Root, root, root for the home team…or else.

As we mentioned earlier, mid-summer is one of the seasons when Japan holds its national high school baseball championship, culminating in a series of finals at Koshien Stadium in Hyogo Prefecture.

It’s a very traditional sporting event with a large following, and it often dominates TV screens across Japan, much to the chagrin of my daughters trying to watch Butt Detective. But for the kids who take part and the schools they represent it is very much a huge deal.

But that’s not necessarily true for all the other students, of course, and it has recently come to light that some schools, in their drive to push their teams to the top, have been forcing other members of the student body to go out and show support for the baseball team.

▼ Schools vary regarding what constitutes “support,” but it can often entail elaborate performances and a high degree of enthusiasm

This matter had come to the attention of the Japan Youth Conference (JYC), a non-governmental organization that advocates on behalf of young people in the country. Last March, the JYC submitted a request to the Japan Sports Agency and Saitama Prefecture, that students should not be forced to take part in extracurricular activities such as sports teams or other clubs. 

In the process, the JYC had also received requests from students to look into the matter of forced support for high school baseball teams. They cited one 16-year-old student in Kagawa Prefecture who said that they had to attend “support practice” and attend games using their own money. The student provided evidence in the form of schedules and closed by saying they wished they had COVID-19 so they wouldn’t have to cheer for their team.

In response, the JYC started a petition on regarding forced support for high school baseball, with the intention to learn more about the issue and hear from more students. As of this writing, the petition had received about 1,000 signatures as well as several comments, such as the following:

“It was compulsory at my school and there was no choice. It was hot and I couldn’t go to the restroom freely. Deep down I prayed my team lost so I wouldn’t have to support them anymore.”
“I’m a high school teacher and this doesn’t make sense. Let students choose and pay if they want to.”
“And why only this baseball competition? It’s a burden on everyone and should be stopped immediately.”
“Are schools still doing this? Is it the ’70s?”
“The constitution doesn’t apply to schools?”
“The baseball team isn’t the only team out there trying their best. I don’t hate baseball, but I hate high school baseball.”
“Please listen to the students. They need to know that they can express their opinions and be heard so they can continue to make positive change in the future.”

As many comments pointed out, these games are often played in the middle of summer in open-air stadiums with little shade. Although it can be particularly brutal on the players themselves who have to be active in the heat, it is certainly harsh conditions for the spectators as well.

The issue does appear to be getting a lot of attention, however, so perhaps some positive change will come of it in the future. After that, perhaps we can also look into why these young players, who put themselves on the line physically and mentally, aren’t getting a piece of the revenue generated from this massive media event.

Source: Japan Youth Conference, via Netlab
Top image: Pakutaso

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