It is not unusual for sports megastars to retire away from the glare of the public eye and simply enjoy the earnings they never had time to spend. But not former basketball ace Yao Ming.
Since ending his sports career in 2011, Yao has kept himself busy campaigning against shark fin soup and elephant poaching. He has also now partnered with the National Basketball Association (NBA) to build the game’s profile in China and to develop a youth basketball program, set to launch in Beijing.
The first ever NBA Yao School will be landing in the capital next month, offering kids the chance to learn from top coaches and develop their ball skills. As well as improving their abilities on the court, the school’s 13 week program, developed by Yao in conjunction with NBA China, hopes to teach youngsters other important life skills like teamwork, communication, and leadership.
The profile and popularity of basketball has grown substantially in China over recent years, a phenomenon that Yao is almost single-handedly responsible for. It is estimated that over 300 million people play the game in China, a figure comparable to the entire population of the US.
Whether your kids make up that number, or wish to add to it, now is their chance. Boys and girls aged 6-16 of all abilities are invited to sign up, with players grouped by age and skill level. Participants in the training sessions, which take place after normal school hours, will enjoy coaching from NBA-selected trainers, a chance to compete in weekly competitions, and a personal appearance from the big man himself.
The first program will launch on February 21 at the Wukesong Basketball Park and costs RMB 3,900 per semester. For more information about the school and upcoming programs, or to register your interest, visit www.nbayaoschool.com (complete with English language page).