Chinese Coaches Hone Their Skills in America
SALT LAKE CITY — About 15 coaches filed onto the mezzanine-like balcony overlooking a basketball practice court. They wore warm-up apparel and sneakers. As the Utes men’s team began its practice, some took notes in small Moleskine notebooks; others consulted printouts of set plays.
It was late September, so several assistant coaches were on the road recruiting, and the practice itself was focused on getting players into shape and integrating new faces as opposed to game-planning any opponents.
But it was still a big-time college basketball practice, so at times, it got intense. Utah Coach Larry Krystkowiak stopped one drill and, in a not-angry-just-disappointed tone, told his team, “You guys are just full of it today; everybody’s got something to say.”
The observing coaches did not know exactly what Krystkowiak said, but they understood the coach’s frustration and determination. And they took note. They were among the best junior high and high school basketball coaches in China, brought to Utah’s gorgeous campus in a partnership between their government and the Pacific-12 Conference and the University of Utah.
在一旁观察的教练们不知道克里斯特科维亚克具体说了什么，但他们明白他的失望和决心。他们做了笔记。他们属于中国最好的初高中篮球教练。因为中国政府与太平洋十二校联盟(Pacific-12 Conference)和犹他大学(University of Utah)的伙伴关系，他们来到了犹他大学美丽的校园。
This is no longer Ping-Pong diplomacy.
“The coaches — they are very passionate when they train their players,” said Sun Fengleng, who coaches in Jilin, a province in China’s northeast. “He is really good with the players, trains them well.”
Sun added, “I want to learn the attitude and bring it back.”
Krystkowiak, a onetime N.B.A. power forward who has led the Utes to the N.C.A.A. tournament the past two seasons, seemed to endorse Sun’s takeaway.
“If they want to improve at basketball,” he said, “it’s not always the place to be polite.”
The Chinese government hopes many more coaches will learn that lesson. Nearly 100 Chinese junior high and high school coaches in the sports of men’s and women’s basketball, track and field, swimming and cheerleading were sent to Utah, and roughly the same number of Chinese college coaches went to Arizona State, which is also in the Pac-12.
中国政府希望能有更多的教练学习到这样的经验。近100名中国初高中男子和女子篮球、田径、游泳和拉拉队教练被送到犹他大学，和被送去亚利桑那州立大学(Arizona State University)的中国高校教练人数大致相当。该校也是太平洋十二校联盟的成员。
The coaches observed practices and weight-room sessions. They got some time on the court themselves with Utah coaches. They participated in talks on injury rehabilitation and conducted film-room sessions. They even got to see the final bit of this year’s football game against Brigham Young, known locally as the Holy War.
这些教练会观察球场训练和健身房环节，还有机会亲自和犹他大学的教练一起上场。他们参加损伤康复讲座，并举行了比赛录像室环节，甚至还观看了今年对阵杨百翰大学(Brigham Young University)的橄榄球决赛。这场比赛在当地被称作圣战。
Indeed, it is partly America’s fairly unusual model of competitive athletics enshrined in educational institutions that the coaches have come to study, said Kyle Brennan, Utah’s deputy athletic director.
“Coaches are coaches,” he said with a chuckle. “Giving them a compliance class, they want to push the boundaries. ‘Why can’t I recruit a kid from another school?’ Well, these are the rules we’ve got.”
The program is financed by the Chinese Scholarship Council and organized by Federation University Sports China — a sort of state-sponsored Chinese N.C.A.A. that saw the coaches’ trips as much more than relaxed junkets.
“China’s interested in making sure that they come back, and this isn’t just a sightseeing tour,” Brennan said. “They want them to learn something.”
Their three-month residency in Utah, near mountains whose peaks were already snow-capped, was one of several signs of the Pac-12’s interest in claiming dominion over the Pacific Rim.
This college football season opened with Cal’s 51-31 victory over Hawaii in Sydney, Australia. On Friday night in Shanghai, Stanford scored an 80-70 victory over Harvard in men’s basketball — the second game in a series of Pac-12 contests held in China. Washington beat Texas there last year in the first regular-season game in China, and the series will continue next year, the conference announced Friday, with U.C.L.A. facing Georgia Tech.
The games are part of the Pac-12 Globalization Initiative. Larry Scott, the Pac-12 commissioner, said that the initiative sprung out of meetings he held with the conference’s presidents in 2009, his first year on the job.
这些比赛是太平洋十二校联盟全球化计划(Pac-12 Globalization Initiative)的一部分。太平洋十二校联盟总干事拉里·斯科特(Larry Scott)表示，该计划起源于2009年，也就是他上任第一年与成员学校的校长举行的一系列会议。
“I posited, given the global focus of our universities and given that athletics is meant to act as the front porch, does it make sense for us to pursue international conference athletics activities to help promote the broader agenda the universities have?” Scott said. “And there was a resounding yes.”
From Washington to Cal to Stanford to Utah and beyond, many Pac-12 members have large numbers of Chinese students, as well as extensive relationships in China. Scott noted that several Washington officials went along to last year’s Huskies-Longhorns basketball game to further an initiative between the university and Tsinghua University in Beijing.
“We are making progress in terms of building the brand and exposure for the Pac-12,” Scott added. “That leads to very specific opportunities for our universities.”
Nearly 40 percent of the University of Utah’s foreign students are Chinese, and the state’s former governor Jon Huntsman, for whose father the Utes’ basketball arena is named, was the American ambassador to China. At a ceremony welcoming the coaches to Salt Lake City, Huntsman spoke to them in fluent Mandarin.
“We’re interested in recruiting top Chinese students,” said Michael L. Hardman, who runs the university’s Office for Global Engagement.
“我们有意招收顶尖的中国学生，”该校全球事务办公室(Office for Global Engagement)负责人迈克尔·L·哈德曼(Michael L. Hardman)说。
Chris Hill, Utah’s athletic director, said that when the idea for the residencies for Chinese coaches was first raised among Pac-12 members, about four raised their hands.
“I think other people were afraid of the challenge, and your coaches have to be cooperative,” Hill said, “and I think some of the others felt, ‘Do we need to be the first ones to do this?’”
To that end, athletics staff members received cultural training and, in turn, insisted that the visiting coaches abide by certain rules so as not to get in the way of the Utah coaches’ primary jobs — training their teams.
“We had to work hard on the front end of education, trying to get them to understand there’s certain things you can’t do because it will hinder our success,” Brennan said. “If you’re up there talking while Coach is trying to teach, that’s going to be a problem. We had some upfront conversations.”
During one practice, the coaches were largely silent.
“They are very effective,” Gu Hong Xia, a woman who coaches a top junior high squad in Nanjing, said through an interpreter, referring to Utah’s coaches and players. “They don’t train for a very long time, but they are very efficient.”
Wang Hui, who coaches in Shanxi, said through an interpreter that his time in Utah had made him feel good about his own postpractice rehabilitation practices, which appeared to match Utah’s. More than any technical expertise, the most valuable lesson he learned, he said, concerned “attitude.”
“The players here are very motivated and want to do good,” he said.
The coaches received their own cultural training, in the form of a seminar in China on how to adjust to American mores.
“They trained us for four days on American culture, manners, different things — like don’t smoke in the building — and told us to learn as much as we can and bring it back to China, to our players,” Sun said.
Fortunately, Sun added, he does not smoke.