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Can External Coaches Change Sports Club Activities? :
Agenda for further Spreading and Establishing External Coaching

Seiichi Sakuno
Associate Professor, Faculty of Sport Sciences, Waseda University

Open Schools and Outsourcing Coaching for Club Activities

Osaka City attracted a great deal of attention in September this year after indicating its plan to start full-fledged outsourcing (private contracting) of coaching for sports club activities at municipal junior high schools from next year. Numerous issues have been pointed out with regard to club activities, including concerning physical punishment and violence that have become a social issue, as well as an increase in the number of sports clubs being discontinued due to declining birth rates, a shortage of teachers capable of providing expert technical coaching, and securing advisors in relation to personnel changes. Furthermore, it has also become a serious problem that measures are considerably behind with respect to overtime work on weekends, etc. (days off in lieu and compensation). Under the current curriculum guidelines it is stated that club activities are a part of educational activities, however it is becoming increasingly difficult for teachers who are already busy as it is to adequately perform club coaching with their demanding working conditions.

Meanwhile, it has long been said that changes need to be made by schools going forward, from being “closed schools” where everything is dealt with within the school to “open schools” oriented towards collaboration and cooperation with local communities and external entities in order to promote the creation of distinctive and appealing schools. The outsourcing of club coaching is probably an opportunity to demonstrate this change in a way that is easy for us to understand. While aiming to be a place that provides rich experiences to children, schools are unable to adequately set up the conditions to achieve that ideal—and we also have to understand that what underlies the vision of the “open school” is the fact that there is such a gap between the ideal and reality. In this article I would like to consider measures to bridge this gap from the two perspectives of scanning and coordination.

Identify the Supporters of Club Activities

Osaka City is not the first to introduce external coaches for club coaching, as such outsourcing has widely been carried out from the ‘90s as a national project. This academic year there are 28,778 external coaches working at junior high schools throughout Japan (from the Nippon Junior High School Physical Culture Association website). Those external coaches include not only private business operators, but also community coaches, and members of various associations and organizations. Recently there have also been cases of school sports clubs collaborating with “comprehensive community sports clubs” established throughout Japan that offer multi variety, multi-generational, and multi-purpose functions, and in all cases of collaboration the comprehensive community sports clubs and the school sports clubs had a relationship of mutual coexistence and collaboration, with a common approach of developing children’s sporting environment from the total perspective of the “entire community.” Moreover, cases of collaboration and cooperation between universities and sports club activities have also been observed. The support from universities with their abundant resources, including human resources, facilities, and information resources, have also become a catalyst for activation of club activities. Moreover, there are also cases where external coaches are recruited through local sports organizations to activate club activities. Since information concerning coaches is collected at regional organizations, it could be said that collaboration between schools and sports associations is also worthy of attention. In addition, with regard to cases where private business operators are requested to provide coaching support, there are projects underway where weekend practice for junior high school sport club activities are consigned to enterprises, with the parents paying for the costs. Although it can be said that this example is an initiative unique to urban areas, it is also a good opportunity to again reconsider the way sports club activities to date have been wholly reliant on teachers acting in good faith and accepting the burden.

Among the examples given so far it could be said that the common points are schools and local governments taking an “open school perspective,” the competence to identify from among a number of options the external coach (supporter) deemed to be the most appropriate, and having the executive ability to change the current status. In that sense, there will be a high need for schools and local governments going forward to have scanning capabilities to determine “what kind of coaches (supporters) there are outside the school,” and “who to collaborate with to make the sports club activities even better.”

Connecting Schools, External Coaches, and Children

In regard to the external coaching system, the use of so-called “sports leader banks” has been attracting attention. In a certain city a sports coach bank specializing in sports club activities was established at the initiative of the local government. That information system facilitates the effective and efficient use of local coaches, and enables coordination of human resources by local governments. In addition teachers will also be required to have coordination capabilities. As previously mentioned, it is stated in the curriculum guidelines that club activities are a part of educational activities. In recruiting external coaches, schools should bear in mind that the sports activities which are considered a part of educational activities are to be appropriately managed to ensure that they are not left out of the school’s educational framework. For example, an advance explanation should be given to external coaches to ensure they fully understand basic matters, including that sports activities are essentially a part of educational activities, basic coaching policies, and what kind of children the school is trying to develop. If the clear division of the roles of teachers and external coaches and the quality of their mutual understanding is called into question, teachers’ coordination ability in acting as a bridge between schools and the community (external) will be required more than ever before.

In connection with the coordination carried out with respect to teachers and coaches, an emphasis should also be placed on the aspects of coordinating learning that takes place in club activities. In the general provisions of the curriculum guidelines there is a sentence added with respect to club activities that states “as a part of school education, be mindful of ensuring the connection with the education curriculum”. The gist of that statement is that since club activities provide an opportunity for students to further pursue their own interests based on what they have learned in the education curriculum, it is important to encourage students so that they are able to again recognize by themselves what they have learned in the education curriculum. In order to put that into practice, it is needless to say that the role of the teacher in supporting learning in club activities is important.


As club activities are considered a part of educational activities, they should never be outsourced in their entirety. Moreover, there are a wide variety of choices with respect to outsourcing. Improving the capacity of local governments, schools and teachers to scan and identify external coaches (supporters), and acquiring the ability to successfully connect each of them could be the key to further spreading and establishing external coaches.

Seiichi Sakuno
Associate Professor, Faculty of Sport Sciences, Waseda University

Associate Professor Sakuno was born in Toyama Prefecture, graduating from the Graduate School of Socio-Environmental Studies, Kanazawa University with a Ph.D. in 2000. After working as a lecturer in the Faculty of Literature, Fukuoka Women’s University from 2001, he was appointed as a full-time lecturer in the Faculty of Sport Sciences, Waseda University from 2003, and has been in his current position since 2006. His areas of specialization include sports management and sports organization.

His main books include: The Development of and Outlook for Comprehensive Community Sports Clubs [Sōgō-gata Chiiki Supōtsukurabu no Hatten to Tembō] (Co-author, Fumaido, 2008); Sports Management [Supōtsu Manejimento] (Co-author, Taishukan, 2008); Textbook: Comprehensive Community Sports Clubs [Tekisuto Sōgō-gata Chiiki Supōtsu Kurabu] (Co-author, Taishukan, 2004). In addition, publications related to sports club activities include: “The Dilemma of School Sports Clubs” [Gakkō Undō-bu no Jiremma] (Gendai Sports Hyōron [Contemporary Sports Critique] 24, 2011); “The Age of Declining Birthrates and Sports Club Activities” [Shōshika Jidai to Undō-bu Katsudō] (Gendai Sports Hyōron [Contemporary Sports Critique] 28, 2013); and “How to Achieve Cooperation with External Coaches and External Organizations” [Gaibu Shidō-sha Gaibu Dantai to no Renkei o dō Hakaru ka] (Taiikuka Kyōiku [Physical Education] 61 (3), 2013).