Ask Udder Smith: Baseball Blues
We are thinking of switching our only son to international school, but hesitate because of sports– he has been in the Japanese system for elementary school and is competitive in a local baseball league. He insists he wants to play high school baseball for a Japanese team, and therefore can not attend an international school for junior high. I feel like with either choice, he loses something – his passion for baseball or his English ability. Help.
Hit or Miss in Shizuoka
First off, I commend you on listening to your son. We can never hope to teach our calves to determine greener pastures unless we give them the experience of choice.
Your son has a point. Like most things in Japan, there is a way in baseball. Most boys start early with competitive teams, particularly baseball, and the coaches feel it is their duty to impart discipline, mental strength, perseverance, along with skills. The North American way, modeled in all the international schools I know of in Japan, is to develop skills and a love of the sport, along with teamwork, perhaps, but not used as a rigid molding of behavior, as in Japan. Your son could not hope to keep up with the Japanese level of baseball by attending an international school.
Koshien, the high school national baseball tournament, just ended for the summer, but if you caught any of the games, you can see how much hard work and effort youth baseball can be in Japan; most youths, your son probably included, make Koshien the goal of their youthful sports careers.
As in all things concerning our calves, consult your child again – if he has been in the system, he must know the dedication it involves. An international school would not allow him to reach Koshien, but he could feasibly still play for a Japanese club team until high school. Talk to his coaches, for an idea of his level, compared to others on the team. I am sure you will work together to reach a decision. His chance for English may come again, whereas sports definitely has a finite lifespan.
There are several good books out there on the way of Japanese baseball for you to learn more, including two by Robert Whiting.