Japan takes its sports seriously. I’ve been in this country a long time and I still don’t quite get it. When I was in high school (and I’m sure it hasn’t changed) we had seasons. You might play volleyball in the fall, do basketball in winter, and then track in the spring. On the plus side, kids got to participate in a variety of sports. On the down side, if you really loved one sport, once it ended, you generally had to wait a whole year before you could play it again.
Not so in Japan. Sports are a year-round proposition. My second son is in jr. high (7th-9th grades). He joined the baseball team. They have morning practice before school starts. He leaves the house at 6:40 and practice starts at 7am. It finishes at 8am. The bell rings at 8:20 for school to start. In the afternoon he practices another 2 to 3 hours. On the weekends it’s practice or games. Yesterday, he had to be at the station at 6:30am for an away game. That meant we were up a little after 5am getting ready and making an obento (lunch) for him to take. Summers are not a vacation. They become intensive training with practice from morning until late afternoon. It’s no wonder that kids who stick with one sport become really good at it.
Btw, as a little aside, coaches are the jr. high teachers. There are no outsiders coming in to coach. Every teacher is assigned a sport or non-sport club to supervise. That means these teachers are also giving up their weekends to coach. Yes, it sounds crazy, but it’s how it’s done.
Even so, it’s hard to criticize too much when you see a performance like the one in the video clip below. This is a high school rythmic gymnastic team (and did you know guys can be on the team? I didn’t.). My kids were watching the TV the other day and this team was on and I couldn’t take my eyes off them. They are that good. Take a look and tell me what you think.