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When are we playing a game?!

Updated: Apr 6

When are we going to play a game? Seriously though, when are we?! Why is it that this is the most asked question to every leader in sport? Let's take a look...


Sitting at the heart of the Teaching Games For Understanding framework is using modified games to suit the developmental level of the learners - Coaching the player to the game and not the game to the player. Learning to play games involves the development of skills such as strategic thinking and problem solving—two important but often understated higher-order cognitive skills that gameplay can foster (Aspin, 1976). The modifications of rules, playing area, and equipment shape an individuals involvement in the game, challenging players tactical awareness, decision-making, and execution of technique.


"TGfU places an emphasis on the play, where tactical and strategic problems are posed in a modified game environment, ultimately drawing upon students to make decisions." Webb & Pearson

We're designers of learning, our role changes from problem solvers to problem solvers as the dynamics of the game begin to shape and influence an individual's behaviours and interactions. Using specific MatchPlay Cards to add team and individual challenges that are relevant to the level of the group encourages pupils to find a certain set of actions as Stephaine explains "... selecting cards that helped my students move into open space, identify strengths and offensive/defensive strategies, communicate with one another, including all teammates or adding a variety of ways to score or earn points for ultra-competitive students"


Players are encouraged to develop a greater understanding of the game being played, promoting better decisions during the game, thereby adding to their enjoyment of playing the game.


"I am experimenting with activities that included game-like situations and focused on challenges that became increasingly more challenging... Using small-sided games to allow me to travel from group to group and facilitate the game as it unfolds"



"When I came across MatchPlay Cards, I knew right away I hit the PhysEd jackpot." Shared Calfiona based Stepahine Sandino. As many coaches and teachers would know when they ask their players questions and greeted with a shrug of the shoulders or a bingo buzz word answer," Coming up with clear questions for students is challenging- finding the right words is something I stumble with," explains Stephaine Sandino.


Jam-packed with 50+ conversation starters where a shrug of the shoulder or yes and no can't be given as answers, Reflection MatchPlay Cards support us to better understand our environment, experiences and decisions. We all have the answers but need to be asked the right questions. They're an accessible, playful and interactive tool to wrap learning together.



The use of questioning is a powerful method of encouraging players to reflect on their actions, both individually, and as a team. Effective phrasing of questions will guide the player to an answer, in the event that they are struggling with an activity or encourage a deeper involvement in the activity as they begin to feel in control of their responses.


"...asking questions that help students to figure out strategies and movement patterns that would help them find success." shares Stephanie Sandino Used across 33 countries from grassroots to performance and basketball to volleyball plus everything in between, the MatchPlay Cards series promotes decision-makers, asks meaningful questions, and develops adaptive thinkers through play (did we mention they're plastic in design because we know what the life of a coach is like!). Take 10% off our MatchPlay Cards Ultimate Bundle with the code GAMECHANGER, you know you deserve it - Shop the full range now: https://www.thecoachinglab.org/shop

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