Foreign coaches embrace their roles in China
Even with differences in culture and occasional homesickness getting in the way, foreign coaches who are assisting with China’s winter sports have embraced their mission.
Any spare time Bjorn Kristiansen can fit into his tight schedule with his Chinese team in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea, he spends on his mobile phone making video calls to check what’s going on back home with his wife and children.
Being away from home is a normal part of life for the Norwegian, who started coaching cross-country skiing in 1994, but settling down with his Chinese athletes so far away remains a challenge.
“I still quite miss them, although my family is behind me. My wife has been used to me being away and she knows how it is to be a sports widow,” Kristiansen told China Daily in a prefab cabin — his temporary office — beside a ski course at Pyeongchang’s Alpensia Ski Center.
“It’s a once in a lifetime chance because you get to build up something from zero,” he said of his motives to accept the Chinese coaching offer.
Understanding the unique culture and sports system in China requires time and patience, but it’s well worth the effort, said Peter Kolder, a long-track speed skating coach from the Netherlands.
“If we want this sport to be big then every country has to be involved. China is such a big coun- try that it could make a difference,” said Kolder, the current Chinese national youth team coach.
With the language barrier easily handled using translators, any misunderstanding caused by the difference between the Chinese and Western sports systems needs to be dispelled by efforts on both sides.
“From Canada, for me it’s a learning curve. I have to learn the Chinese culture and the many layers of decision-making in the sports system,” said Jeff Pain, coach of China’s new skeleton team. “So each of us needs to learn about the other so we can find our own best way for the Chinese to grow.”
Kristiansen echoed Pain, applauding the governing body’s effort to optimize administration for better efficiency.
“It seems now you have some visionary people around who want to change the structure. It goes directly now instead of between layers of people,” said Kristiansen.
Other than that, there seem no complaints in their adventurous life in China.
“I enjoy China more and more, with so much history and culture around. I miss my three kids and my wife but I am really enjoying it now. I have nice people around here so I have two families now,” said Kolder.