Baseball/Softball initiative "Asoball" a huge hit in Japanese kindergartens

Baseball/Softball initiative "Asoball" a huge hit in Japanese kindergartens
Asoball is a baseball-type experience programme "to nurture baseball/softball talent among toddlers and preschoolers" and which can also be played by parents.

The future baseball and softball stars of Japan are embracing a new version of the sport specifically developed for preschoolers called Asoball, which is proving to be popular with kindergartens across the country.

Asoball is a pun on the Japanese word asobo (let's play) coined with the English word ball. The game targets the kindergarten age group, 3-6.

WBSC Executive Board member at large and former Japan women's softball National Team manager Taeko Utsugi is behind the new initiative, which sees children hit from a tee using a soft bat and a ball made of sponge. Hitting, throwing, catching and running are included in the game, allowing children to learn the basics of baseball/softball while having fun.

"Asoball is a baseball-type experience programme to nurture baseball/softball talent among toddlers and preschoolers," commented Utsugi. "The athletic abilities to throw, catch and hit a ball are basic motor skills everyone should master. These skills enhance the development and maturation of both the brain & body and improve social communication skills."

"Another critical aspect is that parents can also participate in Asoball," she added. "It is so accommodating and flexible that the whole family can join the game, enhancing interaction between children and parents. Children are happy to discover new aspects of their parents through Asoball. It is rewarding to see their happy faces."

Utsugi, who is serving as vice president of the Japan Softball Association (JSA), added on a final note: "We hope children who experience Asoball will become baseball/softball players in the future."

The difference with tee-ball is in the format. Asoball uses a simple game format. Children are divided into two teams, offence and defence. The offensive team lines up in order to hit the ball, while the defensive team spreads out to catch the ball.

Each team has approximately 12 players, but the number may change depending on the circumstances.