JOHOR BAHRU, Malaysia (21st FIBA Asia U18 Championship for Women): When she was a player, Li Xin was renowned for her tenacity. It was one of the traits that helped China finish on the podium – going down in the gold medal game to the mighty CIS – the last time any FIBA Asia team won a medal, at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Two decades down the line, as China look forward to putting together a new generation of players in the post Miao Lijie –Nan Chen era, Li Xin is once again in the forefront this time as the coach of the team, guiding and steering the youngsters with same perseverance she showed as a player.
The most striking aspect of a conversation with the 43-year-old is her unabashed forthrightness in expressing her opinions.
“Can this team emulate your feat of winning a medal?” Pat comes the answer without a blink: “May be I can guide them to that.”
“Are you happy with the way the team has played?” The answer is quicker than the question: “Of course not.”
“These youngsters need to focus more on the job at hand. There is a tendency to get distracted often,” Li Xin went on to explain.
“This is where I think the job and task of the coaching staff gets very interesting. On the one hand, we need goad them to give their best. And on the other hand, we need to guard against them getting a little too confident for our own comfort,” she added after China posted their second successive win on Sunday.
“Well it’s only two games yet. We have lots more to win before we reach our goal,” Lin Xin said.
“But then, winning the title here is not an end by itself. It’s only a means to the long terms targets of this group – either as individual players or as a team.
“Of course winning every game matters. A win is a solid index of things going according to plan. But that is not the only index. Nor is it the ultimate aim.
Having been an observer of women’s basketball in FIBA Asia, I asked her to comment on the overall standards.
“There definitely is an improvement in the very approach the teams are playing,” she replied.
“We are still using the Asian style of speed and fast breaks, but that habit is changing. We are slowly, but surely moving towards more physical play. It’s a long process to change the very attitude of our coaching style. But I think we are progressing,” she added.
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia
Photo: Milad Payami / FIBA Asia