Chuo Online

  • Top
  • Opinion
  • Research
  • Education
  • People
  • RSS

Top>HAKUMON Chuo [2016 Autumn Issue]>Becoming a stronger player for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics —Short-term volleyball training with the Italian pro team Latina—

Hakumon CHUOIndex

Developing Global Human Resources  Taking on another global challenge in Italy

Becoming a stronger player for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

—Short-term volleyball training with the Italian pro team Latina—

Yuki Ishikawa
Third-year student in the Faculty of Law

From left Chancellor and President Sakai, Ishikawa, and coach Matsunaga. The three men smile for reporter after the press conference.
(Photograph taken by a student reporter Anna Takase)

Standing 191 centimeters tall and weighing 84 kilograms, Yuki Ishikawa (a third-year student in the Chuo University Faculty of Law) is a core member of the Japan Men’s National Volleyball Team. Once again, Ishikawa will be playing with a professional team in Italy, known for having the world’s strongest volleyball league. Similar to last time, Ishikawa will engage in short-term volleyball training with the team while remaining enrolled at Chuo University.

A press conference was held on the Tama Campus of Chuo University on July 8, 2016. Similar to Ishikawa’s last stint with a professional team, his contract will run for about three months from early December. Ishikawa will join the team in Italy after the end of the All-Japan Intercollegiate Volleyball Championship, in which Chuo University is seeking its third consecutive victory.

Ishikawa will join a team called Latina. The team was founded in 1972 and plays in the Serie A, the top division. The team is based about 90 minutes from Rome by car. Last season, Latina finished 8th out of 12 teams. Ishikawa was strongly recruited to join the team by the new head coach Vincenzo Nacci, who is working to strengthen Latina.

Nacci served as head coach of the Venezuela Men’s National Volleyball Team at the Men’s World Olympic Qualification Tournament (held in Tokyo in May and June) for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. During the tournament, Nacci carefully observed Ishikawa’s play.

This will be the second time that Ishikawa has played for a pro team in Italy. The first time was in winter of 2014, Ishikawa’s first year at Chuo University, when he joined Modena Volley. Established in 1966, Modena has a history of being one of the top teams in the Serie A. Modena is filled with star players from the world and had won 11 titles as of the time that Ishikawa played for the team (Modena currently has 12 titles).

Two years ago, Ishikawa didn’t have a chance to play in games for Modena. However, he showed glimpses of his overwhelming talent by contributing to the team’s 11th victory in the Coppa Italia.

With Latina, Ishikawa will once again have the opportunity to compete against the world’s top players. His goal is to become part of the regular rotation. Ishikawa seeks to advance his mental strength and technique to even higher levels as he prepares to compete in his first-ever Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo.

Fighting to become a rotation player

Last December, Chuo University commemorated its 130th anniversary by announcing the mid- to long-term development plan Chuo Vision 2025. One of the core policies of this vision is to support students from such perspectives as encouraging globalization and promoting sports.

At the press conference, Chancellor and President Shozaburo Sakai made the following statement: “Ishikawa’s challenge overseas matches the policies of Chuo University. Our entire school supports him.”

Next, Ishikawa bowed to reporters and expressed his gratitude for cooperation from Chuo University and the university volleyball team.

“Last time I played overseas, I was testing my abilities,” said Ishikawa with great confidence as he explained his goals. “However, this time, I want to become a starting player and compete with the world’s best. I have a lot of work ahead of me to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics. Playing overseas is part of that preparation.”

Also appearing at the press conference was Rio Matsunaga, coach of the Chuo Volleyball Team and former player for the Japan Men’s National Volleyball Team. Coach Matsunaga explained how Ishikawa is expected to win playing time in Latina’s games.

“Ishikawa’s strength is that his game can take on any form—the same way in which air or water can,” explained Matsunaga. “If his team is offensively oriented, he can improve his serve or spiking. If his team focuses on defense, he will have the opportunity to work on his serve receiving, an area which he needs to improve. I will do my best to support Ishikawa’s strong desire to take on new challenges.”

Message from Vincenzo Nacci, coach of Latina

Coach Nacci of Latina (photograph provided by Kyodo News)

“Latina is very pleased to have reached a contractual agreement with Yuki. We are well aware of his outstanding abilities. When Yuki came to Italy in March as a member of the youth national team, he played a friendly match against Latina. Watching that game, it was apparent that Yuki possesses high potential. Undoubtedly, playing volleyball in Italy will be a chance for him to grow. Latina will support Yuki so that he can concentrate on his studies and volleyball. This year marks the 45th season for Latina.”

The following is the transcript of the Q&A session with Yuki Ishikawa. The press conference was attended by 48 reporters from 26 newspaper companies and news agencies.

――What kind of play will you display during your second term in Italy?

“Last time, I was still only 19 years old and in my first year at university. So, playing with Modena was all about gaining experience and improving my skills. Professional athletes make amazing plays, but they also make mistakes. Thanks to my experience with Modena, I’m no longer nervous when playing overseas or competing against professionals. I can keep my composure on the court.”

“The Japan Men’s National Volleyball Team lost in the World Olympic Qualification Tournament and missed a chance to compete in the Rio Olympics. So I must get stronger. At Latina, I will have the chance to improve on both defense and offense. I want to get a big result by playing against pro athletes. I want to prove my worth by defeating top teams in the Italian league. I hope that my teammate Otake (third-year student in the Faculty of Commerce) will also have the chance to play overseas.”

“Now that I am in my third year at university, I am starting to think about finding employment and about my path in the future. I think that now is the most important time of my life.”

Ishikawa shouts after scoring a point.
(Photograph provided by Chudai Sports Newspaper Division)

――Do you plan on playing professionally in the future?

“I haven’t made any firm decisions, but I want to make my living by playing volleyball. I don’t know if I will turn professional or if I will play for a corporate team (in Japan’s top league). I will make a decision by consulting with the people around me.”

――What is your impression of Latina?

“I have been to Latina as part of the youth national team and I know some of the players very well. I look forward to joining the team.”

――What is your goal for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?

“I want to win a medal—a gold medal. I have a lot of work to do to achieve this goal. Our team can’t win a medal as it is. So, I have to take action and take the lead in the pursuit of winning.”

Tell me more!
Profile of Yuki Ishikawa
High school (Seijoh High School, Aichi Prefecture) For two consecutive years, won all three major titles (Japan’s Spring High School Volleyball Championship, Interscholastic Athletic Meet, and National Athletic Meet)
After enrolling at Chuo University Won the First Division of the Kanto Collegiate Volleyball League, won the All-Japan Intercollegiate Volleyball Championship twice, won the Spring League Title and Autumn League Title, etc.
All-Japan 2012 3rd at Asian Youth Games (18 and under, Iran)
2013 17th at World Youth Games (19 and under, Mexico)
10th at World Junior Championships (21 and under, Turkey)
2014 2nd at Asian Games (Korea)
5th at Asian Junior Athletic Championships (20 and under, Bahrain)
2015 6th at World Cup (Tokyo, others)
2016 7th at World Olympic Qualification Tournament for Rio de Janeiro Olympics (Tokyo, others)
Message of encouragement from Chancellor and President Sakai

The press conference was held on July 8, 2016, the anniversary of the founding of Chuo University. The day also marked a new start for Ishikawa as a volleyball player. Chancellor and President Sakai gave the following message of encouragement: “I hope that Ishikawa will remember today as the day that he made a fresh start in his volleyball career. I have great expectations for his play in Italy.”

Gathering of 48 reporters from 26 media outlets

Ishikawa’s press conference attracted great attention, with attendance by 48 reporters from 26 media outlets. During the Q&A session after the announcement, questions were given by seven reporters and one freelance writer. Questions were also given by university media members, including journalists for Chudai Sports and Hakumon Chuo.

For about 90 minutes, Ishikawa followed an extremely busy schedule which consisted of the press conference, Q&A session, individual interviews, and photographs.

Panel exhibit of Chuo University alumni competing in the Olympics

The reception area of the press conference featured a panel exhibit of Chuo University alumni who played volleyball in the Olympics. Japan won a series of medals which included bronze at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, silver at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, and gold at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The exhibit brought back the memories of Teruhisa Moriyama playing at the Tokyo Olympics, of Mamoru Shiragami, Isao Koizumi, Kenji Kimura, Tadayoshi Yokota, Kenji Shimaoka, and Yasuaki Mitsumori at the Mexico Olympics, and of Kimura, Yokota and Shimaoka at the Munich Olympics.

At the entrance of the conference venue, a panel introduced five athletes who would compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Someday, Ishikawa will have his name listed with such illustrious names.

Impressions from five student reporters after the press conference

Empathizing with Ishikawa’s conviction

Student reporter: Yurika Honma
Text and Photography
(1st-year student in the Faculty of Law)

At the individual interviews after the press conference, Ishikawa answers questions from reporters

Thirty minutes prior to the start of the press conference, the venue was filled with large television cameras. It was the first time that I saw such equipment up close. Having arrived early for the event, I looked for an open seat. Admittedly, I felt somewhat out of place.

Summoning my courage, I took a seat in front of the venue. I felt nervous and unable to relax. Since I had arrived early, there still weren’t many reporters in the venue. Still, I didn’t feel comfortable with the situation of doing my first reporting assignment. I found myself looking around restlessly.

Almost all of the people attending the press conference were real newspaper reporters or television staff. A student like me stuck out like a sore thumb. I didn’t know anyone at the event, so I sat quietly by myself. I was almost overwhelmed by the pressure that I had never felt before.

Meanwhile, the press conference finally started. Following an introduction of the moderator, Ishikawa and other guests appeared from the rear of the venue, greeted by applause. I still remember how my hands were shaking while I clapped.

The moment that Ishikawa and the other guests sat down, the pressure suddenly disappeared. I was simply engrossed by the people in front of me. I couldn’t believe that someone whom I had only seen on television was now actually sitting in front of me. During the press conference, I felt as if I was in a dream.

Throughout the entire press conference, Ishikawa consistently stated his goal for playing in Italy as follows: “I want to play in games, get a big result, and prove my worth.”

Despite still being a student, Ishikawa is now an athlete representing Japan. His goal seemed fitting for a person of his stature.

His coach Matsunaga explained that this second stint playing overseas would be helpful for Ishikawa in making a decision regarding his path after graduation.

As a student myself, I emphasized deeply with how playing abroad would be useful to Ishikawa in deciding his future. Of course, Ishikawa’s goals and path to achieving them differ from those of ordinary students. Even so, we also think about the future and long for new challenges like him. Watching Ishikawa at the press conference inspired me to take action for my own future.

At the same time, I noticed some gestures that Ishikawa made unconsciously at the press conference were typical of a student. Again, this made me feel a sense of affinity towards him.

Indeed, throughout the event, Ishikawa showed glimpses of still being a student. He seemed slightly nervous and spoke somewhat haltingly when answering questions. During the photography session, he responded hesitantly to the aggressive requests of the photographers, but managed to show a refreshing and bashful smile.

I look forward to Ishikawa traveling to Italy again to take on new challenges as a volleyball player and as a student of Chuo University, and hope that this will be a new start for him.

Finding the courage to ask a question

Student reporter: Ion Naito
Text and Photography
(Second-year student in the Faculty of Commerce)

A room packed with reporters. Ishikawa stands on the far left.

This was the second time that I interviewed Ishikawa. The first time was about one year ago, immediately after he had returned from his first stint in Italy (article published in the 2015 Summer Issue of Hakumon Chuo). At that time, the interview was conducted through a small-group dialogue among only three people: Ishikawa, me, and another student reporter.

The recent coverage was a real press conference, just like the ones often broadcast on television. Taking my place among newspaper reporters, I felt increasingly nervous as I prepared for the press conference. Ishikawa himself appeared slightly nervous.

I still remember one comment that Ishikawa made during our interview one year ago. Despite being a member of the Japanese national team at that time, Ishikawa stated that “there’s no guarantee that I can continue playing volleyball in the future.” He also stated that “I’m open to playing anywhere.” At that time, he emphasized his desire to improve as a student athlete.

At the press conference, however, it was apparent that Ishikawa now views volleyball as his profession and work. What was the reason for this change? Since I had had the chance to speak directly with Ishikawa previously, I was the only person who could ask this important question. That was my intention until right before the press conference began.

However, once the Q&A session actually began, professional reporters raised their hands and asked questions one after another. All of the reporters spoke with great clarity and confidence.

Could a student like me really ask a question? What would I do if I wasn’t able to clearly communicate my question?—I was filled with a sense of uneasiness and nervousness. Nevertheless, I knew that I would regret it if I missed the opportunity to ask my question. I summoned my courage and raised my hand.

“I’m a student reporter for the Chuo University student newsletter. As you prepare for your second stint overseas, have there been any changes in your feelings or expectations regarding your future?”

Ishikawa gave a detailed answer to my question: “Well, I was in my first year at university when I went to play in Italy the last time. So, I wasn’t thinking too much about the future. However, now that I am a third-year student, I have to start thinking about finding employment and my path in life. These are also things to consider during my upcoming play in Italy.”

It appears that Ishikawa has decided to pursue volleyball even after graduating from university. The things that Ishikawa learned during his first stint in Italy were demonstrated during Japan’s outstanding sixth-place finish at the FIVB World Cup in September of last year. Perhaps Ishikawa had found the confidence to do what he loves as his work.

For me, this realization was a big scoop at the press conference.

I was thrilled at getting what I wanted to know out of Ishikawa. My heart was filled with joy when he answered my question. I also experienced how the exchanges between reporters and interviewees provide the basis for daily newspaper articles and television news.

I will never forget Ishikawa’s serious expression when answering my question, or the way in which he smiled shyly.

I look forward to interviewing Ishikawa for the third time after he returns from Italy. I will watch for his success with great interest.

Noticing a change in expression

Student reporter: Mayu Mori
Text and Photography
(Third-year student in the Faculty of Law)

Ishikawa holds hands with Chu-Oji as they pose for a photograph.

I headed to the press conference, feeling a mixture of nervousness and excitement. It was my first assignment as a student reporter. When I arrived, I found that numerous reporters had already begun setting up.

Of course, it was my first up-close look at press conferences which are shown on television news, and I couldn’t believe that I was actually there. At the same time, I felt overjoyed at the opportunity to cover this press conference.

I decided to become a student reporter during my third year at university. It was spring, and I had just begun the second half of my time at Chuo University. Many students around me were engrossed with club activities and led fulfilling lives as students.

In my case, I simply attended school and then went home. After classes and on days off, I would work at my part-time job. Every day was the same routine.

I started to ask myself questions—Is this really how I wanted to spend my time as a student? Wouldn’t I regret not being more active? Isn’t there anything new that I could start from now?

Meanwhile, I happened to see a poster recruiting student reporters for the Chuo University student newsletter. I suddenly felt an overwhelming desire to become a student reporter and interact with many people.

Since I was also thinking about working in the news media, I decided to take action and become a student reporter.

The press conference started and Ishikawa made his appearance. The venue was filled with the sound of clicking cameras. The press conference started with a greeting by Chancellor and President Sakai, who explained the decision to permit Ishikawa to play volleyball overseas. Next, Ishikawa expressed his determination, answered questions, posed for photographs, and conducted individual interviews. During this process, I noticed a change in Ishikawa’s expression.

Specifically, his expression changed once it was time for photographs. The Chuo University mascot Chu-Oji suddenly appeared and Ishikawa was asked to pose together for a photograph. Ishikawa’s face suddenly brightened and he flashed a kind smile. It was as if his nervousness had disappeared. Around the time that the photography ended, the entire venue was filled with a relaxed atmosphere.

I noticed Ishikawa had a strong will of his own. I asked myself, “But how about me?” We are both third-year students. While I don’t yet have aspirations to make the world my stage, I also would like to find something worthwhile like him. My interaction with Ishikawa was such an inspiring experience.

While expressing his determination to play in Italy with great passion, Ishikawa calmly provided detailed answers to each of the many questions asked by reporters. Ishikawa’s enthusiasm was evident from the serious look on his face. He is determined to display his abilities amidst fierce competition and to play a leading role at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Ishikawa attracts attention not only in Japan but overseas as well. I’m sure that all the attention comes with a corresponding amount of pressure.

While coping with such pressure, Ishikawa discussed his determination to achieve personal goals. He also showed consideration for his younger teammates by stating the hope that his decision to play abroad would also create opportunities for his teammates to play overseas. Overall, he displayed his devotion to heightening the level of volleyball in Japan.

Embracing challenge with an eye on the future

Student reporter: Mayuko Sato
Text and Photography
(Third-year student in the Faculty of Law)

From left: Chancellor and President Sakai, Ishikawa, Chu-Oji and coach Matsunaga. Coach is being encouraged to get in the picture.

Teamwork is an essential element of volleyball. In particular, players must always maintain the will to win. A team is formed when each player standing on the court plays with passion and works together to cover each other’s weaknesses.

Athletes who represent Japan in international competition must frequently consider these elements of technique and mental strength.

At the recent press conference, I was impressed by how Ishikawa has his eye on the future. Personally, the event also forced me to consider my own future.

Ishikawa displayed strong determination to make a career out of playing volleyball.

It’s difficult to remain firm in one’s decision. Still, it cannot be easy to maintain strong will while being supported by countless people and shouldering expectations as a representative of Japan. I’m sure that Ishikawa put a lot of thought into his decision.

Even athletes who attract great attention and garner acclaim will disappear suddenly due to the appearance of a new rival who shows outstanding potential.

Criticism from the media and fans is cold and merciless. Athletes are judged solely on results.

Ordinary people never see the total process undergone by athletes and the extent of their efforts and struggles. We can only imagine such things.

Of course, ordinary people undergo the same process in their studies or work. However, the key point of difference between athletes and us is the amount of attention received. It must be extremely tough and difficult to remain a star athlete who constantly performs at a high level.

The pressure of representing Japan is immeasurable. Half-hearted effort is unthinkable for a high-profile athlete like Ishikawa. He competes in a fierce world where he could be replaced at any time. Undoubtedly, Ishikawa recognized his situation and started preparing for tomorrow by pursuing his future in Italy.

Our eyes will be on Ishikawa’s every move.

The pride of Chuo University takes on the world

Student reporter: Anna Takase
Text and Photography
(4th-year student in the Faculty of Law)

Student reporters pose in front of a photograph of Ishikawa.
From left: Sato, Naito, Honma, Mori, Takase

I watched the Men’s World Olympic Qualification Tournament for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. I recorded and watched all of the games during the tournament. I also purchased several copies of the photo book entitled Ryujin (Dragon) NIPPON, team’s nickname, and read all of the interviews.

When seen on television or in magazines, Ishikawa always appears powerful. His ability is such that one may have no doubts that he will lead the Japanese team in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

A large crowd of reporters waited for Ishikawa to appear. He is a popular athlete who decided to play in Italy for the second time. Ishikawa’s appeal goes beyond the Japanese national team or Chuo University volleyball team. Now, he is a star attracting attention from throughout the world.

Once the press conference started, I was surprised at how Ishikawa appeared. As President and Chancellor Sakai and coach Matsunaga spoke, Ishikawa stared intently downward. To someone accustomed to the powerful aura usually displayed by Ishikawa, such behavior was unimaginable.

Then, it was time for Ishikawa to express his determination. Although he spoke firmly and clearly, something about him gave the impression of a student. He appeared slightly embarrassed. At the press conference, I realized for the first time that Ishikawa was a student just like me.

Nevertheless, he is still an athlete competing on a global scale. As he discussed his determination, Ishikawa once again became the athlete whom I had seen in games or on television. He emphasized his goals of becoming a starting member, playing at a high level of international competition, and producing results. I felt energized by seeing a contemporary of mine embracing such difficult challenges.

I found the courage to ask the following question: “When you returned to the Chuo University volleyball team after the World Olympic Qualification Tournament, what did your teammates say to welcome you back?”

Ishikawa thought for a second, smiled at me, and answered as follows:
“Actually, I came back on a day off, so none of my teammates were in the dormitory.”

His answer was followed by an outburst of laughter from reporters. After coming back from the World Olympic Qualification Tournament, Ishikawa left the team again to attend a volleyball camp. Once he finally saw his Chuo teammates again, they greeted him just like any other day.

At the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, I also saw Ishikawa’s teammates from the Chuo University volleyball team. They were there to cheer for him with all their might during the tournament. Still, even though Ishikawa is the team’s ace player, he is ultimately treated as just another guy, which is something of a tradition of Chuo University volleyball team.

Now, Ishikawa is headed to Italy. For his Chuo teammates, it may be a disappointing period during which they can’t watch him play live. However, once Ishikawa returns from training abroad, the name “ISHIKAWA” on his uniform and the uniform number “14” are sure to garner even greater respect from opponents and teammates.