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The traditional model of teaching games is based on the acquisition of discrete sports skills and techniques which are then developed in the context of specific games.

In the understanding approach which is recommended in this syllabus, the teaching of skill and technique takes second place to the development of tactical awareness through an exploration of principles of play.

We must recognise that the majority of students will not have the capacity to become highly skilled players, but they will all have the capacity to develop sufficient skill to play games at an enjoyable level. ‘Much of the pleasure involved in games playing lies in making correct decisions in the light of tactical awareness' (Thorpe and Bunker, 1982).

The teacher's task is to create the situation where the student seeks to develop skills which are required for him/her to perform in a given situation. Skill acquisition is seen in the context of the learner and the game situation - it arises from the game.

Students require a level of knowledge and understanding which will enable them to make the appropriate decisions based on their current level of awareness of the tactical situation. The teacher should provide the student with the knowledge-base which will enable him/her to develop problemsolving skills.

The main focus of the understanding approach to games teaching is on tactical awareness and decision making rather than on the development of skill and technique. This provides the opportunity for all the students, irrespective of physical ability, to play a central role in the games lesson, thus enhancing self-esteem and a sense of personal fulfilment.

Students are encouraged to play the game at their own technical level-ensuring a level of success and enjoyment for all.

The Games for Understanding Model views the teacher as an enabler rather than a transmitter of knowledge. It views the student as being responsible for his/her own learning rather than as a passive receiver of information. The model rejects the notion that there is one correct way which the teacher knows and must be transmitted to the students, rather, it views the teaching of games as a process of problem resolution. The teacher creates a situation where the student identifies the problem and then seeks tactical solutions. Thus the teacher, in deciding what to teach, instead of listing the skills and techniques of the various games, is required to look at the potential problems within the game situation.


Categorisation of Games

Games can be categorised according to the format in which they are played. The four major categories are:


All our major games fall into one of these categories (Table 1. below). The principles of play involved in a game are directly comparable to those games within the same category - thus, for instance, the principles of attack and defence appropriate to hockey will also apply to basketball. This should facilitate the carry-over of learning from one game to another.

A balanced games programme should include experience in each of the game formats.

Table 1: Categorisation of Games




Gaelic Football


American Football


Divided Court

Table Tennis










Balance should also be aspired to in terms of the predominant skills involved in the game, i.e., striking skills, throwing / catching skills and kicking skills.


Teacher Guidelines

The Teaching for Understanding Model

The following model, proposed by Bunker and Thorpe (1982), outlines the procedure whereby the teacher helps the student to achieve a new level of skillful performance.


The lesson always commences with a game. The students are presented with a game which will probably involve small numbers of players, modified playing surface area and modified equipment. It is important that the students are capable, with guidance, of understanding the particular game form and are capable of playing it. They are guided to recognise the unique problems to be solved in playing the game.


From the outset the students should understand the rules of the game being played. The rules should be simplified to ensure this. The imposition of certain rules will regulate the skill level and the tactics to be employed.


Students are introduced to the tactics of the game through the gradual introduction of movement principles, based on simple ideas of space and time. By investigating and experimenting with these ideas in simple games the students are encouraged to progress to more advanced situations.


Proficient games players take only fractions of a second to make decisions and they would see no value in distinguishing between the ‘what?' and the ‘how?'. In the understanding approach the teacher separates the questions of ‘what to do?' and ‘how to do it?' to enable the student to recognise and attribute shortcomings in decision-making.

‘What to do?' In deciding what to do each situation has to be assessed and thus the ability to recognise cues and predict possible outcomes is important. ‘How to do it?' Having decided what to do the player then has to make a decision as to what is the best way to do it. he/she has to make the most appropriate response.


In the model skill execution is used to describe the actual production of the required movement, as envisaged by the teacher. The model must be seen in the context of the learner and must recognise the learner's limitations. The execution of the correct skill becomes important only after the learner sees the need for that particular kind of skill. When the student is ready for these skills technical instruction is given but it is always at a level commensurate with the student's current ability level.


This is the observed outcome of the previous processes measured against criteria that are independent of the learner. It should be a measure of appropriate response as well as efficiency of technique. The teacher helps the student in deciding whether a performance is correct or incorrect and in making decisions about how to improve it.


The sequential aspects of the model are critical. Satisfactory completion of the stages as outlined will necessitate modification of the game leading to a reappraisal of the requirements of the new game. The cycle begins again.


Tactical Problems in Invasion Games


• Keeping Possession • Distribution of Possession • Penetration

• Width • Depth • Support • Scoring • Creating Space




1. How do we keep possession?
2. How do we invade the territory?
3. How can we score?

Tactical Solution

Keep the ball
Pass the ball

Penetrate the defence
Use width in attack
Support the attack

Create a space to shoot
Attack the target

Set pieces / shots.

On the Ball

Carry, Solo, Dribble
Choose receiver
Signal intention
Pass the ball
Practice deception

Pass forwards
Move forwards

Take on a defender 1 v 1
Shoot / score

Off the Ball

Move into space to get free for pass or to draw defender
React to signal
Give signal
React to deception

Same as above and provide cover in depth
Draw out defender from target area
Support in:

  • width
  • depth



• Tackling • Intercepting • Concentration • Closeness (width)

• Support (depth) • Defend target • Deny space




1. How can we regain possession?
2. How can we stop the invasion?
3. How can we stop them scoring?

Tactical Solution

Win the ball

Close down space
Close down player with the ball

Deny shooting space
Defend the target

On the Ball

Tackle or intercept

Prevent passing forward by close marking
Prevent moving forward by tackling

Stay on target side
Block striker
Block the shot

Off the Ball

Anticipate the pass

Support other defenders
Stay close
Stay on target side

Stay on goal side
Maintain depth
Cover angles
Mark a player (person to person) or a space (zone)


Tactical Problems in Invasion Games


• Creating Space • Shuttle Placement

• Deception • Pressure • Serve



• Denying Space • Creating Time

• Regaining Control • Return of serve



1. How do I win a point?

Tactical Solution

Create space (using width and depth) to place shuttle on the ground.

Force an error.

Action Taken

Keep opponent at the back of the court (a defensive position).
Make the opponent run.
Use deception to disguise your intention.
Limit opponent's time by playing the shot low (dropshot) or fast (smash).

2. How do I serve?


Long to forehand / backhand.

Short to forehand / backhand.


Assess opponent's form and use a serve which exposes weaknesses taking account of own serve's strength.


3. How do I prevent my opponent from scoring?


Defend space on own court.
Create time to recover.


Adjust position on court to limit opponent's options.
Narrow the angles available to opponent.
Keep the shuttle deep/high to create recovery time.
React to deception.
Anticipate play.
Turn defence into attack, if possible!


Overall Aim & Objectives


To provide students with the opportunity to develop personally, socially and physically through participation in a variety of games in a safe and enjoyable environment.


  • To motivate the students to develop the skills required for participation in games activities.
  • To provide students with the knowledge and understanding which will enable them to make appropriate decisions based on their current level of tactical awareness.
  • To provide the opportunity for all students to have an active role in the games lesson at their own technical level - thus enhancing self-esteem and sense of personal fulfilment.


Learning Outcomes

The student will:

  • show an appreciation of how games are formed and developed
  • display a knowledge and understanding of basic principles and rules of invasion games
  • demonstrate the ability to make appropriate responses (relative to their own abilities) to the particular problem posed by the game
  • display an understanding of the dynamics of teamwork
  • show an ability to modify games if improvements are necessary
  • display an appreciation of the benefits which participation in games can bring
  • display a level of success in games playing
  • exhibit a sense of personal fulfilment
  • assume responsibilty:
    • for giving and following directions

    • by adhering to agreed rules

    • contribute to group effort

  • show respect for the rights, opinions and ability of others
  • participate co-operatively in games activities
  • maintain focus on task in hand
  • show respect for equipment
  • assist in setting up and putting away equipment.
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 July 2009 12:14

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