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Developing Adaptive Movers

Updated: Nov 21, 2021

Sport should be full of interactions that supercharge an individual's experience and love for the activity. What would these environments look like? Decision rich... playful... Exploratory... As environment architects, we can change the task or something within the environment to bring this to life.


Thinking about the wider environment that an individual moves in shapes the type of practices we design. The more individuals explore the environment, the more opportunities emerge for individuals to discover new solutions. If we were to value movement and decision making as much as we sometimes do technical and tactical, what would the impact be?


Developed with language that speaks to young people, taking them on a journey of discovery, Animal MatchPlay Cards put a learners experience at the centre. Supporting coaches and teachers to create stories that guide an individual's interactions with the game.



A love for movement, adaptive decision-makers and a connection between the game and the environment that these individuals move within should be our principles of design. Measuring feedback thro


ugh the number of smiles, level of sound and how many players return to the session are indicators to support us to bring this to life.


Turning an emphasis to exploring through play and coaches setting up problems to be solved, putting the individual in a decision rich environment where they become problem solvers. Moving away from a traditional approach, you have to learn A to learn B, in movement and play, these rules don’t apply.


Promoting physical literacy and developing functional movements to find solutions to problems by inviting players to navigate the environment we begin to take players to a space of freedom and challenge.


It may be we invite players to self-challenge by choosing an Animal MatchPlay Card for the session as they arrive, taking them on an adventure of discovery, helping them play a game within a game and understand their decisions.



A poor experience of sport early on in a child’s journey will undoubtedly affect their engagement, later on, It’s not about the quantity of practice but rather the quality of practice. If a young person leaves sport because it’s not fun, the chances of engaging in sport later on in life are smaller than those who had a positive experience.


“Do players have the freedom to explore solutions to problems designed? Youth players should not be ‘props’ in some type of coach-conducted orchestration, where players learned to play an idealised model of the game as opposed to functioning in the game itself..." (Woods, C.T., et al., (2020).

Explore Animal MatchPlay Cards on a math day, adding them to each position on the field to connect players with traits and characteristics that that animal possess for the position. Owl in the centre midfield… shark on right deference… snake as an inside forward…


Setting a team an Animal MatchPlay Card as a team challenge for their opponents to adapt and navigate will task players to think on the run and explore solutions to the problems they are up against. They may see opportunities to #ChangeTheGame that we as adults may not see. Level it up and set each team a challenge for both teams, make them secret missions, or openly share the challenges so players have a head start. Try adding a time limit to complete each challenge, reflecting on the impact this has on players.


Understanding that functional movement skills are not a race with a finish line and that individuals will learn at different rates ensures that we continue to maintain elements of play and movement through the sporting pathway from youth to senior and grassroots to elite.



Using coaching skills like "show me" or "try to" puts player learning and experiences at the centre, creating space for role modelling to others and generating a connection between player, coach and environment.


Animal MatchPlay Cards have been designed to take players on a journey of discovery as they explore team and player challenges, problem-solving their way through an action-packed deck of challenge cards. Supporting coaches to change the environment and develop confident and adaptive movers who can make great decisions.


Add them into your lesson plans or introduce them into warmup activities to create more play opportunities for players to engage in. They're totally MULTI-SPORT and produced in plastic because we know what the life of a coach is like. "When are we playing a game?" The most asked question but not anymore!


SHOP NOW and secure your deck of limited edition Animal MatchPlay Cards: https://www.thecoachinglab.org/product-page/animal-matchplay-cards


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