The Yomiuri ShimbunInnovative efforts should be made in training programs so children can steadily and enjoyably improve their skills within a limited amount of time.
The Japan Sports Agency has settled on guidelines for junior high school extracurricular sports activities. The guidelines state that training should last for around two hours a day on weekdays and about three hours a day on weekends, with at least two days off per week. These guidelines also will apply, in principle, to sports activities at high schools.
A survey conducted in the 2016 school year found that about 20 percent of junior high schools had not set aside even one rest day per week from extracurricular sports activities. Excessive training exhausts the students and increases their risk of getting injured. Such overtaxed students tend to neglect their schoolwork. These activities also place a heavy burden on teachers who coach these students.
School sports activities have undoubtedly played an important role in finding and nurturing talented athletes. Similar guidelines also were suggested in 1997, but they have not gained much of a foothold. The deep-rooted tendency to assume that enduring long hours of grueling practice is what makes an athlete stronger seems to be one cause of this.
However, the original meaning of sports is something that should be fun to do. If school sports activities end up becoming a painful time for students, then having such activities makes no sense.
Advances in sports science have created a succession of effective training methods. The new guidelines should be an opportunity for people involved in coaching to become more aware of how to conduct efficient and productive training sessions.
If more time is set aside for recovery from fatigue, students can feel refreshed at the next practice.
Better use outside instructors
There must be some students who want to regularly do intense training as they aspire to compete at the Olympics or become professional athletes. People concerned must be sure to come up with ways not to discourage their ambitions. One effective method would be to not stay bound to activities at school, but to also work closely with regional sports clubs and other teams.
Each school is advised to think very hard about how to conduct extracurricular sports activities in a manner suited to the times, while listening to the opinions of children’s guardians.
Some survey results indicate more than half of teachers in charge of such sports activities had no experience in the sport they were overseeing. Schools should also actively reach out to people who have played that sport and draw on their specialized knowledge to boost the quality of training offered to students.
In the last academic year, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry introduced an “extracurricular sports instructor” system. However, only 4 percent of junior high schools have actually invited outside instructors to coach their teams.
Receiving instruction from former athletes who have acquired top-notch skills should be hugely inspiring to students. This also would reduce the burden on teachers. For athletes, this would boost the options available to them after they retire from sport.
When the Shizuoka City Board of Education appoints outside personnel as instructors, it requires them to receive lectures on training theories and accident responses, as well as to do hands-on training. These efforts would seem to serve as a reference for other education boards so they can appropriately assign outside instructors to their school sports activities.