Coach finds his dream job

Coach finds his dream job

Former star school player Cyrus So is combining his skills in basketball and English to good effect

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Coach finds his dream job_L
Photo: Thomas Yau/SCMP
Coaching athletes can be difficult, but the A1 Basketball League player Cyrus So Yi-chun chose an even more challenging role - teaching teams in his second language, English.

Luckily So's language talents match his skills at the game - and he has proved a winner at both.

"I have to speak an awful lot in training," So says. "My English usage is so frequent now that it's become a habit.

"My family members tell me that I even coach in my dreams when I'm sleeping - of course, in English."

So, 26, who plays as a power forward, or centre, for A1 league side, Eagle, started work at Los Angeles Basketball Academy, a Hong Kong basketball school that uses English as the teaching medium, last October.

"This is my dream job," he says. "I was asked to join the academy about two years ago but I didn't feel ready at that time.

"After gaining some working experience in the sports industry, I finally felt confident enough to take up this coaching and management job."

So's job, as coaching manager, means that he is responsible for managing other coaches at the academy, organising youth tournaments and coaching students aged five to 16.

The former Jockey Club Ti-I College student has had a few jobs since his graduation.

He worked in sports public relations and also as a facility manager at the Leisure and Cultural Services Department's sports centres, before taking up his post at the academy.

So was voted the Most Valuable Player in the 2003-04 Jing Ying Tournament when he helped Ti-I College win the boys' team title.

English was his best subject at school and he was able to improve it while studying for a degree in sports management and finance at Deakin University, in Melbourne, Australia.

"I learned about sports theories in English during my undergraduate studies," So says. "I also worked as a coaching assistant at youth clubs [in Australia] before graduating in 2009. All these things helped my career."

He is coaching four school teams, and says the toughest part of his job is to comment on players' mistakes in English.

"You have to speak fluently and quickly, but with a certain tone," he says. "Now, after working here for a few months, I'm able to express myself with confidence."

So says he gets along well with his students. "Coaching in English is not that difficult; you can use body language when you don't know how to express what you want to tell the players," he adds.

"The part that bothers me most is to teach some really young children to play the sport in the right manner.

"I have a good time with the students. Sometimes the native-English speaking children try to greet me and tell me something in Cantonese during practice. They're eager to learn the local language, too."

However, So believes the most important thing for him as a teacher cannot be taught.

"Language skills and an ability to play basketball are important," he says. "But I think passion is the most important factor for a basketball coach.

"You need passion to inspire teenagers. With passion, even if you're not speaking fluently at first, you will quickly improve."

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