One of the longest-serving male sports coaches at an all-girls school, Mr. K.L. Tang comes across as soft-spoken and friendly. Old girls say he is a man of few words. Those who have been taught and trained by him are thankful to him for influencing them, as evidenced by the recent retirement party in March hosted by old girls whom he has coached over 35 years. It was a memorable day for Mr. Tang, who had just led the DGS Athletics Team on an 11-year winning streak at the Division One Inter-School Athletics Competition following three days of track and field competitions at the Wan Chai Sports Ground.
Division One Inter-School Athletics Competition 2017 Retirement Party
“Top athletes must build the right foundation,” emphasised Mr. Tang during an interview with members of DOGA Editorial Sub-committee. “If the foundation is not good, you would fall eventually. You must be patient and not rush it. If you build upon an unsteady foundation, it gets harder to reach the top.” Mr. Tang’s own foundation in athletics was built early in life, during his primary and secondary school years, when he participated in sprinting, long jump, and throwing events. “There was no full-time coach in those days. The older athletes coached the younger ones.” He recalls going to weekly invitational athletic meets in the 1970s, with HK$5 of pocket money per day, less than half of which was used to buy lunch boxes. His proud achievements included defeating the Diocesan Boys’ School and Fung Kai Secondary School athletics teams, the latter of which won many meets but was always defeated by Mr. Tang’s relay team. He had also held the inter-school record for discus throwing.
Mr Tang’s countless awards as an athlete and sportsman As athletics coach at the 1986 Asian Games, Mr Tang
helped to publicise for the 1988 Olympics
Mr. Tang spoke of two influential figures in his youth, both of whom inspired him to become a teacher and coach. The first was a teacher who tutored him one-on-one after school as he had to miss classes to attend athletic meets. “I was inspired by my teacher’s dedication to teaching, so I would always rush back for his tutorial.” Another was an athletics coach from another secondary school, whom he had met during one of the invitational meets and who eventually became his coach. “My coach was the one who inspired me to become one myself,” he said.
Why did he become a male coach at a girls’ school? After graduating from Grantham College of Education, Mr. Tang initially became a “coach of coaches”, teaching more than 120 P.E. teachers at Grantham, many of whom have since become coaches at other schools. “In those days, it was hard to find female coaches for throwing events, and that’s where I specialised. That’s why I was recruited by DGS,” he recalled.
Mr. Tang played an instrumental role in developing more than 20 sports programs at DGS, the first of which was basketball in 1982. Over the years, he introduced other sports including cross country and volleyball. In recent years, he also added sports programs as diverse as dodgeball, indoor rowing, golf, archery, bowling, handball, and Dragon Boat racing. Some of these programs were started in the temporary campus in Shum Shui Po during the 1 Jordan Road campus renovation. “We had no space for sports, so indoor rowing and dodgeball were good choices.” He added that offering more diverse sports was a way to encourage more girls to participate.
Mr. Tang praises DGS girls both past and present as having very good team spirit and being well-behaved. He thinks the girls nowadays are multitalented and proactive in reaching out to teachers for guidance and assistance. Athletes are physically stronger and start training earlier, due in part to better nutrition and availability of sports venues. The athletics facilities at the newly renovated DGS campus also provide more resources for girls to engage in sports training.
Mr Tang in GD bib at a Teachers vs Senior Prefects Friendly Netball Match in 1990s Coach in action
However, Mr. Tang thinks that the older generation of girls possessed a tougher mentality. “It may be that life is too smooth nowadays,” he reflected. “Setbacks and failures are necessary in training athletes’ mentality, so that they can overcome pressure and endure. Success does not come quickly. Building a solid foundation is key. My goal is to let athletes see their weakness, so that they know where to improve.”
He has a dual strategy for training athletes. Those who are used to winning need to compete in the big races first—ones that are more challenging to win. That way, they realise they are small fish in a big pond. When they feel challenged, they work harder. Those who lack confidence, on the other hand, need to compete in small races first, so they can slowly build up confidence.
When thinking of what he would miss most after leaving DGS, Mr. Tang’s immediate response was, “The students!” He treasures the special bond between the student and the teacher. Alongside parents, teachers play a vital role in the girls’ teenage years at DGS, helping them to develop their skills and discover their potential, as well as identify their strengths and weaknesses. He will miss the unique school environment at 1 Jordan Road, which provides a lot of resources, both for teaching and learning.
When asked about his two daughters, Mr. Tang spoke with a sparkle in his eyes, the way a proud father would. All three of his children, including his eldest son, now a college sophomore in the U.S., grew up as swimmers and athletes. In sharing about training his children, Mr. Tang offered more words of wisdom. “They have to like it themselves. Sports helps build confidence. You have to have expectations for yourself. No one can force you.” After he retires, he will of course continue to stay fit. “Nothing is more valuable than having a healthy and happy life!” Finally, for current and future DGS athletes, he has this piece of advice: 正選位置是自已争取，不是我给予妳的!