Sports Beyond Nation Boundaries, Reflecting on The Joy of Pursuing a Challenge with Fellow Teammates ~WMG Interview Series Part 2~

「WORLD MASTERS GAMES (WMG) 2021 KANSAI」 is an international sports event where people over the age of 30 from all over the world can compete together. This article is the second of a three-part interview series featuring previous WMG participants, in which softball player Mayumi Kobayashi and basketball player Masasumi Kawato talk about the appeal of WMG and what effect WMG had on their sports life.

Part 1 of the interview series👉

Respect for the sport with a rich history that changed my life – Mayumi Kobayashi (Softball)

Group photo of members participating in WMG 2017 Auckland

Tell us about the biggest impression that international sport events have made on you.

I remember being asked “Are you enjoying yourself?” when I was in a softball competition in Australia. Most of the foreign athletes have fun while still being good at their sport. The way that they prioritize having fun left a big impression on me. The way we play in competition might not look like we are having fun.

There were also the hesitance towards using English and nervousness about competing overseas during the event, but when other players greeted us with “Ohayou” , we were encouraged to try to be more friendly towards others. I am really grateful to them for teaching me the importance of interacting with other teams.

What did you discover about other countries through playing softball in an international setting?

I managed to get some insight into each country’s history. For example, people in Malaysia above a certain age have very little opportunity to play softball and softball grounds are scarce over there. It made me realize that the culture of enjoying softball at all ages does not exist everywhere.

I also realized that there are countries where sportswomen are a rarity. I think the foundation for the continuation of lifelong sports in a country is very important for the development of team sports.

Were there difficulties faced by women’s softball teams in Japan?

Left: A scene of people greeting each other at the 「Sammy Japan Masters Cup 」organized by himself.
Right: The players who participated in「Sammy Masters Cup」

During my childhood in Hokkaido, in my hometown, young rural girls were not encouraged to play sport. When I started working while attending high school, I chose a company where I could play softball, and thanks to that I was able to continue doing this sport.

Certainly, there was a time when it was difficult for women in Japan to do sports as well. At that time, there were only male managers and umpires.

In order to revitalize softball by organizing a weekday league for female athletes, I got the qualifications for becoming a judge. The first Women's National Softball Championship was held in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture by Japan Softball Association, and Japan's female judges were gathered there. I was one of the memebers of one of the phases, and finally, Japan's first Women's National Softball Championship judged by female referee was successfully held.

After 30 years of hard work by various people and facing all sorts of of challenges, I think Japan already has established the foundation for the development of softball.

―What kind of message would you like to deliver to women who want to continue doing sports?

By all means go ahead if you want to. There may be trouble getting your family or others to support you, but I don’t think that means you should give up.

I believe having teammates and a healthy body helps you to have a healthy mindset and cultivates a heart that listens to voices around you in every situation. I hope people will have respect for sport because it provides the foundation of the right mental attitude, and together we can make a society that allows anyone to participate in sports.

There is just one more thing that I would like to say. I had met many international friends who play the same sport through WMG. I have had a great deal of support through this event, and that is why I want to do my best to support teams participating in 「WORLD MASTERS GAMES (WMG) 2021 KANSAI」.

I also look forward to meeting softball lovers from all over the world in Shiga Prefecture, the venue for the softball competition.

To take on the world and laugh in the face of adversity together as Team SAMURAI – Masasumi Kawato (Basketball)

What made you start competing internationally?

Photo from FIMBA 2015 in Croatia

Due to the age limit for the official leagues of the Japan Basketball Association, players over 60 are not eligible to play. To find a forum in which I could compete, I chose to look for competitions overseas.

There are categories for players up to the age of 75 in other countries. Once I found such competitions, I made it a goal to continue challenging myself as a player in them. And WMG was one of those new challenges.

What was you impression of WMG?

Post-match group photo during WMG2017 in Auckland

I was surprised by the welcome at the reception and the large number of participants. I was able to talk to someone whose partner saves up to go to WMG every four years. Hearing that made me once again realize how special this event is.

Also, we got to play the USA team twice. If we were in Japan, it would be just a fleeting dream to play against US basketball teams. The results of the games certainly mattered, but the experience and fun left a much deeper impression.

―How do you prepare to face off against overseas teams?

We SAMURAI Senior Ballers are made up of people from all over Japan. Each of the members practices with their local team and the whole team only meets about once a year. Even so, we have many members who were remarkable players in their prime, so we might be the number one team in the 65-and-over category in Japan.

Besides being the first team in Japan with all members aged 60 or more, we also organize competitions. In the eight years since the first competition we organized, the number of players over 60 has gradually increased.

―You have been actively working to increase the age permitted for participating in competitions. What are your thoughts after working on it all this time?

I had many bad memories during my active years. I only began to enjoy basketball after I became an adult. No matter how old I am, I give it my all when I am on the court and end the game feeling refreshed. The after-game parties are also great fun.

Every extra year in makes a bigger difference as we grow older. Even so, I want to keep playing for as long as I am able. I’m happy that I found basketball and am able to think of it in such a way.

Please tell us about your next goals.

Winning a medal in an international competition. Our record over these 10 years is six wins, 18 losses and a draw, so we would like to achieve some remarkable result after so many attempts.

I am currently coaching primary school kids basketball and I often explain to them the fun of doing sport lifelong. They enjoy it when I show them photos taken of overseas competitions. I want to spread the joy of continuing to sports within one’s limits by keeping challenging myself and telling people that “I can go on”.

In this interview, two ex-WMG participants, softball player Mayumi Kobayashi and basketball player Masasumi Kawato share with us their thoughts about the appeal of WMG and its relationship with competition life.

「WORLD MASTERS GAMES (WMG) 2021 KANSAI」 is an opportunity for sport lovers to compete in their favorite sports on an international level.

More detailed information will be announced on the 「WORLD MASTERS GAMES (WMG) 2021 KANSAI」 official website in late November 2019. Don’ forget to check it out!

And look out for our next article when we will have interviews with weightlifting and track and field participants of the previous WMG.

「WORLD MASTERS GAMES (WMG) 2021 KANSAI」Official Website👉