Feature Story – Ken Han

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Here we speak to Ken Han‭, ‬Founder and Head Coach of Shooting Stars Brunei Basketball about how the game of basketball can teach‭ ‬kids valuable life lessons‭.

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Coach Ken Han and Assistant Coach Ryan teaching kids

“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” This is one of Michael Jordan’s most famous quotations and it summarises the amazing power of resilience. So how can basketball teach children to bounce back from setbacks? Head Coach of Shooting Stars Ken Han, who was on the National Basketball team that represented Brunei in the SEA Games (1990-1999) and also on the National Rugby team – firmly believes that resilience, which requires mental fortitude is not an inherited trait – but one that can be taught through practical experiences. That’s why in addition to teaching the skills of the game, Ken believes that as Head Coach his job is also to help young players to learn to stick to a challenge, to maintain a positive outlook, to believe in what is possible – and no matter what, to persevere with a sense of joy – as this is what will enable them in adulthood to overcome setbacks and mistakes, and to push forward to accomplish their goals.

Ken explained that his main aim is to ignite a real passion for the game of basketball in the hearts of young Bruneians. Is he fighting a losing battle in this age of all-consuming-technology? Win or lose, this is a battle that he’s committed to fighting. As the father of a young daughter, he wants to encourage more young people to understand the benefits that can be gained from playing a team sport like basketball.

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Besides becoming fitter and learning new skills, players who enrol for classes with Shooting Stars are also encouraged to adhere to the team’s core values: play with passion; never give up and don’t be afraid to make mistakes; never say the word “can’t”; help others and be respectful. Ken tries to foster a positive attitude and confidence in all of his players, from the youngest to the oldest. And as well as this, players will also learn to improve their game: by acknowledging that a certain strategy is not working and being brave enough to admit that it needs to be changed; by paying careful attention to performance errors and working to find solutions; by working with mentors to solve problems, for example, if you are shooting short, remember the solution is using more power from your legs; and finally, by focusing on the next task instead of wasting time and energy thinking about mistakes – players will learn how to  move on and execute the next task with excellence.

Assistant Coach Ryan agreed that, “Players have to make mistakes, sometimes even fail, in order to move on and to do better.” Ryan who plays an integral role in Shooting Stars was one of only two Malays who were on the National Basketball team in 2001. From his own experience of having to work harder to prove himself, he knows that resilience breeds fearlessness which in turn opens the door to confidence. Today, Ryan is a family man with three daughters and one son and his mission is to teach the younger generation all that he’s learnt about basketball. In basketball, resilience is vital to team success. For instance, if a great shooter misses his first few shots in a game and then gets frustrated and miserable, he or she hurts the team. The shooter needs to be able to stay strong, refocus and continue to aim for victory.

Ryan thinks that “Just like in life, the game is sometimes tough, and if you’re down you just have to get back up and keep on going!” Both Ken and Ryan know that too many young people either get easily discouraged when they lose and want to give up or even refuse to put in the effort for fear of failing. That’s why as coaches, they know that it’s vital to help teach young people to become resilient so that if as adults they fail to get a job or go through periods when they struggle in the workplace or have family problems – they will be able to use their mental strength learnt from basketball to tackle the issues. At Shooting Stars, their ultimate goal is to develop players who are not afraid to give their heart and soul to the game, who play with a priceless blend of determination and joy – win or lose!

This article was published in the Jul-Sept 2016 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!