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Motivations for joining inter-university sports clubs in Tokyo
It is well documented that many individuals can use sports to build social or professional networks, form communities of practice, and claim or develop their sense of identity. Sports can also be an effective means of connecting people from different backgrounds and building sense of solidarity while eliminating social, educational and professional hierarchies and stigma. This presentation reports on research examining why Japanese students from a women’s university in Tokyo joined team-sports clubs offered by other universities in the area. Data collected from interviews and focus groups shows that there are numerous reasons for joining such sports groups. In addition, there are many distinct benefits, both realized and perceived. In terms of benefits enjoyed, joining sports clubs has proved an effective way to increase their social circle, form romantic connections that were not available during their school life, and build a sense of solidarity and connection, something which was especially beneficial to students who had just move to the sprawling and “lonely” metropolis that is Tokyo. In addition, for some, joining such sports clubs allowed them to maintain their identities, but for others, it was a means of creating entirely new identities. In addition, there were numerous perceived extrinsic benefits that participants felt would be helpful when job hunting and after graduation, for example, building wider professional networks and gaining transferable skills.