After playing soccer in Japan for three years, Kat Johnson ’18 said she wants to bring her sense of competition to the Marlborough varsity soccer team.
“The Marlborough Team is special because I get to play with my friends, but I also take practice and games very seriously due to the discipline in Japan. I think I can bring an intensity to the team where we are friends off the field, but have a job to accomplish on the field.”
After finding her passion for soccer in the United States playing for AYSO and multiple club teams, Johnson carried her skill on into a completely new environment for an entirely different experience. When she was entering the seventh grade, her family moved to Tokyo, Japan, for her dad’s job.
She credits this time abroad with new insights about the sport.
“It taught me that the love of soccer is truly universal as I was able to connect with these girls through the sport” Johnson said.
She hopes to bring this passion, drive and love for the sport back to the Marlborough team to spread amongst the other girls.
Aside from just the language, Johnson explained that she had to learn the importance of respect when playing on a Japanese team.
“Respect for the owner, respect for the coaches, respect for referees, and most importantly respect for the more senior players on the team,” said Johnson.
Johnson said the sport was an intense practice of etiquette and respect that she was not used to playing in America, and she added that her knees were constantly bloody from accidentally disrespecting the older players.
“We would bow to the referees and parents before and after games. During practices if the older players felt like you did not respect them, they would show you who was boss and knock you down in the dirt,” Johnson said.
Although Johnson will not bring the hazing of younger players to the Marlborough team, she hopes that she is instilling respect among the team.
Johnson commented that the training in Japan was extremely rigorous and intense compared to American soccer.
While she was in Tokyo, Johnson reached great success in her soccer career. After her second year playing for her club team, FC Komazawa, Johnson was awarded the MVP of the All Tokyo League, a great honor. Additionally, in her final year she earned the team’s “captain band” for respect.
In ninth grade, Johnson played varsity and broke the long standing “Goals in a Season” at the American School in Japan with 35 goals. Her team went undefeated in the Kanto league, and she was named the MVP. She also played at the Far East tournament in Okinawa against teams all over Japan, Guam, and Korea where she won the Golden Boot with 15 goals and was named the Stars and Stripes Newcomer Athlete of the Year.
Besides the practices and training being very rigorous, the culture shock made camp even harder for Johnson.
“The strangest experience I had during camp was the communal baths where we bathed after our long days of training. [Japanese hot springs] were a shock to me at first, but after three years of bathing with your teammates, best friends and my mother, I don’t even think twice about it.”
Johnson did her best to immerse herself in the culture and partake in every activity and ritual the other girls did, but she was still seen as an oddity in Tokyo.
“People constantly touched my hair, I was stared at, asked for pictures, I was called egg colored, I was told I have a tall nose, and I was told I was fat like all Americans” said Johnson. She said that the things said were sometimes hurtful, but she understood that it was just because she was foreign to them.
Johnson described the whole experience as incredibly eye opening and full of learning.
“I learned that I can persevere under challenging situations, that respecting others culture and belief systems is a lesson we should all adhere to, and that you should never be afraid of an adventure,” Johnson said.