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2 June 2006

Manfred Lautenschläger and Dietmar Hopp Support Unique Talent Project in the Metropolitan Region

The media and the public are cordially invited to attend the press conference on 21 June at 11 a.m. — The youth promotion centres "Anpfiff fürs Leben", the Mannheim Adler, the SG Kronau/Östringen and the USC Heidelberg present a joint model for the encouragement of sporting talent

The "big four" among the ball-game clubs in the Metropolitan Region have decided to go it together. The youth promotion centres "Anpfiff furs Leben" (soccer), the Mannheim Adler (ice hockey), the SG Kronau/Östringen (handball) and the USC Heidelberg (basketball) are now in a position to present their joint model for the encouragement of sporting talent in youngsters. It is based on the nationally and internationally acknowledged "Heidelberg Ball School" scheme based on the research work done by Prof. Dr. Klaus Roth at the University of Heidelberg's Institute of Sport and Sport Science. Alongside the encouragement of talented youngsters it provides age-specific mobility enhancement opportunities for over 3,000 elementary school pupils in the Metropolitan Region.

The programme itself is unique in Germany and quite possibly unprecedented anywhere in the world. From now on, the encouragement of sporting talent provided by top-ranking clubs for four different team sports will no longer be competitive but cooperative. By autumn 2006 a regional network of partner elementary schools will have come into being. In 2007 it is to be extended to encompass a total of 50 participating schools. Project leaders Prof. Dr. Klaus Roth, Dr. Daniel Memmert and Anton Nagl will not be starting from scratch but have existing forms of cooperation to build on. In late June 2006 a competition will enable further schools to apply. The overall organiser of the project is Thorsten Damm, an academically trained sport instructor and former professional soccer-player.

Phase 1: Sport for everyone

The approach underlying the Heidelberg Ball School is not only watertight in scientific terms, it has also been tested in practice. As of now, all children in the first and second forms of the participating schools will be able to profit from it in addition to their normal physical instruction classes. The aim of the project is "more mobility for more children". Just like Capri-Sonne and BASF, the long-standing and new partners of the Ball School, Manfred Lautenschläger and Dietmar Hopp are not interested in unilateral encouragement for kids who are good at sport. Their declared objective is to make a noticeable contribution to the "fight" against the lack of exercise that is demonstrably typical for the average German youngster.

The significance of sport for child development is uncontested. In purely motoric terms German children are not "fit for PISA". In the last few decades their competitiveness in this respect has been going downhill. A comparative intercultural study on general motoricity was completed earlier this year by the dean of the Faculty of Empirical and Cultural Studies, Prof. Dr. Klaus Roth, and Dr. Christina Hahn. Germany's youngsters came last but one, well behind their counterparts in South Africa, Japan and Brazil. The fact that these deficits have repercussions on health and impair cognitive learning abilities is clearly documented in the data collected from numerous studies on elementary school children.

The philosophy behind the Heidelberg Ball School is that "children are all-rounders and not miniature adults". It revolves around general training in versatility with the feet, the hands and various bats/racquets. The children learn the ABC of game-playing (tactics, coordination, technique) modelled on the street games culture that is now largely dying out. The programme is conducted twice a week by specially trained instructors.

Phase 2: Talent encouragement for gifted (interested) children

At the end of the second form, the children are evaluated for talent. Talented children are offered more advanced tuition involving a degree of specialisation. Depending on their specific gifts and interests they can decide in favour of "goal games" or "throwing games". In this way the basic "sport for everyone" approach can develop into a promotion project for creative young ball-artists. These children acquire a broader repertoire of tactical and technical competencies facilitating access to the world of fully-fledged ball games at a later stage. In the "goal games" sector they concentrate on games involving footwork and the use of bats/racquets/sticks (e.g. hockey), while the "throwing games" focus on the use of the hand. These courses will be offered at 10 to 15 selected elementary schools located at places that can be reached by all interested children without having to cover long distances to get there.

At the end of the third form, the children are offered demonstrations and trial memberships by the youth promotion centres "Anpfiff furs Leben" and the Young Mannheim Adler in the "goal games" category, and by SG Kronau/Östringen and the USC Heidelberg in the "throwing games" sector. From the fourth form on, the most talented children are then admitted to training groups for specific games, thus completing the transition from basic education to specific training.

Note: According to the latest scientific findings in connection with sport training, specialisation in a particular sport at the age of 10 to 11 is not too late. However, it is the task of the Ball School instructors to motivate gifted children to take part in parallel training courses offered by sports clubs from the first form onwards. The objective in this respect is to establish a second network of participating clubs.

This "Lautenschläger-Hopp model" deals with two major problems that normally interfere with talent scouting and talent encouragement in its conventional form. First, it avoids the situation where schools 1,2,3 … only keep a look-out for soccer talents, while schools 4,5,6 … concentrate on potential handball wizards. There is little point in this procedure. Talent is widely distributed in every school. Second, it is difficult for one individual sports club to provide the kind of all-purpose encouragement that a "ball school" can supply. Normally, the kind of talent promotion they can offer is geared to the sport they represent. In the present project it might even be the case that, say, a handball club will train children for other kinds of sport. The cooperative structure means that all talents of whatever kind will be spotted and encouraged in the promotion system involving the four participating clubs.

Invitation to the press conference

A public press conference has been organised to mark the start of the project.
Time: Wednesday, 21 June, 11 a.m.
Location: Institute of Sport and Sport Science of the University of Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 700 (lecture hall), 69120 Heidelberg

Dr. Michael Schwarz (press officer of the University of Heidelberg, president USC Heidelberg).

We extend a very cordial invitation to the media and the public to attend this press conference. Please announce the event in your publications/programmes. After the conference there will be snacks and drinks. The participants will be happy to answer any questions you may wish to put to them.

Please notify us if you intend to come.

Please address any inquiries to:
Prof. Dr. Klaus Roth,
Institute of Sport and Sport Science,
University of Heidelberg,
Im Neuenheimer Feld 720,
69120 Heidelberg
phone: 06221/544642 or 544340, fax: 544346

Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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