A Facilitators Framework: Let them PLAY

adminBlog, Let them PLAYLeave a Comment

Let them PLAY

Facilitating PLAY

  1. We have a SHARED VISION
  2. We have REFERENCES for what the Vision can look like
  3. We have the UNDERPINNING THEORY of what we are implementing
  4. We’ve carefully designed  small-sided GAMES  
  5. Now we…


The Power of PLAY is gaining more awareness in its value, especially as cultures have placed more emphasis on adult-driven structured settings, become risk averse, fear-driven and merely forgetting a child’s right of passage and natural learning through play.

In Sporting Contexts, the essence is ‘to play’ the game and so we can emphasise:


Here’s a crucial principle to ensure we create an environment that affords the wonderful dynamics in the Power of PLAY:


Engagement is key to learning for it’s only when one gives their attention fully to a task, that one can then fully explore it.

“Coaches, if you don’t first help your players to love the game, they won’t ever want to learn the game.”Kris Van Der Haegen Coaching Education Director for Belgium FA

We want to provide affordances which will engage the player so much, they won’t even realise they’re learning. E.g  It may be a seemingly small detail such as in a football context, using goals with nets rather than poles, because we know the best feeling in the world is to hit the back of the net! We’re constantly looking for ways of draw them in, to then draw out their potential.

( 1 ) Engage EVERY Individual

It’s also our aim to engage every individual no matter what the experience level or unique challenges. It can difficult to cater for all, but it also can be done. It may be as simple as asking the individual what’s going on for them.

“Is there something we can change to make the game better (easier) for you?”

Not every kid can do a drill, but every kid can play! A drill stops if a player makes a mistake and becomes very noticeable. A Game keeps moving! Especially in team sports, you’ve got teammates to help you, you’re all in it together! Another reason to encourage a games-based approach.


Let’s come back to our Aims of serving our participants needs and the UNDERPINNING THEORY of Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan)  When someone’s engaging it’s usually because there basic psychological needs of autonomy, competency and relatedness are being served with the outcome of intrinsic or autonomous motivation being nurtured.

How do we implement this?


They have the basic choice to play the game or not. If they’re playing the game, hopefully it’s because they want to rather than being pushed or mandated to.

If they don’t want to play, there’s a chance for feedback on why they aren’t engaged or even better add another option for them to choose what they’d like to do. But the best way is to ASK!

“Is the game boring?” (Too challenging/not challenging enough)

“How would you change the game if you could?’

“What would you like to be playing instead?”

Are they not feeling well or not having a good day? They just may prefer to sit down which is ok too. But we have valued them, provided them choice and autonomy in the experience.


Success breeds confidence. But what success is for a child looks very different to us as adults. The obvious example is winning. That’s success isn’t it? Let’s have another look through the eyes of a child:



We do need to ensure they can experience some success in relation to growing competencies or developing mastery, to inspire confidence. It may just be to express themselves among others, learning a new game or scoring and stopping a goal. This is where our carefully designed small-sided games come to the for.


At Swansea FC ‘Games Sessions’ we are introducing games slowly to the group to gain that confidence of mastering the game.  We may introduce one new game out of three games each week, but still able to add variations to the familiar games too. E.g This week we played Four Goal Multi-ball. We just had different goals on the three fields so they enjoyed rotating around playing the game on with varying size and type of goals. It was enough variation to stimulate engagement  yet with the familiarity of that game they had been playing over the previous weeks.


Arguably the most important factor in engaging a participant would be to enable connection with others and with the game.

There needs to be opportunity to connect with others, even if it means stopping for a chat during the game. But that’s another beauty of games, the game keeps moving and includes interacting with others through the game.

To connect players with the game gives us a hint here as Facilitators (coaches) that we need to be careful not to interrupt that connection. Constant instruction and stopping the game interrupts this connection. As Mark O’Sullivan says “If we are going to step into the learning process, we’d better add value.” The main times then we’d be stopping the game is to change something or have a quick break or to draw attention to something in the game.


In the last session, during the hour, we stopped the game twice to change fields and added a scoring zone to one of the fields. And I called a penalty after a big tackle, to add extra excitement to the experience. Three stoppages in the hour. That’s all that we felt was needed. 


To Facilitate the Power of PLAY in our environments,

We need to ENGAGE the every participant by SERVING THEIR NEEDS through:

Giving them CHOICE (Autonomy)

Balancing CONFIDENCE with CHALLENGE (Competency)

and enabling CONNECTION (Relatedness).

Facilitate The GPL Way

Join a Network of Coaches who are becoming Facilitators of The GAME PLAY LEARN Way and get access to Resources including Videos, Game Designs and A Facilitators Framework.

Join the facilitators network



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.