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There’s Something Special about Coach Chun Joo-won

Posted October. 10, 2005 03:03,   


There’s something special about Chun Joo-won (33), a player-coach for Shinhan Bank’s professional women’s basketball team.

Thanks to Chun, Shinhan rose from the bottom of the winter league last year to the winner of the summer league in just six months.

Chun is six years younger than Lee Young-ju (39), the head coach, and fourteen years older than Kim Yeon-ju (19), the youngest player on the team. She is a “bridge” between the head coach and players and more. She transformed the team’s once inexperienced, somewhat hesitant younger members into strong and confident fighters.

Chun has a very tight schedule filled with her first lecture (to the GS Caltex women’s volleyball team), posing for a cover photo of a magazine (“Mizn,” a women’s weekly), and other obligations. Out of her 10 days of vacation, she was only able to take one day off. “I miss my one-year old daughter so much. I am so grateful that my parents-in-law take care of her,” she said. But despite all that, I was able to meet her for an interview to ask a few questions about her leadership as a coach.

Follow me –

In early April, her team took part in harsh marine training on Silmi Island. It had been just seven months since Chun gave birth to her daughter. But she never hesitated to join other players in training. For the two-week training camp, she led her teammates from the Samcheonpo mountain training to pine board breaking and walking barefoot on charcoal fires without a moment of hesitation. “When I got back to my room, every inch of my body ached and I groaned all through the night. But when the morning came, I pretended to be ok and led others,” she said.

Let the Younger Players Feel Free To Say What They Think –

Chun makes it comfortable for the team’s junior members to speak up whenever they have a meeting. Sometimes she buys her team pizza or fried chicken. As they chat and laugh, they begin to trust one another, and feel that they are a family. Whatever Chun hears from these meetings, she tells exactly what she heard to the head coach. But she takes care to tone down the words.

No Too Much Whining about Lost Games –

One of Chun’s rules is enjoy playing basketball. She remembers not to be too depressed over a defeat or overjoyed over a win. An assist is better than a shot to Chun because she sees her role as an assistant to her teammates. In one championship, she stayed on the court for 36.52 minutes on average and posted 20 points, 4 rebounds and 4.7 assists.

Those Who Make Mistakes Need More Encouragement –

Everyone makes mistakes. If a player makes a mistake in a game, she comes up to her and says, “It’s ok. You did your best.” After the game, she personally talks to the player and gives her a piece of advice or two.

Honesty Is the Best Policy –

All teams have one or two members who undermine their good teamwork. She tries to talk to them and persuade them to be more cooperative. If this does not work out, she becomes quite outspoken about what she thinks are the players’ problems. Once everything is made clear, she does not take the whole thing personally.

Basketball Players, Too, Have Social Responsibilities –

She was selected as an MVP in the recent championship, and donated all of her prize money to help comfort women. When her daughter had her first birthday party, she sent rice cakes to them. Even when she loses a game, she smiles to her fans. When she takes some time off, she likes reading books on history. “I read Kim Hun’s ‘A Song of the Sword (a book on Lee Sun-sin, a famous general during the Joseon Dynasty)’ and I cried so much. He never stopped doing what was right even when no one was there to help him. He must have felt so lonely and desperate.”

Hwa-Sung Kim mars@donga.com