The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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From being rookies to becoming the best in Japan
Four years of student life with passion devoted to lacrosse

Waseda University's Lacrosse Club
Ryo Yanagida (left)
Yuji Tadahira (center)
Yuki Sakan (right)

The farewell match with the champion adult team was a once-in-a-lifetime crucial game for Japan's top university team. Sakan, who still feels some regrets even though the game was a few months ago, said, “I'm still disappointed. I wanted to be the best in Japan with my teammates, while wearing the Waseda uniform." Sakan has just graduated this spring and is the former captain of Waseda's Lacrosse Club. The team won the university championship in the game held just before the final of the All Japan Championship and was fully prepared for their game with the champion adult team, the FALCONS. However, the Waseda team was unable to display its real ability and was defeated by a narrow margin. The game made them keenly aware of what a difference experience makes when it comes to the crunch.

Tadahira stole a point from the champion adult team. Shots in lacrosse, called the “fastest combative ball sport," can exceed 150 km/h.

Although the Lacrosse Club was just one step away from becoming the top team in Japan, a long-standing ambition of the Lacrosse Club, many members of the club have been selected as members of Japan's national team for the Under 22 Championships, thanks to the club winning the university championship. But, surprisingly, most of the club members had little lacrosse experience before joining Waseda. “Even if you start Lacrosse at Waseda, you can really aim to become the best in Japan. This made lacrosse attractive to me and was a decisive factor in my joining the Lacrosse Club," said Tadahira, the former sub captain. Yanagida, who led the team as its ace, looked back nostalgically at the time he joined the club, “I was in a baseball club until I graduated from high school. Tadahira was also in a baseball club and Sakan was in a soccer club. Of course, I was serious about my club activities, but was not an ace or cleanup batter. So, I began lacrosse in Waseda because I wanted to play a sport where I could influence games as a key player."

Sakan and the other members, each of whom started playing lacrosse with a passion, won the university championship twice in a row soon after joining the club with support from its senior members. However, the club unexpectedly lost the regional preliminary match when they were in their third years and were considered to be leading players. Normally, the leader of the third year members automatically becomes captain as a matter of tradition, but Sakan, who was only a member, put himself forward as captain with a firm resolve, saying “We need to strengthen the team to the level we can compete to aim to become the best in Japan again." By conveying his passion for lacrosse with tears in his eyes, he earned the trust of his teammates. How did Tadahira, who supported the captain as vice-captain, view the team they developed together? “We did not train the junior members so strictly; firstly, we ourselves strove to strenuously train in earnest every day so that we fourth-year members could serve as role models. Our efforts gradually began to change the team's attitude and created a mood within the team that allowed us to seriously aim at becoming the best in Japan."

Subsequently, the club unfortunately just lost the game that had the ambitious goal of these three players who had been lacrosse rookies before joining Waseda. However, they will continue to pursue their goal even after they move on and join adult teams. Sakan enjoyed a fulfilling student life thanks to his encounter with his lifetime treasure, lacrosse. He expressed his feelings in a message to freshmen, in which he said, “I want you to find something that you can really devote yourself to throughout your four years here. I believe that this could be the first and last chance for most of you to aim to become the best in Japan. In our Lacrosse Club, there are, of course, beginners, but there are also students from diverse backgrounds. As such, we'd be delighted if, out of the choices available to you, you choose the Lacrosse Club."

In the All Japan Lacrosse University Championship, Waseda defeated Kobe University, the top team in the Kansai area, winning the university championship.

The team enjoys trips and camping in the off-season. These opportunities to spend time together enhance their teamwork.

Training scene with a feeling of tension. The players participated in the meeting with serious looks on their faces.


Ryo Yanagida (left)
2014 graduate, School of Social Sciences

Originally from Tokyo, Ryo Yanagida graduated from Waseda Jitsugyo High School. Recently, he has been impressed by the book Self-Help by Samuel Smiles.

Yuji Tadahira (center)
2014 graduate, School of Sport Sciences

Originally from Saitama Prefecture, Yuji Tadahira graduated from Matsuyama High School. He is a former vice-captain. He enjoys reading, and recommends Genocide by Kazuaki Takano.

Yuki Sakan (right)
2014 graduate, School of Sport Sciences

Originally from Chiba Prefecture, Yuki Sakan graduated from Ichikawa Gakuen Ichikawa Senior High School. He is a former captain. His hobby is fishing and he has caught a 35-centimeter-long flatfish.