Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Give Articulate and Inspiring Sports Leaders a Place to Flourish
OGAWA Tadashi / Professor, Atomi University

December 7, 2023
On October 11, the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) and the city of Sapporo announced their decision to abandon their bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympic Games and to seek a bid for 2034 or thereafter. Four days later, however, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially adopted at its General Assembly the simultaneous decision regarding the host cities of the 2030 and 34 Winter Olympics. The possibility of holding the games in Sapporo not only in 2030 but also in 2034 evaporated, and there was criticism of the JOC's inability to gather enough information to detect the IOC's move.
By the way, since the 2010’s, the Sports Agency and JOC have been promoting efforts to send Japanese nationals to executive positions in international sports federations in order to enhance their international presence, aiming to improve their ability to collect information and to disseminate their messages. As of March 2023, Mr. Morinari Watanabe, President of the International Gymnastics Federation, is the only Japanese to hold the position of President of an international sports federation. Japan has 36 members in executive posts, including board members and vice presidents. Although this places Japan at the top in Asia in aggregate numbers, only 6 members hold the important posts of president and vice president. It is hard to say that the efforts of the Sports Agency have produced remarkable results.

Not only in sports but also in other fields, it is often said that “to strengthen the ability to collect and transmit information internationally” is crucial. The foundation to gather and disseminate information is the ability to have a big-picture vision worthy of careful listening, to accept the opinions of others, and to expand mutual empathy, in other words, the ability to engage in dialogue.

Over the past few years in the sports arena in Japan, a new type of leader with this ability to engage in dialogue is emerging. I would like to mention Mr. Naohiko Tsutsumi, the manager of the baseball team at Okayama Sanyo High School and the coach of the Zimbabwean team for the African qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics, as one of the sports leaders I would like to see active on the world stage in the future.

Baseball is the most popular sport in Japan, and above all, the tournament-style championships held in the spring and summer for high school students to compete for the top spot in Japan is a sporting event that has special significance in Japanese society. As only teams that have made it through the regional qualifying rounds in each prefecture are eligible to participate in these tournaments, Hanshin Koshien Stadium, where the games are held, is the "sacred ground" that high school baseball players dream to play at. With their slogan “Aim for Koshien!”, they train themselves hard every day. The matches are also high-profile; television broadcasts all the "Koshien" games live, and newspapers and online media also provide detailed reports. Combined with love for one's hometown and nostalgia for one's own youth, "Koshien" has established an unshakeable position as a national event. In recent years, however, due to the declining birth-rate and increasing interest in other sports, the number of people competing in the sport has been declining, and its popularity has begun to wane.

In such a situation, the words and actions of Manager Tsutsumi of Okayama Sanyo High School drew a lot of attention. The team led by him created a whirlwind by winning over the three highly competitive schools in the summer “Koshien” tournament in 2023. The players’ motto was that “I love baseball, not Koshien”. Manager Tsutsumi publicly proclaims that it is his call to “spread baseball to the world” and participating in the Koshien tournament is just a means to achieve his purpose. From an unknown high school and college baseball player ➡ Coaching baseball in Zimbabwe as a member of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers ➡ A talented salesperson in the sports business world ➡ An appointed manager of a baseball team on the verge of collapse ➡ Participation in the Koshien National Championships ➡ Serving as a manager of Zimbabwe's national team: His unique career illustrates his determination. At Okayama Sanyo High School Baseball Team, he continues to send used baseball equipment to developing countries through JICA(Japan International Cooperation Agency).

Among the school's baseball club mottoes are calls to expand one's horizons to the world, such as “I don't want to be a baseball fool, I want to be a baseball geek,” “I know that there is a country on earth where the average life expectancy is 34 years,” “I'm very aware that I only live once. Go see the world, even if it's just a trip,” “The world-class TOYOTA, HONDA, and SONY, all started out as small-town factories.” Several of his students have already become Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers and have gone overseas to promote baseball.

We hope that sports leaders like Mr. Tsutsumi, who have high aspirations and work on people's inner selves through their words and actions, will be nurtured and spread their wings around the world. Their contribution in the promotion of sports around the globe will help enhance Japan’s presence in the sports world.

Tadashi Ogawa is a professor at Atomi University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

小川 忠 / 跡見学園女子大学教授

2023年 12月 7日





このような状況にあって、おかやま山陽高校の堤監督の言動に注目が集まった。彼が率いるチームは、23年夏の「甲子園」で強豪校を破って3勝をあげ旋風を巻き起こした。部員たちのモットーは、「甲子園を愛しているのではなく、野球を愛している」(I love baseball, not Koshien)だ。堤監督は「世界に野球を広める」ことが自分の使命であり、甲子園出場はこの使命を達成するための手段にすぎないと公言する。無名の高校・大学野球選手➡青年海外協力隊でジンバブエにて野球指導➡スポーツビジネス界の敏腕営業マン➡崩壊寸前の野球部監督就任➡甲子園出場➡ジンバブエ代表監督兼任、というユニークなキャリアから、彼の決意が伝わる。おかやま山陽高校野球部では、JICAを通じて中古の野球用具を開発途上国の送る活動を続けている。



一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Give Articulate and Inspiring Sports Leaders a Place to Flourish