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China turns to youth for Asian Games
By Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY

GUANGZHOU, China- Kabbadi is the perfect sport, Indian coach Balwan Singh says. Requiring no special equipment, not even a ball, kabbadi is essentially a game of tag that "strengthens the body, heart, lungs and kidneys," Singh says.

"If the youth of China play this game, they can be healthy and happy," says Singh of the exotic sport derived from centuries-old Indian military training.

Here at the recently concluded Asian Games, it is one of the few sports China did not medal in because it is the only sport in which China did not compete.

Asia experts say sweeping medals in sporting events is part of Beijing's grand plan.

Dominating the games demonstrates to the Chinese the superiority of their system, analysts say. China's lavish preparations and hospitality show fellow Asian nations that it is a friendly power whose leadership in the region should be embraced, not feared, they say.

"Hosting a successful international games helps the central government's legitimacy, as it's good for cohesion at home, unites people across the land and inspires patriotism," says analyst Ni Jianping at the independent Shanghai Institute of American Studies.

The Asian Games held its 16th annual competition last month in the south China city of Guangzhou. In the colorful dragon boat competition, the youngest gold medal winner was China's Xia Shiyu, 13, chosen for her light weight, who beat the drum for her 20 furiously paddling teammates.

Thailand swept the board in sepak takraw, the kick volleyball game played on beaches across Southeast Asia. China dominated dancesport, from foxtrot to samba, while the skate-mad South Koreans and Taiwanese battled in roller sports.

The games featured 28 Olympic sports and 14 games, some of which are almost unheard of outside Asia, home to 4 billion of the world's nearly 6.9 billion people. It is the second-largest sports event in the world outside the Summer Olympics.

The cost to China to put on the games was enormous at $18 billion and follows the huge amount of money China poured into the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008 and the World Expo in Shanghai this year. China gave last month's Asian Games the slogan "Thrilling Games, Harmonious Asia," and sees them as a way of showcasing Chinese "soft power" and calming regional fears, analyst Ni says.

"There is still some sense of a 'China threat' " after years of rapid Chinese economic growth, he says.

The other key audience was domestic in a nation whose ruling Communist Party, like its Soviet counterpart of old, has long prized sporting prowess as a symbol of greatness.

"Young Chinese athletes should also show our nation's culture, its progress, its democracy and freedom," said Duan Shijie, Chinese delegation chief.

Some observers might question China's democracy and freedom - an empty chair represented jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo at his Nobel Peace Prize ceremony last month. But few can doubt Beijing's commitment to competitive sports.

China broke its own Asian Games record by amassing 199 golds, as many as the next six countries combined. That's not a surprise given the money and resources China has recently been pouring into its athletics, says Jeff Ruffolo, a Californian who was executive adviser to the Guangzhou organizing committee.

"America is the only athletic force in the world that can keep pace with where China is going," Ruffolo says.

Ruffolo says China is looking ahead to the Olympics, targeting events in which it can sweep the bronze, silver and gold medals.

" 'Watch out London!' that's the Chinese message," Ruffolo says, referring to the site of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

China's dominance has rekindled a debate here over whether the country's elite sports machine, training kids as young as 5 in specialist schools, comes at the cost of sport - and health - for the masses.

Sporting milestones have multiplied in the two decades since China first hosted the Asian Games, but public health has deteriorated, says Yang Ming, a journalist at China's state-run news agency Xinhua. In November, Yang suggested China should send amateurs to future Asian Games to level the playing field for other nations.

The critique drew short shrift from authorities, so don't expect change anytime soon, says Zhao Yu, a sports historian whose book Superpower Dream details China's Olympic rise.

"Many officials still believe that lots of gold medals show we are a strong country, and so they only stress competitive sports. To me, a strong country means nationwide fitness," says Zhao, who hopes the introduction of professional leagues, a flop in soccer but more successful in basketball, heralds a more diversified approach to sport in China.

To withstand the Chinese challenge, some teams went to unusual lengths before the Asian Games.

South Korea's victorious female archers played with snakes to enhance bravery, team coach Cho Eun Sin confirmed to the China Daily newspaper, which said China's silver medalists had tested their courage by touching a tiger's rear.

Winners here may face less glamorous duties before pursuing lucrative product endorsement deals as is customary among victorious athletes in Western nations.

"The first thing she has to do is clean the cow shed," mother of Indian runner Kavita Raut, a silver medalist, told India's Daily News & Analysis. "I am very proud of her."

The joy of competition was ubiquitous despite China's domination.

Non-medalist Afghan golfer Ali Ahmad Fazel had never played before on grass, just the sands of Kabul's only golf course. He finished in last place at 179 over par. The mere presence of Afghan athletes, whose training in Afghanistan was often disrupted by explosions, was worth celebrating, said Afghan Olympic Committee chief M. Zahir Aghabr, whose cricketers beat the odds to win silver.

"No matter if they win or not, they are winners and ambassadors of peace," he told the China Daily.

Advise from an Athlete


Injuries are common things that happen within sports. No one really notices how big of a deal they really are unless the top athlete is hurt, or multiple people are hurt. Take it from me, as a varsity athlete I know that injuries are extremely hurtful to the team.

Many injuries occur during practice, one of the most important part of sports. They are what get you ready for your game, competition, or match, and what help you grow to be the best athlete you possibly can. Within all of these long practices, many athletes can be injured in just about any way. Injuries are common, and are obtained naturally in sports. Although, in some cases, injuries can be caused by poor form or technique.

As my team got ready for state, we practiced every day with very high intentions for ourselves. We were very confident and we all had the hard work and effort put forth in all we did. As state was growing closer, more and more girls were getting injured. At this point we were really starting to worry about everyone's physical health and well being.

It was the week before state and two girls were out with concussions, one was out with a disc injury, and I had just been told the news that I had a fracture in my lower spine. This was extremely devastating information to hear. I was a senior and I had dedicated my last 4 years to this team, I was not about to let them down now. My coach sat me out the next few practices until I could meet with a doctor to talk about my options.

When I met with the doctor, my first question was if there was anyway I could compete at state. I was set on competing. His answer was exactly what I wanted to hear. I did have a few restrictions though, such as no stunting and minimal tumbling. He told me I could compete to the best of my ability with this pain that I had, as long as I followed what he said. I didn't care how bad my back hurt I was not letting my team down. To me this just meant lots of Advil and ice.

I went back to my coach with the exciting information that my doctor had cleared me to compete. She was ecstatic and told me that we could make a few changes so I could compete. As state crept closer and closer upon us, more girls were cleared by their doctors to compete. State was the next day and everyone was back! We had made our routine as perfect as we could the last day. We had so much confidence and support from each other.

We competed and felt amazing about our performance. We were nervous as we waited to hear if we made it to finals. The teams who made it to finals were announced and we had made the cut! After another flawless performance, we felt that no matter what we scored, we did as well as we could. Waiting for the results was absolutely nerve racking. After what seemed like waiting for hours, we were announced 5A cheerleading state champions. It was the most amazing feeling in the world.

After going through my injury, competing was the best thing that could have happened to me. It wasn't easy though, I had the help of my doctor and endless support from my compassionate coach and teammates. It is very important to take care of your injury, especially if it is a serious one. Always make sure you are doing what's best for your health and body. We were blessed to have everyone on the team that day to do as well as we did. We were a team and a team needs every individual to complete it. It's called commitment, and with the right medical advice from a doctor, and incredible support from your coach, you can achieve this.  

-Lauren Walje 

Tip of the Month 

Have you ever observed during a time out, no matter what level of play, the athletes looking around and not listening to the coach? I would take this personally when I was coaching. I thought, do I not have anything important to say!

After years of experience, I learned a few tricks to keep theie attention, during practice and during timeouts.

1. Create a position during practice that the athletes can only see the coach. Not people passing by, other athletes playing, etc. Have them looking at you with a wall or a static background behind you.

2. Teach them to make eye contact with you, so you know they are focused on your brilliant strategies.

3. Ask them to repeat or question them on what you just talked about before they leave your presence.

4. Video your practice and game or meet. Point out those who are concentrating on the coach and those who are not disciplined to focus.

5. Did I mention push ups?


Next time you watch an athletic event on the television, watch the players and the coaches during time outs. It will speak volumes. 

Quote of the Month 
"Champions keep playing until they get it right."
-Billie Jean King 

Tom Van Buskirk
Positive Sport Coaching
In This Issue
China turns to youth for Asian Games
Advise from an Athlete
Tip of the Month
A Word from the Coach
A Word from the Coach

  How Important Is Wining? This is a question I ask my coaches and parents during our clinics. Most say it is very important, as I also feel it is very important to me.  I use the analogy of a coach and a student brain surgeon.  If a student brain surgeon graduates with the lowest grade point average (after four years) in the class, the student graduates to become a brain surgeon.  If a coach (four years in a row) finishes at the bottom of the league, the coach gets fired! 

     Now the problem that is brought forth is the actual definition of winning. A coach or administrator has to communicate the definition of wining.  This is based on the real status of the completion. These are called Realistic expectations.  Is your team going to be competitive with the rest of the league?  Are you in a so called rebuilding program a few years out?  These are very important issues that a great coach or administrator needs to communicate to the parents, fans, and most importantly, the athletes.

    Now that the coaches have outlined and communicated the Realistic Expectations, they need to build confidence in the participants of each program by presenting performance goals that are "smart".

     "Smart" is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.  No matter what state of condition your program is in, follow this formula and you will develop a winning program. 



-Coach V

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