The sports world is gaining new vitality, with breakthrough business development and the construction of a second career. Under such circumstances, social contribution activities through sports are steadily permeating Japanese society. Takuma Watanabe, a basketball legend and now a dream supporter of Special Olympics (SO), talked about the true role that sports should play and the “dreams” that will expand into the future. (Interviewer is Masayuki Tanabe)
New purpose and joy found through Alvark’s front desk operations
–Watanabe is currently active as a dream supporter for Special Olympics (SO). Can you tell us from the beginning?
“I retired from active duty once in 2016 and joined the front desk of Alvark Tokyo as an assistant general manager and school academy coach. At that time, I was just after devoting my passion to active life for more than 30 years. There was also a part that seemed to burn out a little.
However, as I was doing the front desk work of the club, promoting basketball, and visiting special schools, I realized that I really wanted to do it. As my body moved, I came to think that it would be better for me to carry out activities that directly convey the wonders of sports and the warmth of connecting people. I remember talking with Shiono-kun (Mr. Ryuta Shiono, the current academy manager of Alvark Tokyo), who was a coach at the Academy of Alvark Tokyo, many times.
It was around that time that SO-san got involved. Originally, Toyota Motor Co., Ltd., the parent company of Alvark, supported SO, so it feels like we are gradually taking a new step. “
–Watanabe resumed playing with a 3X3.EXE (three-player basketball) team called Tachikawa Dice during the front era of Alvark Tokyo. I hear that this was also part of social contribution activities.
“Yes. Alvark Tokyo and Tachikawa Dice have launched a joint project for regional revitalization. Moreover, 3X3.EXE was supposed to be held during the B.LEAGUE off-season, so I was on the court. If you stand up, you can connect B.LEAGUE and 3X3.EXE fans and further increase both leagues. Above all, the area of Tachikawa can be excited through basketball. I thought so.
–Did you have a strong awareness of social contribution since you were active?
“I wasn’t really aware of it, but I always wanted to take positive action if I could do it. I’m from Fukushima prefecture, so after the Great East Japan Earthquake, there’s nothing I can do. I started to wonder if that was the case, so even when I was active, I secured a seat for the match myself and continued activities like inviting children. “
The greatest appeal of SO and the social mission that sports should fulfill
――B. LEAGUE has been focusing on various social activities since its establishment. Since two years ago, unified games have been held in collaboration with SO, and the number of people who are trying to expand the circle of support through sports is steadily increasing even at the individual player level. I will. What do you think is the most characteristic of SO activities among various social activities?
“It’s a point that not only athletes but also the world and people around us can get involved very much. You can learn something from sports with your family, relatives, or the whole community, and new connections with society will be created. I think that it is a characteristic of SO’s activities that anyone can realize it.
I participated in the World Championships held in Abu Dhabi last March, and my family, relatives, and neighbors who were watching the opening ceremony in the audience were really pleased. Certainly, I think there have been some unfamiliar hardships so far. I can feel that these various feelings and experiences are transformed into great joy and deep emotion.
I was really moved by that scene. I got goose bumps. At the same time, I realized that this kind of environment is the most lacking element in Japan, so it’s a great waste. “
――In the case of Japan, it has been pointed out that sports do not contribute much to society. On the other hand, in the overseas sports world, athletes called superstars are known to be energetically working on social contributions.
“I liked Michael Jordan, who was playing in the NBA, but as a role model, he was more enthusiastic about contributing to the community. He’s always active with his children. I was trying to get in touch with each other.
I really admired that kind of appearance. Jordan was also trying to demonstrate strong leadership in social activities. Because of that awareness and sense of responsibility, I was able to play so wonderfully even in the actual game.
In the world of sports, it is easy to focus only on abilities and talents, but if the underlying humanity is not solid, there will never be a result in an actual game. Athletes’ abilities are only a part of that human being. In order to truly develop not only basketball but also the Japanese sports world and society as a whole, I think we must convey this to children. “
――To convey to the next generation the correct way of society and what it should be as a person.
“Yes, but you don’t have to think harder than you need to. We like basketball in the first place, and it’s fun to play, so we keep going. But in Japan, it’s uniform for children. Club activities still persist in the way of teaching, victorious supremacy, and club activities that force practice. Of course, in terms of teaching children the importance of greeting and observing discipline, club activities Plays a big role, but if you exceed the limit, you lose your individuality and the fun of playing.
This not only becomes a bottleneck in increasing the competitive population, but also prevents the level from rising. In a basketball game, like the 4th quarter, what is asked at the final stage of the game is the strength of the mentality in the true sense, and the presence or absence of creativity. This attitude of “enjoying” is also important in social activities and instructing children. If the instructor didn’t really enjoy basketball in the first place, that feeling would be conveyed to the other party (laughs).
That’s why I should naturally share the fun I feel with various people. That will also lead to an opportunity for more people to know about SO’s activities and unified games. “
What is at the core of the basketball game
“The basket handles the ball by hand, so it looks easy at first glance, isn’t it? But it’s actually completely different. The fingertips reflect the mental state so much that even professional players can miss simple shots and free throws. In that respect, it’s a competition where people’s feelings are very easy to express.
In basketball, feelings affect performance in a different way. For example, when trying to connect paths, the most important thing is not the technique, but a little care and compassion. Without these elements, the team would never work. Moreover, as you handle the ball with your hands, you can clearly see how much you think about your friends when you play. “
—Basketball is a sport that you play with your heart.
“I can assure you from my personal experience. When I was a student, I played for a one-man team, so if I worked hard, I managed to win the match. However, the above category When I go to, there will always be a day when I hit a wall, I can’t shoot, and I can’t win the game.
I thought I’d do something on my own, but looking back, the idea was wrong. As long as you are a player, it is natural that you will continue to make steady efforts. But the key to overcoming the wall is rather the idea of sacrificing yourself for your friends.
By doing so, the range of play of the team as a whole will expand and the marks of the enemy will be dispersed, so chances will come around in a good way for me. Even if the number of shots and the score are reduced, it will be possible to play really decisively so that the team can win at the end of the game. It was a big turning point in my career as a player. “
――Even people like Watanabe have had that kind of experience.
“We are not living alone, everyone is supported by our family and those around us. The support of our teammates and leaders gives us a lot of awareness and we play every day. We can do it, so we have to give back to the team and the people around us little by little while thinking about what we can do. I think it is.
For example, last year the Rugby World Cup was held and the Japanese national team attracted attention, but I feel that the case where Keita Inagaki played an active part was also symbolic. Normally, Inagaki is not playing in a position where he can decide a try. As a forward player, he always keeps his body silent and continues to support his teammates. It is because of such hardships that the efforts will be rewarded on such a stage. I think this also applies to the connection with society. “
Branches and leaves that grow greatly from sports to society as a whole
――As sports themselves contribute to society, athletes will be able to make use of them in society. I get the impression that the activities of B.LEAGUE and SO play an important role in establishing such a new relationship in Japan.
“I’m currently a dream supporter for SO, but I want to create a good flow so that other players can join this activity more and more. I want to further develop B.LEAGUE. I think it is also necessary to take root in the sports culture that is appropriate for it in order to make it something that the world can be proud of.
Increasing ties with society also creates a saucer in a broad sense. Four years have passed since B.LEAGUE was founded, and now the league has increased from B1 to B3. In the future, the number of players who will retire after finishing their active career will increase year by year, right?
For the second career of such athletes, it will be a future task to cooperate more closely with the region and to develop human resources that can be recognized by general companies. Without options after retirement, children wouldn’t have the dream of becoming a professional in the future. “
――What kind of aspirations does Watanabe himself have for the future?
“I’m aiming to participate in the Tokyo Olympics while playing with a team called NATURE MADE.EXE of 3X3.EXE. Since Otsuka Pharmaceutical is the parent company of this team, on days when there is no match, parents and children involved in food education We are also planning basketball classes.
Sports and dietary education are absolutely inseparable, and I asked the children, “What should I eat to grow so big?” Is often asked. I’m the best person to learn about the importance of food and health through basketball and to deepen communication between parents and children (laughs). “
–Your own weapons have begun to be used in new fields (laughs)
“Yes, but this is just one example. As you can see from Mr. SO’s activities, various branches and leaves are actually growing from sports to society, and various collaborations can be freely developed. If you have an idea, the world You can eliminate the barriers and connect all the different people and fields.
Now, while aiming for the Olympics with basketball, I am enjoying the social activities that I have always wanted to do, so every day is very fulfilling. In that sense as well, my decision was correct, and I hope SO’s activities will expand further. Whether it’s basketball or activities to give back to society, it’s important to smile and “enjoy”. “
◇ Takuma Watanabe
Born in Fukushima Prefecture in 1978. Since he was in Fukushima Technical High School, he has attracted a great deal of attention as a talented person who will bear the future of the Japanese basketball world. Joined Toyota Motor Corporation (currently Alvark Tokyo) after working at Takushoku University. Since then, he has won numerous crowns not only at JBL but also at international competitions representing Japan. In 2016, he retired from active duty and became an assistant general manager and school academy coach of Alvark Tokyo. After resuming play with 3X3.EXE’s Tachikawa dice, after working as a dissemination manager for Alvark Tokyo, in order to start activities focusing on the dissemination of competition in the grassroots and social contribution through sports, Alvark Tokyo 2019 He left the company in February of the year. Currently, while belonging to NATURE MADE.EXE of 3X3.EXE, he is also a dream supporter of Special Olympics (SO).
Interviewer: Masayuki Tanabe
After starting activities as a freelance writer in various magazines and books including “Number” from school days, he has been in the editorial department of the magazine since 2000. He has written numerous articles as a writer, translator and editor. After the World Cup South Africa tournament, he became independent again as a freelancer. Writing and editing activities centered on sports.
(TOP image provided = Special Olympics Nippon)
First appearance = “HALF TIME Magazine” published on March 5, 2008
“HALF TIME Magazine”, a media specializing in sports business, provides unique interviews on sports business and social activities, the latest domestic and international news, and columns of experts.
Release date: 2021.05.28