Year in Sports : Revolutionary road: Pu overcomes cultural differences to lead SU volleyball program

first_img Published on April 20, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Chris: cjiseman@syr.edu | @chris_iseman Comments Year in Sports: Part 2 of 9For 32 cents, Jing Pu bought the rest of his life. Thirty cents went toward a plastic disk of English phonetics that played sound units of English words. Two cents went to the card of sound symbols that taught him to pronounce the words he heard on the disk.In his 20s in China, Pu yearned for a chance to come to the United States.Day after day for six years, he’d match the two together, his English coming into form at a pace faster than any Chinese student was learning in a college class. Pu said he could look at an English dictionary and know how to say the words right away.‘There’s one thing, I spent six years of English self-study, and I was ready in terms of listening, speaking for the English part,’ Pu said. ‘Otherwise, it didn’t matter how the doors opened up or the opportunities opened up. If you didn’t have English, the opportunities in U.S.A. were just not relevant.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThat opportunity opened up in the form of an application to the graduate studies program at Utah State University. It was a ticket to part two of his volleyball career — and his life. All he needed to do was fill it out and mail it across the Pacific Ocean to Logan, Utah, and his American career would commence.Pu’s volleyball journey took him from Beijing Sport University to Utah State, and eventually to Syracuse. He’s amassed a record of 465-257 during his 21-year head coaching career. It’s at SU, though, where he has remained for more than a decade and where he’s become known for being the protective coach that has led the Orange to at least 20 wins in eight of those seasons. This year, the SU volleyball team went 23-9, including a program-record 17-0 start.Before he began his journey, though, he listened to the disk and seriously followed an English teaching program on television that would teach him English grammar. Every day, he’d sit by the radio, listening to ‘The Voice of America,’ a program that gave news from the United States. Then, for 30 minutes, he’d listen to ‘Special English,’ where the news was slowed down to play at half its speed. Sometimes the program would play American novels. Pu learned about the adventures of an American literature icon named Tom Sawyer.Pu would use a cassette to record the program, and he began his daily routine. Play, pause, write. Play, pause, write. Every day, every sentence he heard.‘I still remember that I was stuck about an hour not being able to spell the word ‘ceasefire’ when I heard it on radio,’ Pu said. ‘I don’t know where the motivation came from. I had no specific goals. I didn’t know what the future was like.’Every Thursday, the Shanghai Foreign Language Institute had an English class for students sponsored by the Chinese government to go to the United States and continue their education. Every week a new American teacher stood in front of the room and spoke about virtually any topic, training students to hear English. Pu would slip into the classroom when he had time off from coaching. He watched nearly every student struggle to understand what they were hearing. Pu knew every word. Every sentence.He was ready to go.***Pu’s own revolution began as a result of a revolution that swept through China.From 1966 to 1976, China underwent a cultural revolution. The country started to move away from a style of communist ideology and also struggled against its own cultural traditions. Schools and sports programs shut down, and millions of Chinese citizens were sent to agricultural fields and factories to be re-educated.Pu spent two of his teenage years working in a factory making machinery parts. In the early 1970s, schools and universities started to reopen, but with different admission requirements as part of the Cultural Revolution.Only workers, farmers or soldiers were eligible to be considered for college admission. Pu’s two years in the factory meant he qualified. Based off his test performance, interviews and the recommendations of people in his work unit, the recruiting team from Beijing offered him admission for the Beijing Institute of Physical Education, now Beijing Sport University.‘You don’t have a choice. They are recruiting, and you have the opportunity to try,’ Pu said. ‘There really was not a lot of existing opportunity for you to pick. If something happens, something happened. I passed the exam, and they were happy about the results.’The college physical education curriculum in the part of China where Pu lived requires students to pass all-around physical tests, such as endurance, speed, agility, multiple skill tests and technical evaluations. Pu studied to become a physical education teacher, but volleyball was where he excelled most.After he graduated, Pu was sent to play volleyball for the Qinghai province. His playing days ended within a couple of years, and he began the transition to coaching after the China Third National Games. Once again, the government stepped in. Pu was sent to the Chinese National Volleyball Coaches Program, where coaches were systematically trained in every part of the job.‘That one month kind of prepared you in coaching, especially the shift of mindset from how I play to how to train and develop the skills of other people,’ Pu said. ‘Learning how to think, plan and organize as a coach from different angles to look at the sport.’Pu spent four years coaching the professional women’s team in the Qinghai Province. It was during that time that his personal door to the United States opened up. One of his relatives was a leading Chinese scientist and left the country in the early 1980s to join research work in Utah State’s physics program. Soon after, Pu received an application for admissions at Utah State.A few months later, Pu departed for his new life in the United States. Though he knew the language, American collegiate sports was still a foreign subject. He arrived in Utah, and after a meeting with the school’s head coach, Pu was offered the job of graduate assistant. After spending nearly a decade playing and coaching in China, Pu was taken aback by one thing: Volleyball was only a part of students’ lives. Not their entire lives.In China, Pu said only the elite are chosen to play volleyball. The only goal is to win for the nation, meaning the best players are recruited. Compared to the United States, the participation base was much smaller. In China, those chosen to play volleyball make it their lives.‘Go to different gyms, almost every gym has a slogan. ‘Work hard and win for the country.’ ‘Break through Asia and win in the world.’ That’s the mentality behind the whole system,’ Pu said.So on one of the first days at Utah State, Pu couldn’t understand why practice ended after only a couple of hours. He turned to the head coach and asked what he thought was a simple question. But that simple question reflected the type of change that was in store for Pu.‘Why are we stopping?’ he asked. ‘We need to practice.’***Kristen Conway remembers the bizarre walk through Washington, D.C., in 2002. Syracuse was there to play Georgetown. At the same time, authorities were trying to track down a man responsible for a flurry of sniper attacks.Pu, the coach, became Pu, the team’s father. Pu’s former players consistently say one thing: Pu is constantly looking out for them. So to keep his players safe during their walk through Washington, D.C., Pu had them pair up with one another. He told them to swerve in and out of the streets, making sure they would never be in one place for too long.‘He had such a concern for everybody’s safety that he devised a plan, which was the buddy system,’ Conway said.It’s those types of moments that Pu’s players remember most about the coach they revered.When SU was at a tournament in New Mexico in 2005, former SU middle blocker Cheryl Cobbina said she and her bleary-eyed teammates walked into a restaurant for dinner without a reservation. Rather than wait for the restaurant employees to set up the tables, Pu told the hostess he’d take care of it himself. He walked back and starting moving around tables.‘He’s very accommodating. He wants to make sure his players have everything and are completely comfortable,’ Cobbina said. ‘We were laughing, but that was something that Jing would typically do.’His practices, though, can be anything but typical.What Pu learned in China is evident in his practices, especially when it comes to exercise and fundamentals of the game. He’ll have his players set the ball against a block in the wall or into a basketball hoop to work on their accuracy. Pu also makes drills specifically designed for certain players, giving each a unique way to improve a part of her game that’s lacking.‘He will think through every drill,’ former SU player and assistant coach Carol LaMarche said. ‘It can be a really individualized practice. … He’s very creative, and he’s constantly thinking.’But while he works to get the most out of his players, he expects his players to work to maintain it. Former Orange Joscie Kaup said Pu expects his players to push themselves. Kaup said he teaches as best he can, but it’s up to his players to implement those lessons to improve.‘You mature really quickly because you have to,’ Kaup said. ‘If you want to get good at it and you want to compete, you have to push yourself to do it. Jing will teach you the tools and the knowledge and technique to do it, but at the end of the day, you have to do it.’***The journey from China to the United States that started with 32 cents and six years of self-taught English is long in the past. Pu’s career at Syracuse, as well as his American volleyball life in general, has been underway for over two decades. And at every stop, he’s achieved success.At Cal-Penn, he took a team that was 15-20 his first season in 1990 to two consecutive seasons of more than 30 wins and undefeated records in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Pu moved on to Central Connecticut State, where he took the Blue Devils to a 19-17 record his first year there, which at the time was the best record in program history. That was broken the following season, when Pu took the team to a record of 34-4.Wherever Pu has gone, a trail of success has followed. It’s been the case all his life. From the success of teaching himself English to success as a volleyball player and coach. Perhaps most importantly, he’s had success with relating to his players, getting his lessons across in the process.Lessons he’s teaching because of the lessons he taught himself. Thirty-two cents and six years learning English were all he needed to begin his journey to the United States. Upon his arrival, he learned even more.This time, though, he needed more than 32 cents and six years.Said Pu: ‘In this country, it’s if you have the talent, you get there if you get there.’cjiseman@syr.educenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

Former SU linebacker Parris Bennett signs with Green Bay Packers

first_img Published on April 28, 2018 at 10:59 pm Contact Billy: wmheyen@syr.edu | @Wheyen3 Former Syracuse linebacker Parris Bennett tweeted that he has signed with the Green Bay Packers. Bennett joins a total of five Syracuse players, including fellow linebacker Zaire Franklin, to have been acquired by an NFL team on Saturday.Bennett finished with 273 career tackles for the Orange and led SU in the category during both his junior and senior seasons. The Detroit native started the final 24 games of his Syracuse career. In 2016, Bennett teamed with Indianapolis Colts-draftee Franklin to become the first pair of SU teammates since 2003 to each tally 100 tackles.The Packers drafted just one linebacker, Vanderbilt’s Oren Burks, in the NFL Draft prior to their post-Draft signings. The 6-foot, 216-pound Bennett told The Daily Orange in October that he just needed to get a camp invite in order to work his way on to a 53-man NFL roster. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more