Program offers youth a kickstart

"There's so much more these kids can learn than just drills and winning at all costs," says Education Asst. Prof. Harry Hubball

by Hilary Thomson staff writer

Ask Harry Hubball about learning environments at UBC and he won't point to a lecture theatre or a lab. He'll take you onto a soccer field. The assistant professor of Curriculum Studies in the Faculty of Education has developed an advanced soccer education pilot program for nine-year-old boys that puts education research into practice.

"I want kids to remember their early soccer involvement as a positive experience," says Hubball, who has volunteered as a Point Grey community soccer coach for the last three years and whose son participates in the advanced program. "This program goes far beyond intense competition--there's so much more these kids can learn than just drills and winning at all costs."

Hubball created the 12-player team called INTERubc last October after parents encouraged him to start an advanced team development and soccer skills program. The program is based on the model of learning found in the UBC Faculty Certificate Program on Teaching in Higher Education, which Hubball spearheaded.

Like the certificate program, the indoor/outdoor soccer education pilot integrates a variety of learning strategies including teamwork and leadership skills, video analysis, self-reflection and assessment.

A key element of the program is the development of a personal soccer portfolio that contains goal-setting and journal reflections on individual and team progress, player's match reports, a videotape of their games, and soccer-related research worksheets.

The ethics of fair play are emphasized throughout the program.

Each player also receives e-mail or fax homework delivered to his parents so they can participate in further learning beyond the weekly team meetings. Homework includes review of game videos where players are asked to analyse specific points of play.

Student teacher volunteers from the Faculty of Education assist with coaching development. Most activities take place at Osborne Gym and field on campus and include parents as active participants.

Road trips, alternative physical activities and team participation in the Sun Run round out the program.

Sound like a lot of work for a nine-year-old?

"These kids love it--their enthusiasm is amazing," says Scott Robertson, volunteer assistant coach and fifth-year Education student. "And they see the work pays off because INTERubc is a successful team."

INTERubc players understand the passion of soccer and the team spirit that other young players do not develop until much later in their playing careers, Robertson adds.

The team recently won the Under-9 Select Team League Tournament at Burnaby, competing with teams from White Rock, Tsawwassen and Maple Ridge.

The benefits of being a part of INTERubc include more than a trophy, however.

"The kids have fun and really develop critical thinking skills, they've been exposed to a healthy, ethical sport environment and they have their portfolio as a tangible product of their soccer accomplishments," says Hubball.

He hopes to have elements of the soccer education program incorporated into the B.C. Youth Soccer program. The findings will be incorporated into a research project looking at critical factors that affect learning in a coaching education program.

After playing teams in the U.S., parents and players finished the season with a camping trip. Their next season starts in September.