Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
In the conference room, the other coaches also looked indignant about the injustice.
"The Nantan Middle School is shameless. They don’t visit us when our team is strong. They challenge us when we are transitioning."
"We should just ignore them, in my opinion. We can refuse whatever friendly match they propose."
"Refusing is not an option. We are a provincial team, after all. They are just a high school. If we refuse their challenge in our own house, then we have already lost! Then rumor will get around that our provincial youth team doesn’t even have the guts to compete!"
"Right. We are sports professionals. Surrendering without a battle is worse than losing a battle. So we must participate in this match!"
The coaches in the conference were busy expressing their own opinions. As a newcomer, Dai Li did not have enough seniority to interrupt them. He sat on the side in silence.
A few minutes later, head coach Bin Lu waved his hands, signaling for silence. "If the Nantan Middle School proposes a match, we cannot surrender. Even if we are not as good as them, we have to stay till the end, and lose with dignity!" Bin Lu clenched his fist, then changed his tone and continued, "Of course, my ultimate goal is to get a victory!"
"But we are missing good players! The good athletes on our team have been taken by the sports teams. Most of the remaining ones have made plans for their future and are ready to leave. Some are returning to their old teams, some are looking for jobs, some are planning to return to school," somebody uttered on the side.
"The newly arrived athletes have barely begun their training. We can’t count on them. The Nantan athletic team is a strong one. Some of their athletes have participated in the National Youth Track and Field Championship, and their best record was a bronze medal! They are surely bringing their best athletes for the visit. Even if we have enough people, our victory is not guaranteed," another person added immediately.
"Let’s borrow some athletes from the sports team, and call back the athletes they took away earlier," someone suggested.
"What are you thinking? Competing with borrowed athletes will make us look like a joke if word spreads. How could we maintain our dignity amongst the other provinces?" someone refuted right away.
Bin Lu’s face grew sulky all of a sudden, his eyes serious. As chief leader of the youth team, what he wanted to hear the most at this moment was a resolution to take on the difficult challenge rather than put an emphasis on the difficulty.
Bin Lu coughed gently. "In past years, many athletes have left the team at the end of the month. However, because we are going to take the challenge from Nantan this year, I hope the athletes can stay for another month. Although the departing athletes are mediocre, they are better than the rookies. At least we’ll have some people to handle Nantan Middle School."
"They are getting ready to leave. If you ask them to stay for another month they may not like it. Not to mention that many of them have finished the paperwork for departure. We can not stop them from leaving," an experienced coach said, uttering his concern.
"That is why I need all of you to work on it and try to make them stay," Bin Lu continued. "You have to feed the horses if you want them to run. For this reason, I have decided to pay a 1000 RMB stipend to each person willing to stay for another month!"
Everyone relaxed upon hearing about the stipend. In the modern world, money could always make things easier.
To Dai Li’s delight, all five of his athletes were willing to stay. After all, the five athletes had been training with Dai Li for four months. He did not want to see them quit their athletic career.
New groups of young athletes were arriving one after another. There were suddenly over 30 new faces on the shot put team. Counting the previous five, Dai Li was responsible for training more than 40 athletes, making him quite busy all of a sudden.
With one coach instructing over 40 athletes, it was impossible to be comprehensive. Dai Li was forced to train in the "one-pot-stew" fashion. Similar to a physical education class, Dai Li listed one training plan and asked each to complete it according to their own schedule. He could only offer limited instructions.
This was when the differences among athletes became detectable. Some were devoted in the training and finished each session with great dedication, while others only aimed for completion; some added extra training voluntarily after completing the assigned tasks, while some relaxed after completion.
It took both talent and hard work to become an excellent athlete. Sometimes hard work could make up for the disadvantage in talent. Some athletes who failed were gifted, but did not work hard enough. Regardless of talent level, hard work was a must.
The new athletes’ training had just started when the Nantan Middle School arrived. In front of the ill-intended visitors, the entire youth athletic team had fully prepared. The coach of each sport was prepared for battle, and the athletes knew that a match was expected today.
On the shot put field, the 30 or so newcomers were doing routine training while the original five athletes including were warming up. Dai Li did not assign high-intensity training to them so they could keep their stamina up against the Nantan visitors’ team.
A team of 6 or 7 walked towards them from a distance. Two of them led the group. One was senior coach Hui Zhang of the youth team. The other was a Nantan visitor. Dai Li didn’t know his name, but remembered meeting him at the welcoming ceremony.
Here come the Nantan visitors! Dai Li stepped forward to greet them.
"Li, allow me to introduce you." Hui Zhang pointed at the person next to him. "This is Hu Liu, head chief of the Nantan throwing team. Mr. Liu was an athlete on the national team, and has participated in the Asian Games!"
"That was more than 20 years ago. You don’t have to bring it up." Hu Liu looked at Dai Li and continued. "Mr. Li is so accomplished at such a young age!"
"You are flattering me, Mr. Liu. You are the veteran here, I could use some advice from you," Dai Li replied immediately, a sudden uneasiness in his heart. This Hu Liu represented the national team for the Asian Games. He had to be good.
"Don’t say that. We should learn from each other." Hu Liu was smiley. He did not seem proud.
Hui Zhang gestured to Li and said, "Li, I’ll let you introduce our shot put team, and ask for Mr. Liu’s instructions."
Hu Liu could not give real "instructions" under such circumstances. He was a guest, after all. Even if Dai Li was not being a good host, Hu Liu could not point it out upfront. It would have been embarrassing to the host.
While Dai Li was showing him around, Hu Liu kept nodding and saying good things. Because they were both professionals, Dai Li did not have to go through too many details, only introducing him the basics. Within a few minutes, Dai Li’s introduction was finished.
"Mr. Liu, I am trying to show off in front of an expert," Dai Li said modestly.
"Don’t say that. I’m learning a lot today after seeing how you carry out your training. The future belongs to young people like you. Old men like us do not have many years left on this earth." Hu Liu smiled and carried on, "I’m sure a strong coach like Mr. Li has plenty of good athletes. We happen to have two shot put athletes on our team. What a coincidence! I think it’s a good idea to engage the athletes in some mutual exchange activities. What do you think?"
As Hu Liu spoke, his smile grew even more sincere. To Dai Li, however, this was a disguise for a malicious scheme!
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