National | Regional voices: Chubu

Nagoya school hires AC Milan coach to guide soccer team

Chunichi Shimbun

A coach from AC Milan has been training members of the soccer team at Nagoya International Junior and Senior High School since April. Although the soccer club, which is part of the top Italian league Serie A, offers lessons to children in Japan and in 12 other countries, it is the first time for the club to provide coaching to a school soccer team.

The school hopes that inviting professional coaches from outside will help improve team members’ skills and also reduce the burden on teachers who had been tasked with supervising and coaching extracurricular clubs.

“Bravo!” said Matteo Cont, a 38-year-old Italian coach from AC Milan, to players passing the ball at a soccer field in Nisshin, Aichi Prefecture. Cont and three Japanese trainers who studied coaching at AC Milan supervise 35 junior and senior high school team members twice a week.

Technical drills by the soccer team are more or less the same as those of AC Milan’s youth team. They play with the ball throughout the two-hour practice, as Cont says a good practice session is one that closely resembles a match.

Cont repeatedly stresses the importance of broadening a player’s vision, regardless of whether or not they are in possession of the ball. He advises that when the team gets the ball, players should try to keep hold of it by making short passes and aiming for the goal. He also takes into consideration individual aptitudes in guiding the team.

Takayuki Kurimoto, 41, the school’s director of administration, said the school had been thinking about forming a partnership with AC Milan for four years. Since 2014, the school has allowed AC Milan to use its soccer field when it offers lessons in Nagoya.

Kurimoto and other school officials researched AC Milan’s activities overseas and analyzed the effects of cooperating with the club, and invited an AC Milan coach to join them in April.

Kentaro Hazama, 12, a first-year junior high school student and one of the team members, has been playing soccer for six years. He said he chose to attend the school because he heard of its plan to invite a coach from AC Milan. “It’s a club that Japanese national team member Keisuke Honda used to play for,” Hazama said.

“The team changed drastically, as each member now thinks of their own good and weak points,” said team captain Taro Okuni, a 17-year-old third-year senior high school student, in explaining the effect of having professional coaches.

“Now we have consistency in coaching to enhance performance,” Kurimoto said, giving high marks to the coaches, whom he believes are also contributing to the promotion of the school. “They can help children have dreams for the future. We can give an impression to people that schools making unique efforts have a lot of potential.”

While pointing out that, for Italians, school is not a place to play sports, Cont said he believes collaboration between professional coaches and schools may be able to produce good results.

Outsourcing extracurricular club coaching is also part of efforts to reduce the workload of teachers who had been assigned the task.

Acknowledging that it is impossible for a school to have experts in every field, the school invited an alumnus nine years ago to become the field manager of its high school baseball team. The school plans to invite coaches for other clubs as well.

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on July 17.