Japan Leadership Development Program

Explore Japan Using Rowing as a Bridge

This is a unique exchange program. Imagine yourself rowing with Japanese juniors in Kyoto, a city that is over 1,000 years old and considered the heart of Japan. You’ll pass (and later visit) Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples, where you will meet and speak with Zen monks. Speak, train, and spend a few nights with Japanese juniors who are as passionate about your sport as you are - but live different lives. Ride bullet trains, visit Hiroshima and Tokyo. Before the program ends, your group will attempt to summit the 12,388 foot Mount Fuji - at sunrise. 

Challenge Your Awareness

With a beginner's mind, you will develop perspective on yourself as an athlete and an individual during this program You’ll emerge a more aware, independent, and resilient person - qualities that lend to better leadership skills.

This program is about utilizing the rowing community for personal growth - and requires athletes to arrive in Japan with that intention. Physiological and technical performance benefit is better found at our New Zealand (rowers) and Holland (coxswains) programs.  

Have no doubt: grappling with the differences in culture and language and drawing insight from them over your time in Japan will be challenging and exhausting. The challenge of camp is to continue to keep your mind open as you develop your awareness as you utilize the sport and the group to gain perspective on the world and yourself. 

As you summit Mount Fuji at the end of camp and look down at Tokyo, you’ll look back at an intense time of realization, reflection, and insight into a place about as far from home as you can get - and recognize the experience could not have given you all that it did without the sport or the group.

Determing if You're A Fit

It is the desire to use rowing to gain a greater perspective on how you relate to the world that characterizes ideal Japan program athletes. 

Talent is relative: the rowing aspect of this program does not require high levels of talent - but mandates intelligence, thoughtfulness, responsibility, and humility.

Finally, one hour of college counseling with any of our experienced team of former Olympians and Division I coaches (normally $400) is included upon completion of the program.

If you have questions, we're happy to speak further. 

Click the bottom right corner to send us a message, or setup a time to talk below.

Set Up A Call To Talk Further

Japan Leadership Development Program

Dave Payne

Sparks Experiential Learning Director

Dave heads Sparks’ Experiential Education Program. Before assuming the overall Director of Camps position, Dave spent three southern hemisphere winters directing the Sparks Development Program in Dunedin, New Zealand. Prior to his time in New Zealand, Dave spent five summers as a counselor and programming director for an immersion program for domestic and international high school students; three in Boston and two in Florence. After completing a successful rowing career at UCSD, Dave worked his first coaching job at Gippsland Grammar in Australia. He has served as a high school rowing coach and teacher in San Diego and New York City. He currently teaches at an IB middle school in Washington DC, maintaining his deep passion for education, both domestically and abroad.

Ryan Sparks

CEO, Sparks Consulting

Ryan is the founder and CEO at Sparks. Prior to starting his company, he worked as a coach at Yale and Wesleyan Universities as well as Bates College. He also worked as an assistant on the elite level in Germany and the US. He dropped out of a Ph.D. program in organizational communication to coach at Yale, but remains fascinated with culture and its role in human development. His specific interest stems from how cultural values intersect with character development. Ryan rowed in high school, initially went to the wrong school for his undergraduate - and ended up working through the transfer process to row in college after he realized the value of the sport in his life. 

Japan Leadership Development Program

  • Who:  Experienced athletes aged 14-18 who can demonstrate high maturity.
  • When:  June 20-30, 2020
  • Size:  12 students is the maximum size. 
  • Cost:  $3,695
  • Where:  Tokyo, Kyoto, and Mount Fuji. 
  • Questions: We'd be glad to speak with you; click on the live chat in the bottom right corner.
  • Apply: The program requires a writing sample and video interview after tution deposit for admission. At Sparks, we admit students for their ability to contribute to the community and see performance as a by-product. 
  • Camp Forms: Camp Forms may be found on your dashboard within 6 weeks of camp. 
  • Supervision:  The small program allows for close overwatch, but this is a leadership development program and as such, requires a high degree of proactive responsibility and independence.
  • Refunds and Cancellation: Refunds minus a $800 deposit are available until a month before camp. As a policy, we also reserve the right to cancel programming and issue a full refund up to 30 days prior to program start. 

If you have questions, we're happy to speak further. 

Click the bottom right corner to send us a message, or setup a time to talk below.

Set Up A Call To Talk Further

Japan Leadership Development Program

Who May Apply

A tendency to thoughtfulness and humility are – specifically – a requirement to find enjoyment here. Japan athletes musbe able to relate on a passable level with Japenese juniors and demonstrate a level of maturity that will enable them to continually and consistently draw perspective from their experience in Japan for their own and the group's benefit. 

Our programming is open to all regardless of speed. More important to us is your ability to live, train, and support others in a community committed to utilizing challenge for personal growth. This is unlike a traditional training camp in that your self-awareness will be challenged. Personal improvements in speed are a byproduct of a larger process meant to enable athletes to utilize their self-awareness in a leadership capacity. 

At Sparks, we believe healthy community is the goal and indi performance is a by-product.

Sparks Japan Admissions Process

Step 1: Submit the initial program application.

Step 2: Make the full program tuition deposit; we will accept the deposit to hold your place pending a positive admissions review. 

Step 3: Write a 500 word essay discussing a humbling experience and what it taught you. The experience does not have to be rowing related. We are interested in your ability to support yourself and others, your thoughtfulness, and your ability to work in community to overcome challenge. The essay will goto the Japan Program Director. 

Step 4: Video conference with Japan Program Director

Jun 20 2020 - Jun 30 2020

Japan Leadership Development Program Tuition Deposit
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Japan Leadership Development Program

After a light introduction to Japanese prior to departure, you will board a flight that crosses the international dateline. 

After you arrive in Tokyo, we'll board a "Shinkansen" or bullet train with speeds up to 200 mph (320 km/h) to Kyoto, where the group will settle into group housing to row with Japenese juniors. 

The first big difference you'll encounter is the food. Yes, everyone is familiar with sushi - but Japanese food goes far beyond that. 

You'll also have the opportunity to visit Bhuddist Temples, speak with Zen Monks, and attend the Kubuki theatre as you experience the old side of Japan. Meanwhile, you'll do an overnight homestay with a Japanese junior to get a sense of what it is to live in their shoes - and the only comonality you'll initially share is rowing. 

The group will reflect on these experiences and this is where you'll find home during time in Japan. There will be many differences, but the question is what perspective that provides to you on the world and yourself. There will opportunities for group leadership as your seek to extend the awareness you're developing beyond rowing. 

We'll visit Hiroshima and potentially provide students with the opportunity to design their own quest to enable them to take control of navigation in Japan.

Finally, we'll depart Kyoto in the morning for Mount Fuji and climb to a station on the mountain to wait for midnight or just after to begin our summit attempt. If all goes well, we'll summit Fuji on your last day in Japan at sunrise. 

We'll spend the last night in Tokyo, experiencing Tokyo rush hour and visiting the electronics district to see the modern side of the country before you bid goodbye to your group and program leader for the flight home. 

If you have questions, we're happy to speak further. 

Click the bottom right corner to send us a message, or setup a time to talk below.

Set Up A Call To Talk Further

Japan Leadership Development Program

Frequently Asked Questions

What level of experience is necessary for camp?

Please see the "Determining If You're A Fit" Section under the Camp Overview tab and the "Who May Apply" section under the "Register" tab. 

This camp is not like other rowing camps in that a particular level of competency is required - but, that said, a solid level of engagement with the sport as well as a particular level of maturity is required for it to be beneficial. 

What differientiates Sparks camps?

We are the only camp in rowing with a full-time staff that has academic and professional backgrounds in experiential education. We also have a summer operations staff (many are returners that teach during the school year) who buy into the idea of personal growth at camp not just for campers - but for themselves as well.

The result is a culture sincerely committed to the power of rowing as a personally transformative experience built on vulnerability, thoughtfulness, responsibility, and initiative. 

This does not mean other camps are relatively inferior; in fact, we feel such a perspective is not helpful. The camp needs to fit the athlete. Our focus is on utilizing rowing to create self-awareness for our camp community.

Where are camp forms found?

Camp forms are issued at least six weeks prior to camp on our site via your dashboard.

Tell me about safety at Sparks.

We employ safety and risk management practices from the adventure education industry, where some risk is inherent but must be quantified insofar as educational value. These practices are initially employed in program design and we work hard to train operations staff to seek to maintain an awareness of specific risks at all times. No outdoors programming can guarantee safety, however professional management of risk is key to the art of providing consistently excellent experiential education programming.