As of August 2013, 17 female rugby players in Hong Kong signed full-time or part-time contracts with the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI). For many of us, me included, that meant quitting our jobs as personal assistants, sports marketers, teachers and secretaries. For many of the younger players who are still studying at various Hong Kong universities, it meant going part-time with their studies and rearranging exams to suit the dates of our tours. All pencil skirts and suit jackets were flung to the back of our wardrobes and our drawers are now rammed with the blue-and-red HKSI kit. It has been a huge adjustment, but I speak for the whole squad when I say that not a single one of us has any regrets. After all, this is all being done in pursuit of the ultimate athlete’s dream: an opportunity to compete in the Olympics. The environment and facilities available at the HKSI are a real testament to the government’s investment in Hong Kong sport. The newly renovated site provides university-style rooms for many of the athletes, one of the few remaining grass pitches in Hong Kong surrounded by a 400m track, huge sport halls and what seems like hundreds of ping pong tables! Oh, there’s also a large canteen with an amazing buffet – which might sound dangerous but every item on the menu is labelled with its exact nutritional breakdown. Just about every sport you can think of is catered to at a five-star level. We spend most of our time in the state-of-the-art gym, complete with rows of squat racks, benches, bikes, treadmills, weights and lots of other things that I’m yet to learn how to use! It’s a gym junkie’s paradise. There are professional athletes everywhere you look and rooms filled with full-time physiotherapists and sports masseurs that can be called on at any time. Like any normal job, we work a five-day week. Unlike most normal jobs, though, our hours are spent in the gym, on the field doing intensive game training sessions or working on specific rugby skills or speed sessions to improve our sprinting style and performance levels. Mondays kick off with an early morning blood and body composition test that measures body fat percentage and lean muscle mass, among other things. Bingeing on the weekends is no longer an option! Despite being comfortable being tackled to the ground by a six-foot-something Aussie beast of a woman, needles still make me want to cry. So the blood test is my weekly nemesis. Recently, we have also started doing yoga twice a week to work on our strength and flexibility, and to help us wind down at the end of a hard week. At the same time, four-time Women’s Rugby World Cup winner and New Zealand Black Ferns legend Anna Richards has become our new coach, offering a fresh perspective and mountains of international experience to our team, most of whom have never played rugby outside of Hong Kong. All the girls are very excited to be coached by arguably the most accomplished women’s rugby player of all time. We have the unique opportunity to learn from someone who has played the women’s game, our game, at the highest level, making her a huge role model for the team and someone we can easily identify with. We are excited to see what she has in store for us! The next stop for the Hong Kong women’s sevens squad is the “hottest sevens tournament in the world” in Darwin at the end of January. This will be our first tour outside of Asia for many years and a real chance to prove ourselves against international opposition. There’s also the opportunity to pick up some tips from the Aussies along the way. We may be half the size of most of our opponents, but sevens relies more on speed, agility and tactics rather than brute strength – or at least that’s what we like to tell ourselves.