this was the time that I move moved up from an operational staff to a management position. I had to deal with the quality of the programme and be aware of issues in budgeting, human resources, communication between departments, and leading staff to carry out operations. There were many items that I needed to consider and limitations that I needed to deal with. The new duties forced me to think more and learn more. I also moved away from my beloved outdoor working environment to wearing a suit and reporting to work in an office. 

Who inspired you?

When I was in Form Two, I attended a workshop organised by Ng Kin-sun, the recreation and sports cum camp services executive secretary at the Chinese YMCA of Hong Kong. I was deeply impressed with Ng’s energetic and amusing way of leading games and delivering messages. It was amazing and I started to learn the right way to lead games. I have seen many different people leading games over the years, but I still appreciate Ng the most. 

What is the biggest challenge in your career?

Joining the organisation where I currently work. It is an entirely new job for me as I have had little experience in running sports for elite athletes with intellectual disability. Luckily, my colleagues are very supportive and I know lots of friends and schoolmates who have been working in this field for a long time. I am still learning.

I am trying to bring the service we offer at HKSAM up to the standards expected at private clubs. It is not easy to deal with limitations in resources and lack of staff training. This is a long-term goal for the association and I believe it is the right step ahead. As an agency head, the considerations and limitations that I face are also increased. I have more considerations and limitations to resolve. I need to be fair and responsible for different stake holders. I am given lots of opportunities to meet different industries’ senior management people, helping me broaden my knowledge and horizons.  

What are your goals?

I wish to introduce the benefits of sports to people with intellectual disability. I want to let them know how sports could change their lives. For myself, I would like to stay fit and learn to be happier. Ultimately, I want to help more people understand the importance of sports and recreation in their lives. 

What’s the future of the city’s sports and recreational industry?

It is a developing industry in both the government and private sectors. There are lots of opportunities available. There are also plenty of opportunities in Southeast Asia and on the mainland. Professional knowledge is important. Industry professionals should always be informed of the latest rules and trends in different sports, including training, facilities and equipment. Sports and recreation is a service industry. People who want to join need to have good language ability, high emotional quotient and be customer-oriented.


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