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Former NBA All-Star center Yao Ming played the role of assistant coach during the final exhibition game of the Yao Foundation Hope Primary School Basketball Season at the Leshan Stadium on Saturday. Yao's team lost to a team led by Los Angeles Clippers forward Caron Butler, 42-39. "Sports should play a much bigger role in school life for kids (in China) than it does now," Yao said after the game. Provided to China Daily
Former NBA star says that academics shouldn't totally overwhelm athletics
Yao Ming would like to see a bigger push for sports in Chinese schools.
On Saturday, the first phase of his own efforts in that domain came to an end as the final buzzer rang in the Leshan Stadium and the inaugural Yao Foundation Hope Primary School Basketball Season concluded.
Launched in April, the charitable program reached almost 27,000 students from 47 primary schools in 17 different cities nationwide, providing them with sports facilities and professional basketball guidance during the two-month course.
A total of 360 representatives gathered in Leshan, Sichuan province last week to attend the event's final stage, which featured a four-day camp, after-school activities and a mini tournament.
The program was supported by NBA Cares and the China Youth Development Foundation, and the NBA's Caron Butler was brought in to participate.
Yao, the founder of the initiative, said much work remains.
"The development of school sports activities in China remains small. Sports still lag far behind studies in terms of importance in students' school lives," the former Houston Rockets' All-Star center said on Saturday.
"Sports should play a much bigger role in school life for kids than it does now.
"By taking part in sports activities, kids can be more confident and happier. They can also learn teamwork and even find their potential not only in games but in other fields. That's what we want to achieve through this event."
Under the pressure of the national college entrance examinations, Chinese students have to squeeze their time to make room for heavy loads of homework and tests.
Physical education classes and most sports are canceled in most of the nation's high schools leading up to the examination.
After watching sports inspires young people and help them succeed in society in the United States, Yao said it's going to be a hard road to get there in China.
"The growth of sports' status in school life in our country has halted now. We should start over and let it go beyond just a function of keeping fit for students," said Yao, who will enter his sophomore year in Shanghai Jiao Tong University this autumn.
In response to the devastating earthquake in Sichuan in 2008, Yao established his foundation to help relieve the damage and has built 14 hope schools around Sichuan.
He thinks balls, rackets and baskets should be delivered to those schools along with books.
"When I remember my primary-school life, the first thing popping into my mind is the playground, not the classrooms or the books. So I expect to organize similar events to fulfill my campus with sports activities," Yao said.
NBA China CEO David Shoemaker provided some tips for Yao.
"My most important tip is to make sure you give and then follow up," he said. "By that I mean, you donate your money but also your time. We haven't just donated the money, we've come and watched the construction of those schools to make sure that our money has been well spent. Just continue to monitor the investment you made is my best advice."
(China Daily 08/27/2012 page24)