Growing the Love of a Game

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Growing the Love of a Game

Growing the Love of a Game

That magic pull towards a game. Are we born with it? It’s a pull that can become all-consuming. We love the game, the friends, the challenge and the satisfaction of it all. We fall in love with a game.

There may be a specific reason that we fall in love with a particular game due to socio-cultural influences, or perhaps there’s no explanation for evoking such passion for playing and competing.

So how do we ensure this passion lasts a lifetime? Or do kids ‘naturally lose interest’ afterwhile?

Hang on, if we’re saying we can nurture talent and creativity, then motivation must be another complexity we can’t give nature all the credit for:

“It’s not defined by a young athlete’s fixed set of genetic or acquired components but rather by a dynamically varying relationship captured by the constraints imposed by the tasks experienced, physical-socio environment and the personal resources of the performer” - Araujo & Davids, 2011 (c/o Baker, 2017)

So are they motivated because of or despite of our environments?

Drop-out rates for organised sport tell a story as do socio-cultural influencing of an imposing kind:

“The world is such a noisy place. Loud, haranguing voices lecturing me to hustle, to improve, build, strive, yearn, acquire, compete, and grasp for more. For bigger and better. Sacrifice sleep for productivity. Strive for excellence. Go big or go home. Have a huge impact in the world. Make your life count.

But what if I just don’t have it in me. What if all the striving for excellence leaves me sad, worn out, depleted? Drained of joy. Am I simply not enough?” - What If All I Want is a Mediocre Life? Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui

We need to be careful as coaches that we’re nurturing their joy, not draining it through pressure, boredom or ‘over-coaching’.

Q > If our aim as coaches is to ensure our learner’s ‘fall in love with the game for a lifetime’, what can we do to nurture this joy?

Q > Is it a matter of just ‘pushing’ kids to be the best?

Q > Do kids really need external influences ‘pushing’ them to reach their potential?

Most coaches and educators would know about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and that a ‘drive’ is best coming from within the learner. But are we aware how this drive can develop through a Self-Determined approach? 


The science attests to intrinsic motivation being a golden dynamic in development, underpinned by the Self-Determination Theory.

“The pursuit of autonomy, competence and relatedness and the intrinsic motivation resulting from their satisfaction can be seen as an energising constraint that encourages effort and persistence with respect to goal tasks. Deci & Ryan (2000) suggest that intrinsically motivated behaviours are a function of psychological needs, and as suggested earlier, intrinsic motivation is an important goal for any programme directed towards developing expertise.”

Excerpt From: Jia Yi Chow. “Nonlinear Pedagogy in Skill Acquisition: An Introduction.” 

“A focus on the client’s needs and motivators is respectful, and acknowledges that they, after all, are the experts in how they change, and that such change is on their own terms, not ours. Trainers do not tell, they ask, adopting a curious approach to the client’s self-image. When self-image is enhanced, clients feel secure enough to engage with others in team collaboration, rather than try to defiantly seek their own way in making something of themselves, above and beyond others in the group.”

Excerpt From: Roy Sugarman PhD. “Motivation for Coaches and Personal Trainers: Engaging and Retaining People in Positive Behavioral Change.” iBooks

For another general exposition  on Self-Determination Theory and Intrinsic Motivation, Watch here (Video 10 minutes) or read here (

THE Practical

Let’s look at what we can provide for our learners to encourage a Self-Determined, ‘love for the game’ through:


First of all, let’s take the pressure off winning or being the best. If the child’s interested in an outcome down the track that’s great, but our focus is on their personal journey and facilitating experiences that provides opportunities not for winning, but for:

“Matching task difficulty to the level of competency of every child, provide some autonomy in terms of making a decision about when to make the task easier or harder and additionally promote relatedness as learners work together to achieve their goals.” Excerpt From: Jia Yi Chow. “Nonlinear Pedagogy in Skill Acquisition: An Introduction.” iBooks.


Design the GAME 

Play a GAME! You don’t have to complicate your session design, let them fall in love with THE GAME by playing THE GAME.

  1. LISTEN TO THE KIDS:   Allow learners to voice their ideas and collaborate on decisions and Game Design as it emerges.
  2. VARIETY: Use Multi-sport for diverse game experiences and to consolidate a particular passion further down the track.
  3. SMALL NUMBERS, MORE FIELDS: Give more opportunity for each learner to participate by making lots of teams of small numbers and having as many fields as needed. The more fields, the more it helps us step back and let the learners own their game.


What does this look like?


We use examples of Rally Games to provide a Self-Determined experience.

Foot Tennis is a Multi-Game that is easily manipulated to cater for the competencies, choices and competition.



If you are yet to hear of Pat Coburn and his colleagues work with The Rally Method that has origins back in the late 1990s where their ‘game sense’ approach to development in Tennis evolved into carefully manipulated modified games with the main concept of keeping the game going,

“When I’m training new coaches I always ask the question. If a couple of young 6 year olds found a tennis court, two racquets and a ball, what sort of game do you think they would make up and how would the rules differ to tennis.” Pat Coburn 


So to wrap up:

Q. As facilitators of a learning environment, how do we ensure our young learners passion lasts a lifetime?

We can’t ever ensure anything of the future but if we can provide a safe, engaging, SELF-DETERMINED experiences for our young learners, it will have potential to make long-lasting positive motivation for anything they choose to do in life.

Comment below and tell us your ‘HOW’:

How are you providing opportunities  of Self-Determination in your learning environment?


4 Comments on “Growing the Love of a Game”

  1. It’s interesting to ask kids questions about their love of the game. Like if they love the game more now than when they first started? ‘What would you do at training if you could choose?’ It takes awhile to get them thinking, they are used to being TOLD not ASKED. But as they get used to inputing into sessions and collaborating, it turns into a ‘real-life’ learning experience, learning how to not just learn a game but learn how to relate with others.

  2. One of the biggest problems I find, is that kids aren’t used to making up their own rules/games. Once they get into school, they start becoming afraid of trying new things - for fear of failure. The process of creating a ‘game’ involves trial and error, which takes time. Their experience of educational institutions demands quick results and therefore they are always feeling rushed in their learning.

    1. Great point Asif! Kids are getting rushed into organised settings younger and younger these days and are getting told what to do or entertained by technology. They need the unhurried, imaginative space to explore and create again. As facilitators then, we need to structure the ‘un-structured’ into our sessions e.g. ‘Free Play’ and get them used to trying new things again.

  3. Pingback: Letting Kids Be Kids - Game Play Learn

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