Sport For Smile - Uniting People, Bettering the World.

Sport For SmileSport For Smile

[Sports Mentoring 2017 Fundraising Campaign]

  "Without Sports Mentoring I would have played online games at home. But playing and moving together with friends was so much fun and I always looked forward to Sundays."

 "I usually practice soccer alone on weekends, but I realized it's much more fun to play with friends."

 "Sports Mentoring taught me sports is a great tool to connect people!"

★ Kids Needs Help to Reach Out to Sports

“One out of six children in in poverty.” “A child is killed due to abuse every five days.” – these sad news are not so uncommon these days in Japan, and there has been an increasing number of children who cannot reach out to play sports.

For these children, the shouts such as “Sports gives children dreams” cannot be heard at all, and even many sports events are organized, they cannot reach out to the places.

The reason that those children cannot reach out to the sport is not only that they cannot afford to those opportunities, but also that they have some critical challenges, such as diseases and family situations. The mission of Sport For Smile is providing those kids and socially marginalized people with sports opportunities, and we were selected by Dream Bus of Korea in 2014 as local partner of Japan to implement their “Sports Mentoring.” For the first year, we helped kids from single mother families, and since 2015 we have focused on children from DV (Domestic Violence) victim families, partnering with an NGO to help DV victim mothers.

The Reality about DV (Domestic Violence)

Many people may stay on the sidelines when they hear DV, but the reality is that there has been a drastically increasing number of DV with one out of the married women with DV experience. Among young people, one of two women and one of three men have experienced DV, according to a related source.

Generally children of DV families suffer PTSD, and many stop going to the school when they are forced to leave their fathers and to change schools. For some cases, girls have to take care of housekeeping and take care of her younger sibs and babies on behalf of her mother who have not recovered from psychological fear, and therefore they cannot go to school. Even in the case they live together with Fathers, they have no time to relax as many other families do – thought the situations vary depending on each family.

Many of these children who have to face such severe reality will tend to keep themselves away from people, distrust others, and they have to take the hard path that should have been hopeful days, otherwise. Sadly, some only ten-year children tweet “I want to get back to the past.”

★ Purposes and Features of “Sports Mentoring”

・University Student Mentors will pick up and send off mentees every time

A big feature of “Sports Mentoring” is that mentors will come to each mentee’s house or nearest station to pick up and send off every single time when they have sessions. This is important because the mentees can have “go-out” experience and also they can enhance their relationship with their own mentors by chatting on what happened in the past week including fun stories at school, favorite things, and also on sad news etc.

Almost all the mentors who have participated in “Sports Mentoring” felt happiest when their mentees rush to them shouting their names in the morning and when their mentees kept their hands waiting until their trains went out of their sight. There was also a case that one mentee, who does not go out of his room usually even when his teacher visits him, came out only for the Sports Mentoring days, which are the only hours for him to be exposed to the sun.

Especially for those traumatized children, it is priceless and grateful that someone other than their family members will come to them and pick up every time, and their mentors can spend time with them, giving their full attention to their own mentees individually. And many mentees look forward to “Sports Mentoring Sundays.” The system also helps mothers as they do not need to take time out to send-off/pick-up.

・It’s a one-on-one Mentoring Program

During “Sports Mentoring”, one university mentor will take care of the same one mentee throughout the term. For mentees (who are elementary students), university students are best match, as they are not too old like adults, nor too young like their friends with whom they can easily fight. This keeps a fine balance and contribute to the positive impact of Sports Mentoring, as this helps mentees talk anything to their mentees without reservation.

On the other hand, university students rarely interact with elementary school students in their school lives. Many mentors wonder how they can communicate with each mentee at the beginning, and they try to better communicate with their mentees, which significantly improves their communication skills. Sports Mentoring is basically for mentees, but it can also benefit for mentors.

・Ultimate Goal is to provide children who suffer in their daily lives with space of comfort and play sports, and mentors whom they can trust.

Even though we call this program “Sports” Mentoring, we do not usually play organized competitive sports. We do use sports for some light works, like soccer and basketball. In fact, our goal is not train children to be competitive for the official sports games, and many times we enjoy “play” or recreational sports such as dodge ball using soft balls etc.

Usually mentors will decide what they will do, listening to their mentees’ voices, and they put priority on the sports that their mentees like, and they try to ask mentees who like the sports to explain and demonstrate how to play to all. At the beginning of each session, there is a short time when mentors and mentees talk about what happened in the past week.

The word of “Sports” might assume the image of something that is hard work, but it is not the case for our Sports Mentoring. On the contrary, we promote the lay-back atmosphere during sports mentoring sessions, because that’s what they cannot enjoy at their own homes. They do not need to dash in getting together, nor they will be scolded even if they do not play well or fail. Sports Mentoring sessions have to be the place where the participant children can enjoy sports and play with friends and without any inhibition and worries

The rule is important, however, and they are expected to think about how all can enjoy sports together. That is the only essence for those children to learn from each other, make significant growth, and to bounce back. In fact, some mentees smile in delight to find other mentees arriving at the venue in the morning and run to them. One mentee once said, “I didn’t like sports before I join sports mentoring, but now I love it!”

Impact of the Sports Mentoring

- Picking up 4-6th graders is the key!

Studies show that the functional deterioration of brains, affecting specifically on the site of motivation and willingness, but only after a few weeks of Sports Mentoring, many of the participants start to raise their hands and talk. The program has been implemented in a very small scale so far, and there is no medical evidence, but what happed in reality is “drastic change in children.”

For example, some mentees were unable to attend the opening ceremony just because they were too nervous to see their mentors for the first time and got sick on the morning of the day. As for a boy who was able to come to the venue, he could not say his name at the beginning, and some are too shy and keep quiet until their mentors talk to them. But at the end these children grow significantly to be able to take care of friends, which surprised their school teachers. Not only they show much more smiles, but also their faces look healthy as normal kids.

The participants of Sports Mentoring include those who are isolated and can speak only with their mothers every day, and especially for these kids, the kindness will be received with strong eagerness as if the water for someone waking in the dessert for long time. Then, they will make this precious experience into “muscles in their mind” to live their own lives strong.

The program adviser who has taken care of DV victims for more than a few decades mentioned that it is ideal for those kids to experience this type of therapy when they are 4th to 6th graders, as it will have a profound effect. And once they go through this therapy, they can be so resilient that they face and overcome the same traumatic experience by themselves. In fact, the same effect cannot be expected for junior-high or high school students, or mothers, and that’s why we target the 4th to 6th graders.


Something will happen on Christmas – to learn to be strong, believing that your mentors will always support you even if you cannot see each other.

Sports Mentoring will be closed by early November, and but Santa Clause will visit each mentee toward Christmas. The Santa will bring a small present with a Christmas card from the mentor. But they cannot find the mentors there.

After Sports Mentoring sessions mentees do not see their mentor on a regular basis. It is sad both for mentors and mentees that they cannot see any longer after becoming good friends. At the same time, it is very important opportunity to learn the value of “encounter and farewell” in your life. 

To learn the farewell means to stay strong without the person, believing that they will always support you, which is the core value and the ultimate goal of Sports Mentoring.

・If Children Change, Their Mothers Will Change

One of the most amazing side effects of Sports Mentoring is that it brings about smiles also for the mothers of mentees. Who will be happiest in the world when the mentees smile? – Their mothers. They do not participate in any Sports Mentoring sessions except for opening and closing ceremonies, they do change with more smiles like their kids .

Many of the DV victim mothers live their lives with strong sense of obligation to protect their kids only by themselves. They are crawling along their own lonely and tough road. For these mothers, Sports Mentoring can serve as an awakening experience through which they realize that they can ask others for help, and in the first place, they kids are more reliable than they thought. A mother mentioned at the closing ceremony that she was motivated to live with more relax.

Apparently, it may be mothers’ special ability to sense the positive change in their kids instinctively and share their mood.

・Impact for Mentors

Sports Mentoring is great experience also for mentors. They do not usually meet elementary school students in their school lives, and Sports Mentoring for them is a journey of discovery, finding ways of communication with cheerful, and pure, yet unexpectedly matured kids. It helps them develop their communication skills, and sometimes simple words from mentees significantly encourage mentors who live in a bit complex world with worry about job hunting process and their futures.

A mentor who was hoping to be a teacher mentioned that, while he learned on how to manage many students effectively through the official teachers’ training program, Sports Mentoring gave him the opportunity to interact with one kid for six month, which is very unique and special.