Will Korea ever have ‘Linsanity’?

Will Korea ever have ‘Linsanity’?

A 16-year-old boy, towering over his classmates at 188 centimeters, walks into the classroom. He bows to his teacher, goes to the back of the class and slumps over his desk, falling asleep as the class continues.

According to one college student who played basketball in high school for two years, this was how he and just about every high school athlete he knew "attended classes."

He said they would get up 6 a.m. to go hiking on the nearby mountain, have a quick nap and start training around 9 a.m., take another nap around noon and start an afternoon workout that lasted until late in the day.

"The same process repeated throughout the year except Sundays.

We usually only had morning practices on Saturdays but when the coach was pissed off, we would get afternoon practices then as well," he said.

"Actually the players have no choice but to sleep, being dead tired after all that training."

In many Korean schools, student-athletes are usually exempt from classes and regular school activities including field trips.

As a result, their academic performances are sidelined, leaving few career options other than sports.

In 2012, Jeremy Lin ― then a little-known player for the New York Knicks ― took the NBA by storm with standout performance.

His improbable success, dubbed "Linsanity" by mainstream media, stood out in many ways.

One particular aspect that caught the eyes of Koreans was that he was a Harvard graduate.

Linsanity's startling success is a puzzle for Korean student-athletes and their parents, who believe it's impossible to balance sports activities and academic scores.

As far as Korea is concerned, there has been no Linsanity-like success story.

Athletes, not students?

Student-athletes practice crossover dribbles and other sports skills, but they hardly get any real chance to learn something useful in school.

They are also forced to miss out on chances to form friendships with their classmates.

"You know what they say, 'birds of a feather flock together.'

I used to hang out with other guys on the basketball team, the rugby team, or the football team, but not really with other regular students," said a 29-year-old former student-athlete.

"Guys who were marginally interested in studying used to hang out with regular students, but it wasn't like they were popular.

They just had few non-athlete friends."

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