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Teaching Games For Understanding | Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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Posted in: All other coaching children topics

Teaching Games For Understanding

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  • Richard_Smith

    As I progress through my Lv2 Coaching Children's Cricket Qualification I hear The Phrase "Teaching Games For Understanding" on a regular basis from both my Mentor and the coaches I coach with at my Club 

    My understanding of TGFU is that the coach puts the players into a game situation and presents them game issue that needs resolving. The input from the coach is then minimal, allowing the players to solve the issue for themselves 

    Is my understanding of TGFU too simplistic or is it about right ?????

  • andrewb62

    Hi Richard

    I don’t know what is being taught now, but what we were presented with on TGFU when I took the L2 in 2011, and again in the post-level 2 workshops (2014), did perhaps miss some of the nuances of games-based learning.

    There seem to be two strands (I’m sure there are more...I can barely cope with two) - constraints-led and TGFU (or “game sense”).

    In the former, the playing environment is manipulated to reward a particular (desired) behaviour. In a batting game, for example, scoring bonus zones can be set to encourage the players to deploy a particular stroke - double runs for hitting the ball straight back down the pitch, say. The challenge for the player is to solve the problems set by the modified game.  Obvious, direct coaching interventions might be limited to coaching or demonstrating a specific technique, then letting the players work out how to use it. The real challenge for the coach is to design appropriately modified games and to keep the players engaged in their own learning.

    TGFU might also employ modified and manipulated games, but there is a much more explicit CFU phase - pre-planned questions to draw out understanding and learning from the players.  Again, the coach might not actively provide (all of) the answers, but the “learning objectives” (the “correct” answers to the coach’s questions) will be more explicit.

    TGFU/Game Sense does seem to have more in common with (academic) education, and guided discovery - play this game, then answer these questions. It perhaps has greater application with younger players, but don’t underestimate the ability of children to problem solve.

    The constraints-led approach (CLA) is more “exploratory” — players are encouraged to find their own solutions to the challenges they are presented with; there might not even be one “right” answer.  Players possibly need a basic technique to pit against the modified game environment.

    Neither approach really requires minimal coach input

    • game design and modification before (& during) a practice session;
    • during: Observation, Analysis (and a lot of Silence), lots of Praise (for “success” & effort) and encouragement, perhaps with Intervention, Instruction and Demonstration if a game breaks down, or if solutions do not emerge naturally;
    • Questioning (structured in TGFU, perhaps less so for CLA) and Feedback at the end.

  • andrewb62

    I have been re-reading the posts on TGfU on this site - all good, all giving a slightly different perspective. The common theme does seem to be the importance of questions to draw out and reinforce understanding.

    There was a very good Research Summary from sportscoachUK on Questioning but this appears to have been lost in the transition to UK Coaching.  But this post, from @imsporticus, is good from the practitioner’s viewpoint : https://drowningintheshallow.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/questioning-for-games-based-approaches/

  • Blake

    Hi Richard,

    A very well-explained summary from Andrew and a really useful starting point. I was tasked with writing a blog for ConnectedCoaches highlighting the many benefits of TGfU (in terms of promoting autonomous learning to enhance such things as problem solving and decision making skills under pressure) and soon discovered that offering a concise definition and illustrating how it is implemented in practice is a bit of a challenge. However with perseverance it slowly began to make sense and all the pieces of the jigsaw started to fit together. And I think that is they key - coaches will be rewarded if they persevere. That mixed with lots of trial and error and tweaking over time.

    Anyway, if you’re interested, the blog, with some expert insight from ConnectedCoaches member Matt Wood, is here...


    In it I attempt to present TGfU (and Constraints-Led Approach) in non-academic language. Hopefully it will help develop your understanding of the concept further while laying out in the most practical way possible how to put theory into practice.

    Related to this is the following 'games-based approach' article which gives further examples of activities/exercises coaches  can adapt and incorporate into their sessions.




  • robertkmaaye
    On 10/09/18 8:37 AM, Andrew Beaven said:

    There was a very good Research Summary from sportscoachUK on Questioning but this appears to have been lost in the transition to UK Coaching.

    Working our way through getting everything across from the old site (lots to do!) but in the meantime I have attached the pdf here for anyone interested smile

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