Harvard students consult Vietnamese sports academy

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The Havard six-student group cheering Vietnam's professional basketball team, the Saigon Heat, as they plaed the Westsports Dragons from Malaysia at Tan Binh Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City on January 12

Six PhD students from Harvard University (US) have come to Vietnam to help the Saigon Sports Academy Company with its Vietnamese Student Sports Festival beginning this March, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported January 14.

The festival, which is set to run for two months, will be held by the Saigon Sports Academy Company (SSA), a multi-sports education institution based in Ho Chi Minh City. For the event, teams from different universities and colleges in HCMC and Hanoi will compete in basketball, volleyball and athletic dance.

The SSA informed Harvard University of the program two months ago, requesting consultation services. The highly esteemed American university agreed to sponsor a delegation of six students to travel to Vietnam and advise the SSA.

The elite students have been tasked with meeting with Vietnamese students in order to hear their analysis of the sports programs in the Vietnamese schools, and share with them how sporting institutions function within schools in the US.

The team of Harvard students also visited local stadiums and the athletic facilities of HCMC universities, suggesting ideas for how the SSA should organize its upcoming Student Sports Festival.

Vietnamese sports organizers should work much harder to stimulate the spirit of sports which Vietnamese students already possess within the local school system and society in general, said Patrick Dunagan, one of the team members.

Alan D. Maccormack, a Harvard professor, told Tuoi Tre that according to his observations, Vietnamese students have a strong love for sports, yet are limited when it comes to integrating that love into their daily entertainment.

He said on the behalf of the university that he will help Vietnamese sports organizers make each competition a joyful playground that not only students, but their families and friends, will benefit from.

Connor Nguyen, director of the SSA, said, "Students in the US are very interested in sports. Once I came to watch a football game held at Harvard University. The school has 20,000 students in total but its 60,000-seat stadium was full of fans, most of whom were students."

Nguyen said he hopes that in the future, Vietnamese students will have increasing opportunities to play sports in school, motivated not by competition, but by joy.

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