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Is the Weekend Sports League System Working?

Posted October. 27, 2010 12:48,   


A weekend sports league system has run in Korea since last year for public school soccer competitions.

Universities also have a “U-league” that they conducted pilot operations for in 2008 and last year before starting a full-fledged weekend league this year.

In basketball, only universities introduced the weekend league this year. In soccer and basketball, tournaments are held over school vacations. Yet far-reaching efforts are going into setting up a weekend league system in which players can study and play sports in tandem in line with government policy.

○ Prevailing perception of the need to study

Most sports authorities agree on the need for a weekend league system. Gallup Korea conducted last year a study on the system commissioned by the Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry after implementing weekend soccer leagues for public schools among 250 student athletes, 248 parents and 125 coaches.

The study found 82.4 percent of coaches and 81.9 percent of parents were generally satisfied with the league system. Most people agreed on the need for the system in that it made studying a student athlete’s duty rather than cultivating them into "athletic machines."

Most recognize that excelling only at one sport and nothing else is not good.

Coaches say the league system allows players to improve their weaknesses ahead of their next game since only one game is played per week. This also greatly reduces the risk of injury, frees student athletes from the blind pursuit of game performance, and allows them to develop a sense of professionalism.

○ Phased introduction of league system urged

The reality is different from the ideal, however. A high school soccer coach in Seoul said, “Players attend all classes so the number of daily practice hours has declined to less than half of that in the past.”

“High school students are at an age when they dream of becoming pro players and making the national team, but they can hardly improve their performance under the league system. This way, they could end up losing both study and sports."

Sophomores and juniors attending high school could fall victim to the policy, the coach said, suggesting adjusting the timing of the league system’s introduction by adopting it first at elementary and middle schools before high schools.

Another coach said, “Since classes are not offered according to knowledge level and student athletes study with other students who do not play sports, the former struggle to keep up in class,” adding, “Student athletes in high school no doubt dream of becoming pro soccer players, and they should be educated separately in subjects they need to attain this dream.”

In college basketball, only one game is played on weekends, but students have seen the number of practice hours increase on weekdays, a side effect of the league system. Since they train on weekdays and play games on weekends, they have no time to rest.

Amid this situation, more student athletes are attending class in the morning and skipping class in the afternoon. Experts say collegiate student athletes need professional training in subjects they need if they go pro or should earn vocational licenses for life after sports.