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Using the Game Sense Model in Teaching and Coaching

This is an excerpt from Developing Game Sense in Physical Education and Sport by Ray Breed & Michael Spittle.

Our Game Sense Model

Our game sense model is a pedagogical and content approach to developing technical, tactical and strategic skills through modified games in which the teacher or coach is a designer and facilitator. The content of the model describes the use of generic modified small-sided, outcome-based game forms in thematic categories, progressing from simple to more complex games, and then sequenced into a curriculum (session, season and unit plans). Games are representative of the full game or game category in order to create a realistic context for practice. The pedagogy in the model focuses on using games to develop specific learning outcomes. The teacher or coach is a facilitator using a discovery approach that relies on questioning and task constraint manipulation to challenge the learner to develop functional movement solutions (Breed & Spittle, 2011; Zuccolo, Spittle, & Pill, 2014). The teacher or coach creates a challenge by manipulating the task constraints of a game, and questioning encourages learners to become active problem solvers during the games. Task constraint manipulation should also match the game difficulty to the learner’s skill level. Figure 3.1 summarises our game sense model using both a content- and pedagogy-driven approach to developing game skills.

Figure 3.1 The game sense model: A content and pedagogical approach.
Figure 3.1 The game sense model: A content and pedagogical approach.

Using the Game Sense Model in Teaching and Coaching

Teachers and coaches can use the game sense model to present games in themes based on game categories (used mostly by physical education teachers) or to develop sport-specific skills (used mostly by sport coaches). Thus, the game sense model can be used for the following:

  • Teaching in game categories: Using generic small-sided games that are technically and tactically similar assists in transferring skills across sports. Game categories are invasion, striking and fielding, and net and wall.
  • Developing sport-specific skills: Using small-sided games develops technical, tactical and strategic skills within a particular sport. Modifications are made to develop in-focus skills. Examples are creating space to attack, outnumbering the opposition, creating multiple passing options and pressing the defence in football or pushing the opponent deep, opening up one side of the court, and knowing when to serve and volley in tennis.

In chapter 6, the thematic approach is explained: Games are classified as invasion, striking and fielding, and net and wall games based on their tactical similarities. Using these similarities allows the learner to transfer skills and knowledge across different sports within a game category, which can be used as a practical advantage in skill learning.

Figure 3.2 shows how the game sense model can be used in either physical education curricula or in sport. There might be minor differences in the content—for example, thematic versus sport-specific learning, but the pedagogical principles (methods) will be the same. To maximise learning, the teacher or coach should use small-sided designer games, each with clear outcomes, questioning and task constraint manipulation. These concepts will be expanded later in this chapter.

Figure 3.2 Using the game sense model for physical education or sport.
Figure 3.2 Using the game sense model for physical education or sport.

Applying the Game Sense Model

The most important components that enhance tactical learning and develop a game sense approach to teaching and coaching follow:

  • An outcome-based approach (content and pedagogy should relate directly to key learning outcomes)
  • Questioning (to encourage the learner to explore movement solutions)
  • Manipulation of task constraints (to challenge the learner to discover movement solutions)

Game sense is not just about playing games for fun, rather the games need to provide learning opportunities. The teacher or coach should begin with a clear focus on a specific learning outcome, which will inform the game development and game pedagogy adopted. In the following sections, we describe how teachers and coaches can apply the game sense model by presenting and structuring games and following a step-by-step process in facilitating game sense.

Key Point

In game sense, learners are not just playing games. Teachers and coaches are active in manipulating task constraints and using questioning to challenge learners so that game-based practice develops specific learning outcomes.