Viet Nam News
HCM CITY – For half his life, Mychal Tú Nguyễn, a 44-year-old Vietnamese-American living in HCM City, has been teaching basketball to youth and adults, and since 2010, has been the CEO of the Việt Nam Basketball Academy and Việt Nam Sports Academy.
“I chose to return to Việt Nam because I wanted to learn more about my culture and heritage,” Nguyễn says. “When I decided to stay and live here about eight years ago, I wanted to give back something that I thought would help in a positive way, and basketball was something that I’m very good at.”
“I have a great deal of knowledge about this kind of sport, and so I can share and pass it on to the people of Việt Nam,” he adds.
His goal is to educate parents about the positive benefits of having their children involved in sports and other extracurricular activities. He combines this with academics to develop one of his primary goals: the model student athlete.
This led to his decision two years ago to launch the Việt Nam Youth Basketball League where players learn the value of sportsmanship, teamwork, a positive attitude, and respect for others during competition.
The Việt Nam Basketball Academy, also founded by Nguyễn, provides training at local and international schools with the aim of developing the schools’ basketball programmes.
Though participation in the sport has grown over the past decade, more and more Vietnamese, including boys, girls, men and women, have been joining the sport in recent years.
At basketball courts in HCM City, many people can be seen wearing imitation NBA replica jerseys and trying to mimic their favorite player’s moves.
With his desire to give back to the community, Nguyễn has also developed The Coaching Skills Programme to help young players who want to become a coach.
In the programme, Nguyễn shares his coaching experiences and challenges, including dealing with parents, meeting players’ expectations, and managing the passion that many players bring to the game.
“With my desire to contribute to society, I want to become a mentor and teacher for the sports community. We’re fortunate to have someone in Việt Nam who can help encourage students participate in sports while teaching them the values that go with being a model student athlete,” says Nguyễn.
“However, I still face some difficulties. It’s easy to understand that when you change your environment of living or working, you have to try to adapt to your surroundings due to differences. I try to immerse myself in the culture and overcome its differences.
“The difficulty I face does not lie in the training of students in sports skills, but rather educating their parents about the benefits of my programmes and what my community youth basketball leagues are all about,” he says.
“A lot of parents who have seen foreign coaches or trainers are skeptical about my academy and how I can help their child because of my height,” Nguyễn says. “I’m an Asian man and not tall, so some may think I’m not an ideal coach for the sport.”
“The parents, however, change their bias after watching our first basketball lesson and seeing how well their child responds to our training. So they feel comfortable that my academy is the perfect fit for their child to flourish and have fun, and help them develop basketball skills.”
Under Nguyễn’s guidance and leadership, the programmes have been very successful. Over the past six years, his teams have won four local championships and one international “friendly” championship.
This year Nguyễn became the first head coach in Việt Nam to lead two international high schools to the championship of two different contests in the same season. In 2014, he was awarded the Junior NBA Việt Nam “Coach of the Year” prize.
Nguyễn’s success demonstrates his passion for sports training and desire to help students become more active. But what really drives him is personally witnessing the benefits his students receive when they are physically active.
The students’ stress levels decrease and they develop stronger social skills. They also overcome shyness and anxiety, and become more confident, vibrant and charismatic.
The students, Nguyễn says, are more able to communicate in a positive manner with their teammates, parents, teachers and coaches.
“I hope that everyone who wants to play will have free access to a basketball court so they can enjoy the game and develop the passion that I have for this wonderful sport. And one day, we hope Việt Nam will be able to field a men’s and women’s Olympic basketball team for the Olympic Games.”
Mychal Tú Nguyễn, a Vietnamese-American living in HCM City and founder of two sports academies, has been teaching basketball for more than 20 years. — VNS Photo Văn Châu
To help the growth of the sport in the country, Nguyễn feels that certain issues need to be addressed.
More basketball facilities across the country should be developed so that people have an opportunity to learn and play the game, he says. In addition, highly qualified coaches, players, skills trainers, and certified strength and conditioning experts are needed.
“We need more professionals who are willing to pass on their basketball knowledge and passion in a positive and patient manner to Vietnamese players,” he said. “We need to continue to develop our local and overseas Vietnamese players who play in the domestic pro leagues, while also welcoming and helping foreign imports adapt to living and playing basketball in Việt Nam.”
“Slowly but surely, parents are starting to see the many benefits of having their child participate in sports. Some of those benefits include learning how to work as a team to accomplish a certain goal, being able to socialise with others, learning how to communicate positively while respecting others, knowing what it takes to be a leader, and learning about maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle,” he says.
To improve the professionalism of basketball in Việt Nam, Nguyễn believes that local referees need to continue to take part in domestic and international professional training so they can become internationally certified and recognised in the sport. — VNS