Design the game
So hopefully you’ve had quite a few deeper discussions by now with the key leaders of the organisation you’re working with.
You have a SHARED VISION and AIMS for the participants, with REFERENCES of what it may look like whilst having an introduction to the THEORY and Science behind The GAME PLAY LEARN Way.
Now it’s time to DESIGN THE GAME…
INTRODUCING GAME SESSIONS
We use Games rather than drills for the social benefits, the decision making opportunities, keeping skills in context and unleashing the dynamics in the power of PLAY.
In the context of a grass-roots football (soccer) club, because of the traditional use of drills we wanted to create a new reference for the Games-Based Approach by introducing weekly ‘Game Sessions’.
As a starting point we did 45-60 minute sessions for ‘Juniors’ (Mixed aged 4-12) followed by a 60-75 minutes for ‘Seniors’ (Females aged 14 and up).
PREPARE 3 GAMES PER ‘HOURLY SESSION’
We make sure we have 3 Game Designs up our sleeve allowing for around 15-20 minutes of engagement each game. (Maybe less for younger children).
We decided to introduce the games with the least amount of rule changes but that would create powerful Affordances for learning. This also made it a lot easier to introduce Facilitating rather than having to ‘coach’ all the rules.
And so our Introductory Games for at least the first 4 sessions are:
GAME 1: THE FOUR GOAL GAME – Football with 4 goals.
GAME 2: MULTI-BALL! – Football with more than one ball.
GAME 3: GOLDEN GOAL – If you score a goal, stay on. If the other team scores, go off.
GAME 4: EXTRA PLAYER – One team plays with an extra player (introducing ‘overloads’ and ‘underloads’)
GAME 5: THE HALVES GAME – 2 players from each team stay in the front half and back half (2v2 in each half)
By repeating the games each session and adding one ‘new’ one each week, there becomes a nice balance of getting familiar and mastering the games as well as welcoming new challenges and getting used to task constraints or variations to the ‘proper’ game of football.
PREPARE FOR THE EXPECTED AND THE UNEXPECTED
With every plan we make, we have to be flexible to adapt and adjust according the principle of ‘Emergence’ i.e Embracing natural happenings in real-time within the context e.g varying numbers that could turn up. For the first month (4 sessions), we had no idea how many would turn up and prepared 6 fields for up to 50 players per session. Our highest number has been 29 so far so plenty of room for growth!
FACILITATE MORE, COACH LESS
This is another benefit of a Facilitative, Games-based approach. Because we’re not ‘driving’ the session and instructing players, if we can just give them the basic rules of the game, they can start playing and self-organise. Football is a particularly straight-forward game for kids to start playing without any prompting.
Then it’s a case of trying to add or change the rules to highlight ‘Affordances’ i.e opportunities for action. E.g The Four Goal Game creates affordances to make more decisions without even realising “Which goal can we try and score in for this play?” “Which goal should I defend more in this play?”
If you would like copies of the above Game Designs and a deeper insight into implementing The GAME PLAY LEARN Approach, please sign up to our Coaching Network.