Exploring a Games Based Approach to Coaching

Coaching can be performed in a variety of different ways, with each and every sports coach having their own approach and views as to what they think is best, but why do so many coaches opt to instantly get the agility ladders and cones out straight away at the start of their sessions? Although this might make the session look organised, and to untrained parents the kids might look to be improving and it look like a great session, is this really best for improving the participants?

Games Based Pic

It was identified in an England Athletics study looking into why 16-19 year olds drop out of sport, where one of the key areas was coaches, and in particular coaches not making the sessions fun anymore (Tinsley, 2012), this is also backed up through more literature and other research studies (Dangi & Witt, 2016; Kelley & Carchia, 2016; O’Sullivan, 2015). Also, through sticking to traditional coaching methods using cones etc. and drills, the players aren’t getting the most out of each session, if a coach had players just stood passing to each other forwards and backwards they are only working on their passing skills. However, if the coach was to incorporate passing into a modified game, the players would be primarily working on passing but also working on all other skills required in football at the same time. Gabbett et al, (2009) supports this and states that using game based sessions is an effective alternative to drills and a method of conditioning for team sports.

Using play practice as a coach promotes commitment to the activity you are delivering because people actually want to play and get involved, and young people particularly are far more likely to get actively involved in the session (Launder, 2001). Not only this, but the players are experiencing what its like to perform the skill in the pressure of a real game situation, with the interferences that come from opposition still in play. Not only this but it is preparing them for real game movements, how many times do we see a football player pass the ball and simply stand still waiting to receive the ball?

A game based approach to coaching was initially introduced as a result of coaches struggling to maintain motivation levels amongst their athletes and keeping them focused and on task in training (Martens, 1996). As a coach or a teacher, we hear the players ask every session “coach can we play a game at the end” or “if we do this well can we play a game” so why don’t we allow them to play games more and incorporate the skill we are trying to develop into these game based sessions.

As a sports coach, or anyone involved in sport, we must remember what we are competing against when getting children involved and active in sports, almost every child has a smartphone, PlayStation, iPad and a big screen TV. If you 100 children if they’d rather go out and stand in a muddy field in the cold, whilst a coach screams at them while they struggle to do a complex drill the coach has set up with his fancy cones, ladders and markers; or if they’d rather sit on the sofa in their dressing gown with a hot chocolate and some sweets playing PlayStation against friends- I’m sure the vast majority would choose the later option. This is just way games-based approach can help sports, they don’t only help to improve already high achieving athletes, but encourage children to get out there and give sports a go because they actually play games and have fun.

In my own coaching I love to use game based sessions, and focus on one particular aspect of the game, I will regularly use conditions in the game or modified games to suit what I am trying to coach, and although the children are naturally more motivated I remind them to keep working hard otherwise we could do a more ‘traditional old-school’ lesson. In my opinion any aspect of a team-game can be coached through game-based sessions, even aspects such as aerobic endurance can be coached through a modified game, why have a player just running round in circles when you can have them running the same distance with a ball at their feet.


Reference List:

  • Dangi, T. and Witt, P.A., 2016. Parenting styles and positive youth development.Youth Development İnitiative,(41)1.
  • Gabbett, T., Jenkins, D. and Abernethy, B., 2009. Game-based training for improving skill and physical fitness in team sport athletes. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching4(2), pp.273-283.
  • Kelley, B. and Carchia, C., 2013. Hey, data data–swing!.ESPN the Magazine11. Retrieved From: http://www.espn.com/espn/story/_/id/9469252/hidden-demographics-youth-sports-espn-magazine
  • Launder, A.G., 2001.Play practice: The games approach to teaching and coaching sports. Human Kinetics.
  • Tinsley, L., 2012. Investigating reasons for sport drop-out amongst 16-19 year old girls.
  • Martens, R., 1996. Successful coaching 4th edition. Human Kinetics.
  • O’Sullivan, J. (2015) Why Kids Quit Sports. Changing the Game Project. Retrieved from http://changingthegameproject.com/why-kids-quit-sports/

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