Back on Familiar Turf

Back on Familiar Turf

by Brinya Tananone, Director of Activities and Community Programs

In January of 2020, our High School boys and girls basketball teams returned from Osaka and Seoul, Korea, respectively, after an exhilarating AISA tournament where our girls took home the championship in what looked like the first of many successful tournaments to come. Little did we know that the trip to Seoul would turn out to be the last overnight and overseas trip that we would have for more than two years! It has been so long since our last overnight athletics trip that only two students in the entire high school can recall what the experience of having overnight trips and going overseas was like. It is with immense relief and excitement that I can announce that our athletic teams are on the road back to familiar turf with the resumption of interschool games and tournaments! While this return to “normal” is in many respects what students, staff and parents have long awaited, with our new campus facilities, we enter a new era of sports at YIS that will allow all those involved in athletics to grow and develop.

We have already seen throughout our short time on the Honmoku campus that with new and expanded facilities and spaces come new opportunities. With the double gym and spectator balcony replacing Yamate-cho’s single gym, we have been able to add a Junior Varsity boys volleyball team this year; with the old tiny turf making way for an official size sports field designed for football and field hockey, we have been able to introduce a JV boys and girls soccer team. To top it all off, our new 25-meter swimming pool is helping us develop a comprehensive whole-school swim program under the discerning eye of Aquatics Program Coordinator, Jay Brownrigg. 

The new facilities also expand opportunities to strengthen and involve our community more than the Yamate-cho campus. Never before were we able to play a full-field football match, or host a match onsite which meant that the community could never truly come out and cheer on our Dragons since those teams always played offsite. Never before, were we able to host a swim meet or even have a swim club. Never before, were we able to have two basketball or volleyball games played simultaneously; being able to do so now means teams can get home at a reasonable hour after a tournament! Even things such as ES Sports Day can be held  on campus, allowing the community to celebrate learning and other student successes. Here on our new campus all this is now possible. 

While having our new “toys” has been awesome, what many of our students have missed is the old normal, and crazily enough the old normal will actually be new for them since they have never experienced what a fully operational athletic season looks or feels like. So what is the old normal that we are finally bringing back after an extended hiatus? Perhaps, one of the biggest and most visible returns to normalcy is that masks are no longer mandatory for practices and games. Wearing masks outside of the field of play is optional but it is great to see our students do not have to exert themselves and try to breath through a mask at the same time. Practices are also scheduled on a regular basis; and we do not need to worry about losing precious contact time due to the threat of campus closures from a regional COVID outbreak. Furthermore, it means having a full schedule of games for our various teams, which in some cases means going from having one or two matches a season to as many as 12! It means having overnight trips to places like Kobe, Kyoto, Osaka, and Seoul and all the incredible experiences that these trips entail. It means, hosting tournaments and experiencing the proud buzz of having students from all over Japan and Asia come together and experience all that YIS has to offer. 

While we are thrilled to have all these opportunities return, perhaps the most exciting thing to see again is the intangible experiences the opportunities bring with them. The friendships, the team building, the commitment, the drive, the joy, the passion, the sense that the Dragons are back and better than ever.