Teaching Games for Understanding: What does
like and how does it improve skill learning and game
playing ?skill acquisition and game
Tim Hopper, University of Victoria
Darren Kruisselbrink, Acadia University
will conclude with the
suggestion that games
teaching needs a tactic-to- technique
approach . This approach develops from a teacher’s
ability to develop tactical progression with a skill progression
Key Words: Tactical Approach, Skill acquisition, Instructional/Curricular practices
and recognize when students
need to learn tactical awareness or to improve execution of a skill.
For the last two decades
the teaching games for understanding (TGFU) approach has caused considerable
the teaching of
games. The TGFU approach
focuses upon the teaching
students tactical understanding before dealing with the performance of skills emphasizing game performance
over skill performance(Griffin,
Mitchell, & Oslin, 1997; Werner, 1989). Conversely, a “technique” approach focuses
first on teaching students the skills to play the game then introducing
tactical understanding once a skill base has been developed. The skills approach v TGFU
approach debate has caused
a technique v
to games teaching(Rink, 1996; Silverman, 1997; Turner &
Martinek, 1992) which, in our opinion, igno res
the complexity of teaching both skills and tactics. When teaching students to play games the
question is when should tactic s
and when should
be taught? To help answer this
question this paper has two purposes .
2. To infer how students learn in a techniques approach and TGFU approach by drawing on current skill acquisition theories, in particular information processing and dynamic systems theory.
The TGFU phrase was first coined in the
United Kingdom in the early 1980s. The
ideas were spawned by Thorpe,
Almond (1986) and drew on the earlier work of Mauldon &
Redfern (1981). Waring &
Almond (1995) and Werner, Thorpe, &
Bunker (1996) give an historical account of growth
of this approach. The TGFU approach was
proposed as an alternative to the technique approach because it was noted that
techniques practiced in isolation did not transfer to the game. Bunker and Thorpe (1986a)
The reason for this lack
of transfer Bunker and Thorpe (1982) noted that (a) Large percentage of
children achieving little access due to the emphasis on performance, (b)
skillful players who possess inflexible techniques and poor decision-making
capacities, (c) player s who
are dependant on the teacher/coach to make their decisions, and (d) a majority
of youngsters who leave school knowing little about games. (p age
#?; quote needs to be integrated to read more smoothly)
The TGFU approach was
a way of putting the WHY of a game before the HOW. Bunker & Thorpe,
(1986a, p. 8-10) suggested a six-stage model:
1) Game form where the teacher teaches learners an adult game through a modified game where the rules of the game are designed for the physical, social and mental development of the learners.
Game appreciation is developed in modified game
form that enables the learners to develop an appreciation of the rules that
shape the game
like the related adult game. The modified rules will determine the
reperto ry of skills required and the tactical
problems to be appreciated by the learners.
Tactical awareness is taught whilst
playing the modified game
; as the
teacher guides the learners to realize a tactical awareness of how to play the
modified game to gain an advantage over his or her opponent.
Decision-making where the learners,
with tactical awareness, making appropriate decisions about “what to do?” and
“how to do it?” The tactical awareness
enables the learners recognize cues of what to do (skill
selection) and then how to
do do the skill (skill execution)
based on the situation in the game.
Skill execution stage
is used to describe the execut ion
the required skill from the context of the learners’ game
and within ’ability
limitations of the learners. This stage implies that the
learners develop problem solving skills which help them to understand the
purpose for practicing either a technical skill needed to play the game with
more tactical sophistication (i.e. trapping a ball, striking a ball into the
court), or a strategic maneuver practiced to gain a tactical advantage (i.e.
hitting the ball short then long in tennis, using a fast break in basketball).
6) Performance of the skill or strategy “measured against criteria that are independent of the learner” (p. 10). This criteria focus upon appropriateness of response as well as efficiency of technique.
(Griffin et. al., 1997)
Advocators of a TGFU approach claim that (Pigott, 1982)(Mitchell & Griffin, 1994)(Alison & Thorpe, 1997)(Asquith, 1989; Bunker & Thorpe, 1986b; Turner & Martinek, 1995)Asquith (1989) and Laws (1994)
response to the rhetoric of the TGFU literature Silverman (1997) asked the
question, “Is the tactical approach to teaching games better than a technique
approach?” In fact, a whole issue of
the Journal of Teaching in Physical Education was devoted to research comparing
technique approaches to tactical approaches in games teaching (Rink, French, & Graham, 1996). Research
comparing technique and tactical approaches has not shown clear benefits (Alison & Thorpe, 1997; Rink, 1996;
Turner & Martinek, 1992). Though the
results of these studies were inconclusive due to factors such as length of
studies and problematic indicators of success, it was noted that children in a
tactical approach model indicated more enjoyment when learning and did not show
any less significant skill improvement.
Rink et al., (1996) co
that a key problem of the research into TGFU was discerning between a technique
approach and a tactical approach. This
concern highlights the problem of trying to separate technical skill learning
from tactical learning. As TGFU
advocators note, effective games teaching is about combining the teaching of
tactical understanding with skill development, rather than focusing on
one aspect or the other. Griffin, Mitchell, & Oslin (1997), in their book devoted to a tactical approach for
teaching games, state that “a tactical approach…lets your students experience
the excitement of actual play before they begin practicing specific skills.
This approach allows students to first develop an overall sense of the sport,
then, take a problem-solving approach to mastering skills. When they understand
why each skill is important, students can apply the skills effectively during
game play” (p.1).
Comparing a tactical approach to a
techniques approach over simplifies the problem of teaching games to students;
the comparison ignores the complexity of learning to play a game and the needs
of each individual student. Too often
we seek simple answers to complex questions and create binaries to show one
idea is better than another.
teaching is taking what a student can do in a game form, then
challenging the student’s ability with a related but more advanced form of the activity. (this is a value
statement, is it one we’re making or have others made it also? Is this
universally understood as good games teaching?) To effectively
teach a student a game the teacher needs to teach a progression of skills
needed to play the game (i.e. catching, kicking, striking), while at the same
time introducing a progression of tactical awareness to play effectively (i.e.
anticipate where the ball will travel, aim for the spaces).
Rather than focus on tactics or
technique, the TGFU approach suggests that a skill should only be taught or
the learners appreciate when it is
needed and how it can be used in the game form they are playing. In a TGFU approach to games teaching this
means involving learners in modified games. Games can be modified by
simplifying game structures such as reducing the area of play, playing with
fewer players, adapting rules to players needs, using lighter, smaller
equipment, and using objects that move more slowly. Whilst playing modified forms of a game, students are asked to
solve problems related to the game. For
example, in a modified tennis game played in a badminton court,
a problem set by the teacher at the beginning of the lesson could be,
"where should you go after hitting a ball into an opponent's
court?" In this case, the location
affording the greatest advantage is in the centre of the opponent's target area,
an area that changes depending on where the ball is hit in an opponent's
court. Understanding this positioning
principle creates the opportunities to play a shot and
leads to the need to learn where to place the
ball in the opponent’s court, and how to strike a ball so it gets there.
In a “technique” approach, learners
practice a skill in a space on their own or in pairs, possibly with simplified
equipment and objects, with successful repetition as their goal. For example, in a similar tennis lesson a
teacher could start by asking students, "How long can you keep the ball
going in a rally with your partner throw feeding the ball?" The teacher could then emphasize the
following technical points: (1) get racket back before the ball bounces, (2)
hit a falling ball, (3) hit the ball high, and (4) follow through in the
direction of your hit. In a way this is
like a very simple modified game with a problem to solve. Too often it is
perceived that a technique perspective to teaching games implies
"telling" students how to do a skill. This is just one strategy to teaching that on its own does not
enable meaningful learning. The whole
array of teaching styles described by Mosston and Ashworth (1996) can be
applied to any technique being learned.
For teaching games, the difference between a technical and TGFU approach
boils down to what constitutes a game.
A game depends on the
ability of the
learner, and the type of skill learned depends on the physical development and
ability of the learner.
will contrast the two approaches
by using what we call a meaning matrix.
The matrix indicates how a “technique” approach relates to a “tactical”
approach by highlighting how common misinterpretations of the two approaches
often confuses understanding. The
matrix is divided into four quadrants.
On one side of the diagram is the traditional technique perspective to
teaching games, on the other a perspective t hat
emphasizes the tactical aspect of game playing. The top half of the diagram is games
teaching with a student emphasis, on the bottom half of the diagram is games
teaching with a content emphasis.
Insert Figure 1 about here
Focusing on a "technique" dominated approach, Bunker & Thorpe (1986) argue that "often the teacher sees the teaching
of techniques as the critical part of the lesson
(is there any
punctuation here??) indeed lists of skills are presented, week by
week, to be ticked off and assessed in an evaluation of the children's
performance" (p. 11). In Figure 1
this description would refer to the bottom left of the diagram. We have called this a skill “non-progression,”
“non” actually refers to the lack of progression rather than the practice of
non-skills, correct??) an isolated technique focus approach where
covering content is emphasized over student learning. Though it appears that a progression of skills are being learned,
in reality a progression of skills are covered but learned only by the most
able, or those with previous ability.
This problem is used by Bunker
& Thorpe (1986) to justify the need for a TGFU approach. Though we agree with their observation of
the worst type of games teaching, often this critique obscures the need for
skill progression. This critique
alienates effective game teachers who work from a technique focus in their
games teaching , and who
offer a progression of skills based on the needs of the learner. Examples of this are skill development
advocated by coaches of teams where children have self-selected themselves to play the
game or have been selected by ability to play on a team.
(again, I don’t understand the link between this last statement and the rest of
the paragraph. Please clarify.)
Thorpe (1986) noted "many teachers have realized that for many
children the techniques are of little value and have let children get on with
the game, only to realize that they seem to enjoy themselves more with less
interference from the teacher" (p. 11).
From this scenario a teacher can be left wondering what to teach. In the worst-case scenario this can lead to
the “game” focus approach noted in the bottom right of the diagram. Here students may be playing "the"
game of, say, soccer or baseball with the teacher emphasizing the content of
the rules of the game and telling students where to position themselves in the
game, but there is no
in the students' understanding of how to play tactically. In this situation the teacher is satisfied with the students
being occupied in an organized recess type lesson. The problem with this approach is that the majority of students
are over-whelmed by the complexity of the game and eventually the novelty of
the game wears off, with even the more capable students becoming bored or
frustrated with the game. Though
organized recess has its place (usually at recess) in a school PE program, too
often this type of games lesson is seen as a tactical lesson, missing is the
complexity of teaching tactics to children as part of game playing.
The tactical perspective to games teaching
located in the top right-hand side of the diagram has a student emphasis on
learning and a tactical focus on game play.
” focus” is a progression of strategic
principles that are taught in relation to a gradually more increasing
challenging environment. Strategic
understanding refers to ways of playing like being consistent in badminton, or
keeping possession of the ball in soccer, with tactics being ways of playing to gain an advantage over an opponent (you’ll
have to clarify the strategic-tactical argument here too, they both sound the
same) (Hopper, 1997; Hopper, 1998). Tactical
understanding is complex and, as argued by Hopper (1998) and Hopper & Bell (2000) and shown
et al., (1997) and Mitchell & Griffin (1994) , has to be taught in progressive
elements related to the development and experience of the students. In the TGFU approach , we teach
from a game form where “skill
learning is not for playing games; rather, playing games is for skill learning”
( Chandler 1996, p. 50) .
The technique perspective to games
, located in the top left-hand side of
the diagram , has a student emphasis on learning a
technique focus to game play. A
“technique” focus is a progression of skills taught in relation to a gradually
more increasing challenging environment.
Movement approaches to teaching games such as those discussed by (Wall & Murray, 1994) focus on developing skillful players. In this approach skill refinements related
to movement concepts are taught that enable students to move from an elementary
movement pattern to a mature movement pattern [(Gallahue, 1996) #133].
However, Berkowitz (1996)-- described as a successful “technique” games
wrote a paper that explained her
journey from a skills-based games teacher to a tactical-based games teacher. She articulated how skills and tactics can
be integrated saying "technical skill work still has its place, but never
in isolation -- always as it would be in the game and mostly as a means to
accomplish the tactical problem” (p. ??).
synthesis of technique and tactical perspectives to teaching games emphasizes
how tactics and skills need to be taught together, based on the needs of
learners. TGFU, seen as an alternative
to a traditional technique approach, does not minimize a teaching focus on the
development of technical skills, as the
technique dichotomy would imply, but rather incorporates the teaching of
technical skills. However, the
shift to a technical focus only occurs following the development of tactical
awareness in learners. As shown in
Figure 1, the TGFU approach draws together the tactical perspective and the
techniques perspective to create a tactic-to-skill focus. As such, the TGFU approach is not really an
alternative to teaching technique, but an approach to games teaching based on
and skill needs of a learner. The
next section of this paper will describe, from the perspective of skill acquisition
theories, how students learn in a games lesson when technique is emphasized in
isolation compared to within
a tactic al framework. The TGFU approach
implies a tactical emphasis then skill development; it is this approach that we
feel realizes the most from skill acquisition theories. The sport of tennis will
be used to explain what learning looks like from the two perspectives.
becoming skilled is a gradual process that involves learning to implement the
most appropriate movement pattern for situations that arise in game play. The problem that novice tennis players face
is multifaceted; they need to learn which environmental cues are important and
which are redundant in order to selectively attend to only the most essential
information (Abernethy, 1987). Based on
this information players need to select
a tactic /strateg y
that will allow them the best opportunity to score a point, and they need to
precisely coordinate a pattern of movement that
will effectively accomplish the tactics they select.
The two dominant
theoretical frameworks guiding the understanding of motor learning and control
have been broadly categorized as the information processing approach, and the
ecological/dynamical systems approach (van Wieringen, 1988; William, Davids,
Burwitz, & Williams, 1992; William, Davids, & Williams, 1999; Wulf,
McNevin, Shea, & Wright, 1999). Each
of these will be briefly described, following which we will present arguments
assessing the effectiveness of the
technique approach and the TGFU approach to skill acquisition. Implications for applied practice will
also be discussed.
processing approach is a cognitive approach that views the human player as a
communication channel that processes incoming information through a series of
hypothetical stages in order to produce a movement output (Schmidt & Wrisberg,
2000; Williams et al., 1992). It is
commonly accepted that these stages include stimulus
identification, which involves the assembly, recognition, and
identification of environmental information, response selection, which involves deciding on whether a response
will be made, and which response will be selected, and response programming, which involves organizing and executing
movement (Schmidt & Wrisberg, 2000). The processing of information is
assumed to require attention resources, which are limited in supply (for a
review of capacity
see Williams et al., 1999). [ Do we need capacity models?]
the human player to develop strategies to overcome these
needed?] limitations (Salthouse, 1991).
For example, one way experts overcome attention
demands and processing rate limitations is to become “perceptually
by processing only the most critical information
from a visual display By way of
contrast, novices spend more time searching the same display for relevant
the capacity limitations of
working memory , suggested to be around 3-4 items ( Broadbent,
1975; Chase & Ericsson, 1982; Ericsson, Chase & Faloon, 1980) could be overcome by
increasing the size of a “ chunk ” of
information . E xperts are capable of recognizing patterns of play
more quickly and accurately than novices (Abernethy, 1994; Starkes, 1987) . This suggests that chunks for experts can represent
networks of information whereas chunks for novices are more items specific. Experts can also execute skills with a greater
degree of automaticity reducing ing the processing
demands of response programming. Thus, the advantage that experts gain
through practice and experience is that they require fewer attention resources
at each of the series of information processing stages.
The concepts of
attention, and expertise are linked within the information processing approach
(Magill, 1998; Schmidt & Wrisberg, 2000; Williams et al., 1999)
, such that learning
is conceptualized as
a stage-like process characterized by a
gradual reduction in the need for attention (e.g. Fitts & Posner, 1967; Gentile, 1972; Newell,
1986). For example, in the Fitts and Posner
model, the earliest stage of learning is identified as the verbal/cognitive
stage. It is characterized by the need
to gain a basic understanding of the fundamentals of the game, including the rules,
tactics, and basic movements, as well as to begin to distinguish between
information that is critical and non-critical in producing a response. This stage relies heavily on conscious and
verbal cognitive activity as learners think and talk their way through various
tasks (Schmidt & Wrisberg, 2000). Once these basics are understood,
learners progress to the associative stage where they can begin to refine their
movements and strategies until, after much practice, they may achieve the
autonomous stage, where their implementation becomes nearly automatic.
In assessing the attention demands of tennis, there is a lot of information available for processing. In the stimulus identification stage, perceptual demands are made by environmental information, which includes the on-coming speed, direction, and spin of the ball, the direction, speed of motion, and on-court position of one’s opponent, weather conditions, and so forth. In the response selection stage, previous information must be considered in light of the player’s knowledge of their own strengths, weaknesses, and preferences, the strengths, weaknesses, and preferences of their opponent, the stage of the game, fatigue, etc., in order to come to a decision regarding the most appropriate tactic to employ. The response programming stage involves the organization, coordination and precise timing of muscular contractions in order to produce a movement that successfully completes the selected tactic. The ability for a novice to handle all of this information within the limited time available during game play is overwhelming if not impossible. Thus, the key for instructors in the earliest stages of learning is to reduce the attention demands on learners to a level that they can reasonably handle.
Part practice is a frequently used strategy to reduce attention demands, and is defined as “practice on some set of components of the whole task as a prelude to performance of the whole task” (Wightman & Lintern, 1985, p. 280). Segmentation, fractionation, and simplification are part practice procedures available to instructors (Wightman & Lintern, 1985; see also in texts by Kluka, 1999; Magill, 1998; Schmidt & Wrisberg, 2000). Segmentation involves partitioning a whole task based on its spatial or temporal dimensions, practicing one part, and progressively adding more parts until the whole is achieved. In tennis this can be achieved at both the tactical and/or technical levels, but typically involves practicing the fundamental technical skills outside of the whole game context, and gradually incorporating restricted game situations into drills. Fractionation involves partitioning two or more subtasks that are normally executed together (e.g. separating tactical decisions from technical execution, or upper from lower body movements) and practicing them in isolation before combining them again. Simplification involves making a difficult task easier by adjusting one or more of its features (e.g. providing more time, equipment modifications, easing accuracy requirements) and gradually incorporating more of the characteristics of the whole task as learners demonstrate their capabilities.
adhere to the technique approach frequently
reduce attention demands for their learners through fractionation—
and tactical practice (e.g. groundstrokes, serve), and segmentation—practicing
component parts of skills (e.g. the toss, arm action, and follow it can
be directed towards higher [CONSIDER
adding -] However, this type of repetition is very boring to the
learner, especially if they have not experienced the excitement of playing the
game for which the skill is needed.
TGFU also represents an approach to reducing the attention demands on learners. However this is accomplished by the simplification part practice procedure. TGFU uses modified games, which simplify both tactics and technique by reducing space, increasing time, and using modified equipment to introduce the major principles of the whole game to learners. Once basic decision-making rules are understood and can be implemented in the simplest modified game, it can be altered to incorporate more of the features found in the whole game. By adjusting modified games, more of the technical form and tactics of the full game can be incorporated into practice until learners find themselves performing in a whole game environment.
difference between the TGFU and the
technique approach to games teaching is the part practice
procedure that is used. Fractionation
emphasizes technique over tactics, while simplification emphasizes tactical
understanding as the primary goal with technical development as a secondary
goal at the novice stage of learning.
The part practice procedure
adopted by each approach effectively reduces attention demands on novice
learners by manipulating the task until a reasonable degree of mastery has been
achieved. Then learners are challenged
by gradually increasing the demands of the task until they resemble those of
the full game. This way, learners’
to cope with task demands is never completely overloaded. From the perspective of creating a learning
environment where the processing limitations of learners’ are taken into
account, each approach is successful. However, each approach must also be assessed with regards to how
effectively learning transfers to the criterion situation, which is the
game. Ideally, the information
processing requirements of practice should prepare learners for what they will
face in a game so that the adaptations they make during practice can transfer
to games (Lee, 1988).
above, the information-processing model is serial in nature, with the response
selection stage following the stimulus identification stage, and the response
programming stage following the response selection stage. The
technique approach to games teaching minimizes decision-making (response selection)
early in learning, while emphasizing technical mastery. One problem with adopting this approach is
that with few decisions to make during practice, the response selection stage
can be by-passed. As a result, information
can be processed in the response programming stage immediately following
stimulus identification. For clarity of
argument, we’ll label the three stages of info
processing A (stimulus identification), B (response selection), and C (response
programming). In the technique approach, drills typically foster a consistent A-C mapping. A game, however, is dynamic requiring
players to continuously sample the environment and make decisions based on the
information they perceive. Learners
encounter many situations in games whose solutions are not always as neat and
clear cut as they are in practice drills.
Thus, the information processing demands of a game (A-B-C) are different
than those of practice (A-C). Owing to
a lack of practice in processing information at the response selection stage
(deciding what to do), learners may respond by implementing a technique without
a purpose (e.g. hit a forehand groundstroke
over the net), or may become overloaded and confused by the demands of what
amounts to a novel situation.
technique approach it is argued that once technical skills have been automated to a
reasonable level, attention can be gradually and progressively directed towards
tactics and strategy. However,
consistently mapping A-C, over time, leads to the formation of habitual,
automatic ways of responding (Schmidt & Bjork, 1992); learners will
habitually implement a technique without due consideration of strategy, since
that is what they have practiced. For a
learner to consider tactical demands what is required is more than simply
directing attention to this aspect of the game, it requires them to replace one
habitual pattern of responding with another.
In essence, trying to squeeze decision-making between perception and
response programming requires learners un-learn one habit (A-C) and
replace it with another (A-B-C), which takes time and effort. The danger of this approach is that in
stressful game situations when arousal levels increase, they are
likely to regress to their most dominant habit (Fuchs, 1962; Schmidt &
Wrisberg, 2000). Applied to tennis,
when faced with a ball coming to the forehand side, the goal of players may be
simply to hit it back over the net, rather than hitting it to a particular
target location for a particular strategic purpose. By working to automate response programming first, learners
develop decent skills, but when it comes to games they are more likely to fit
learned skills into a situation rather than assess the situation and use the
appropriate skills for the tactical demands of the situation.
The TGFU approach
can be thought of as a principle-based approach. Similar to the
technique approach, the demands for attention are reduced early in learning , however
this is achieved through simplification rather than fractionation and
segmentation part practice procedures.
Simplification is achieved through the use of modified games designed to
incorporate critical response selection principles but reduced response
programming demands. This way, learners
must continually decide “what to do” as they practice, and are able to discover
the range of movement solutions they are capable of
achieving in pursuit of their tactical
goal. Once initial response selection
and response programming processes become more automated, the simplified games
can be altered to incorporate more of the complexities of the full game. The advantage of skills practice in the
TGFU approach is that it is done from within a context, which produces learners
who learn to solve problems (Higgins, 1991).
In this sense, practice within the TGFU approach facilitates transfer to
games since, from the start, learners’ process information during practice in
relation to the way they were required
to process information in the game. In
practices, as in games, learners identify
relevant perceptual features in order to
select an appropriate skill/strateg ic response,
and must implement a pattern of movement in service of achieving a tactical goal in a game
situation (A-B-C). [My understanding here is that learners practice a
skill/ way of playing after playing a game and realizing the need for
the skill, then they return to the skill to implement the skill based on the
tactical demands of the game.]
A more recent
approach to understanding motor behavior is the dynamical systems
approach. In the dynamical systems
approach movement is viewed as an emergent property of a self-organizing system
(Walter, Lee & Sternad, 1998; Wulf, McNevin, Shea & Wright, 1999). In the game of tennis, for example, players
are faced with a variety of situations in which the overall goal is
similar—keep the ball in play. In each
of these situations, there are a variety of tactics that can be applied, and
for any given tactic there are a variety of ways to coordinate movement to
The learner’s job is to figure out how
to best coordinate their many moving parts to successfully achieve these
tactical goals (Hodges, McGarry & Franks, 1998). Thus, the form of technique per se becomes less important than attaining the task
goal. Although this view
of motor coordination affords the motor system incredible freedom to generate
patterns of movement, certain patterns
of movement are simply more effective and efficient than others.
As noted by Van
der Kamp, Vereijken and Savelsbergh (1996) in
dynamic systems the movement pattern that eventually
emerges forms spontaneously as a function of
interaction between a number of physical and informational
constraints. These include the
structural characteristics of the player’s body, their personal
characteristics, the objects and motion in the environment, and the goal of the task constrained by the rules
of the game (Clark, 1995; Newell, 1986; Temprado & Laurent, 2000;
Vereijken, 1999). All these
sources act to restrict or constrain how players’
movements will be
coordinated (Corbetta & Vereijken, 1999).
Furthermore, Davids and Button (2000), Temprado and Laurent, (2000) and
Wulf et al. (1999) have proposed that intention should been considered as a
constraint. This means that players’
intentions in a game should be
viewed as an intrinsic
constraint, reflecting the influence of their
knowledge and cognition on the form their movement
ultimately takes. The convergence of constraints
from all sources restrict s the range of movement patterns that can effectively
accomplish the task
goal. The neuromuscular system works
within these confines to organize a pattern of muscle activity around joints
that allows the player’s body to act as a single unit to attain the
task goal (Clark, 1995; Higgins, 1985; Turvey, 1990). Turvey (1990) refers to this temporary
assembly of united joint action as a coordinative structure
coordinative structure that emerges in
certain types of situations can be variable, it tends
to stabilize over time. A stabilized
movement pattern is known as an attractor (Clark, 1995). The assumption is that the goal of the system
is to settle into an attractor state.
In sport, it is further assumed that, for each individual, there is an
optimal coordination pattern for any given task based on the interaction of
each individual’s unique physical constraints, and the informational
constraints present in the environment.
The challenge for all learners is to find this optimal coordination
pattern (Wulf et al., 1999). This
discovery process may be more or less difficult depending on the existing
coordination preferences of the individual.
An individual’s intrinsic dynamics refers to attractor states that
represent their preferred modes of coordination (Clark, 1995; Corbetta &
Vereijken, 1999). Learning a new
coordination pattern involves competition between an individual’s intrinsic
dynamics and the optimal movement pattern (Davids & Button, 2000; Lee,
1998). With practice, learners can
modify intrinsic dynamics to produce the optimal coordinative structure
demanded by the new task (Corbetta & Vereijken, 1999). To do this, learners must destabilize
intrinsic dynamics, and search for the optimal coordination pattern. The degree of similarity between an optimal
movement pattern and intrinsic dynamics provides a clue as to how quickly and
how much practice will be needed for the optimal pattern to become the
preferred attractor state. Essentially, skilful movement develops from a
dynamic integration of players’ movements with the ever-changing tactical challenges
set by the environment of the game.
In tennis, there
are many constraints. However,
regardless of the situation, the player’s goal is to match the spatial features
of the racquet with the spatial and temporal features of the ball such that the
ball travels over the net and lands within the boundaries of the court,
will have the most difficulty returning it.
Quite a set of constraints! But
there is more. Achievement of
this task goal requires that the racquet face adopt a
specific orientation at contact . Movements that place the racquet at the
appropriate orientation must accomplish this at the appropriate time, and are
further constrained by the properties of the racquet itself (size, weight) as
well as the flight path, spin and speed of the ball. Furthermore, the movement path of the
racquet once a stroke has been initiated is constrained by the style of grip
adopted by the player, while tactical considerations constrain preparatory
off-the-ball movements (e.g. footwork and body orientation) in order to hit the ball to a particular location in the opposite
court. These constraints also interact
with the structural constraints inherent in the player’s
physique as well as their intrinsic
dynamics [what do you mean by intrinsic dynamics here?]. For many
novice tennis players, the preferred coordination pattern (intrinsic dynamics)
includes movement at the wrist, which is less than optimal since it increases
the number of moving joints, making stroke consistency difficult to achieve
[Wrist action is a big part of advanced tennis play, lack of weight shift from
poor positioning after hitting the ball might be a better example]. Th e convergence of all th e se s
the range of potential movement pattern s that will successfully accomplish
the task goal. Within the
dynamical systems approach, the technique and TGFU approaches to games teaching offer similar
advantages for all but the inclusion of tactical constraints [Re-write this sentence again, a very important
point needs to be said clearly].
the inclusion of tactical considerations early in learning, combined with a reduction in
technical requirements through the use of modified equipment,
allows learners to set goals for action based on the
information at hand. By necessity, the
tactical goals that learners determine constrain the movements they need to generate. What learners learn
under the TGFU approach is to generate tactical action goals based on dynamic
informational constraints (position and motion of the opponent, etc), and
generate appropriate off-the-ball movements in order to assume a court position
that will allow them to hit the ball to a particular location. As learners develop more effective tactical
goals, they realize more effective off-the-ball movements
allowing them to develop new skills and further refine previously
technique approach also appears to make good use of dynamical systems principles in
the development of technique. Intrinsic
dynamics must be destabilized, and new dynamics discovered and practiced in
order to establish an appropriate attractor state. However, in the absence of tactical considerations,
an important set of constraint s
meaning that the range of viable coordinative structures
are more loosely defined. Once the new attractor has sufficient
strength, it seems a short step to add tactical constraints. However, the addition of this
intentional constraint topology with
the additional tactical constraint
must be modified [This is a great sentence, can you de-jargonize it
a bit, like lose the topology].
This is where the classic al
problem of skills not transferring into the game is witnessed and
links back to the concerns highlight by Bunker and Thorpe when they suggested
the TGFU approach.
Figure 1 highlights how a
“technique” focus and a “tactical” focus are linked as two
of games teaching. The teacher of games must have knowledge of
both skill progressions and tactical progressions. The ability to shift between the two perspectives means that game
teachers transform the content knowledge into forms that are pedagogically
powerful, yet adaptive to the variations in ability and background presented by
students(Griffin, Dodds, & Rovengo, 1996;
Shulman, 1987). Emphasizing
either perspective at the expense of the other results in a mis-interpretation
of how to teach students to play games.
The arrows in the figure highlight how the movement in games teaching is
aimed at the gray shaped area between “ skills” and
call this the “tactical-to-skill” domain. As suggested by the TGFU
highlighted by the information processing and dynamic system
theories, the key to learning gamesChandler
(1996), Thorpe, (1990) and Thorpe & Bunker (1989) is to
learn a tactical awareness of playing the game to frame
skill acquisition and developmen m t.
find that when
teaching games we move around the model in Figure 1 , adapt ing the lesson to try to
shift learning into the play rich area of the “tactical-to-skill” domain. It is too
easy to focus on content, believing you are teaching tactics or techniques,
when in reality you are covering material but not engaging the learner. In the "tactic-to-skill" domain
the tactical awareness creates the need to learn skills(Hopper, 1996)ya ed , thus as [Chandler, 1996
#45] suggests TGFU promotes games by using the self-propelling motivation of
games to foster increased skillfulness.
(Almond, 1986; Burrows & Abbey, 1986; Jackson, 1986)(Rink et al., 1996) on
(What we still need to do is answer the question of
when tactics & skills should be introduced. I think we’ve established a
pretty good case for suggesting that tactical awareness should precede
technical work in order to establish a framework in which to understand what
you’re trying to achieve, which skills are needed, why they are important, what
needs to be practiced, etc.)
Figure 1 –
matrix for the contrasting meanings of a technique focus compared
tactic al focus for teaching games
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