Doris Chow has not always seen herself as a role model, but she is now keen to use her experience in rugby to inspire young women and girls in Hong Kong.

World Rugby Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarship recipient, Chow was introduced to the game as a 16-year-old through a Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) initiative at her school.

In the intervening 25 years, the former sprinter has run with the opportunity she was given. Chow represented Hong Kong at both sevens and 15s as a player, has since become a referee and is the union’s current chairperson for women’s rugby.

Her standing in the country’s rugby community is such that, in 2019, Chow became an honorary member of the HKRU. She has quite an inspirational tale to tell.

“I want to use myself as a role model to let young girls know that I'm a local Chinese, I grew up here,” Chow told World Rugby.

“I want to show them that there are many opportunities, and there are so many things that you can try in rugby. So, I want to use myself as a role model to tell the young girls that if I can, then so can they. 

“So, I just want to encourage them to [not] be scared. Don't be afraid to try first, and then you never know what is lying in front of you.”

Growing in confidence

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on what Chow has been able to do in the first six months of her scholarship.

However, she has been able to connect with her fellow recipients from Asia, through a dedicated WhatsApp group, and has soaked up the knowledge of her mentor, Bruce Cook.

Having that support, and the backing of World Rugby, has also given her the conviction to go out and talk about the game.

“I find myself with more confidence to talk to people,” she explained. 

“I think the scholarship has helped me to connect with different people. No matter [whether] within Asia, amongst our four recipients, people in Asia Rugby and also within the rugby communities. 

“I found myself with more confidence and willing to reach out, to go out to talk to people. But there are still a lot of things that I need to keep training myself.”

Chow admits that there are “many things I don’t know” but she is keen to equip herself with the skills required to take the women’s game forward in Hong Kong.

And having made the transition from playing to become a referee, she knows that the support is there to help her improve.

“I need to learn, I need to make myself better,” Chow said. “A better leader or better referee. But, the good thing is, there are so many opportunities. 

“There are so many people that are willing to help you, so you are never alone.”

She added: “Now I've become a leader and, at the beginning, I was a bit worried when I might be able to really take up that role. 

“But, all through the past few years I found that if I have any problems, then I can talk to different people, seek advice, and even now maybe I just go to talk to people. 

“Just listen, not only ask questions… Listening to their needs, listening to their point of view is also another kind of learning.”

Laying the foundations

Driving Chow in her desire to improve as a leader is a determination to improve the structures that are in place for women and girls in Hong Kong.

Chow has witnessed the growth of women’s rugby in the region from four teams, playing 10-a-side, to 24 15s sides split across three divisions, with plans for a fourth.

However, she is well aware that other sports remain more popular with young women and girls because they are more accessible to them.

“I really want to set up a good structure of women's rugby in Hong Kong,” Chow said.

“We have a very good structure, a very good pathway for the boys, for the men. But, for the girls I want to set up a more clear path, especially for the young girls.

“If they can see a clear path, then they will be more willing to participate in this sport. And also I want to promote women's rugby to [the] general public to try to introduce women's rugby into their daily lives. 

“Because in Hong Kong, people know about soccer, know about basketball, because they can go out to play soccer, basketball easily. But not rugby. So I really want to promote women's rugby. 

“I really [hope] one day when people want to do some exercise, keep fit or [enjoy] their leisure time, they can think about rugby. 

“So, that’s why I have to say that I've still got lots to do in the coming five years or even 10 years because I want to lay down the skeleton of the framework before I can really retire.”

READ MORE: Beth Onesemo striving for gender equity in Samoan rugby