|NBA Commissioner David Stern speaks during a press conference on launching the first-ever NBA-Yao School in Beijing on Tuesday. The school will provide provide after-school basketball training and fitness programs for boys and girls up to age 16 at all skill levels. (chinadaily.com.cn/Yan Weijue)|
China's tallest entrepreneur, basketball club owner and political adviser has added another hat, as the operator of a training facility to encourage youth sports participation.
To improve the fitness level and social ability of Chinese students, Yao Ming, the former NBA All-Star, announced on Tuesday that he will team with the NBA to open an extracurricular basketball training facility under his name, the NBA Yao School, for more Chinese teenagers to experience the joy of playing sports and staying healthy.
"The current poor fitness status of Chinese students and some regular schools' overemphasis on academic performance really worried me," Yao said before the tip-off of the preseason game between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers at the MasterCard Center in Beijing on Tuesday.
"I hope the school will provide another after-school option for children while reminding society of great values like teamwork, discipline and confidence, that can't be taught from textbooks but from playing sports."
Yao's concern was highlighted by the tough reality of student health and a series of student deaths during sporting events this year.
According to the results of the 2013 national physical condition survey released in August, the general fitness level of Chinese teenagers has been declining since 1995 and conditions such as obesity and myopia are increasing among primary and secondary school students.
Yin Xiuzhu, a sophomore at the East China University of Political Science and Law, died during a run on May 28, just 10 days after Qiu Zhixiong, a student at the South China University of Technology, died at the end of a fitness test.
In an educational system where exam results are paramount, physical education and its importance is often overlooked, and children tend to be isolated without adequate time to socialize with each other.
"Children can't learn everything from textbooks and sports are very helpful in providing life lessons that help them to be better people in general," Yao said.
Although boasting more than 300 million fans in China, the NBA has learned from Yao it has much more to do in schools.
Adam Silver, NBA deputy commissioner, said Yao "knows well that the entire focus (of China's sports development) is winning gold medals and championships and there are not enough activities here around the joy of the sport and all the benefits. This will be something for us to develop in the after-school programs".
The new school will start to recruit students under the age of 16 from Dec 1 and will open its first three-month training program at the Wukesong Basketball Park in February. Yao will be responsible for developing and operating the school.