Unique Educational Project Scores Big with Young Soccer Fans

What do soccer and efforts to promote digital skills in young people have in common? TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. A leading innovator in German soccer, the Bundesliga club recently kicked off Digital Youngsters Workshop, a remarkable initiative combining enthusiasm for the sport with methods of teaching the digital basics. You could say that the children and teenagers who attended were introduced to the latter subject in a “gamified” way.

Today, most youth are already digital natives who know their way around smartphones, social media, and the like. The Digital Youngsters Workshop was therefore designed to reinforce their routine use of these tools with knowledge of how digital content is created in the first place.

TSG Hoffenheim & SAP: Digital Youngsters Workshop

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TSG Hoffenheim & SAP: Digital Youngsters Workshop

One Team, One Goal

The team behind the workshop comprises dedicated employees of TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, representatives from the digitally minded non-governmental organization (NGO) Junge Tüftler, the SAP Global Sponsorships team, and SAP volunteers who were brought on board through the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) team. In putting the Digital Youngsters Workshop together, they combined their particular skills to come up with something truly new.

One thing that made sense was working with soccer metaphors. The jargon of the sport would be like a second language to TSG’s young players and a real advantage in teaching subjects that are largely technical in nature.

The event itself was geared toward ages nine to 16, with members of the TSG Hoffi fan club and the TSG Youngsters team. In keeping with an old German saying, it was going to take 11 friends – or three teams with that many players each, which was the limit for this edition of the workshop.

A Hat Trick of Learning Modules

Attendees had the chance to work on three learning modules based around terms taken straight from the soccer field.

The Teamwork module focused on cooperation and primarily involved coding together, particularly in the context of apps. By the end of the module, the players had put together a ready-to-use survey app. The second module, Tactics, was about using the workshop’s core topic – digital skills – as a key strategic instrument. Through coding, virtual reality, and the creation of 3D models, the participants then had opportunities to discuss the key subjects in this area. This was meant as a prelude to dreaming up and designing the “stadium of the future.” It also laid a visual foundation for the third module, Fun & Games. Here, the players used coding, Calliope mini microcontrollers, and ultrasonic sensors to create something entirely new: a wastebasket that let out a hearty cheer when someone made a shot with a piece of garbage.

SAP volunteers attended two training sessions at the beginning of August, then the three-day workshop took place on August 31 and September 2 and 4. It proved to be time well spent in terms of both learning and having fun for all those who attended, and the materials, technology, and tools used were big reasons why. The open-source software BigBlueButton, for example, presented the learning material in visually appealing ways while providing the necessary webcam support. It also made it possible to communicate with several virtual rooms at once, so event organizers did not have to worry about lulls in the action — every phase was sure to be dynamic.

A special highlight included two surprise guests: On day one, attendees were joined by Hoffenheim midfielder Franziska Harsch, then goalkeeper Philipp Pentke joined the closing festivities to answer their burning questions.

Match-Ready Thanks to a Jam-Packed Box

Several weeks before the workshop itself, training camp started for the participants. Each was sent a Digital Youngsters Workshop Box containing microcontrollers, other electronic components, corresponding arts and crafts materials, and even the right outfit for the event, a Digital Youngsters shirt.

According to the SAP employees involved, things could hardly have gone better. They were very excited as the workshop grew nearer, especially for the “stadium of the future” component, and hoped to learn something along the way themselves. One volunteer had previously worked as a teacher and thus had a fairly good idea of what to expect.

Video Conferencing and One-on-One Coaching Over Chat

During the workshop, the young participants were open-minded and eager to learn. They were also happy to take advantage of the support offered by the mentors. Along with the main video conference, one-on-one chat assistance was available to make sure no one was left warming the bench. “An attentive and engaged atmosphere, solid ideas, and very good results”: As this summary indicates, the SAP coaches were quite satisfied with the proceedings.

The coaches also emphasized just how well the children were already coping with the demands of the digitalized world, especially after attending the workshop. The initiators succeeded in achieving exactly what they had set out to do: show young people that instead of merely consuming content, they can create and shape it themselves using certain fundamental skills. Whether in the digital realm or out on the field, being part of the action isn’t just more fun; it plays an essential role in leading the life you want in an ever-changing world.

Fit for the Future

“Particularly when it comes to getting ready for what’s ahead, innovative projects like this are highly relevant to society,” pointed out Denni Strich, managing director of TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, responsible for communication and media, sales and marketing, and digital performance at the club. “The goal is to take a committed and systematic approach to encouraging young people and introducing them to this kind of material in fun ways. This extraordinary project was very ambitious from the start. Looking back, it really was extremely successful.”

“The Digital Youngsters Workshop gave us the chance to get a glimpse of the future together,” Pia Regine, in charge of programs for children, teenagers, and schools at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, added. “We all want to prepare our kids for the world of tomorrow as best we can, of course, and I’m glad we succeeded in this very special endeavor. All the members of each squad had a lot of fun and learned plenty of new things in the process. We hope we can put something similar together for next year.”

The Digital Youngsters Workshop demonstrated one thing in particular: Like a neat one-two from Kramarić to Baumgartner, Hoffenheim and SAP managed to connect soccer to digital skills in a creative way that really resonated with all those involved. With that, it is safe to say that everyone would be up for a rematch next season!