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Teaching Game For Understanding

Author: Sasa Kostic

The game summary:

According to the new English game evolving, it is highly likely that the game in the future will be even quiker, more technical and tactical, and the demands on younger players will be elevated. It is evident that players are quicker over the ground and now cover more distance at the higher speed, balls traveling faster between players, teams are making more passes and more goals are scored quickly. The game preparation is based on game strategy and game tactics. The main priority is pointed to the game principles, and players must be able to recognizes, understand and employ the necessary skill on the real game situation. Learning trough games, developing game understanding and decision making should be encouraged from U 8, together with fundamental movement, and technical development. The game understanding is primarily designed trough various unpredictable practice. This practice challenges the players to transfer their technique into games, encouraging the development of tactical and game understanding (The future game, Fa 2010).

Almost 40 years ago Thorpe and Bunker represented and introduced the teaching game for understanding (TGFU) and tried develop a new system based on tactical model and game sense.

A Description of Teaching Games for Understanding

TGFU approach developed from the work of Rod Thorpe and David Bunker at Loughborough University during the 1970s and early 1980s.  Other terms that describe developments of this approach include the Tactical Games model and Game Sense; Thorpe and Bunker observed that much games teaching and coaching was dominated by the development of techniques within highly structured lessons. They also observed that in school physical education, the development of techniques took up the majority of lesson time with little time left to actually play the game. Even when game play was included in lessons, teachers and coaches rarely made connections between the techniques practices and how and when these techniques should be applied in game play. (Kirk D., and MacPhail A. 2002.)

This system was developed through the years. Very important fact is our understanding that the original system was main objective for many researches began at late 1980. According to Griffin, Oslin and Mitchell 1995; Lawton 1989; Turner and Martinek, 1992; Rink at al.1996 research was based on comparison and with the forms of games teaching it to assumed to replace traditional technique –led approaches. The most powerful finding across the studies reviewed by Rink was that students who were taught from a TGFU prospective tend to perform better on test on tactical knowledge than those taught from a technique led prospective. (Kirk D., and MacPhail A. 2002.)

TGFU is a game and learner-centered model to learning games. The original six-step TGFU model, coupled with four fundamental pedagogical principles (sampling, representation, exaggeration and tactical complexity), was presented as a curriculum model for developing decision making and skill performance in games (Thorpe and Bunker 1989; Thorpe, Bunker, and Almond 1984).In recent years, the TGFU model has been simplified by Griffin, Mitchell, and Oslin (1997) to a three-stage model that focuses on three essential lesson components of the model (i.e., game form, tactical awareness and skill execution) for practitioners when teaching for tactical awareness and skill acquisition.( Tan. C., Chow.J, Davids. K. 2012)

I agree that this type of approach can be used in soccer. In general game has various unpredictable situations that need to be solved by players. Approach to learn in the game, and learn from the game is option that gives the players better understanding how they need to play and why they need to play on certain way.

Implementation of the original or modified system depends of age and level of competition.

The balance between theoretical and practical education has to be lead by the coach.



FA Learning. The future game. (2010).


Kirk, D., MacPhail, A. (2002). Teaching games for understanding and situated learning:

            rethinking the Bunker-Thorpe model. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 21,



Tan, C., Chow, J., & Davids, K. (2012). ‘How does TGFU work?’: examining the relationship

            between learning design in TGFU and a nonlinear pedagogy. Physical Education & Sport

            Pedagogy, 17(4), 331-348





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