‘National treasure’ 94-year-old basketball coach still in the game

Lo Yu-piao (right) teaches students at Yonghe Elementary School/ CNA photo Aug. 9, 2020

TAIPEI (CNA) — It is 7 a.m. at Yonghe Elementary School in New Taipei, an old man stands on the sidelines of the basketball court, blows his whistle, and a group of students gather in the center ready for another day of training.

At 94-years-old, basketball coach Lo Yu-piao (羅毓彪) is older than many of the grandparents of his students, but his passion has not diminished over time. He still demonstrates shots and dribbles, his movements smooth and precise.

Lo, who was born in 1926, has been coaching for over 67 years. Many of his students have gone on to become professional coaches and players themselves, including Johnny Yen (顏行書) and Yang Che-i (楊哲宜), cementing Lo’s status as a “national treasure.”

Once a coach for military basketball teams, for the past nearly four decades Lo has focussed on teaching children, which he says he really enjoys.

“Children are very easy to mold. They are also simpler and more hardworking,” Lo told CNA in a recent interview. As an elementary school coach, he says he takes great joy in teaching the students basic basketball moves.

Lo Yu-piao demonstrates for his students. (Photo courtesy of CNA Aug. 9, 2020)

This focus on basic skills is what sets Lo apart from other coaches, according to one of his former students, Liu Meng-chu (劉孟竹), current head coach at Chien Hsin University of Science and Technology.

“The most impressive thing about Coach Lo is his strong fundamental skills, which is the richest asset he gave us,” Liu said.

Another of his students, head coach at National Taiwan University of Arts Lee Po-lun (李伯倫), says that what he admires about Lo is his ability to not feel pressure.

“As a coach, experiencing pressure about how well one’s team performs is unavoidable,” Lee said,.”But the greatest thing about Coach Lo is that he never lets these pressures result in over training.”

“He is like the purest soil,” Lee said. “He gives these seeds (young players) the best nutrition, so that they can grow and flourish in the right direction.”

Even though Lo has spent most of his life playing and teaching basketball, he says that he still hasn’t tired of the sport. In addition to his job as a coach, he also plays in his free time on a seniors basketball team, where he proudly holds the title of being the oldest player.

When asked when he will finally retire, Lo said he has no plans to stop anytime soon. “As long as I’m still able to move, I’m going to continue teaching,” he said, laughing.