Saginuma Soccer Club” has produced four players, Ao Tanaka, Ao Tanaka, Gonda, and Itakura… Why is Saginuma Soccer Club able to nurture players?
Japan’s national futsal team coach is also from the Saginuma Soccer Club
Although Japan unfortunately did not make it to the last eight of the World Cup, the successes of the players were heartwarming. One of the most notable players was Kaoru Mitoma, who dribbled deep into his own team to set the tone for the attack. In the match against Spain, Ao Tanaka scored the second goal when he took a pass from Mitate and pushed it home.
Both Misumate and Tanaka belonged to the local soccer club, Saginuma Soccer Club. Not only Misumate and Tanaka belonged to the local soccer club, but also Shuichi Gonda and Shuichi Itakura. Shuichi Gonda and Koh Itakura also came from Saginuma Soccer Club.
Only these four players have participated in the World Cup, but about 10 players from our club have participated in the J1, J2, and J3 World Cups.
Says Hideji Sawada, president of the Saginuma Soccer Club. Kenichiro Kogure, the national futsal team coach, is also a member of the Saginuma Soccer Club.
There are other players from our club who have played in Europe and are now working for J1 clubs, or in Cambodia or Thailand. There are also some who didn’t make the J-League, but played in high school championships or captained their college soccer teams.
Practicing on an elementary school playground
What kind of practice do they have? We went to observe.
The practice site is the ground of Saginuma Elementary School in Kawasaki City. This is the same elementary school where Misumi and Tanaka attended. It was an ordinary schoolyard, with no turf planted. The girls’ team, first-year students, and second-year students were practicing there. Each group has about 20 members, and the school is much smaller than I had expected.
Saginuma Soccer Club is an elementary school club, with first through sixth graders. We used to have all the members practice together here, but we decided to divide the practice time into 1.5 to 2 hours for each grade so that they can practice in a larger place. Today the other grades are at a game; we have a lot of first graders, so half of them are at the game and half are at practice.”
Currently, about 150 people belong to the “Saginuma Soccer Club,” including one team of girls and six teams of boys per grade.
Practice has begun. At first, they practice stepping on a ladder-like structure called a ladder. It is quite serious.
Tanaka, a kindergartener, came to the trial session and said, “This kind of practice is boring. There is an anecdote about Tanaka, a kindergartener, who came to a trial session and cried, “This kind of practice is so boring, I want to do more difficult practice.
It is true that both Tanaka and Misumi were outstanding at that time. But basic practice is important. It is important to have a solid foundation between the ages of 7 and 9, which is called the “golden age,” so that the players can grow in the future. Since it is a team game, cooperation is also important. We do not give special treatment.
Each grade sets its own goals for achievement, and the practice menu is determined accordingly. The coaches of each grade get together once a month to discuss the practice menu. The coaches are also alumni of the Saginuma Soccer Club.
Parents practice together. Half of the fathers are certified referees.
When they were done, the coach said, “Father, please.
Dad? I wondered what was about to start, but the fathers accompanying the children entered the field and began step work with the children. Do fathers have to have soccer experience to join this club?
No, that is not true. Half of the fathers have no experience. We hope they will grow with their children over the next six years.
Meanwhile, a 50-meter time trial began in a corner of the ground. One by one, we were called upon to run 50 meters as fast as we could. The person measuring the time is the mother.
The website said, “This club is run by the parents,” but this is what they meant. This must be very hard for the parents. In fact, there were rumors that it would be difficult to join the club, and about 10 years ago, there were only two first-year students who joined the club.
We wondered whether we should change direction, but we decided to make the club the same as it has always been, a club where parents can be involved.
Parents can only be involved with their children during the six years of elementary school. Even if their children continue to play soccer in junior high and high school, they can only support them. They play soccer together, take baths together, and eat dinner together while praising each other, saying, “I liked how you played today. We tell them at the information sessions that they should grow as a family through soccer.
The children are very appreciative of their parents’ involvement. They may have really wanted to go to an amusement park or the zoo, but they thank their younger sisters and brothers for following along with them, and at the graduation ceremony they say, ‘Thank you for following me to the game. It brings tears to my eyes.
Gonda’s father often came to practice and helped out.
At first, the fathers thought it was a lot of work, but by the time their children graduated, they were at a loss as to what they were going to do and how they would miss them.
Half of the fathers have obtained Level 4 referee certification and officiate at official games and practice matches.
The fathers are very helpful because they learn the rules and can share them with their children and families.
Saginuma Soccer Club was founded in 1979 and has a 44-year history. In the past, Saginuma Soccer Club boasted a brilliant record, including the top eight in the Kanto Tournament, two runner-up finishes in the prefectural tournament, and seven consecutive victories in the official Kawasaki City U-12 tournament. Mr. Sawada attributes the club’s strength to the parents and alumni coaches.
When I joined the club, we were considered the weakest team in recent years, but when we won second place in the Kawasaki City Tournament, the parents got excited and said, ‘We can aim for the prefectural championship. Everyone started studying soccer and paying attention to their diet. Now they practice with a high level of awareness, saying, ‘We want to be like them,’ after seeing the success of their seniors. I think this is a big factor.
Now, the children’s goals are Misumi and Tanaka, as well as Gonda and Itakura.
What are your dreams, Sawada-san?
There are children in each grade who I am looking forward to seeing in the future. I am looking forward to seeing what they can do.
Another representative player may be born in Saginuma.
Interview and text by： Izumi Nakagawa Photographed by Yusuke Tanaka： Yusuke Tanaka