In China’s long tryst with foreign coaches, which began with Japan volleyball coach Daimatsu Hirofumi in 1965, China has seen numerous foreign coaches guiding the country to podium finishes in different disciplines in major international championships. Thanks to them, China has grown rapidly to become one of the top sporting nations in the world.

The popularity and efficacy of foreign coaches reached a crescendo in the 2008 Beijing Olympics when China had 38 expatriate coaches in 17 disciplines. But as far as women’s basketball is concerned, China has been late in hiring the services of foreigners. Australian Tom Maher was the first non-Chinese coach to train the National team when he took China to a fourth place in Beijing.

Now Australian Bill Tomlinson and American Al Biancani comprise the two neutral faces in China’s support staff in the ongoing Asian women’s basketball championship.

A great fun

They are on a three-year contract till the 2012 London Olympics. Consultant coach Tomlinson and fitness expert Biancani aren’t feeling any pressure and seem to be relishing the job. “It’s been great fun,” they say.

For Tomlinson, the offer to take up the job came as a wonderful opportunity at a time when Sydney Kings, a basketball club in Australia of which he was a part of the coaching staff for 10 years, went bankrupt.

“Brian Goorijan, consultant coach of China’s men’s basketball team, recommended my name when the Chinese Basketball Association was looking for a coach. That’s how I got the job,” says the 50-year-old.

Communication, insists Tomlinson, hasn’t been a problem. “Chinese girls understand the basketball terminologies very well but when I interact with the coaches I use an interpreter.”

Tomlinson divides time by shuttling between Australia where he runs a consultancy company for basketball and China. “I am training the team here for six months a year and it’s my bread and butter.”

Lot more to do

Tomlinson, who has coached Sydney Kings in NBL, Tasmanian Devils and Sydney Flames in WNBL, says he has a lot of work to do with the Chinese team.

“We are involved more in developing the athleticism of the players and their skill development,” he says.

There is hardly anybody who wouldn’t know Biancani.

A popular and established strength and conditioning coach in NBA, Biancani, for 18 years, ensured Sacramento Kings hoopsters stayed fit match after match.

“I provide dynamic, multi-faceted daily training sessions to prepare the elite athlete for serious competition. I also specialize in post-injury rehabilitation,” says the 68-year-old, who has done a doctorate in Physical Education/Sociology.

He has trained the senior Nigerian and Canadian athlete teams in the 1970s and 80s and coached the Taiwan junior boys and girls basketball teams in 1989-90.

“China has a lot of potential as there are no proper strength and conditioning coaches,” says Biancani, who came to China in March 2008. The two say they are impressed with the players’ dedication and their ability to absorb and implement new ideas. In China’s quest for perfection in all sports related fields lies a lesson for the rest of the world.

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