Feature: Beijing Normal University pioneers integrating sports, education

(Xinhua) 15:45, March 01, 2022

BEIJING, March 1 (Xinhua) -- Zhu Ting, Wang Shuang and Shao Ting are prominent names from different sports in China, but the star trio have a common tag - they are all alumni of Beijing Normal University.

Shao, captain of China's women's national basketball team that finished fifth at the Tokyo Olympic Games last summer, did not feature in the Women's Chinese Basketball Association (WCBA) league last season, as she focused instead on finishing her academic thesis.

"Due to a tight competition schedule in the past, my academic work was delayed. Now I want to concentrate on my studies, as they cannot always lag behind my schedule and I have to do my best in them," Shao told Xinhua.

Taking up basketball at the age of six, Shao enrolled at Beijing Normal University in 2008 after taking China's annual college entrance exam, better known as Gaokao. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in Education at the university's Faculty of Education.

Shao led Beijing Normal University to five China University Basketball Association (CUBA) titles and three China University Basketball Super League (CUBS) crowns. She joined Beijing's WCBA team in 2013, helping the team win three straight titles and becoming the first player to win titles in all three leagues.

Shao also achieved a "triple-jump" from China's university league to the professional league and then the national team.

As a student athlete, Shao has had to strike a balance between playing basketball and pursuing her degree. When she played for the national team, she had to find time after training and treatments for reading books and taking notes. When she traveled to away games, she often brought academic work to complete during the journey.

"I'm fortunate to have chosen Beijing Normal University, as I have access to various learning resources and can also improve my basketball skills here," said Shao.

"Our university and teachers understood us a lot. We didn't want special treatment, but just to be able to catch up with our courses on schedule through self-learning. Our teachers and classmates also provided us with learning materials and notes."

Such flexibility meant Shao found no conflict between playing basketball and completing her studies.

"As we normally trained after 3:30pm, we were available to study in other slots in the daytime, and we didn't opt for courses scheduled after 3:30pm," Shao explained. "If you plan your time well, there will be no clashes. You can also have a cross-training on yourself both physically and mentally, which brings you the maximum results."

Shao is one of beneficiaries of a partnership between Beijing Normal University and Sichuan Sports Bureau in developing women basketball players in recent years. Like Shao, many student athletes have had opportunities to play in professional clubs after they graduate or while pursuing postgraduate degrees.

Beijing Normal University's women's basketball team was founded in 2001. Li Sunnan, who has coached the team for two decades, says the integration of sports and education means many student athletes have received assistance from government departments or governing bodies in ensuring their nutrition, and offering medical appliances and opportunities to play.

Ten athletes from Beijing Normal University represented the Federation of University Sports of China (FUSC) United Team in last season's WCBA league.

While competing in the professional league, these student athletes are required to submit their homework every day. They usually spend up to three hours every evening communicating online with their tutors and fulfilling their academic commitments after finishing their games.

"By combining online courses and tutoring after returning to campus, we can ensure these athletes complete their courses on time, and some of them even rank among the top in their classes," said Li.

Established in 1987, the university's women's football team boasts a longer history, seeing more athletes in contention for glory in either international or national competitions, such as Wang Shuang, Zhang Linyan and Gao Chen, who were recently crowned AFC Women's Asian Cup champions with China's national team.

"Our guiding principle is that we cannot judge student athletes only by their athletic results. We hope to develop them through a process of training and participating in competitions, which is regarded as a pathway or a tool in their development," Li noted.

"A person's all-round development is what matters the most. You have to take every factor into consideration, and the athletic result will come in its own way," he added.

After witnessing more and more students represent the national team or appear in professional leagues, Li highlighted the role that school has played in developing players.

"In basketball, more student athletes are expected to benefit from the integration of sports and education. Hopefully they can set an example in the future," he said. 

(Web editor: Xia Peiyao, Liang Jun)


Related Stories