Improving Net/wall Game Performance

Article excerpt

At the core of the Teaching Games for Understanding (TGFU) approach is the games classification system, which provides a structure for teaching games. How can the principles of the understanding approach be implemented in a practical setting? Using volleyball as an example, this article will provide suggestions for teaching net/wall games with a tactical focus. Following an introductory framework of fundamental tactical problems, specific lesson strategies that promote learning tactical problems, skills, and movements are outlined. "Developmentally appropriate" suggestions for teaching net/wall games are provided next. Finally, the article presents levels of tactical understanding (i.e., at what stage of development certain tactical problems might be addressed), along with guidelines for teaching from a tactical perspective.

Tactics of Net/Wall Games

Net/wall games such as volleyball, tennis, and badminton all involve tactically propelling an object so that it cannot be returned by an opponent (Siedentop, 1990). Two basic principles direct play in net/wall games: placement of the ball and court positioning (Jones, 1982). These principles can be broken down into fundamental tactical problems which relate to scoring and score prevention (See table 1 for an example of a framework of the tactical problems in volleyball). When scoring, players concentrate on solving problems of setting up to attack, winning the point, and attacking as a team. To prevent scoring, players focus on defending space on the court, defending against the attack, and defending as a team. The framework also presents specific off-the-ball movements and on-the-ball skills which are necessary to deal with tactical problems. In other words, instead of drilling on-the-ball skills to achieve isolated skill development, the focus shifts to solving tactical problems. In essence, off-the-ball movements and on-the-ball skills become tactical solutions to general problems in the game.

Let's examine the most basic tactical problem in volleyball, the three-contact concept (pass-set-hit). This is a necessary condition for the attack. Setting up to attack in volleyball involves the on-the-ball skills of forearm and overhead passing, as well as hitting. The relevant off-the-ball movements, often overlooked, involve transition (establishing a new position) and support (backing up teammates). For example, after a player receives a serve, he or she needs to move into a ready position for hitting. These off-the-ball movements can optimize students' awareness and performance. Teachers can communicate tactical concepts of volleyball from the onset. For example, the on-the-ball skill of forearm pass compares tactically to serve receive and free ball passing, while overhead passing equates to setting and hitting is a means of attack.

Tactical problems suggested in other net/wall games are similar to those in volleyball. In badminton and tennis, tactical problems related to scoring might include setting up to attack, winning the point, and attacking as a pair, while score prevention requires defending space on the court, against an attack, and as a pair. A set of tactical problems can be framed to guide the practice of various net/wall games.

Teaching for Tactical Understanding

The TGFU approach places the basic principles and tactics at the heart of our teaching. The understanding perspective fosters a decision-making process for students regarding what to do (tactical awareness) as well as how to do it (skill execution).

A typical lesson would reflect a game-structured practice-game progression. Lessons begin with a game, or more specifically, a game form, such as 2 vs. 2, 3 vs. 3, or 4 vs. 4. Game forms guide the lessons and allow for both modification, to represent the advanced form, and exaggeration, to present students with tactical problems (Thorpe, Bunker, & Almond, 1986).

Next would be a structured practice segment, which focuses on solving tactical problems. …