So how are coaches able to use a game based approach within sessions effectively? Well below I have attached a video comparing two coaches and the way their coaching styles differ when using a game based approach.

After watching the video two to three times, I started to jot down notes to pick out the key messages of the video and how the coaches approach differed from one another and how did it affect the players performing?

I found coach ones approach was very instructive through demonstration and telling the players the position they “have” to stand in and how to hold the racket when playing a specific shot. Chelladurai (1993) focuses upon coach-athlete focus and belives coaching is “in essence the art and science of decision making”. Do I think coach one’s approach to the session is enabling the players to make their own decision’s? No and although the session claims to be realistic to a game, the coach wouldn’t be there during a game instructing his players what positions to stand in and how to hit the ball so why do it during sessions?.

The instruction throughout the session is taking away the opportunity for the players to make decisions, be creative and take risks without the coach correcting them every time they don’t use the “correct” technique they were shown. The FA Futures game quoted “A young player who is made the feel confident, capable and trusted to be creative will have a greater chance of fuffiling their potential than one who feels afraid to fully express themselves”. To which I feel sums up the session produced by coach one on the video, instructing players to perform a shot in a specific way shown by himself and correcting if the technique shown to them wasn’t correct. So, the technique wasn’t the same as what he showed them but the result was what he wanted, do you intervene and correct the player?

So how did coach two’s approach differ? When watching the video one thing stood out for me more than anything with coach two, the opportunity he gave the players to practice in a game based situation with no instruction on how to play a specific shot. Instead he used questioning to pick the players knowledge on how to overcome certain situations and when they may play a certain shot, he then provided them with an environment to play in a game like situation. For me, I found this approach extremely more beneficial for the players compared to the approach taken by coach one, (Thorpe, 1992) quoted “when there is an emphasis on drill, children are often turned off, with their greater emphasis on game play, such alternative teaching approaches can be more motivating” which backs up the approach used by coach two. By using a game approach, the players were challenged to think about what they were doing and why. It places the focus of a lesson on the student in a game situation where cognitive skills such as tactics, decision-making and problem solving are critical.

Traditional Coaching v Games Based Approach

Traditional Approach

Games based Approach

Warm Up

Warm Up

Skills Practice

Game followed by questioning

Repeated Drills

Play Analysis (tactical/ technical)

Small sided Games/ Game

Game followed by questioning Repeat Cycle

Cool Down

Cool Down

How does the model comparing the “traditional” coaching approach compared to a game based approach relate to my coaching process?

During my session I try extremely hard to ensure each individual is engaged in my sessions, having fun and learning. One thing I used to hear every week when I began coaching “When are we having a game?” but now I would be extremely surprised to hear that question…. That being I try to make every session game based, I try to give my players the opportunity to play in game like situations when they are made to think for themselves rather than me giving them the answers. I often think to myself why should I stand here and instruct players on what to do and when to do it? its their game so let them play it.

One quote I hear all the time throughout sport – “Let the game be the teacher”. I couldn’t agree more, the best way players will learn is by giving them the opportunity to play the game and letting them learn for themselves.

Reference list:

1)Chelladurai, P. (1993). Leadership. In R.N. Singer, M. Murphy, & L.K. Tennant(Eds.), Handbook of research on sport psychology (pp. 647-67 1). New York [Accessed 13th November 2015]

2) Available at: [Accessed 13th November 2015]

3)Thorpe, R. (1992). The psychological factors underpinning the ‘teaching for understanding games’ movement. In T. Williams,L.,Almond,&A.Sparkes(Eds.), Sport and physical actiuity: Moving towards excellence (pp. 209-218). London: Spon.

4)Coaching through small-sided games [Available at:] [Accessed 13th November 2015]


One thought on “Playing to learn

  1. This is an excellent discussion and reflects the level of commitment you are demonstrating to support your development as a coach. In your own coaching try to consider how you might manipulate the game in order to illicit or encourage certain skills.
    Keep this level of work up and you will attract the highest grades. Well done

    Liked by 2 people

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