On the right track

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 February, 2008, 12:00am

Lai Ming-yiu, 29, Athletics Coach

Young Post: Which track and field events do you teach?

Lai: When I was a student, I specialised in high jump and triple jump. As an athletics coach, I mainly teach high jump and occasionally long jump.

YP: Why did you decide to teach long jump after you specialised in the triple jump?

L: The skills needed for both long jump and triple jump are very similar.

So if you can master the triple jump, long jump shouldn't be too much of a problem.

YP: How many years' practical experience do you need before you can become a coach?

L: You don't actually need to take part in the sport before you become a coach, provided you take the relevant courses. But it would always be better if you had previous experience as an athlete since you can pass on your techniques to your students. You would also be able to tell them about the mistakes you made, so they would avoid them. Yet, if you haven't taken part in athletics, it's ok. The courses provide practical sessions.

YP: How can you become a qualified coach?

L: There are courses offered by the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association (HKAAA). They are divided into three levels.

As a beginner, you will learn basic sports science theories, how to train students, warm-up exercises and get to try out 10 track and field events (long- and short-distance running, hurdles, long jump, high jump, triple jump, discus, hammer throw, javelin and race walking).

At the intermediate and advanced levels, you will need to specialise in one or two events. You can become a qualified coach after obtaining the beginner's certificate. You may then teach beginners in track and field events. Yet, you need higher qualifications in order to teach more professional athletes.

YP: How do you help athletes upgrade their skills and techniques?

L: The first thing I look at is whether they have the correct posture. A wrong posture can affect their performance. I would also design physical training programmes for them. Many local athletes only focus on skills and lack training to boost their physical strength.

YP: What's the maximum number of training sessions every week?

L: Beginners or those who have not yet reached the top level should train no more than three times a week. They may get hurt easily if they are not used to strenuous training or are physically unfit.

Experienced athletes can train up to five times a week. These sessions will include strength and skills training.

The duration depends on the event and the athlete's physical condition. Each training session should last about one to two hours.

YP: How can you prevent athletes from injuring themselves?

L: I need to understand their physical strengths and weaknesses.

They can hurt their muscles and joints easily if they can't cope with the training.

Each event has its own dangers. For example, it would be easier to sprain one's ankle or abdomen during the high jump.

Athletes should pay attention to their posture, especially during events, such as the discus and hammer throw.

Career file


1993: Joins the athletics team of STFA Tam Pak Yu College and takes part in high jump.

1995: Tried triple jump for the first time.

1997-2000: Was a member of the Chinese University of Hong Kong's athletics team.

2004: Received the HKAAA beginner's course certificate.

2004: Began teaching high jump at a local school.

2005: Gained the HKAAA intermediate course certificate.

2007: Conducted a course organised by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and HKAAA. Secondary school beginners in track and field took part in the programme.

Getting started

Course: Level One Coaching Course

Duration: Theories plus 30 hours of practical lessons

Characteristics: Focuses on the basic theories and knowledge in athletics training and different events.

School: HKAAA

Enquiries: http://www.hkaaa.com

Course: Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Health

Duration: Three years

Characteristics: The course gives students a multi-disciplinary scientific education in exercise and health management.

School: The University of Hong Kong

Enquiries: http://www3.hku.hk/iohp/programmes/undergraduate.php

Career prospects

After completing the beginner's course offered by HKAAA, graduates may take up its Level Two programme, and register as an athletics coach and teach at local schools or training centres. Graduates of the degree programme may look for jobs related to the exercise/health and leisure industries.