A critical application of the ‘teaching games for understanding’ approach in the coaching context: An action research study
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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The innovative nature of the ‘Teaching Games for Understanding’ (TGfU) approach (Thorpe, Bunker & Almond, 1986) has led to considerable interest from researchers and practitioners (e.g., MacPhail et al., 2008). Consequently, many variations of TGfU have come to the fore (e.g., Griffin, Mitchell & Oslin, 1997). Despite the considerable interest from physical education related researchers, those in sports coaching have been slower to embrace the TGfU approach. Therefore, the aim of the study was to improve my practice as a coach and players’ subsequent game understanding through the TGfU framework. An Action Research (AR) methodology involving progressive circles of practice was employed with a volleyball female team over the course of a full eight-month season, with data being drawn from reflective field notes and focus group discussions. Results indicated the development of my ability (as a coach) to reflect in and on the process, emphasising the importance of reflecting on personal reflections. Such practice reinforced the benefit of being exposed to reflective frameworks, and highlighted the role that emotions can play within coaching practice. From this, it became evident that the implementation of an emancipatory AR had a positive impact on my learning as a coach. Nevertheless, findings also highlighted the loneliness of such a process, suggesting the need for critical friends in the field. As a coach, they also reinforced the need for control, thus contradicting the player-centred standpoint that sustains the TGfU approach, whilst suggesting a reconceptualization of emphasis from being ‘player-centred’ to that of ‘interaction-centred’ as being crucial to effective practice. Also, the current study demonstrated an improvement in the players’ ability to reflect, progressing from onaction to in-action as well, in particular from moments of less temporal pressure to more temporal pressure. Lastly, despite not linearly, the players’ game understanding and overall performance improved throughout the season.
PhD Thesis - School of Sport
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