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Reformers look to fix Japan's damaging youth baseball culture

11 Comments
By Satoshi Iizuka

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Unfortunately, this problem is not only in baseball. It's in most every sport here. Volleyball probably tops the list. I've seen male coaches screaming at the top of their lungs at elemenatry school girls for the simplest of mistakes. Hopefully this is a start to changing the culture. It sure needs it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

So many immature arms damaged. What a shame. The overkill culture here is disheartening.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

As a professional personal manager in sports, having managed hundreds ofworld class athletes I have always been appalled by the lack of coaching skills, the oldfashioned, cruel and completely ineffective training and coaching methods in Japan but also the lack of action against it by parents, schools and federations.

in track and field the training method is run till you die and the last one standing gets selected or is a champion. In baseball pitchers are destroyed before they are 25 because of the ridiculous number of pitches they have to make at young age. In gymnastics there is a reign of terror and pain. I would not hesitate to call 90 % of the coaches incompetent and dangerous. It is no coincidence that these days the long career Japanese professionals all went abroad at young ages. That goes for both today’s tennis stars, skaters, long distance runners, even soccer players.

Personal and club interest is what drives these coaches, principals, club presidents and federation management. I have tried 20+ years ago to bring change when I was prominent in Japanese sport but was blocked and boycotted every step of the way.I even had my contract as GM of a j league one team torn up by the j league president even though that contract was signed by an ex Japan PM. Nothing has changed.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Playing & training any sport every day of your school years is Total overkill.

In Australia, we played football in the winter, & cricket in the summer. Of course there were many other sports to choose from as well - golf, tennis, hockey etc.

And training was usually only twice a week, with one game on the weekend.

Japan’s system definitely needs an overhaul

3 ( +4 / -1 )

A good first step would be stopping the lionization of past Koshien heroes. Yes, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yuuki Saitou were championship pitchers in the past. They also threw hundreds and hundreds of pitches in a single-elimination tournament to do so. How many other young ballplayers have blown out their arms trying to follow this example? Stop showing these highlights on a loop endlessly on TV every summer.

The tradition of Koshien can remain, but there needs to be changes. Perhaps the rules need to be adjusted so that a team can no longer count on their ace to pitch 5 or 6 complete games in a row (and that's not even counting the prefectural qualification tournaments). So be it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Positive reforms that Japanese sports teams could make for kids:

1) Have seasons that allow kids to play more than one sport. A few elite teams can still practice year-round, but most kids should be free to play multiple sports throughout the year.

2) Stop late-night practices for young kids. Practicing until after 9 p.m. on school nights several days a week is too late and too much for eight-year-olds.

3) Stop the long-distance road runs. No baseball player ever has to jog at a steady pace for 30 minutes. They need short, explosive bursts of about 30 meters, and never over 120 meters. Distance running grows a different kind of muscle cell that is incapable of explosive speed.

4) Stop over-pitching players at all levels. Kill off the idea of an “ace.” At each developmental level, set strict pitch limits. Stop ruining young arms.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

A 46% decline in 10 years is astounding. Alas, this is Japan. This means that (a) no one wants to talk about an obvious problem (lest the 'wa' gets disrupted) and (b) no one wants to de-romanticize Koshien....even though pretty much every team that wins is a high school that offers 'scholarships' and then proceeds to practice throughout the year (and in the process, destroying far too many young pitcher arms).

I love NPB, but high school Japanese baseball needs a lot of work.

The comment about 'incompetent HS coaches' rings very, very true.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Where to begin!?! Well, lets start with basketball having coached that in Japan. The tournament format system is flawed as typically only the large schools that recruit get to play more games where the smaller schools get only one or two games in after practicing for 2 hours every day after school. In an entire year, some teams might only get to play 8 games. Yet they practice almost every day. Not fun. The sempai-kohai thing is also intimidating for beginners. Oh, and typically only the same 5-6 players get to play, even on a bad team. Oh, and there is no mercy rule. I've seen teams get beat 150-10. Coaches show no mercy. In Canada and in the US, typically coaches play the bench players once a team is ahead by 20-30 points. Not Japanese coaches.

As far as baseball goes, its just old school mentality. Coaches don't know any different and people who think otherwise are afraid to speak up. I remember playing little league baseball in Canada. We had games 2 times a weak from April to June. It didn't last all year unless you made the All Star team (Like me), but even then we only practiced for 2 hours 2-3 times a week. Not this 2-4 hour stuff every day. No one injured their elbow unless they were throwing curve balls at too young an age. I do remember some yelling and screaming from some coaches which was why I quit, but it was fun playing little league when you had a coach that was chill.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

3) Stop the long-distance road runs. No baseball player ever has to jog at a steady pace for 30 minutes. They need short, explosive bursts of about 30 meters, and never over 120 meters.

I agree. There is no science that suggests baseball players need to be able to run a half marathon. I see it all the time though. Fastest long distance runner at my school just happens to play baseball too. But is he fast at baseball? I don't think so. He's a pitcher and could use a bit of weight and muscle.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

tooheysnew

Playing & training any sport every day of your school years is Total overkill.

In Australia, we played football in the winter, & cricket in the summer. Of course there were many other sports to choose from as well - golf, tennis, hockey etc.

Maybe 30 years ago. Most kids are focused primarily on one sport in Australia. "Every day" is a rarity... tho' 5-6 days a week is pretty common (if you're including games).

Still... that's not the issue. The issue should be the type of training they get, including the behavior of coaches. That's far more problematic.

I do applaud the notion the V.Lux squad has - playing sport, for any reason, is good. Including "merely" for fun. If it ceases to be fun... why do it at all?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The actual discussing of reform holds the same status as actually carrying out reform in Japan. As such reform is discussed in Japan, but never implemented. More discussion is needed though to ascertain the veracity of these statements.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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