Failing the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) and being admitted to the 2008 Olympic Games soccer team at the same time were too much of an emotional swing for Tse Tak-him and his mates. Then they received one more pleasant surprise as they found a second chance of study at the Yan Chai Hospital Tung Chi Ying Memorial Secondary School. The school launched a pioneer certificate course in Sports, Recreation and Leisure studies (SRL) last month to accommodate 31 early school leavers, aged 17 to 21. Most of them had scored from zero to five marks in the recent HKCEE, but were very talented in sports. They include six 2008 Olympic soccer team players as well as sportsmen and women who have represented Hong Kong in the Asian Games and various international sporting events. Students participating in the course must study workplace language skills, basic theories in SRL administration and management, and sporting skills. They also attend apprenticeships at schools and recreation centres. 'Apart from lessons, I have to spend at least six hours on the soccer field throughout the week - three hours for coaching school teams, three for practising for the Olympic Games. Sundays are reserved for football matches,' said Tse. 'It is tough, but we really enjoy it because it's related to sports. We are also studying hard because, unlike the HKCEE subjects, the course is useful in helping us get into the sports industry.' The main objective of the course was to help graduates work as teaching assistants, trainers or officers in schools, sport teams, recreation centres and the Leisure and Culture Department, said Edmond Hung Chor-ying, the teacher in charge. 'We have received more than 100 applications, which means there are many students who have great potential in the sports industry but do not have the opportunity to receive professional training because of their poor academic performance in the mainstream education system,' he said. 'Many young athletes land up being waiters, cleaners or doing other jobs unrelated to sports, wasting away their gifts.' Principal Perdo Ieong Lok-lon said that the one-year course would be appraised by the Education and Manpower Bureau next year before the school could decide whether to recruit new students. He was also negotiating with the Institute of Vocational Education about allowing these students to take a diploma programme in sports, leisure and recreation after they complete his course next year. 'We hope this course will help these young people gain recognition. We should never just judge people on their academic performance if we want everyone to make the best of their talents.'