A Framework for Teaching Tactical Game Knowledge

By Wilson, Gail E. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, January 2002 | Go to article overview

A Framework for Teaching Tactical Game Knowledge


Wilson, Gail E., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


Over the past two decades, a considerable amount of research on conceptual or tactical-based approaches to games teaching has been published in the physical education literature. Evolving primarily from the Games for Understanding Model proposed by Bunker and Thorpe (1982), and in response to criticisms about traditional or technique-based approaches to teaching games, this research has provided games teachers with excellent resources for addressing tactical awareness and decision-making in games classes.

However, in order to take advantage of these resources and deal with the many challenges involved in teaching games effectively, teachers themselves should understand basic team-game tactics and strategy (Asquith, 1989; Griffin, Mitchell, & Oslin, 2000). This is particularly true with respect to the most complex of all game forms--invasive team games such as basketball, soccer, hockey, rugby, lacrosse, and ultimate.

Having taught undergraduate pre-service physical education classes for over 20 years, this author has come to believe that many physical educators have an insufficient understanding of the fundamental concepts needed to teach the cognitive aspect of team-game play. This view has been supported by others (Brooker, Kirk, Braiuka, & Bransgrove, 2000; Butler, 1996; Spackman, 1983).

The purpose of this article is to provide an example of a framework of generic knowledge, designed for teachers, that describes and explains the foundational tactical aspects of invasive team-game play.

A Generic Perspective of Invasive Team Games

Invasive team games share many characteristics (Grehaigne & Godbout, 1995; Hopper, 1998; Spackman, 1983; Werner, 1989). The first step in simplifying the tactical aspects of invasive games is to recognize and understand those similarities. For example, scoring in all invasive games requires a game object to be sent into a goal (basketball, hockey, soccer) or carried or passed across a line (football, rugby, ultimate). Furthermore, all invasive games involve the movement of players and a game object in a rectangular-shaped playing area. This common shape leads to common movement patterns by players using space in order to score and, at the same time, blocking or protecting space in order to prevent scoring. Since both teams share the same space, they employ similar tactics and strategies for influencing the actions and movements of each other.

These similarities make it possible to identify and describe the generic objectives, principles, or themes that govern play, and the tactical decisions that can be applied to all invasive team games. Approaching invasive games from a generic perspective simplifies their complexity. It also provides teachers with the knowledge needed to teach the basic strategy of any invasive game in the physical education curriculum and, most importantly, gives teachers a more global understanding of how games are played.

Game Language and Communication

In spite of the many similarities in invasive team games, there is great variation in the language that is used to describe both the events and the participants in different games. For example, movement of the game object towards the goal might be described as a through pass, a forward pass, or a penetrating pass. Movement of the game object back towards a team's defending goal might be classified as a back, negative, support, or depth pass. "Checking" in one sport is "tackling" in another. Much of the ambiguity in games discourse is readily understandable to individuals who have had extensive game experiences. However, individuals who are unfamiliar with team-game terminology may--simply because of vocabulary-- be hindered in their ability to develop an understanding of team-game play.

The terminology of the framework incorporates terms that other authors have used in their research (Almond, 1986; Grehaigne & Godbout, 1995, 1997; Hopper, 1998; Rink, 1998; Spackman, 1983; Worthington, 1980).

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