De­ci­sion to bench Ja­pan play­ers is les­son for Tai­wan

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

The 2015 U-12 Base­ball World Cup of the World Base­ball and Soft­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion (WBSC) con­cluded this Sun­day when the Tai­wanese team fin­ished in sec­ond place among the 12 com­pet­ing teams af­ter los­ing to the United States in the cham­pi­onship game.

This was Tai­wan’s sec­ond con­sec­u­tive de­feat by the U.S. team in the fi­nal of the event since the bi­en­nial WBSC tour­na­ment fea­tur­ing world­wide elite young play­ers un­der the age of 12 was launched in 2011.

Though fail­ing to take the ti­tle, the latest No. 2 fin­ish for Tai­wanese youth base­ballers still once again proves that Tai­wan is one of the world pow­er­houses in lit­tle league base­ball.

While con­grat­u­lat­ing the home­town boys’ great per­for­mance, what also caught our at­ten­tion dur­ing the 10-day tour­na­ment was an in­ci­dent when Team Ja­pan de­cided to bench some of its best play­ers ahead of an im­por­tant game against a stronger op­po­nent.

In a pre­lim­i­nary round matchup against Team U.S.A., Ja­panese head coach Toshi­hisa Nishi ( ) de­cided to bench seven of his play­ers as pun­ish­ment for re­peat­edly be­ing late to prac­tice.

Among the seven play­ers, six were the team’s starters and bet­ter play­ers.

The de­ci­sion meant Nishi only had 11 play­ers left in the game ver­sus the U.S., lead­ing to the team’s ul­ti­mate de­feat 8-0.

Com­ment­ing on his de­ci­sion to bench some of his best play­ers ahead of an up­hill bat­tle, the Ja­panese coach said he had no re­gret in do­ing so.

”This was the tough­est de­ci­sion in my coach­ing ca­reer but I be­lieve base­ball at this level is not only about win­ning or los­ing but about ed­u­cat­ing the young play­ers,” Nishi told Tai­wanese media af­ter the match.

The Ja­panese coach’s de­ci­sion drew mostly pos­i­tive re­sponses from most base­ball com­men­ta­tors and fans in Tai­wan.

Most be­lieved that Nishi had made the right de­ci­sion be­cause youth base­ball is never about win­ning, it is a form of ed­u­ca­tion to teach our youth right and wrong through sport.

Many also noted that no Tai­wanese coach would dare to make such a de­ci­sion be­cause win­ning is still con­sid­ered the top pri­or­ity for na­tional teams at ev­ery level in the coun­try.

How­ever, there were also oth­ers who were skep­ti­cal about Nishi’s de­ci­sion.

A lo­cal news­pa­per quoted uniden­ti­fied Tai­wanese coaches as say­ing that Nishi’s move was sim­ply a form of “strate­gic de­cep­tion” in an at­tempt to bench some of the team’s best play­ers dur­ing pre­lim­i­nary round games in prepa­ra­tion for up­com­ing bat­tles in the semi­fi­nals and the fi­nals.

The China Post would like to first point out that Ja­pan had no rea­son to do so be­cause they could lose the chance to ad­vance to the semi­fi­nals with the loss.

Ja­pan ul­ti­mately failed to win even one game in the semi­fi­nals and fin­ished No. 6 in the 12 teams with a 3-6 record in the U12 tour­ney.

We would like to note that such skep­ti­cism against Team Ja­pan per­fectly por­trays how many Tai­wanese base­ball coaches have still failed to un­der­stand what youth base­ball is about.

It is sup­posed to be a form of recre­ation and a sport that can help chil­dren learn sports­man­ship and team­work and sim­ply have fun.

As per­fectly ex­em­pli­fied by Nishi’s de­ci­sion to bench play­ers, youth play­ers need to learn dis­ci­pline in or­der to func­tion as a team, which is the most im­por­tant thing our youth can learn through sport.

This is what youth base­ball is sup­posed to be. How­ever, to Tai­wanese, base­ball has never been an or­di­nary game of bats and balls.

For a coun­try that has lit­tle in­ter­na­tional space and has been de­prived of mem­ber­ship in ma­jor world or­ga­ni­za­tions, the pas­time has been a source of na­tional pride for decades.

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