I read with amusement and sadness the Jan. 14 article “Plan afoot to raise Olympic athletes’ medal prospects before ’16.” I’ve lived in Japan through five Olympics now, and it has been the same after each one: great frustration over the failure of Japanese athletes to do better than they did, mixed with inordinate praise for those who did win medals and vows to do better next time. But nothing ever comes of it, and the same routine is followed four years later.
Now it seems Japan actually has a plan to do something: Identify the best athletes and push them to excel! Yes, Japan might get a few more medals that way, but it is not a system that will promote athletic excellence in young people throughout the country over a long period of time.
Why not just make sports fun and fair? Give everyone a chance to play whatever they want and let them develop at their own pace. In America I played many sports in school. It was fun and exciting. Here in Japan, if my son wants to play soccer, for example, he has to go to practice every day. If he misses a practice, he’s off the team. If he wants to try out another sport for a while he can’t — he has to quit soccer first. And he has to play all year round!
American high school students participate in a sport for a few months then change to another sport, or take a break if they want. There is no practice on Sunday, and in many states coaches are not allowed to meet with their teams in the summer unless they coach an AAU team or something. I think America’s Olympic record speaks for itself. Why not try to emulate something that works, that is good for everyone, and has a positive value for society?
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