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By Isshin Inada

Self-growth has always been central to my life. By training one’s mentality, the confidence that is necessary to accomplish certain goals can be acquired. University provides an excellent opportunity for self-growth; I am given ample time and autonomy to do what I desire, that is self-growth. Therefore, after much consideration, I decided to join a rather distinctive club that intertwined sports and self-growth. Although, frankly speaking, I have only been a member of this club for several weeks, I have become more aware of how sports can play an immense role in bettering ourselves.

The reason I described the club as “peculiar” is because the primary purpose of the club is not to play sports merely for entertainment, but for obtaining valuable life skills through them. Hence the structure of the club is simple: before every football match, the players attach a “theme” to the game. The theme is essentially a constructive statement that the players think about throughout the match. The theme, for instance, for one of the sessions was: the importance of setting definitive goals in life.

Cultivating inner strength through a simple game of football. ByFaungg|Flickr.

Cultivating inner strength through a simple game of football. ByFaungg|Flickr.

Now one may wonder how this correlates with a match of football. As obvious as this sounds, the “goal” of the game is to literally score a goal. Hence it does not matter how many times or how well one passes the ball to his teammates if this is not done for the purpose of scoring a goal. In other words, the entire act of passing becomes meaningless. Therefore, it is paramount to intentionally pass the ball with a clear objective to score a goal. It does not end in vain even if one passes the ball backwards, because eventually it will reach the goal. In this way, major themes of the match can be applied to life in general. Stumbling and going backwards are trivial, but inevitable, at the same time. As long as one has a definite goal in mind, failure only becomes a part of the process.

During the game, every player treats this theme seriously; they constantly think about how they can adopt and incorporate certain “strategies” used in the game to their own life. After the end of every match, there is a discussion session where people reflect on their performance and in particular, how well he has managed to practice the theme. Playing sports in this way can have a positive influence in other aspects of one’s life.

Sports can be a good approach to self-growth. I believe that setting a “theme” when playing any other kind of sports or even exercising add meaning to it. University is not all about achieving straight ‘A’s in class. Of course, academics are important, but I believe that self-growth is also a major part of university life. Life skills cannot be taught through textbooks, but they can be through playing sports. It is critical for our future endeavors to develop these skills from as early as possible, and sports provide the means to do this.


Isshin Inada is a first-year PEAK student at the University of Tokyo.

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