If ever proof were needed that high school sport in England is anaemic...
In an effort to become fitter, I have decided that this month, I will eat only healthy, low calorie food, drink only water or tea or sports drinks and play volleyball with the high school team every day after work.
I played volleyball at university, and whilst I was never spectacular I always thought I was pretty good. Yet playing with the students yesterday reminded me of how poorly sport is handled at school in England, and my three years of inactivity rang loud in my ears and my legs.
If you are in a high school team in England, you might practice a couple of times a week for an hour or two at most. The crux of the practice is in the regular scheduled games lessons, which, at least when I was at high school, were basically 45 minute matches. Some students played outside of school at the weekends for local teams (especially football), but many didn't.
If you are in a high school team in Japan, you practice every day after school, for about 3-4 hours. Some teams have to practice before school as well (such as the judo club at my friend's high school, whose members have to run up and down a mountain at 7am). Teams are given intensive fitness and technical drills, such as practicing volleyball with old basketballs to build strength or walking on your hands up and down the court to develop balance.
A high school student's life in Japan is, by English standards, pretty grim. You have to get up at dawn, either complete extra classes or extra sports training, then do a full day at school, then participate in club activities, and then many go on to cram schools. Weekends, usually free time in England, are opportunities for more sports practice, as are holidays (a lot of teams will practice all day every day during the summer holidays).
Despite my height, my inactivity for the past three years and the superb athleticism of the volleyball students means that they can jump higher and hit the ball more powerfully than me. If the Japanese were a little taller and genetically more powerful, they would undoubtedly dominate a number of world sports.