Did you know in Japan some students formally train everyday for a sport? And they do this for much of their junior and senior years (12-18 years of age). A 10,600 student survey revealed that 20 percent of students do not have a single day off training (they go to school even on weekends), because in Japan sporting achievement is considered important in building good character.
According to an article in today’s The Japan News the Government has trying to implement changes to lower club activity hours to have at least two days of rest and weekend training limited to maximum four hours. On top of this, there was a call for outside instructors to be employed. At present, teachers are entrusted with training and taking students to and from meets. This means teachers as well are kept busy. There is no parent or outside involvement at this level.
Most Japanese do not know what club activities are like overseas. In Australia where I grew up, a sport is played and trained for during the season only. For example, I played soccer (football) for eight years. Each Autumn I would go for try-outs, play for three or four months in the winter, then rest from spring onwards. Training at the younger age group were once a week for 2 hours. we had training twice a week for three hours in the last three school years. Every weekend we had a match. Parents were responsible to take their own children to the games or else carpool with other parents. Furthermore, parents were the coaches. I was lucky to have a good coach. I had an ex-Scottish second division player as coach for most of my eight years.
I also played other sports during the summer. Cricket (baseball-like sport) for 2 seasons and basketball for one season. Being free to join and leave club activities on a year-by-year basis meant I can try many other activities. Apart from sport, I joined the chess club, the choir, the percussion ensemble and the debating team. All of these experiences were important to me, making me who I am today.
The Japanese people I tell to about my school experience are surprised but also skeptical of the system. Students in Japan are expected to join a club for the duration of the three years they are in junior or senior high school. They also cannot imagine not training for even a day or not training in the off-season. And students who leave a club halfway through are looked down upon.
The culture of club activity is hard to break. The Government has been implement changes for 20 years now with little effect. Resistance is strong with old habits hard to break. As a parent of two children living under the Japanese education I can only hope.