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School club activities

Yoshiyuki Mano
Professor, Faculty of Sport Sciences, Waseda University

Japanese school club activities are being brought into question.

Up until now, school club activities have supported our country's sporting activities. School club activities, as part of school education, are where teachers instruct students in various sports using school sporting facilities. In the new junior high school curriculum guidelines introduced in 2012, in regards to club activities it is stipulated that they should "provide an interest in sports, culture and science, and contribute to raising the urge to learn and responsibility, and foster a sense of solidarity, and as part of school education, pay attention to making connections with the school curriculum."

As a stage to exhibit the results cultivated through school club activities, there are local, prefectural, block, and national tournaments, and the All Japan High School Athletic Federation (HSAF) and Nippon Junior High School Physical Culture Association (NJPA) exist as organizations to arrange those tournaments.

Participation at a school level is indispensable for the competitions, and to make that happen, students joining athletic clubs are registered with their respective federation. In 2012 1.21 million students were registered with HSAF, and 2.29 million with NJPA for a total of 3.5 million students, showing that many children are applying themselves in club activities (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Number of students registered with HSAF and NJPA

Practice space is necessary for athletic clubs, and schools are equipped with grounds, gymnasiums, swimming pools, tennis courts, and martial art gyms. Of 10,104 public junior high schools and 3,906 public high schools, there are 10,167 grounds prepared for junior high schools and 7,628 for high schools, and in terms of gymnasiums, there are 9,690 for junior high schools, and 6,323 for high schools, meaning that almost all schools are equipped. It may seem natural to those who are familiar with our educational system, but even when compared with the rest of the world, Japan is a country that is well-equipped with sporting facilities. The percentage of schools in Europe with grounds and gymnasiums is low, and the number of school club activities is limited. Students generally join local sports clubs.

In other words, being well-equipped with sporting facilities as infrastructures within the school grounds is an effective factor for club activities in Japan.

Figure 2. Number of sporting facilities in municipal and prefectural junior high and high schools (2008, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)
Note 1) Grounds refer to the total of athletic fields, baseball and softball grounds, ball sport fields, and multi-purpose fields
Note 2) Swimming pools refer to the total of indoor and outdoor pools
Note 3) Martial arts gyms refer to the total of judo halls, kendo halls, judo and kendo halls karate and aikido halls, and sumo halls (indoors and outdoors)

In addition to school sporting facilities, the existence of teachers as manpower also plays an extremely large role in the development of school club activities. 116,998 junior high schools (clubs) are affiliated with NJPA and 86,833 high schools (clubs) with HSAF, and approximately 200,000 teachers support the club activities. Because school club activities are extra-curricular activities, teachers take part voluntarily, but according to a 2006 survey into work conditions, 58.5% of junior high school teachers are involved in athletic club activities. There are few adults who can find the time in evenings on weekdays to coach students. However, in the case of teachers, they can coach students at their workplace, schools, as part of their duties. It is also ideal for parents, who can feel easy about leaving their adolescent children in the hands of adults who have teaching qualifications.

In this way, with students taking part in sports after school from the point of requiring no time to travel and no monthly fees or subscriptions, as well as being watched over by trustworthy adults, school club activities can be said to be an extremely effective system.

However, on the other side is the existence of problems such as an increase in teachers' workloads, an excessive doctrine of victory for victory's sake, and physical punishment and hazing. According to the above mentioned survey on teacher work conditions, teacher coaches work an extra 1 hour 38 minutes on weekdays (November) and 5 hours 56 minutes on weekends (November). Already overloaded with teaching material research, grading, and student guidance, the burden of club activities is great. Also, as symbolized by the problem of baseball scholarships for students aiming to play in the Koshien, an excessive doctrine of victory for victory's sake is becoming evident. Furthermore, incidents involving excessive physical punishment and unreasonable hazing by teachers are coming to light.

On the other hand, in Japan, where there are few public sporting facilities, school sporting facilities are the closest facilities that local residents want to use. According to the 1872 promulgation of the educational system, schools were built throughout the country in places that made it easy for children to commute to. Locations where children can walk to are also convenient for adults. In other words, schools are valuable resources for local residents.

From another angle, open school building can be said to have been around for a long time. Movements aiming to guarantee a learning environment for children with cooperation between the local community, households and schools, in forms such as school and community mergers and community schools, have increased in number. Through various activities such as local festivals, community cleaning, cultural festivals, sports festivals, and disaster prevention activities, cooperation between schools and communities has progressed, but I believe that sport is actually the easiest way to foster cooperation. In order to promote community schools, why don't schools and the community cooperate in running school club activities? By opening up school club activities to the community, wouldn't there be an improvement in reducing the burden of teachers, contact with adults other than licensed professional instructors and teachers and an expansion of sporting opportunities for locals?

Narawa Junior High School in Handa City, Aichi Prefecture has conducted such activities since 1995, and established a non-profit organization between the community and school, with the NPO managing the school gymnasium. With that, there has been an expansion in various activities not being run by teachers alone, and an increase in sporting opportunities for other locals. Top athletes have also been invited to run clinics.

School club activities have supported Japanese sports for the past hundred years, but shouldn't we now be looking at an era when local sports clubs utilize school facilities in the next hundred years?

Yoshiyuki Mano
Professor, Faculty of Sport Sciences, Waseda University

Born in Yokohama City in 1963. Completed his master's course at the Graduate School of Education in the University of Tokyo in 1991. Ph.D. After working at the Mitsubishi Research Institute, Inc., he spent time as Associate Professor in the School of Human Sciences and the School of Sport Sciences in Waseda University from 2002. He has been the Professor of the Faculty of Sport Sciences since 2009. He serves as an executive and adviser for a great number of sports organizations: Representative Director of the Japan Athlete Forum, Director of the Japan Volleyball League Organization and Director of the Japan Basketball League, among others. He is the author of Management of Public Sports Facilities and the co-author of The Economics of Sports.