Award Year: 

AJ Koikoi (PiA 16-17) is coordinating with institutions in rural Okayama, Japan to virtually connect student-athletes to engage in virtual sports development while also creating bonds through cross-cultural exchange.

AJ’s connection to Japan started in the 6th grade when he began studying the Japanese language and culture. He first visited Japan in 2016 through a PiA teaching Fellowship teaching English at a liberal arts University (Notre Dame Seishin). In addition to teaching English, AJ also coached multiple sports programs including the basketball and track and field team. He also joined the local American football team as a player and coach.

With support from the Carriebright grant, AJ created Danketsu: which means unity in Japanese. The mission of Danketsu is to mediate a virtual in-depth cultural exchange through sports, while also connecting institutions with the common goal of growing global citizens. Student-athletes at Notre Dame Seishin and Kibi Kokusai University are paired with Universities and high school sports teams in the United States. The teams hold a dialogue throughout the year exchanging letters, pictures, and videos (including film of practice, drills and even games). These conversations allow students to gain a deeper appreciation of how cultural perspectives influence their shared interest of sports. Participants of Danketsu leave the program with a greater wealth of technical and tactical sports knowledge as well as a deeper appreciation of a different culture. To learn more, please visit the Danketsu website.

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