INSPIRE: Using Self Organized Learning Environments In Youth Soccer Coaching


Using S.O.L.E’s In Youth Soccer Development
(Self-Organized Learning Environment- SOLE )

There hasn’t been a huge shake up in youth soccer coaching in a very long time. Yes, we have progressed in many ways since I was a kid, but nothing that is a total game changer has been introduced for years. This is where the concept of self-organized learning environments or minimally invasive learning comes into play. There is virtually no research about this when it comes to sports. However, based up my own experiences I am confident that creating and implementing self-organized learning environments or SOLEs into soccer will greatly change the way we develop and coach players. Soccer-centered SOLEs may very well lead to a major turning point in youth soccer development. I understand that this is a big statement but there are already many proven examples of how and why SOLEs work so well. What I am presenting is an easy way to introduce this concept of learning directly into your current soccer curriculum. If you prefer to keep your current curriculum go ahead and keep it, but base it around SOLEs. Before I get into the details of how exactly to implement self-organized learning environments into the soccer curriculum, let me cover a few specifics: What exactly is a SOLE and how does it work?

What is a SOLE & How Does it Work?
The concept of self-organized learning environments was invented by Dr. Sugatra Mitra, a physicist and educational researcher. The concept started out as something called “minimally invasive learning” but now it is referred to as a SOLE. SOLE learning requires children to organize themselves and structure their own learning. using external resources usually the internet.
Basics of SOLE Learning Today:
. Children should be put into teams of 4-5 students each. It is beneficial to have a few teams working in a room together so that they can share ideas and knowledge.
. Each team should have one “captain” or “team leader” who is in charge of keeping order in the group. Allowing all members to contribute and collaborate.
. Each team should have access to one computer preferably with a widescreen monitor.
. Children that are computer savvy can start working right away on the given task. If they have no computer experience then some of the earlier time is spent figuring out how to use the computer. One of Dr. Mitra’s first experiments involved putting a computer in the wall of a slum in India to see how quickly the children in that neighborhood would pick up basic computer skills. Not only did these children lack computer skills, they didn’t speak English; yet, they not only figured out how to use the computer, they taught themselves and other English.
. Children should be allowed to switch to another team at any time (trade).
. Children can attempt to recruit any student to join their team that they want but it must be a trade with another group to keep group numbers even.
. The groups are given a question by the teacher and asked to “go find the answer”. The students are not guided or coached after that point. They are just given encouragement from a mentor/teacher, internet access and the members of their group to work with.
. Younger kids even taught older kids as they browsed the internet, sent email and played video games.
. Children can go over to other teams to observe what they are working on. They should not feel competitive with the other teams. Rather it should be seen as a positive thing to make sure the entire class succeeds.
. After a set amount of time the groups will present their results to the class as a whole.

Role of the Teacher/Mentor in a SOLE
The role of the teacher is to offer encouragement and praise, for example saying things like “you worked very hard”, “I am so impressed with you” or “I didn’t know that at your age”; “I am very impressed you found that out”. When running a S.O.L.E there is no such thing as a bad question from a student. All students must feel free and be encouraged to ask as many questions as possible of the teacher or each other. However, the teacher should never directly answer the child’s question with the final answer. Teachers will ask the children to dig a little deeper or ask them if they can look in a different place to find out more information. If the children are stuck and need a hint, the teacher can give one but it is better if the teacher says something like, “I am here for you to help in anyway, but my hope is you can do as much as this on your own with your group”.

These guidelines for SOLEs are in place for a reason. For example, allowing children to leave their group and join another prevents one child from dominating the group or another child. With regard to team size, if teams have too few group members then interaction will not be encouraged enough, which is crucial for the learning style to work. It was also found that when children were offered “easy” compared to “hard” questions, they tend to choose the “easy” questions if they were alone. However, teams or groups were more inclined to choose the “hard” questions. Lastly, using one-computer per/group forces kids to share, collaborate, communicate and come up with their own rules and roles. Collaboration is one of the cornerstones of why this learning method works.