Strong Women Support Women: The Japanese Women Leaders and Coaches Academy Returns

Back in-person for the first time in three years, the wave of support for women in coaching grows with the eighth annual Japanese Women Leaders and Coaches Academy in Japan.
Mim Haigh
Sports Writer – Athlete Assessments

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En route to Japan! Stepping off the plane and into a buzzing atmosphere of excitement, Athlete Assessments’ CEO, Liz Masen set out for another year of presenting and engagement at the eighth Annual Japanese Women Leaders and Coaches Academy (JWLCA). Liz highlighted,

“It was such an honor to be invited to be a part of the Japanese Women Leaders and Coaches Academy  once again, it continues to be one of the highlights on my calendar since the Academy’s establishment eight years ago.” 

The Academy was founded in 2015 by Dr. Etsuko Ogasawara, Executive Director of the Japanese Center for Research on Women in Sport (JCRWS). Dr. Ogasawara was appointed as the first executive director of the JCRWS that was newly established at Juntendo University in 2014, and has continued to serve in this position. Inspired by the NCAA Women Coaches Academy she attended in Denver, Colorado, Dr. Ogasawara decided to run a Women Coaches Academy in her home country of Japan. And so, the JWLCA was born!

Reflecting on this year’s Academy, Dr. Ogasawara shared,

“We received a record number of applications and welcomed more than 40 participants for the first time. Their backgrounds such as the type of sports they play, their affiliation, or line of work they do, are becoming more diverse each year, making the Academy a valuable and informative place for networking.”

Dr. Maki Itoh, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Sports and Health Studies at Tokyo’s Hosei University, is one of JWLCA’s reputable presenters, and has seen the Academy’s influential impact first-hand. Passionate and devoted to the development of women coaches in Japan, Dr. Itoh is an integral member of the JCRWS, specializing in the areas of women in sport, athlete career development, and leadership in sport within her teaching and research roles.

The Academy’s program is based on the scientific research of the JCRWS and actively encourages women coaches to learn about and understand their own coaching style, while empowering them to apply their ability as leaders. The Academy includes an array of educational opportunities for women aspiring to coach at an elite level, where discussions around tackling work-life balance and diversity management issues are held.

Moreover, the Academy sessions focus on enhancing coach self-awareness, providing attendees with frameworks to better understand themselves and others, which is ultimately foundational in developing a unique coaching style.  

Other familiar faces shared the presentation panel with Liz and Dr. Itoh this year, including Marlene Bjornsrud, previously of the Alliance of Women Coaches (now known as WeCOACH), and Dr. Nicole LaVoi, Board Member of WeCOACH and Director of the Tucker Centre for Research on Girls and Women in Sport. Additionally, Lisa O’Keefe, the recently appointed Secretary General of the International Working Group (IWG) on Women & Sport, also joined the panel of presenters – talk about a stellar lineup! 

Having worked with many of these women across other programs and opportunities, Liz added,

“One of the key questions that people often ask me is, ‘What cultural differences do I notice between the US, or Australia and Japan?’ Dr. Itoh and Etsuko place such importance on creating a safe environment for their coaches to learn about themselves, it’s like one big community and family; we are committed to supporting each other, despite any cultural differences.”

Dr. Ogasawara has played a vital role in the success of the JWLCA, and shared from her own experience as a woman in the sports industry as to why she felt creating the Academy was so important,

For the Japanese sports community, where there are far fewer female coaches, there has never been a specific program for female coaches. Therefore, by being a part of the NCAA Women Coaches Academy and experiencing its educational environment firsthand, we realized the importance of providing a safe and secure environment for female coaches. We realized that in such an environment, they would enthusiastically want to learn, and they would want to inspire those around them as well. And, we have actually created this atmosphere in Japan.

In preparation for Liz’s involvement at the JWLCA, each coach completes their own Athlete Assessments CoachDISC Profile, which is available in Japanese. Coaches are required to bring their 40-page individualized report along with them to Liz’s dedicated session, which is focused on learning about their coaching style and debriefing their results. 

In Liz’s session, coaches are debriefed on their CoachDISC Profiles. The reports typically confirm tendencies that coaches recognize in themselves, but they also uncover and highlight patterns of behavior that are present within a coach’s natural actions and in contrast, their adapted actions. During the session, coaches start to identify areas they are putting their energy into to make situations work and discuss the differences between their styles. This includes factors such as the way each coach communicates, the pace they are most comfortable with, their methods for building relationships and importantly, the conditions they thrive in, are all analyzed and discussed as part of the session. Importantly, they also note any considerable contrasts between their individual natural and adapted styles, which can indicate potential stressors or high energy requirements to maintain those behaviors, which may not be sustainable over long periods of time.

Many examples of DISC in action are shared throughout the JWLCA and through discussion and session engagement, participants come to recognize the importance of self-awareness and the need for adaptions to better enhance relationships and performance. Founders of the JWLCA first experienced the CoachDISC Profile and its transformative impacts at the US NCAA Women Coaches Academy. The tailored insights into each coach’s style have been made possible by their dedicated work translating CoachDISC into Japanese. 

Dr. Itoh shared,

“It took a lot of time and energy, but it’s become a really good resource for coaches to understand their communication style and profile.”

Reflecting on her continued involvement with the JWLCA, Liz concluded,

“Etsuko and the incredibly dedicated team behind the JWLCA not only recognize the aspirations and efforts of women coaches in Japan, but are also committed to their future growth and success as leaders. It’s truly an inspiring initiative, and I look forward to seeing it continue to evolve and prosper over many years to come.”

To view the video highlights from the 2022 Japanese Women Leaders and Coaches Academy

JCRWS logo
Etsuko Ogasawara_JCRWS

Biography for Dr. Etsuko Ogasawara

Dr. Etsuko Ogasawara is the founder and Executive Director of the Japanese Association for Women in Sport (JWS). She holds a Ph.D. in Sport Management from the Ohio State University and is currently a Professor of Sport Management at Juntendo University in Japan, through which she founded the Japanese Women Leaders and Coaches Academy. Prior to commencing her doctoral studies, she was an Assistant Professor at the National Institute of Fitness and Sport in Kanoya, Japan, and head coach of the swim team, before joining the coaching staff of the Japanese national swimming team for the 1986 Seoul Asian Games and the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

She is one of the founders and an executive board member and chair of the Committee of International Affairs for Japanese Association for Sport Management (JASM) and was the president of the Asian Association for Sport Management from 2018-2021. Dr. Ogasawara was also the Chair of the Steering Committee for the 2001 First Asian Conference on Women and Sport, and is has been the Asian Representative Member of the IWG executive Board since 2015. Dr. Ogasawara has been awarded the Contribution Award of AVON for Women in 2004 in Japan, the 2012 International Pathfinder Award from the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport in the USA, and the 2018 Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) Women and Sport Award.

Where to from here?

At Athlete Assessments, our support for the people and organizations who provide opportunities and pathways for women and girls in sport is unwavering. We have an entire resources section dedicated to resources about women in sport including articles which highlight some of the amazing women and women-led organizations and academies we are fortunate enough to work with, like JWLCA, as well as information on gender disparity in sport and important statistics and facts.

If you would like to discuss how Athlete Assessments can contribute to your program or initiative through the use of our DISC Profiles and tailored programs, please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us!

JWLCA Article Cover Image

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