Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Kids Need a Break from Time-consuming Club Activities

"Exercising too much is bad for one's health," but this maxim is largely ignored on the playing fields of Japan. When I began teaching in Japan, I was disturbed to see that students were allowed to doze off in the classroom or be excused from participation because they were tired. However, I came to realize that most students were not at fault.

A simple English conversation class became a form of sociological study. Asking "What time do you get up?" I was astounded by the number of students who were up at around 5 a.m. and in school before 7 a.m. to play sports. It was a shock to see children making their way to school as I returned bleary-eyed from an all-night...

At 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, girls brandishing tennis racquets and whole baseball teams swarmed onto my train, doing little to soothe my already frazzled nerves!I admit that clubs engender a sense of "belonging," but is it right to devote such large quantities of time to sports? As a child, I played a different sport every afternoon because I enjoyed doing so, but students restricted to a single club tell me that their practices are "tiring" or "boring." Enjoyment seems to come second to duty.

Training to excess does little for enthusiasm or development. Moderation and variety are the key success.Another factor is the involvement of the teachers who run the clubs. Although a large number enjoy their work, I feel too much is expected of teachers, whose commitments outweigh their available time. They deserve a break much as their charges do!We live in a video-game age, where children appear to lead increasingly sedentary lives, but if sports in Japanese schools continue to be so time-consuming, then no cry will succeed in encouraging young people to turn to sports. There is no surer way of alienating children than to take away their pleasure.

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