A quiet revolution

Given what is taking place over the next few days I think an English blog post is highly appropriate. I am of course thinking about the crescendo of the men’s World Cup of football where the semi-finals get underway tonight with France facing Belgium. The latter’s performance is now explained in various ways and different posts in blogs and on Twitter. One being the Coaching revolution that took Belgium to top of world where things like player centred coaching, a games based approach and leaving room for late developers are mentioned. The coaching system of Belgian football I know has been a source of inspiration for many for quite some time. Whether this system is the reason behind the current success will always be difficult to prove. However, to conclude that there is something to be said about coaching that tries to move away from the many times mundane types of drills to develop skills that in many sports have been prevalent in recent years I think is is no overstatement.

A good friend of mine and long time partner in coaching, Stuart Armstrong (whose podcast on coaching The talent equation is highly recommended) said to me not too long ago that ”there is a quiet revolution going on”. Perhaps this World Cup is when the revolution goes public.

For those of you interested in the more scientific background it goes back to 1982 when Rod Thorpe and David Bunker published an article on what they called the Teaching Games For Understanding (TGFU). My first acquaintance with this model came through working with professor Paul Schempp somewhere around the late 1990:s or early 2000:s and when I later moved to Woodhall Spa to take up a job with English Golf, making the short journey to Loughborough to meet with Rod was high up on my list of priorities. In a fascinating conversation Rod told me how he and David Bunker developed the model as they realised that for too long they had been teaching children they could not play sports, when teaching physical education. That is what happens when you start with skill. There is always something more to develop. In TGFU the approach is to focus on the game and the purpose of the game. This develops decision makers that based on their skills can play the game to the best of their ability. Understanding the game will also make players/athletes realise what they cannot yet do, and hence also develop skills as a consequence.

From 1982 TGFU has been further developed and there is pioneering work taking place in many sports and in numerous countries. If this alone will develop World Champions I am too much of a scholar to want to say can be proven. What I do know though is that sport played and practiced in a games approach way is so much more fun. Beneficiaries of this will no doubt be both athletes and crowds, which is not a bad thing.


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