Coaches who fail to control their anger and direct it toward junior athletes have posed a long-term problem for Japanese sports that remains to be solved.

Those who resort to verbal or even physical abuse often do so out of a belief that it will teach children lessons and make teams perform better.

To address the issue, Tokyo-based event organizer Kaient Inc. staged a basketball event for elementary schoolers late last year in Chiba, at which coaches were not allowed to express anger or direct players while on court.

An organizing staff member (C) shows "three bonus points" after five players of a team scored at a basketball meet for elementary school children on Dec. 28, 2022, in Chiba, eastern Japan. (Kyodo)

Be quiet and let children enjoy the game -- that was the message of the event labeled "Japan's most dream-filled basketball meet for elementary school students" at Chiba Port Arena.

Rather than being told to do this and that, players were urged to share opinions and strategize on their own.

Any act that could intimidate children, such as standing up suddenly, was also banned at the Dec. 27-28 meet supported by the Chiba Jets pro basketball club.

Kaient President Ichiro Adachi, 48, sought cooperation from the Jets as he wanted to give all children, regardless of height or athletic ability, a chance to develop.

Teams that had three players score earned a bonus point, another two were awarded to teams with four scorers, and those with five scorers received three bonus points.

Each team was required to have different players on the court in the first and second half to distribute playing time equally as much as possible.

"I might have whispered under my face mask, but I think I managed to stay patient," said Go Funatsu, a 40-year-old coach of Higashi Kawaguchi Club, which won the boys' competition out of a field of more than 20 teams.

Higashi Kawaguchi Club captain Ryota Sato, 12, said with a smile, "(without instructions from coaches) I was worried a little bit, but it was fun. Everyone got points."

Shunsuke Ito, 43, a former Jets and Japan national team player, helped draw up a set of rules for this unique basketball meet, which received applications from more than 200 boys' and girls' teams around the country.

Shunsuke Ito (C, L), a former Chiba Jets and Japanese national team player, is pictured during a basketball meet for elementary school children on Dec. 28, 2022, in Chiba, near Tokyo. (Kyodo)

Ito has been aware of the "winning is everything" mentality among coaches of children's sports.

"It's good for teams to try to be No. 1 in the country, but it's also important for children to enjoy the game," Ito said. "I hope to come up with various proposals."

The issue of abusive coaching is a serious one and sometimes leads to the worst consequences.

In 2012, the captain of Osaka-based Sakuranomiya High School's boys' basketball team committed suicide after being physically punished by his coach.

There have long been calls for coaches to stop their abusive behavior and allow young athletes the independence to make decisions for themselves.

Overall, some improvement has been achieved, but there have reportedly been fewer advances in elementary school coaching.

"It's a wonderful project in terms of integrity," Akira Yamamoto, 53, who is in charge of player development at the Japan Basketball Association, said of the two-day meet. "We can't leave the issue to the next generation."

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