Watch Them LEARN: From Motivator to Observer

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Watch Them LEARN: From Motivator to Observer

Our aim at GAME PLAY LEARN is to empower learners and give them ownership of their learning journey.

In our last blog Do you use your Power to Empower? We promote the shift in the power of our role as Leaders to empowering our learners. This involves developing independent learners detaching from us so they can attach to their experience. Through developing independent learners, our role as Leader then, moves from

Coach > Facilitator
Instructor > Learning Designer
And Now add…

 Motivator > Observer

In a recent Twitter post, we sought to challenge the importance of coach feedback and impact on learner’s motivation.



Many a Hollywood movie has given us goosebumps from hearing the coach with the inspirational last speech, motivating the players to give the performance of their lives. The music, the passion, the adrenalin, it all culminates in lifting the players to produce more than they could by themselves.

Do we really think that is what a coach’s role is? To be the driver of the experience or the provider? Do learners even need our verbal affirmation if we can create an environment that is already safe, engaging and empowering?

Yes, this is easier said then done. It’s take time to create a safe trusting relationship – that needs a positive approach. We affirm to add to learners confidence – to encourage empowerment. But just as we take care in building a positive relationship, we become more aware of what we say, and if we really need to say it.


Growth/Fixed Mindset? It is really about learning – Mark O’Sullivan  (Referencing The Problem with Praise – Richard Bailey)

We can always draw on (or reject) the ‘praise’ of a Motivator if needed, but it comes from the place of The Observer.


Yes, there are times where we all have an ‘off’ day, need a helping hand or an encouraging word. But it comes from the Observing place and sensing what each learner needs at the right time.

Imagine if the coach wasn’t there and the players didn’t skip a beat. They were engrossed in the game and they played their hearts out. Rather than being the first one the players look to, the coach was the last.

The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’ – Maria Montessori

Does that mean they don’t need us? Of course not! The Observer still has the most complex of roles  –

TO Watch Them LEARN

The learning from a complex game such as football, comes from deeply attuning to the game information as it presents. Ball.  Goal. Get the ball in the goal. Teammates. Opponents. Work with them. Stop them. Protect the goal. Score the goal. Miss. Try again.

There’s so much to perceive, decisions to make, so many solutions on offer. We don’t need to watch the game, we need to watch them. Observe what they are perceiving, watch their actions in response to that perception, watch their interactions. Watch them LEARN.

As we watch, we learn about how they learn and get to know their needs to create the challenging, fun-loving environment that they deserve.

It’s not like we we’re mutes, but we become more aware that we need less verbals and more observing, analysing and navigating. Just as our learners are doing in their experience.

So during the experience we are all consumed with the game shouting its information and dynamics. It’s afterward that we can regroup, reflect and share together. Again, carefully facilitated so we are helping them articulate the experience, not us.


So, are we best to be Motivators or Observers? Neither, both. It depends! We are whatever our learners need us to be. But how can we know unless we observe first, speak later, or maybe not speak at all.


Time to observe yourself Observing! Yes, you can ask a friend or video yourself, but get used to becoming aware of your own words and actions. 

  1. Where are you on the Motivator <> Observer continuum? Where would you like to be?
  2. Are you able to sense what to provide the learner when they need it?
  3. Would your learners be ok if you walked away? (Try it and find out!)
  4. Are you watching the game or watching them learn?


2 Comments on “Watch Them LEARN: From Motivator to Observer”

  1. For Q3 My U10 Football group were in the middle of a Multi-Game of Soccer Dodgeball. There’s a lot of rules and very hard to watch every action with multiple balls flying everywhere! Usually there’s a lot of conflict between the players of score tally and players not being honest in getting out. It’s difficult to manage! So when nature called I ran off and told them to Self-Organise. It was a very nervous few minutes but upon returning, someone told me the score, ‘Great, keep going then!’ I said and I very happily took my seat in the corner and didn’t say another word.

  2. Pingback: The PE Playbook – December 2016 Edition – drowningintheshallow

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