The Australian Sports Commission together with Rod Thorpe developed the game sense approach in Australia from 1994-1996. The process or idea behind this approach was to change the common practice of mastering a skill before applying it to a game situation. The game sense approach is:

  • Guide inquiry through player problem solving and teacher use of well-considered and targeted questioning
  • Game simplification to represent the tactical logic of the game at the developmental readiness of the learner
  • Modification of game and player constraints (such as rules, boundaries of play, playing implements ect) to focus, shape and direct learning and progress learning
  • Thematic classification of games into Net/Court, Target, Invasion and striking/fielding games based on similarity in principles of play.

“Let the game become the teacher”

As we know that general play develop skills like strength, co-ordination, agility and flexibility in both adults and children. It is therefore important to state that skill is described as the application of technique in the context of play.

Skill = ability that comes from knowledge, practice, aptitude and understanding which enables the athlete to perform a technique.

Therefore in the game sense approach you as a coach still have to teach these fundamental movement skills (FMS), tactical skills, sport specific skills (technique) and fitness components to ensure the athlete develops holistically.

Learning a skill is the relative improvement in performance through practice. Therefore an athlete’s consistent performance of a skill is the key to knowing if the skill has been learned and techniques are the basic building blocks of skilled performance.

Techniques = learned skills that allow athletes to compete most efficiently within the rules of their sport.

The game sense approach to sport coaching and teaching uses games as a learning tool to:

  • Increase the motivation of players
  • Develop tactical and strategic thinking as well as skill development
  • Be game and athlete centred

The focus changes from how we coach to how the players learn. Players have the opportunity to analyse what they are doing through a number of mechanisms such as internal feedback, observation, trial and error, and the attitude that they can change their performance on their own, rather than relying on external feedback supplied by the coach.

Figure 1 Game sense training session

The benefits of a game-sense approach are:

  • Allows for a player-centred problem solving approach
  • Empowers players to think for themselves
  • Creates effective long term learning since the players are learning/discovering things for themselves
  • Games intrinsically motivate the players, creating an environment that is both challenging and enjoyable
  • Games set physical and mental challenges that encourages the understanding of tactics
  • Encourages players to use and develop perception and decision making

As a sports coach you have to understand the skills required to participate in your particular sport and apply the principles of fundamental movement skills (FMS) and the components of fitness into your sport specific programme.