Faculty behind the Nippon Sport Science University Coach Developer Academy (NCDA) program are confident that the “athlete-centered” culture it is fostering has made positive international progress since its 2014 inception.

In collaboration with the International Council for Coaching Excellence, the grand vision of the NCDA has been to create a coaching culture that leads to positive experiences for everyone through sports.

That vision is accomplished by teaching participants to become coach developers who are effective at educating coaches and designing programs to further their progress.

The program’s directors are optimistic that things are going in the right direction, having increased the number of trainees and successfully constructed an international coach developer community.

According to the NCDA, 96 coach developers from 41 nations have taken part in the training over the years. As part of the current curriculum, trainees travel to Tokyo a few times per year for workshops, seminars and group discussions, while also honing their skills through remote studies online.

The NCDA is part of “Sport for Tomorrow,” an international initiative created by the Japan Sports Agency with an aim to promote sports to over 10 million people around the globe from 2014 until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

Masamitsu Ito, a sports coaching professor at NSSU and one of the founders of the NCDA, said after an international symposium at the school’s main campus on Saturday that the idea of a coach developer had “gained recognition” over the years.

Dr. John Alder, who is the head of Performance Pathways at the English Institute of Sport and has been a key expert for the NCDA, agreed with Ito’s sentiment, saying, “I would say it’s definitely been recognized as part of the professional language.”

The hosting of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo is putting much more attention on sports in general, which Ito insists will make 2020 a significant year for the NCDA program.

“With sports gathering more attention, people are going to pay more attention to coaching, which is currently on the verge of changing,” said Ito, who serves as an NCDA deputy director. “So I think it’s very positive.”

Ito recalled the 2012 incident at Osaka’s Sakuranomiya High School, where a male basketball player killed himself after repeatedly suffering physical punishment by his team’s head coach. The tragedy sent a shockwave through Japan, and Ito thinks similar incidents may have been a wake-up call in Japan’s sporting landscape.

“I think it was pretty big,” Ito said of the Sakuranomiya case. “I think it made us all think that we shouldn’t waste an incident that took a young boy’s life. Before that, when we had corporal punishment and similar behaviors, somewhere in our minds we thought we needed (harsh coaching to make athletes more competitive) and we could not get away from that.”

Alder said hosting the Olympics and Paralympics would be “a great opportunity” for Japan because the world is watching. He said it would be “a better opportunity to shine the light on great coaching, great coaches (and) how coaches can be better.”

The NCDA began as a project that would run through 2020 as part of Japan’s Olympic and Paralympic movement.

But Ito said that the program is likely to continue beyond this year with continuing budgetary support from the Japan Sports Agency. He said that one of the issues with the program is that there aren’t sufficient opportunities for the coach developers it produces, which means many countries haven’t been proactive about participating.

Ito added that in the next chapter of the program, organizers are considering bringing in “decision-makers” who could create coaching systems in their respective countries as well as encourage those interested in training to become coach developers.

“We are also hoping to get in (countries) where we have not had trainees in our program next year and on,” said Ito, who also serves as the director of NSSU Center for Coaching Excellence.

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