Making first coaching impressions count through a teaching games for understanding approach
Posted by Dean Holden at October 27th, 2013
by Dennis Slade, Massey University, New Zealand
First impressions count. They have the potential to influence your future relationship with a person, environment or activity. It follows then that a novice’s first impression of a sport might also be part of their willingness to play that sport. The question confronting sporting codes and coaches is how to create a favourable first impression of their sport.
Away from the ‘back-yard,’ a novice’s first introduction to sport through a club or school environment has generally been the traditional route of a skill-based approach of technique to cognition. Some researchers (Bunker and Thorpe, 1983, Kirk and MacPhail, 2002, Light, 2005, Rink, 2001) have questioned the value of this pathway for children into sport, they represent a growing number supporting a game first approach – cognition to technique – and in particular the Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) methodology. The approach in Australia is known as Game Sense.
Kirk and MacPhail (2002) suggest that a saturation of elite level sport through the mass media has resulted in children bringing to their introduction to games an expectation of what the game will feel like to play. They caution that if a child’s introduction to that sport does not meet those preconceived ideas, their motivation to continue with the game after the introduction is likely to be uncertain. They argue a traditional prescribed-drills approach is unlikely to meet that expectation. They suggest that a TGfU introduction is more likely to provide new comers with an initial feel of the game that fits with their expectations and motivates them for further participation.
A recent project (Slade, 2004) explored the suggested motivational benefits of a TGfU introduction to sport within a school physical education environment using a TGfU field-hockey program. A positive response from the novice hockey players to the TGfU introduction might suggest the TGfU approach had created a good first impression.
Traditional skill-based versus TGfU novice instruction in hockey
Traditionally, instruction of novices in hockey starts with how to hold the hockey stick (Swissler, 2003). Once the grip is established, learning frequently turns to passing the ball using a ‘push action’ (Swissler, 2003). This leads to the teaching of basic receiving skills and drills associated with those techniques. Next, novices are usually taught basic ball dribbling (Mitchell-Taverner, 2005) and this, in turn, frequently leads to some form of minor game. This structure conforms to the methodology generally referred to as a ‘traditional skill-based approach’.
The TGfU hockey approach adopted in this project was Stick2hockey (Slade, 2003). Stick2Hockey uses a games-practice-game approach. The very first instruction novices receive is how to play a modified game of hockey (roll-a-ball). This first game requires running, dodging, keeping possession and two scoring options designed to reinforce tactical aspects of hockey. Game instruction requires coaches to recognise opportunities to cue players on rules relating to restarts and tactical concepts associated with keeping possession. The design of Stick2Hockey ensures that within approximately five minutes of the start of a coaching session, novices are playing a ‘game’ of hockey that other than manipulation of the ball by the hockey stick, has all the tactical and movement elements of the game as played by experienced hockey players.
As well as five graduated hockey games and three technique activities, the Stick2Hockey program also contains generic tactical games that teach concepts such as zone-defence, outlet-passing, man-to-man marking and spatial awareness.
The three-stage project
Stage 1 required students from a New Zealand Intermediate school, comprising two composite year 7 & 8 classes (ages 11 – 13, N = 58) to complete a survey. The survey established their previous hockey playing experience, knowledge of rules (four questions), tactics (seven questions) and perceptions of their likely enjoyment (self-esteem related) of playing hockey (four questions). The 60 per cent of students who had either played or seen hockey played were asked to say what they thought hockey should ‘feel’ like to play.
Stage 2 consisted of students receiving instruction over several lessons from second year physical education secondary trainee teachers using the Stick2Hockey TGfU hockey program and playing a mini-tournament. To reinforce and develop the players shared understanding of the rules, the teachers used breaks in games, e.g., ball out, to question students on rules related to restarts in hockey.
Instruction also utilised two of Stick2Hockey’s generic tactical games that teach zone-defence and outlet-passing concepts. Teachers observing the correct transfer of such tactics back in the hockey games were required to stop the games and quiz the students as to why they had just used that tactic. This was done to reflect the TGfU adult supported, learner initiated and directed instruction philosophy ensuring that tactics forced on players through the configuration of the TGfU games were registered at conscious levels and to positively reinforce good-play.
Stage 3, completed after the practical instruction, required the students to again complete the Stage 1 survey questionnaire in order to measure any changes brought about by the TGfU introduction.
Table 1 Survey results: Stages 1 and 3
|Category||Stage 1: Pre TGfU instruction survey||Stage 3: Survey post TGfU Stick2Hockey instruction program|
|Playing status||80% novice|
|Knowledge of basic restart rules of field hockey||60% correct response||85% correct response|
|Tactical and strategic questions||62% correct response||75% correct response|
|Do you think you will enjoy playing hockey?||21% think they will||98% stated they did|
|Do you think you will make a positive contribution to your team’s
|12% think they will||91% thought they did|
|What should hockey feel like to play?||Of the 60% of students who had seen hockey played, all anticipated that hockey would be a fast, running, dodging, passing and goal scoring game.|
|What did hockey feel like to play?||100% of students identified that hockey had felt like a fast, running, dodging, passing and goal scoring game.|
Discussion of results
The results of this project (Slade, 2004) demonstrated that adopting a TGfU methodology as an introduction to playing field hockey did improve these players’ declarative knowledge regarding rules and tactics, their motivation to play and self-esteem in relation to playing hockey. Having 91 per cent of all students feeling that they did or probably did contribute to their team’s performance was considered an extremely positive first impression of the game. Importantly, for involvement post the introduction, having 98 per cent stating that hockey was either ‘okay to play’ (51%) or that ‘they loved it!’(47%) and, 100 per cent of the students stating that their experience of playing the game felt as they anticipated it would feel, that is, a fast, running and passing game, is suggestive of a recipe to motivate novices to come back the next day for ‘more of the same please!’
Can a TGfU introduction to a sport create a good first impression?
These generally positive outcomes for a TGfU cognition-to-technique introduction to hockey should provide considerable encouragement to coaches and sport bodies considering adopting a TGfU or Games Sense methodology as their introductory medium for novices to their sport. The motivation to do so should be based on the potential that such an introduction is likely to create a good first impression…and first impressions count!
Bunker, D and Thorpe, R. 1983 ‘A model for the teaching of games for understanding. Bulletin of Physical Education 19(1), pp 5-8
Griffin, LL & Butler, JL (eds) 2005 Teaching games for understanding: Theory, research and practice, Human Kinetics, Champaign, Illinois
Kirk, D and MacPhail, A 2002, ‘Teaching games for understanding and situated learning: rethinking, the Bunker–Thorpe model’, Journal of Teaching in Physical Education. 21(2) pp.177-192.
Light, R 2005, ‘Making sense of chaos: Australian coaches talk about Game Sense’, in LL Griffin and JL Butter (eds) Teaching games for understanding: Theory, research and practice, pp. 168-81, Human Kinetics, Champaign, Illinois
Mitchell-Taverner, C 2005, Field Hockey: techniques and tactics, Human Kinetics, Champaign, Illinois
Rink, JE 2001, ‘Investigating the assumptions of pedagogy’, Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 20(2) pp.112-128.
Slade, DG 2003, Stick2Hockey, Stick2Hockey Ltd, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
Slade, DG 2004, ‘Does TGfU improve student declarative knowledge? An investigation in field hockey using the Stick2Hockey TGfU program with year 7 & 8 students’, unpublished presentation to the Physical Education New Zealand Conference, Wellington, New Zealand.
Swissler, B 2003, Winning field hockey for girls, Mountain Lions Inc., New York
<I purchased the Stick2Hockey DVD from Dennis Slade and it was a great teaching/learning tool. I recommend it. – DH>