About a year ago, I was on the sideline coaching in Okayama City for Kibi Kokusai, a university located in the mountains of Takahashi, Japan, west of Okayama City.
I was approached by an older coach, who also worked within the college football association of Western Japan. He would often help Kibi Kokusai whenever a coach could not make it. I came to call him Reo-san. He was particularly fond of me and would always tell me about former players from America who had visited Japan, I did not recognize most names. Until one day he mentioned one of the greatest to ever play the game of football.
I recently reached out to Reo-san to sit down with him and ask him what he thought about our progress as a program and I wanted to know more stories about one of my favorite football players: Lester Hayes.
Reo-san played with Lester Hayes back in the early 90s. During a tour by many current and former NFL players at the time. They organized games to play the USA vs. Japan, as well as mixed squads, giving some players an opportunity to play with players that they may have seen on television, and even idolized.
“It’s so cool that you played with Lester Hayes, what was he like?” I asked.
Reo-san responded: “Lester Hayes was incredible, we all thought he looked like lightning running around out there. I tried to run a route on him. It didn’t go well for me.”
“But why did they do this, what was the end goal for these games?” I asked.
“We never asked, in fact, we don’t really know. We think it was supposed to help us develop our skills, but there weren’t many practices. Maybe to discover a good football player was their goal,” Reo-san responded.
“Do you think Danketsu does a good job of offering a path to an end goal? Or is the program more similar to the games you mentioned?”
He paused for a bit, mulling the question over. Then he answered; “These types of programs are wonderful, they teach us we’re all alike while giving us new knowledge of a sport that we have a lot of interest in. But, until we can provide that for ourselves, all sports cannot become better.”
I asked him; “What would you suggest to make it better?”
“We need to study it for ourselves. Go to large universities and experience the sports ourselves and bring back the knowledge to our players so we can teach it ourselves. I think you can help with that.”
After this part of our conversation, Reo-san asked me to help him discover an offense and a better understanding of the game at a later date. I agreed, and we continued speaking about his experience playing against and with former NFL players. He definitely appreciated the experience, but he kept reiterating how he wished he was able to learn more.
This conversation proved to be helpful and Reo-san offered a challenge that I had previously given thought to but had not yet considered. His feedback offered a path with a goal and how to achieve it.