For Basketball Court and Company Cubicle: New Expectations for University Athletes and Corporate Employees in Japan
During Japan's High Economic Growth Period (1955‒1973), school-affiliated sports clubs served as important socialization mechanisms creating strong, healthy, and disciplined workers who would later serve Japanese companies. Since the 1980s, however, there have been new approaches in the management of companies and sports teams in Japan, especially in terms of a new performance-based hierarchy that places the onus on individuals to think independently and be creative on the court or in the cubicle. While sports clubs continue to habituate members into a particular vocabulary that encourages effort, discipline, and teamwork – language that will continue to be used after they join corporate Japan – changing economic landscapes have ushered in the introduction of new coaching pedagogies to Japanese sports, and therefore new expectations for Japanese athletes. These athletic expectations happen to mirror new expectations of young Japanese workers. Drawing on long-term fieldwork with a university basketball club, this article demonstrates that while sports continue to be perceived as educational tools that build ‘team-players’ to serve companies, they are today being asked to cultivate independent, innovative, and flexible company employees as well; and reconciling these two rather conflicting goals has proved to be easier said than done.