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Path of Waseda Athletics

Waseda University is proud of the role that it has played in the development of athletics in Japan.
Now, what can Waseda University do in the future to further uplift athletics in Japan?
Also, how far can the potential of athletics be taken as part of university education?
We shall search for our future path by clarifying the current state of research activities and competitive athletics.

Waseda Athletics: The Past 110 Years & the Future

The history of athletics at Waseda University covers more than 110 years.
In relation to the role and meaning of athletics at Waseda, as well as pertaining to future issues, we discussed the current state and issues with Professor Isao Muraoka, Dean of the Graduate School of Sports Science and Managing Director Sports Promotion.

Director, Dean of the Graduate School of Sports Science
Professor Isao Muraoka

Athletics are Essential to People

--Could you please give a brief explanation regarding the history of athletics at Waseda University?

Athletics have been given an extremely important position at Waseda University since the start of the university’s history. Shigenobu Okuma said that “I believe that exercise is essential to people…any form of exercise is fine, whether it be baseball, tennis, or boating. Great things can be accomplished in this world only by those who strengthen their body. Exercise is ideal for strengthening the body.” Okuma also stated that “Even if scholastics are slightly delayed by participation in athletics, this is only a temporary situation, and it is fine for great talent to develop later in life.” I feel that Okuma’s spirit towards athletics remains vibrant even today.

The beginning of athletics at Waseda can be traced back to the “athletics festivals” which began in 1883, the year following the founding of Tokyo Senmon Gakko, which was the predecessor to Waseda University. “Waseda Club”, which is the precursor to today’s athletics club, was established in 1895. The athletics club began in 1897, a year which marked the earnest beginning of more than 110 years of Waseda athletics. There were 7 events at the time of the athletics club’s founding: outside exercise, apparatus gymnastic, fencing, jujutsu, archery, tennis, and baseball. This was an age when Waseda University and other institutions of higher education played a central role in the development of modern athletics in Japan.

Later, in 1903, the 1st baseball game between Waseda University and Keio University was held. Although there was a blank in athletics during WWII, events expanded into a broad range after the end of the war. However, in the 1990s, the situation of Waseda athletics was faltering compared to the brilliant performances of the past. Therefore, the Sports Promotion Conference was started in 1999 in order to clarify the cause of the slump and to formulate policies to invigorate Waseda athletics. In 2000, the report “Strengthening Competitive Sports at Waseda University” was issued. This report contains the “meaning of sports education and research at institutions of higher education” and the “meaning of promoting competitive athletics at Waseda University”.

--What is the meaning of sports education and research at universities?

Word-class universities are universities that possess not only world-class academics and education, but also possess world-class athletics. This is true of all world-class universities. For example, Harvard University had produced 52 Olympic medalists as of a survey taken in 2000. Incidentally, Waseda University has produced 31 Olympic medalists. Harvard University has enjoyed this kind of success because it sets standards for a wide range of talents and character, not only for academic ability. Harvard University gathers outstanding students and performs outstanding education.

Harvard University holds the philosophy that one of the lifelines of expansion for the university is the recruiting of students who possess true human ability (intelligence, physical ability, mental strength, judgment, and morals). Therefore, the entrance examination gives consideration to not only test results, but also extracurricular activities such as athletics and social activities. The development of young people who possess strong human ability in terms of intelligence, physical ability, and mental strength, and the supply of these types of young people to society; this is an important mission for Waseda University as well. Needless to say, athletics play a major role in this process.

Developing Professionals to Lead Japanese Athletics

--What is the current state of sports entrance examinations at Waseda University?

Currently, there are sports referral entrance examinations and top athlete entrance examinations for the School of Sports Science. There are also self-referral entrance examinations for the School of Sports Science and other undergraduate schools. Applicants for sports referral entrance examinations are raised through referral by the directors of each athletics club, based upon events considered as necessary for education and research in sports science. Admissions decisions are based on review of documentation and an interview. In order to ensure that applicants put forth effort in academics as well as athletics, rules exist that require strict conditions to be cleared during each year at university.

Top athlete entrance examinations began in 2006. In this case, there is the possibility that Waseda may not necessarily be the optimal environment for the acquirement of athletic skills. Therefore, there is no requirement to join any of the athletic clubs, and the practice site for the event is not limited to within Waseda University. We want outstanding students to study sports science at Waseda University, and to develop in professionals that will lead Japanese athletics in the future.

The strict conditions which apply to applicants of sports referral entrance examinations have not been established for applicants of top athlete entrance examinations or self-referral entrance examinations. Even if the amount of time until graduation is a bit long, it is fine if they are similar to the late developers spoken of by Shigenobu Okuma. If these applicants become outstanding professionals who are useful to society, then there was great meaning to them studying at Waseda University.

World’s Top Institution for Sports Science Education and Research

--What is the meaning of the Sports Science School becoming independent from the Sports Science Department at the School of Human Science?

Society has begun to recognize the necessity of exercise and seek the development of professionals who are able to supervise exercise. This is shown by the enactment of two programs in 2000: the Fundamental Plan for Sports Promotion by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and by the 3rd Policy to Promote Healthy Citizens (Healthy Japan 21) by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Furthermore, even as the Japanese economy suffers damage, attention is being drawn to the expansion of the dramatically growing sports market. Therefore, we decided to develop sports science independently as an undergraduate school in order to conduct full-scale education and research, and to strive for an educational and research institution that is first in Japan and first in the world in sports science.

This project to create an independent graduate school began in exactly the same period as when policies were being formulated to invigorate the faltering athletics of Waseda. However, the graduate school was not established in order to rejuvenate Waseda athletics. However, Waseda athletics ultimately benefited from the acquirement, within the framework of the entrance examination system, of athletes with outstanding athletics skills in order to perform education and research at the undergraduate school.

--What was the reason for the establishment of the “Waseda Athlete’s Declaration”

The “Waseda Athlete’s Declaration” was established as a code of conduct for athletes, with the hope that students themselves will hold a high level of consciousness while applying themselves to the mastery of athletic activities. The declaration was based upon the examination of the Sports Promotion Conference in relation to the “Waseda Next 125” program, and also received an impetus from the continuing scandals in the world of university athletics. The contents of the declaration were formed based on the collection of opinions from working groups and members of the Athletic Center, and the first pledge of the declaration was held at the club entrance ceremony in May of 2008. This may be the first time that a Japanese university has publicly announced this kind of declaration. We want the members of Waseda’s athletic clubs to be outstanding in both scholastics and sports, and to serve as a model for other students.

Issue of Promoting Sports to Ordinary Students

--Could you discuss future issues?

Judging from the results of measures taken from 2000 and later, the performance of competitive athletics has been completely revived. However, there 2 points of reflection remain. The first is that outstanding personnel that excel in athletics tend to be found disproportionately in particular undergraduate schools. The second is that the promotion of sports to ordinary students has been somewhat lacking. The enrollment rate in athletics as an elective course does not reach even 20% percent for 1st year students, with the current rate stopping around 15%.

Therefore, the sports promotion towards ordinary students was raised as the primary issue in the “Next Step for Waseda Athletics” report which was issued in February of 2008. In addition to steps designed to increase the enrollment in athletic courses, we seek to create opportunities which reduce the distance between ordinary students and members of athletic clubs, and which enable promotion of sports by the entire university as a whole. These actions include participation as volunteers in the games of each athletic club and participation in athletic festivals. Also, in the case of members of athletic clubs, we want to actively promote social contribution through sports by holding events such as sports workshops for children in the local community.

I want to solve the remaining problems and construct a new model for university athletics in order to become a university that is appealing to all people and to create the strength needed to become a world-class university.

Isao Muraoka

Graduated from the Waseda University School of Education in 1973. Completed graduate school at Juntendo University. Served as an Assistant Professor in the Waseda University School of Education and a Professor in the School of Human Sciences before his current post of Professor in the Graduate School of Sports Science. Holds a doctorate in medicine.