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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

BILINGUAL

What the nation's girl sports managers offer Japan


One of the best-selling books of the past month is called "Moshi Kokoyakyuno Jyoshi Manejyaga Drucker no Management wo Yondara"(「もし高校野球の女子マネージャーがドラッカーのマネージメントを読んだら」"If the Girl Manager of a High School Baseball Team Read Drucker's 'The Practice of Management'") by Natsumi Iwasaki. The novel follows Minami, manager of her high school baseball team, as she uses Peter Drucker's famous tome on management to guide the team to success. The book sheds light not just on the issue of management but also the profound world of high school girl managers.

Many able-bodied and intelligent jyoshi (女子, teenage girls or a woman with the energy and spirit of a teenage girl) dream at least once in their lives of being a manējyā (マネージャー manager), preferably of a baseball, basketball or soccer club (the sweatier the better). But having made it through the gates, they're often appalled at the incredible effort and workload involved.

A good friend of mine was the manager of the danshi kendō-bu (男子剣道部, boys' kendo club) in high school, and within six months she had developed a jyūen hage 十円はげ, a bald spot the size of a ¥10 coin) on the side of her head and had undergone a mōchō no shujyutsu (盲腸の手術, appendectomy) due to sheer, undiluted stress.

My friend was functioning on about four hours of sleep, worked for the team through weekends and holidays, and was trying to keep up with homework as well. It got to the point where classmates chipped in to help by taking home piles of dougi (胴衣, kendo wear) to wash. The next day they would haul the bundle to some tournament out in Yamanashi Prefecture or another distant location.

As soon as she was out of the hospital, my friend was back at her managerial duties. Under her care and support, the kendo team matured from a jyakushō (弱小, weak and small) local team to a top contender with 40 members. The guys took the credit, but we knew that if she hadn't been there for them all the way, the outcome would have been different. Such is the power of a good jyoshimane (女子マネ, abbreviation for girl manager) — personally, I think Drucker has little to teach in terms of people skills, dedication or decision-making.

Going through the physical and mental wringer during high school prepares the jyoshimane for the trials and hardships that will assail her later in life. She's a cut above mere jyoshi athletes doing bukatsu (部活, extracurricular sports activities). At the end of the day, the athletes get to put the blood, sweat and tears behind them. But the work of a jyoshimane never ends.

While her first task is always dealing with mountains of laundry (the team's uniforms, socks and, in many cases, underwear) that she washes and dries on the line behind the school building day after day, she's also expected to recruit new talent, deal with complaints, look after injuries, keep tabs on individual behavior (smoking, drinking and brawls will immediately disqualify a team from a competition), console guys who didn't make regulā (レギュラー, regular team-member slots) and encourage those who did. She's also the liaison between the coach and team, is called into important strategic meetings and assembles practice menus.

Additionally, she attends every game, standing by with a huge cooler of water bottles and energy drinks. During summer training, she's expected to dish out food (especially breakfast) and clean up afterward. Multitasking doesn't begin to describe what a jyoshimane goes through; she's the mother, girlfriend, therapist, doctor, boss and handmaid for a team of sweltering males.

The jyoshimane can reap the rewards later; the experience becomes a valuable personal asset (many companies will spot that on a resume applying for a job) and by the time she graduates, there's very little about male psychology that she doesn't know — which really saves time and worry later on when she is on the dating scene.

On the other hand, many jyoshimane suffer from moetsuki shōkōgun (燃え尽き症候群, burnout syndrome). Life after three frenetic years being Superwoman often looks flat, boring and devoid of challenges. My friend from high school says everything after her years as a jyoshimane seemed too easy. She was constantly asking the world, "koredake? (これだけ, is that all?)" and chomping at the bit, so to speak. She's now a lawyer, mother of three and has her eye on a possible political career. It's a good thing. What the guys of Nagatacho (永田町, Japan's political nerve center and district where most of the ministries are located) really need is a jyoshimane to set them straight.



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