Yao Ming, NBA join hands to foster young Chinese
Updated: 2014-02-22 21:34
By Yan Weijue (chinadaily.com.cn)
The first course of the NBA Yao School – a program jointly launched by Yao Ming and the NBA devoted to youth development on and off the basketball court – kicked off in Beijing on Saturday.
Unlike the lackluster environment outside due to lingering smog, the atmosphere at the gym within the Wukesong Basketball Park was brisk yet intense, filled with a gauntlet of children's chatter, encouraging yelling from their foreign coaches and chitchat between the parents.
In the next 13 weeks, more than 200 kids ages 6 to 16 will attend the after-school bilingual program featuring both hoop and life skills on Friday nights and weekends.
The crowd got more excited when a towering figure, Yao Ming, showed up prior to the opening ceremony in the afternoon – it is really hard to ignore a 2.26m hunk.
The Chinese basketball icon and former NBA All-Star was in high spirits. He even took on the hardwood to shoot some mid-rangers, and joked to journalists that "cut out the films if I miss any of them."
The centerpiece of Yao's presence, however, was not about a comeback from retirement due to repeated bone fractures in his left leg. The principal of the NBA Yao School has placed his footprints in the education of Chinese youngsters through basketball clinics.
"The more important thing than improving your basketball skills is to make friends, as I said before that you must reel off at least five names of your peers from the school in 13 weeks," Yao reiterated in front of 100-plus students.
The essence of the program is to teach children spirit of teamwork, respect of the game and rules, perseverance and a can-do attitude in life as well as other significant values to foster a well-rounded personality for children, Yao stressed at the opening ceremony.
"I hope all of you will become better little athletes and more importantly, more mature children in 13 weeks," he said.
As the partner of the school, the NBA will offer assistance in curriculum design, coaching guidance and is expected at times to bring in NBA stars to give the children lessons in person, according to NBA China CEO David Shoemaker
"The experience itself is unique (for the students) as they will compete and learn in a fun environment. They will be learning a little bit of English and also learning what it means to be a teammate, what it means to be a good leader and what it means to have confidence," he said.
The elements above can all be tagged on Yao Ming throughout his career on and off the basketball court and make him trustworthy, according to parents who are willing to invest in Yao's program.
Xu Yan, mother of a 12-year-old NBA Yao School candidate, told China Daily that she signed her son up for the program the first day when the application process started on Dec 1.
"I am an avid basketball fan and watched a lot of Yao's games on TV. And he is the idol of my son as well. I've always trusted Yao Ming. He's got a terrific reputation," she said.