1. Game Sense – Teaching
Games for Understanding
…or “Why are my kids playing games when they
should be learning things?”
2. What is Game Sense?
Game Sense is how 2 P are learning their FUNdamental
Movement Skills with the intention of being able to apply
them in any sport they may choose to play in the future!
Traditional methods of teaching sport skills focus on
breaking down a sport into its component skills and then
each of those skills being taught to students separately.
These methods involve exhausting, repetitive drills that
may result in students learning the skills that they need in a
particular sport, and even perfecting them.
BUT, the problem with traditional methods of teaching sport
is that students don’t learn how to put these skills together
– that is, they don’t get a sense of how they all come
together in a game!
3. How does Game Sense
work? (Pill, 2006)
Game sense involves teaching those crucial skills in an environment that also teaches
students how to apply those skills in a larger game/sport context.
Students play a very basic version of the game or sport so that they develop an
understanding of the aims and skills required.
As they become proficient at the game or sport, more skills and restrictions are added,
allowing students to develop their learning further.
Students are deliberately made to reflect on their skill progression and how the game
becomes easier or harder as it changes.
The type of game sense approach varies based on the type of game or sport that is being
developed. There are four types. These are:
Target games: Where the aim is to hit a target with an object (Bowling, archery etc.)
Invasion games: Where one team tries to ‘invade’ another team’s goal area while defending
their own (rugby, soccer, netball etc.)
Net and wall games: Where there is a net between two teams or the game is played against
a wall that simulates a net (tennis, squash etc.)
Striking games: Usually involving a single player striking a ball (softball, baseball, cricket
4. For Example….
1/2 P have recently started learning the skills necessary to play a game of volleyball. But throwing them in
the deep end and expecting to see perfect spikes from the outset seemed a bit harsh. So we tried Game
We first started with two teams on either side of a line, throwing the ball over the line and trying to land it on
the other side without anyone catching it.
We had to make sure that important rules were made clear so we were actually building volleyball skills like:
Ball had to be caught above the head
Team members rotated into a new position after every point
Starting throw had to be underarm
We then started progressively adding more rules to make the game more interesting like:
The line became a net
The third pass had to go over the net
Once they caught the ball, students couldn’t move their feet
At the end of each progression, students were asked to reflect on what they had learned. They were made
to answer questions like:
Where is it hardest to return the ball from?
Where is the best place to land the ball?
5. Why Game Sense?
The question that is often asked is “What makes game
sense better than tried and tested methods of training?”
In fact, game sense approaches have a number of benefits
that traditional training methods lack.
Firstly, traditional methods teach each separate skill by
itself, in a vacuum. It is a difficult proposition for students,
particularly younger ones to understand how the skills
mesh while playing the game or how they are expected to
use the space of the playing field effectively. Game sense
addresses this by initially focusing on the game as a whole
and then adding each skill, allowing students to understand
how the skills fit into the game, rather than forcing them to
work out how to play the game as an amalgam of the skills
they have learned.
6. Why Game Sense? (Light,
Understanding a game as a whole is vastly different from being
skillful at a game. Game sense attempts to ensure students not
only have the skills necessary to play the game, but also that they
understand how they fit into it.
When correcting skills or technique, it is much easier to remove
students from the game and show them the correct way to do
things without interrupting other students’ experience.
Making students reflect on key aspects of their game sense
learning allows them to gain an explicit understanding of the
mechanics of the game and why certain skills are performed in
Finally, game sense makes games FUN! Playing games for an
hour is a much more entertaining thing to do for a 7-8 year old
than practicing throwing a ball around.
7. Learning Outcomes (Board
of Studies, 2006)
The question for many parents is whether or not Game Sense actually addresses any of
the learning outcomes. The short answer is that it does. In the case of 2P for example, the
following outcomes are only some of the syllabus outcomes met:
COS1.1 Communicates appropriately in a variety of ways – students need to be able
to communicate to play team sports.
DMS1.2 Recalls past experiences in making decisions – the fact that the game keeps
changing means students are forced to constantly draw on what they have learned in
the previous iteration of the game.
INS1.3 Develops positive relationships with peers and other people – TEAMWORK!
MOS1.4 Demonstrates maturing performance of basic move- ment and compositional
skills in a variety of predictable situations – students will naturally need to use their
movement skills more intuitively when playing a sport than when performing a drill
ALS1.6 Participates in physical activity, recognising that it can be both enjoyable and
important for health
These are only a few of the learning outcomes that are met!
Pill, S. (2006). Teaching games for understanding. SPORTS COACH:
An online magazine for coaches, 29(2), 1-4. Retrieved from:
Light, R. (2004). Coaches’ experiences of Game Sense:
Opportunities and challenges. Physical Education and Sport
Pedagogy, 9(2), 115132. DOI: 10.1080/1740898042000294949
Board of Studies. (2006). Personal Development, Health and
Physical Education K-6 Syllabus. Sydney: Board of Studies.