Nao Ozawa, Chief Executive Officer of The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center, gave his thoughts on how to approach success.
The “Waseda 2020 Lecture” series of lectures has been held since 2017 under the supervision of Captain Saburo Kawabuchi, the founder of the J. League. The seventh lecture was held online on Monday, June 7, and Nao Ozawa, Chief Executive Officer of The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center (“the Paralympic Support Center”), took the stage.
The theme of his lecture was “Increasing the Power of Sports for Individuals and Society! ~Challenges for the Paralympic Support Center~.” He also talked about the Paralympic Support Center’s efforts to promote parasports, as well as what he learned during his own days as a student and his study abroad experiences.
During the approx. 90-minute lecture, he repeatedly made appeals for the importance of the “ability to take action,” saying that through action you can gain more and more experiences, encounter wonderful people, and enjoy changes in the environment.
Mr. Ozawa also talked about episodes from his own life during which he was active.
During the summer as a first-year high school student, he had the dream of, “Participating in the Koshien Japanese High School Baseball Championship and then playing baseball for Waseda,” so he diligently practiced, but, due to a policy change at the high school he attended, there was a sharp decline in the number baseball club members. In addition to this, he was in the difficult position of only being able to secure two hours of practice time after school. It looked like his dream, which he had held onto since he was an elementary school student, wouldn’t come true. However, Mr. Ozawa didn’t stop thinking about it, and continued to search for something he could do. He switched roles to be a catcher and help the team strategize, thoroughly researching their opponents. By repeatedly undertaking these kinds of efforts and plans he achieved his long-cherished goal of playing at Koshien, with the dramatic result of winning seven consecutive games in come-from-behind victories against strong schools.
His extraordinary ability to take action was also displayed in his study abroad experiences, and Mr. Ozawa continued to search for opportunities to study sports business overseas during an era when there were still few people who studied abroad. He said that, during his experience as an American minor league baseball intern, he witnessed the role of sports in America and the realities of racial discrimination. Furthermore, he was very eager to study at Ohio University, and he would sometimes send professors newspaper articles that he had written himself or letters filled with enthusiasm. After being admitted to graduate school, if he became interested in a Japanese book, when he temporarily returned to Japan, he would contact the publisher and go see the author in person.
He said that he often hears from successful people that “they were lucky,” but luck isn’t just based on mere chance – it is also attracted by having the ability to take action and move forward.
Mr. Ozawa joined The Nippon Foundation at the age of 27 and then assumed the position of Chairman’s Secretary at the age of 36. However, in actuality, “Chairman’s Secretary” was a position that didn’t originally exist. He had written “I want to be the Chairman’s secretary” in the margin of a transfer request survey form, which caught the Chairman’s attention, and he was assigned to the position of Secretary. This is another moment when Mr. Ozawa’s tenacious ability to take action led to an unexpected encounter.
After experiences like this, Mr. Ozawa was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of The Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center. In the second half of the lecture, he discussed the Paralympic Support Center’s efforts to realize a “diverse & inclusive” society through parasports as a “glue” that connects diverse individuals.
First, he explained that if Japan was a village of 100 people, then seven of them would be people with disabilities. However, presently it cannot be said that there is sufficient understanding and consideration for people with disabilities. He pointed out that, although there have been some improvements in parasports since the establishment of the Paralympic Support Center in 2015, there are still problems such as a lack of media coverage and a harsh and difficult environment for parasports.
Additionally, in order to change the image of sports for the disabled, the Paralympic Support Center is calling them “parasports“ instead of “sports for the disabled,” which has a poor positive impression, and is spreading the key message of “i enjoy! People who enjoy themselves are stronger.” Other than this, the Paralympic Support Center provides competition groups with joint offices that are both stylish and compatible with universal design, and also has a wide variety of initiatives, such as holding seminars and inviting people with disabilities to be the lecturers.
The Paralympic Games held in London in 2012 were a great success and contributed to the realization of a society where people live together, so, taking that as a precedent, Mr. Ozawa was confident that the Paralympic Support Center’s parasports promotion efforts would be successful.
Finally, he concluded the lecture with the message that “I want you to think about what you can do, not what you can’t do.” This is the attitude of people who devote themselves to parasports, and it also a way of thinking that brings you closer to success.
In your daily life, you may often see the activities of the Nippon Foundation and the Paralympic Support Center, however, there are not often many opportunities like this one to directly hear from the people who are involved in their operations. This valuable lecture was 90 minutes filled with feelings of expectations for the future that parasports will open up and with hints for us to live in this era.
Text: Ryo Yoshima, School of Sport Sciences First Year, VIVASEDA PR Department