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From Sports Medicine to Sports Business
Formation of a multiple academic research base

Sport Sciences for the Promotion of Active Life (adopted as 2009 Global COE)

Providing support predominantly for the introduction of educational research bases excelling internationally, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Technology's “Global COE (Center of Excellence) Program,” promoting universities which can compete on an international level, approached its final year in 2009. Over three years of involvement in the program, Waseda University provided a total of eight Global COE bases, the highest number for a private university.

Base leader Professor Kanosue

For Global COE's final year, applications were opened to the public in the fields of “interdiscipline, compositions, and new domains.” Out of 145 applications, nine proposals were selected. Of those adopted, one was Waseda University's “Sport Sciences for the Promotion of Active Life” Program. The proposal for the program was centered on members of the Faculty of Sport Sciences. We spoke to a professor of the Faculty of Sport Sciences and base leader, Kazuyuki Kanosue about the program, the only one in Japan to be selected as a Global COE from the sport science field.

Three Projects, Three Fields of Research

The aim of the Global COE base “Sport Sciences for the Promotion of Active Life” is to use the unique development of Waseda University seen in the interdisciplinary academic research of sport science as a base, and investigate active life, that is to say, in addition to spiritual and physical health, how people with vitality can survive in the community and society.

“Common problems the world over are one, children's health, and two, improving the health of middle-aged and elderly people. In addition to this, to raise top class athletes, expanding sports at grassroots level in the community is being recognized internationally as an important factor. With these three pillars as the project's theme, we will conduct scientific research into each topic, including sports promotion and policy recommendations, and strive to link these to the solving of social problems.” (Professor Kanosue)

Toward active life promotion
To raise the level of elite sports, the whole community must become involved in sport from the grassroots level, leading to the creation of a healthy and active society.

Along with the three projects themed (1) Halt the decline of physical strength in children and promote health development in an advancing IT society, (2) Create fulfilling lives for the middle-aged and elderly by reducing the burden of medical and nursing (social security) costs, and (3) Investigate elite sport policies to realize the well-being of the people, we are also taking an academic approach across the fields of (A) Analysis and Assessment, (B) Business and Management and, (C) Coaching and Clinics.

“Health building is not a topic that can be solved only by those in the medical industry. Health in the medical science and medical world is an extension of the negative understanding of cure and prevention, “improving bad conditions,” and “preventing bad conditions.” In contrast to this, it is in sport science where you can take a positive approach of “making a good condition even better”.” (Professor Kanosue)

In addition to bringing people and health into science, “building energetic society producing healthy people,” has come within our reach. A major feature of sport science at Waseda University is the makeup of combined interdisciplinary fields including management, sociology, politics, cultural anthropology, history, and humanities and sociology. Even when looking at bases of international sport science, this is the first of its kind in the world covering such a wide range.

10 years ago, centered on sport science staff, with the cooperation of Tokorozawa City and local citizens, the all-round regional sports club “Waseda Club 2000” was formed with Waseda University's Tokorozawa Campus as its base. As well as providing a venue where members can freely enjoy exercise and sports, it has also cultivated mutual friendship among members. (The photo is from Waseda Club 2000's 10th anniversary event held at Tokorozawa Campus on February 6, 2010) The relationship of trust formed through long term community cooperation will also become a driving force in advancing research in the project.

Influential cooperation from elite sportspeople

Knowledge is drawn from elite athletes regarding various provisions and factors of sports performance.

The origin of sport science at Waseda University goes back to 1964, the year of the Tokyo Olympics, when the School of Education introduced a specialized physical education course. Then, in 1987, to respond to the needs of sport science of the era, state-of-the-art sports and experiment facilities were built at Tokorozawa and reorganized as the Department of Sport Sciences of School of Human Sciences. And in 2003, the independent School of Sport Sciences was introduced, followed by the creation of Graduate School of Sport Sciences in 2006.

Many elite athletes come to mind when mentioning Waseda. Graduates such as long distance runner Toshihiko Seko, figure skaters Shizuka Arakawa and Fumie Suguri, and current students, Yuki Saito in baseball and short-track speed skater Biba Sakurai, to name but a few. The presence of theses top-class competitors gives a huge boost to the development of Waseda's sport science.

Knowledge gained from elite athletes can lead to health improvements in middle-aged and elderly, and children alike. (Both photographs are from research conducted by a professor of the Faculty of Sport Sciences, Yasuo Kawakami)

“Elite athletes possess superhuman-like physical abilities. By researching these abilities, it enables us to understand what is necessary to produce top-class athletes, as well as greatly contributing to our research into human physical characteristics. As an example, when comparing MRI images of world-record breaking American sprinters and top performing Japanese athletes, we can see that the American's psoas major is many times thicker than that of the Japanese. Through these results we understand that the psoas major has an effect on running. If you don't build up this muscle through training before honing your running technique, there is no way you can win. What we learn about how superhuman-like athletes are different scientifically is the key to coaching” (Professor Kanosue)

But using elite sportspeople as subjects for research usually comes with its problems. It is no easy task for researchers to ask for, and get cooperation from athletes who are tied up with training and competitions on a daily basis.
“But at Waseda, we have famous sportspeople just walking around the campus. They take lessons in the same classrooms. Being colleagues, it is easy to form a bond of trust. This environment is a rare thing.” (Professor Kanosue)

Training Doctorate Personnel Warmly Yet Strictly

One of the major aims at the roots of Global COE is to promote the training of personnel and provide overall knowledge of sport science through the project. All academic staff at the Faculty of Sport Sciences and doctorate students in the Graduate School of Sport Sciences participate in Global COE activities, taking them on with a systematic and collective strength.

“In the many fields underpinning sports, human resources are lacking, especially highly specialized scientific personnel. Activities at this institution are centered on training people to be both highly specialized and have a broad knowledge of sport science.” (Professor Kanosue)

In Graduate School of Sport Sciences of Waseda University, at the same time as having a colorful array of academic staff from people in medicine and physiology fields to those from engineering, business, sportspeople and coaches, almost all of our staff have doctoral degree. By offering multiplicity and higher learning, it can be said without doubt that we are creating a sport science Mecca.
When turning our eyes to the students, we see an annual increase in the number of applicants for the Graduate School of Sport Sciences. Entrants for the 2010 doctoral program starting in April totaled 50 (including 10 adult students and 10 foreign students).

Financial support for students is also generous. In addition to providing students aged under 30 with scholarships covering tutelage, last year Waseda University employed excelling students as research assistants, paying them 50-150 thousand yen a month. For even higher achieving students, they were given the opportunity to spend long-term exchanges at overseas institutions.
“I don't think it is good to be overly competitive, but the world has become that way, so to survive as a researcher I think it is necessary to give strict education to the students under a thorough merit system.” (Professor Kanosue)

In 2008, before Global COE, 10 students were awarded the first doctoral degree in sport science. In the former Graduate School of Human Sciences era, we can see top sprinter Hiroyasu Tsuchie, the leadoff runner in the 400m relay team which placed 4th at the Athens Olympics. As well as being a top athlete, he was a student of doctoral program by conducting thorough analysis of short distance runners. After retiring in 2006 he used his scientific knowledge as a coach for the national team at the Beijing Olympics, contributing to the 400m relay team's bronze medal performance. He is the perfect model of excelling in both sports and study for those aiming to research sport science.

“Sports science is a field still in its infancy. Selection as a Global COE base has been a huge lift, linking academic staff across each field and nurturing young talent. At the same time, to aid their future activities, it is essential to raise the value of sport science in the community and boost international presence of Waseda sport science.” (Professor Kanosue)

We are developing a network among the world's leading sports bases. Starting with North America's top institution, University of Calgary, we have entered cooperation agreements with England's Loughborough University, German Sport University Cologne, and in Asia, Shanghai University of Sport, Beijing Sport University, Tsinghua University, Seoul National University and National Taiwan Normal University. As well as conducting joint research, we are developing programs to accommodate visiting researchers and high-achieving students.

“To succeed as a researcher, it is a great boost to be able to study in the so-called Mecca of your research field while you are young. While it is crucial that you can study in a leading-edge research environment, building networks among fellow international researchers is the most important asset to a future life as a researcher.” (Professor Kanosue)

Domestic and international guests, local business promoters and registered students at the 2nd International Symposium (March 6, 2010)

When looking at the research environment, cooperation with the region and administration, and cooperation with businesses, there is still a big gap between here and European and North American institutions. With collective and combined strength to overcome this gap and bring Japanese sport science up to international standards, Waseda University's sport science is striving to leap into the next stage.

Related Links

Waseda University Global COE Program “Sport Sciences for the Promotion of Active Life”

Waseda University Faculty of Sport Sciences

Waseda University School of Sport Sciences

Waseda University Graduate School of Sport Sciences

Waseda University Waseda Institute for Sport Sciences