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Catching the attention of scouts is often vital for pursuing a successful career path in sports, but this isn’t easy if athletes weren’t part of a famous school team.

And the scouts have to pick and choose who they keep track of.

Freelance baseball writer Norifumi Nishio felt there should be a way for undiscovered talent, or those who don’t realize their own potential, to promote themselves to schools or professional teams.

Nishio, 36, who also works for Tokyo-based IT firm Next Co., came up with a social networking service specifically focused on matching athletes and teams, called Lifull Scouting, which the firm claims is the first of its kind in Japan.

Nishio, who played baseball until he graduated from college, said in a recent interview with The Japan Times that when baseball players are pursuing professional or amateur careers, “they need to depend on their coaches and senior players.”

“It’s pretty much about connections,” he said.

But even those connections don’t necessarily work and people who don’t have them can remain undiscovered.

“I was thinking that it would be valuable if there is a service that enables players who want to continue playing to promote themselves” to teams, Nishio said.

SNS Lifull Scouting, launched on July 29, is run by Next subsidiary Lifull Scouting, headed by Nishio.

Players can register and upload their profiles, including the teams they are playing for and their game records, for free. They can also post videos of them in action.

Professional and corporate teams, colleges and high schools can also register for the service.

The teams get to see the profiles of players registered on the site, and if they find someone worth watching, they can list them as favorites to receive updates.

The teams can even make offers through messages.

Nishio said Lifull Scouting is currently available for baseball, soccer and basketball, with plans to expand to tennis and golf. The target players can range from elementary school children to adults.

He said he cannot disclose names yet, but confirmed some Japanese professional baseball teams will use the service.

Nishio said scouts went to see players who belonged to strong teams and played in big-name tournaments, but they could not get to every player in the country.

“There are many players who don’t get to play in front of the scouts because, when it comes to team sports, teams cannot win with just one good player,” so they often don’t make it to national-level tournaments to catch the attention of scouts, said Nishio.

The national high school baseball tournament known as Koshien took place this month. While the tournament has produced many professional stars, “if you check the records of pro baseball players, you see so many players who didn’t make it to the high school tournament,” said Nishio.

In addition, there are cases where players don’t realize their potential, so registering with Lifull Scouting will give them more exposure to teams that may spot their talent.

While Lifull Scouting’s main service is to match players and teams, Nishio said it can be used for other purposes as well.

For instance, it can connect teams, enabling them to schedule a match or arrange a joint practice.

“As I talked to teams, I realized there is not only a need for a scouting service but also for communicating with each other,” said Nishio.

Meanwhile, challenges for Lifull Scouting include drawing the line between what kind of information to make public. “Some players like a closed SNS, while others want people to see (information on them) and cheer (for) them,” said Nishio.

Also, the firm has not decided whether players should be able to connect with each other within the service.

Nishio expects young players, including elementary school and junior high school students, to register for the service. But at that age group, SNS bullying may occur.

Another challenge Nishio faces is attracting a wide variety of teams to join the service, with top pro, high school and college teams using an existing system to recruit good players.

Nishio said he has several plans to make the service profitable.

Players can register for free, but the teams need to pay several thousand yen per month to view players’ detailed profiles.

Teams will also be charged if they want to make contact with a player, and if they recruit players by using the service, they will pay Lifull Scouting a recruitment fee.

The firm aims to become profitable in about 2½ years.

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