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Why is Japan absolutely dominant in softball?


We've (Team USA Softball) has lost to Japan in the past two Olympic Gold Medal games and it's about time we talk about WHY!

None other than Olympic Gold and Silver Medalist, Natasha Watley, is the PERFECT person to ask this question to as she has spent the last 13 years (after her 2008 Silver Medal) playing and now coaching in Japan inside their professional league.

The Japanese culture have mastered these two things:

DISCIPLINE - They practice 6+ hour practices every single day and they treat it as a full-time JOB which it is!

RESPECT - not only do they bow to the field before every practice and game they compete in, they give the most respect to the game by becoming as great as they can be at it. --and THAT is their biggest motivation


Now you may not know this, but teams in Japan are owned by LARGE corporations (like Honda and Toyota which we've all heard of) and their pro teams are a large line item in their budget because their mission is to be able to "breed" the best athletes into their national team...NOT to make money.

And since their league began in the '90's, it is JUST NOW starting to try a new model in 2022 to build money because they now have the fans, the means and the funds to do so. 

Japan thinks "big picture" in every aspect of what they do, which makes total sense why they've been able to be so successful (in my opinion).


Players form the USA like Monica Abbott, Michelle Smith and Natasha Watley have been playing in their professional league since the early '90's for reasons of their own but also because 1) They can PAY their athletes a full-time salary and 2) Because the competitiveness in their league is at an all-time high, and the players who go there grow there.

Maybe it's the 6 hour practices along with the 1-2 hour post practice personal work they put in or the fact that they're a well-oiled machine that takes CARE of the athletes in their system, but (again my opinion) no athlete has ever gone to play in Japan and has gotten worse...they have ALL gotten better.

Maybe I'm biased, but I believe the USA has the most talented softball players in the world, but a league that supports these athletes and allows them to continue their careers and actually make money they DESERVE to does not exist yet. (Hopeful for the new WPF league and I have high hopes for it!)

Which is WHY I had to have this conversation with Tash...to get her perspective on how THEY (Japan) do what they do and what needs to happen in the USA for us to become the dominant nation when it comes to softball.

There's SO MUCH to unpack from this episode, but here are a few key time stamps from the episode "Natasha Watley: Baserunning tips and why Japan is SO DOMINANT in Softball" highlighted:

    • 4:35 - Natasha's emotional take on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics 
    • 10:35 - Why she chose to play in Japan, and why she kept on going back these past 13 years
    • 21:00 - What does a year of playing and practicing in Japan look like?
    • 28:44 - How Japanese athletes are able to stay motivated to practice
    • 29:50 - Her top reasons why she believes the Japanese professional model has been extremely successful
    • 39:16 - Drills that their hitters and defenders spend the most time on
    • 50:00 - Where to start to become a better baserunner
    • 59:52 - Why she LOVES practice (from a player and coach perspective)


I hope this episode brings light to a conversation that is well overdue! Thank you for listening and being part of the (almost) 30K Downloads of When the Cleats Come Off Podcast!

You can find this entire episode with Natasha Watley on your favorite podcast platform!

Apple Podcasts


Google Podcasts

 And you can now watch this full interview on YouTube:



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