Games Based Approach to Coaching

In this post I am looking to summarise the key components for game based approaches to coaching and to see how this can be useful. We have an example below of a top professional tennis player, Novak Djokovic, using a games based approach to improve his ability.


As we can see from the drill this is not a standard game of tennis, however it is developing important attributes required to be a tennis player. Both players are constantly moving around the court, therefore improving their footwork and also their fitness and stamina. Both players are also using forehand and backhand shots, and on occasion they even swap hands to play the shot. This is developing the technical side of the game for both players. You can also see both players are enjoying the exercise and the happiness of both participants when the exercise finishes. This means both participants are engaged and it is satisfying their psychological needs (Reinboth, Duda, and Ntoumanis, 2004). Both participants are also thinking about their next shot constantly and also the next shot of their opponent, this means they are developing tactically as players.

The coaching model presented by Serrano et al., 2013 suggests that four pillars need to be satisfied when coaching sport effectively. They are Physical, Psychological, Technical and Tactical. From this exercise above we can see all four are being satisfied, therefore the game is effective and relevant to help develop the abilities of a tennis player.

Games in Football

As my sport is football, and the position I play is goalkeeper, I found the game below to be very interesting and relevant to this topic. Here we have Norwich City, a professional football club in the English Championship, and a game called “Spike Ball” that they have invented as a method of coaching their goalkeepers.




As you can see the game is played at a high tempo, 2 vs 2 and the aim is to stop the ball from hitting the floor, then return it to your opponents via the trampoline. This would be considered a divided court game (Postman, 2004). So in many ways it is the same as the example using Djokovic, however it is a completely different sport, with a completely different idea, yet the setup in many ways is similar.

Is it effective?

Going on from the previous model we mentioned by Serrano et al, we have to consider whether this game satisfies the four pillars. We can see the players are constantly moving, diving to the ground and getting back up quickly. This replicates the real in game physical demands of a goalkeeper, so I believe the Physical pillar is satisfied. As the game is high tempo, and the angle the ball moves is so unpredictable, the players constantly need to be on their toes and focused. Therefore this satisfies the Psychological side, and arguably touches upon the Tactical side as well.Finally we can see the players use touches with their hands, and also head, which replicates in game scenarios well. However, there is no catching of the ball allowed, so even though there is some Technical aspects covered, they are not covered as well as they could be. Overall though I feel this game is an effective method of coaching. The players are having fun, and they are meeting the demands required for their role in football.

So what do we need to consider with games based approaches?

I think there are two main things to consider with a games based approach to coaching. First of all the game has to be fun, otherwise it is not really a game. The game also has to be relevant to the sport, and to developing the players correctly. For example, Novak Djokovic would most likely have fun playing the game the Norwich goalkeepers play, however that will not develop or improve his abilities as a tennis player satisfactorily. Also as stated by Serrano, the game should aim to hit those four pillars we outlined which are in the graphic below.



(Zahradník and Korvas, 2014)


Postman, R.D. (2004) Barron’s how to prepare for the CSET multiple subjects: California subject matter examinations for teachers, multiple subjects. New York, NY, United States: Barron’s Educational Series Inc.,U.S.

Serrano, J., Shahidian, S., Sampaio, J. and Leite, N. (2013) ‘The importance of sports performance factors and training contents from the perspective of Futsal coaches’, Journal of Human Kinetics, 38. doi: 10.2478/hukin-2013-0055.

Zahradník, D. and Korvas, P. (2014) The Introduction into Sports Training. Prague

Reinboth, M., Duda, J.L. and Ntoumanis, N. (2004) ‘Dimensions of coaching behavior, need satisfaction, and the psychological and physical welfare of young athletes’, Motivation and Emotion, 28(3), pp. 297–313. doi: 10.1023/b:moem.0000040156.81924.b8.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s