Comeback Season

Two weeks ago I accepted a new job! This is something I am really excited to write about because it involves one of the biggest aspects of my life, basketball. You’re looking at Taiwan’s newest basketball coach for Shulin Youth Organization. 

The organization is small, and is comprised of about 35 kids ranging in the ages of grade 3 to grade 10. We meet on Saturdays for about 2-3 hours, and will play in a tournament once a month. So every Saturday for 2 hours I get to wake up, head to a basketball court and teach, coach and play with a bunch of kids. This is something that is truly special to me here in Asia. Ever since I started working in a school system in an eastern culture whether it be Thailand or Taiwan, one thing remained constant; school is the number one priority, everything else comes second. Everyone knows the stereotype “Asian kids are smart”. Asians aren’t smart because they are Asians. Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese kids, whomever are smart cause they work their ass off and have disciplines ingrained into them at a young age that allow them to work hard and be diligent. They are put under a tremendous amount of pressure to preform to the best of their ability. I have fifth graders who go to school from 7-10pm every single day except Sunday. A ten year old sits in a desk for over 12 hours??? Crazy, I know. School environment is extremely competitive. It is drilled into a child’s mind that they need to be the best. On a positive note, I think Asian schools truly help kids learn values that American schools have begun to surpass. Such as learning table manners when eating lunch, tough discipline and punishment, or simply learning multiple languages at an early age. The most difficult aspect to accept is the fact I have 5 year olds who only get to get up out of a chair and run around for 30 minutes a day. School is just different and you have to accept it and do your best to make sure kids are still being kids. Especially in Taiwan, the pressure from Chinese school, parents and teachers can be unbearable, so by making English class fun, I hope to relieve some of my students stress level as much as possible. I mean come on, when I was in 5th grade, my biggest concern was if I was going to be able to beat the newest level of Mario World on my game boy. 

Okay so back to what this blog is supposed to be about. As everyone pretty much knows, basketball has been apart of my life since I can remember.  I grew up watching my older siblings play, and before I knew it, I was playing right there with them.  Basketball is a huge part of my life story, and it has moulded me into the woman I am today. I could not be more thankful for the opportunities I’ve had because of basketball.  The experiences I have had, and the lessons I have learned through this sport are tremendous. As we know, sports are universal. Everyone in the world knows Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. Sports help unite people from all over the globe. 

As I said earlier, one of the hardest parts about my job here in Asia, is that after school sport programs are pretty much nonexistent.  School comes first, then extra class, then violin, then tutor, then homework, ect. I remember when I was growing up, I went to school, and then I was off to basketball practice.  It was a routine I grew to love, and allowed me to make some amazing friends and memories.  Here, I find that most of my students at school either stay at school because their parents have work, or they are off to see an english tutor.  So having this new job has really helped me realize that these types of teams and after school programs need to happen more throughout Asia especially. I speak only English to the kids I coach, and they have to speak English back. This is not only helping them improve their English skills because 1) I don’t know Chinese 2) they’re talking about something they enjoy but 3) it adds value for the parents. They’re practicing and learning English in a non classroom setting that is also something the kids truly enjoy. This makes both kids and parents happy. It’s also helping me learn and grow as a teacher. I tend to forget sometimes that my students do have lives outside of school, so it’s really nice to be around elementary and middle school kids in a non classroom environment. 

It’s extremely humbling knowing that a game I have revolved my entire life around since I can remember, allows me to connect and unite with people all over the world, on a level we can all understand.  It’s amazing that you can bond with an individual over your love for the game of basketball, and not even be from the same part of the world. Sports are a way of communication. Basketball is a language, and it allows us to understand people who are different than us in an effective way.  I am so thrilled that this organization accepted me into their program. It’s such a refreshing feeling being back on a basketball court, and being able to share the knowledge I have gained about basketball and the English language to kids. I really hope to instill some of the valuable lessons I learned while growing up playing basketball and being apart of a team. These are lessons you can’t learn in a classroom, and for that alone I will be forever grateful for having basketball be such a huge aspect of my life.

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