Former major league pitcher Masumi Kuwata has spoken out against corporal punishment in sports following the suicide of a Japanese high school student who endured repeated beatings by his basketball coach.
“I don’t think corporal punishment as a form of instruction makes one stronger,” Kuwata said in an interview with national broadcaster NHK on Friday. “I think those teaching sports need to change their methods to fit the times.”
The 17-year-old boy, who was the captain of his basketball team, hanged himself after being physically punished by his basketball coach in late December, the Osaka municipal board of education said Tuesday. The student told his mother he had been struck 30 to 40 times the day before he died last month.
The 47-year-old coach, whose name has not been disclosed, admitted slapping the teen when he made a mistake and said it was intended to “fire him up,” the board said.
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An overwhelming majority of male and female students belonging to a basketball club in a high school in Osaka have said that they witnessed the coach physically punish other students. This was a result of inquiry made by the Osaka City Board of Education investigating the suicide of a 17 year old boy on December 23 last year.
Based on the results revealed by the board at a press conference last Tuesday, 22 of the 50 students, 20 boys and 30 girls, said they witnessed the coach physically punish the boy, who was also the club captain, on December 22, a day before the suicide. 38 also said that they have seen the coach punish the boy in that way before that day. 48 club members report that they have seen the coach inflict physical punishment on other members. And sadly, 21 members have said that they themselves have been recipients of such punishments. The students said that physical punishments took the form of slapping in the face, beating, or kicking.
The board also revealed that in September 2011, the Osaka municipal government’s whistleblower hotline received a tip reporting the coach for employing such forms of corporeal punishment in Sakuranomiya High School, which is run by the municipal government. The principal back then interviewed the 13 teachers in charge of the sports club, all of whom denied the accusation. The principal immediately concluded that the reports were false, which was accepted by the education board. No student was ever interviewed. Osaka’s superintendent of eduction Tetsuro Nagai said in the press conference that the case should be reinvestigated as the initial investigation was insufficient.