Zhang Jinhua, 62, coach of the women's basketball team of Tongren Minzu Middle School in Southwest China's Guizhou province, has been committed to helping girls from ethnic and mountainous regions achieve their university and basketball dreams.
After graduation from university in 1982, Zhang was employed as a physical education teacher at the No 3 Middle School in Tongren, now the junior branch of Tongren Minzu Middle School. As the only one with a bachelor's degree in PE, Zhang was appointed head of the teaching group in the first year. But back then, he was a stranger to basketball.
The school had a men's basketball team and employed a teacher from a sports school as coach. Since the men's competition was more intense and professional, and he did not know much about basketball coaching at the time, he could only help train the women's team, Zhang recalls.
When the women's team was set up, things were not easy. There were only seven girls playing basketball and Zhang, who specialized in track and field, had to spend a lot of time improving his knowledge of basketball training.
Zhang and the girls trained hard, and soon, teachers and students saw great improvement in the team, which attracted more students to join.
To build a stronger team, he has also set up elaborate training and competition systems, as well as a specific development plan for the players.
There are rules and regulations for the players' accommodation, dining and competition trips outside campus. Additionally, all of them are required to attend regular academic classes on time and conduct basketball training mainly in the morning and after school.
"Excellence demands hard work, and an excellent student athlete should do well in both study and sports," says Zhang.
At around 5:30 am, the girls get up and practice some basic basketball skills, including dribbling, passing and shooting. After 1 hour and 30 minutes of training, they have breakfast and return to normal classes.
In recent years, some student athletes have been admitted to universities for their specialty in basketball, and some found ideal jobs on the back of their sporting ability.
So far, Zhang has developed over 40 national class-A basketball players and more than 100 class-B athletes from the women's basketball team.
"Each player is like a sapling, and they are the hope of a family," he says.