Golfer Shigeki Murayama is just one of many Japanese sportsmen and sportswomen to have flown the coop and set up base overseas in recent years. Like his counterparts in baseball, soccer and rugby, the “Smiling Assassin” realized he could only do so much on the professional golf circuit in Japan, and that he needed fresh challenges and a change of environment to truly fulfill his potential.
Unfortunately, the same could be said of many young Japanese sports competitors, who are often overcoached and burned out by the time they should be peaking as athletes. Which is where the Australian International Sports Academy hopes to step in.
Scheduled to open in May in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast of southeast Queensland, the academy is setting out to provide “a physical and mental environment where young males and females can gain, firstly, the ability to perform at an elite level in sport, and secondly, academic qualifications to support their sporting career.” It aims to attract athletes looking to pursue careers as players or educators in the fields of rugby, cricket, tennis and golf.
Japanese golfers of varying abilities looking to further their game can enroll in either a short-term (1-4 weeks) or long-term (3-12 months) course and experience a “most innovative, practical and educational golf program.” Beside expert coaching from Australian PGA professionals, the academy has its own championship 18-hole course, a 9-hole par-3 course, a library, and a research facility, computerized swing-enhancement facilities, specialized practice areas, and three designated practice hitting areas.
In addition there is access to sports physiotherapists, fitness instructors and English-language assistance.
However, the biggest draw, according to Tom Berndt, one of the coaches, is that “students can compete in club tournaments every week. Depending on their skill level, they will be able to play in regional, state and national amateur tournaments as well as pro-am events in the area.”
Being coached by professionals in all aspects of sport, and surrounded by other athletes all wanting to improve their chosen game can only have a positive effect on a budding sportsman or sportswoman. That, and the idyllic setting of Caloundra (which is derived from the Aboriginal word callandra, meaning beautiful), is far-removed from the nondescript concrete driving ranges and training grounds of Japan.