Set up for success

Japanese sport institute builds global research connections

By Janet Kiplinger Ciccone

Ali Brian and Emi Tsuda grew up on opposite sides of the planet. Neither expected to conduct research with colleagues around the world — until they attended the Tsukuba Summer Institute for Sport and Physical Education (TSI) in Japan. TSI and one of its co-founders, Associate Professor Jacqueline Goodway, transformed the lives of both women.

“Jackie provided the starting block for my career growth,” said Brian, ’14 PhD, an assistant professor of physical education and athletic training at the University of South Carolina. “Before that, the notion of doing research with folks from other countries, of going to Tokyo, seemed as likely for me as going to another planet.”

Tsuda, from Ashiya near Kobe, Japan, studied sports management at Tsukuba University for her master’s degree.

“I never thought of getting a doctoral degree,” she said, “and getting a PhD in another country is not common in Japan. But my advisor assigned me to be Dr. Goodway’s guide for her first visits. Forces came together that carved a path for me.”

Birth of the summer institute

Jackie Goodway

A United Kingdom native, Goodway has a flair for launching global collaborations with academics. She created the first intervention to teach children from disadvantaged areas to skip, hop and jump early so they stay active for life. Six countries have adopted it.

In 2008 she visited Tsukuba, eager to connect with Japan’s premier sport science university. Many of its 100 sport faculty are Olympians, and its impressive facilities attract Japan’s Olympic athletes for training.

The next year, the Japanese Ministry for Education and Sport invited Goodway to keynote its conference in Tokyo to help revise its national physical education curriculum. Afterward, the Japanese wanted more exposure to research like Goodway’s.

TSI was born. The faculty members, from Tsukuba University and universities around the world, are seminal voices in their field.

“The goal of TSI is to mentor the next generation of scholars in sport and physical activity from around the world in a rich, international, multicultural experience,” Goodway said. “One day, many of these students will set national policy for their countries in sport and physical activity.”

Rigors and rewards of research

TSI’s Sport, Physical Activity and Culture in Japan program introduces undergraduates to kendo (shown above) and more.

As a student at Tsukuba University, Tsuda attended TSI for four years. The first year, it was small — ­­­only 15-20 students. She had planned to be a tennis coach or physical education teacher, but as TSI grew, the leaders created a research seminar for graduate students.

Goodway and other international mentors guided each team of six students through a rigorous research process on a hot topic.

“The seminar introduced me to research in English, which we don’t speak much in Japan,” Tsuda explained. “We worked from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, but each evening, we socialized. I gained experience and made friends from around the world who have become critical parts of my life.”

Among those friends was Brian. “Ali taught me about research and included me when a group went out to dinner. Dr. Goodway told me what it was like at Ohio State. I got the idea I should take this big chance.”

Tsuda arrived in Columbus in 2012 to gain research experience through a master’s program, then stayed to earn her doctorate.

“She wasn’t sure she could do so much work in English,” Goodway said, “but I knew she could when I realized how smart and driven she is.”

An American in Japan

Ali Brian

Brian’s experience at TSI was as intense as Tsuda’s. By 2012, TSI had grown to more than 100 participants yearly. That year Brian was the only American student attending.

As a doctoral student, she led a research team of master’s students from five countries. It was challenging, especially since not all were fluent in English.

“We learned how to collaborate with folks from many different backgrounds and perspectives,” Brian said, “a necessary skill set for success as faculty today.”

After attending TSI in 2013, Brian published research papers with coauthors in Belgium and Australia. Now she considers traveling to France or Wales for conferences second nature. Both Brian and Tsuda continue conducting research with Goodway. They focus on how to improve low motor skills in young children so they choose to be physically active.

Tsuda believes studying in the United States would never have happened without TSI, Goodway and Brian.

“Dr. Goodway is a great advisor. She guides and motivates. I had no experience teaching in English, so she gave me various opportunities to teach and lead students. Now I’m confident. Ali invited me to room with her when I arrived. She helped me adjust, a very big thing.”

Goodway sees sport as a medium through which we can learn so much about our culture. “TSI gives students the chance to become massively creative in an amazingly rich environment.”

She applauds when students and faculty share the challenges, frustrations and joys of working together at TSI. “And they make lifelong friends and research colleagues. That is so powerful.”

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