Check­ers opens a new win­dow for left-be­hind kids

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA -

TIAN­JIN — Wang Run, 13, boarded his first bul­let train to go from his ru­ral home to Tian­jin, one of China’s big­gest met­ro­pol­i­tan cen­ters, to play check­ers at the coun­try’s 13th Na­tional Games.

Seven months ago, Wang was an or­di­nary stu­dent in re­mote Ying­shang county, An­hui prov­ince, where he had been left be­hind to live with his grand­par­ents af­ter his fa­ther and mother went away for work.

“Check­ers has changed this young man’s life,” said coach Shi Zheng­bin, who brought four left-be­hind chil­dren, in­clud­ing Wang, to the Tian­jin tour­na­ment.

Shi him­self be­gan play­ing in 2007 when China’s sports author­ity be­gan to pro­mote the game. He placed sixth and eighth in the first two na­tional com­pe­ti­tions.

Then he re­tired — feel­ing “too old” — but he re­grets never win­ning a na­tional ti­tle, so he de­cided to cul­ti­vate young play­ers.

He gave up a good-pay­ing job in Guang­dong prov­ince and moved to im­pov­er­ished Ying­shang, where the lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion author­ity hoped to teach stu­dents to play check­ers but lacked coaches.

Shi be­gan his coach­ing at Tianchi Pri­mary School, where there are 1,300 stu­dents. He soon found that left-be­hind stu­dents had few af­ter-class ac­tiv­i­ties, though he was im­pressed by their dili­gence and per­sis­tence.

In less than five months, the train­ing paid off. Four of Shi’s stu­dents en­tered the fi­nal round af­ter the pre­lim­i­nar­ies of China’s Na­tional Games in May.

“The re­sult once again shows the great po­ten­tial of these chil­dren,” Shi said. “All they need is op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

With the help of the Ying­shang gov­ern­ment and par­ents, more than 40 check­ers play­ers were able to travel out­side An­hui prov­ince with Shi.

Wang Run even snatched a na­tional ti­tle in the un­der14 di­vi­sion of the com­pe­ti­tion.

But Shi didn’t ex­pect too much at the Tian­jin tour­na­ment. He told his play­ers that hav­ing two draws or one vic­tory in all nine rounds would be good enough.

The four young­sters played be­yond ex­pec­ta­tions. Wang Run ranked 25 th among 32 play­ers in the tour­na­ment, which con­cluded on Satur­day.

Now Shi has set a goal of his own. He plans to edit a book on check­ers for stu­dents in An­hui prov­ince, and train more play­ers and coaches.

He has never re­gret­ted aban­don­ing his easy life in Guang­dong. He is happy to see more young stu­dents play­ing check­ers.

“Bring­ing the four left-be­hind chil­dren to the Na­tional Games,” Shi said, “is just the start of my grand plan.”

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