Play with Purpose: Teaching Games and Sport for Understanding as Explicit Teaching

Shane Pill, John Williams

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review


Play with Purpose derives from the Game Sense approach (GSA) (Australian Sports Commission [ASC], 1996). The GSA is a game-based teaching/coaching approach founded on athlete-centred inquiry teaching styles, such as guided discovery where well considered questioning is characteristic. It was intended as an alternative to the traditionally dominant transmission pedagogy of directive and practice style instruction of games teaching (ASC, 1996). The athlete centred narrative of player responsibility for learning associated with the GSA (Pill, 2018) challenges traditional directive teaching of ‘sport-as-sport-techniques’ (Kirk, 2020) taught through demonstrate-explain-practice (DEP: Tinning, 2010). This historical popular approach to teaching generally divides the session into an introductory activity or warm-up, a technique skill practice section, then a game or game play, finishing with a warm-down (Pearson & Webb, 2009). Typically, attainment of technical competency is viewed as necessary before game play (Light, 2013; Pill, 2017), occurs after a series of closed and open skills, at the end of the session. Alternatively, the more reality congruent approach, meaning ‘… the knowledge of it that is possible’ (Giovannini, 2015) to sport teaching and coaching provided by play with purpose (Pill, 2007) seeks to enhance sport participation and facilitate retention through practice sessions more aligned with the reasons people participate in sport- to be able to play the game. Game play is therefore indicated as the central element and focus of practice sessions of the GSA (ASC, 1996). The GSA continues to inform sport-related games teaching and coaching as the pedagogical basis of the Sport Australia Playing for Life Philosophy and programs like Sporting Schools (Sport Australia, 2021). However, it is our experience PE teachers and sport coaches often misunderstand teaching games for understanding as ‘let them play’ as ‘the game will be the teacher’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeaching Games and Sport for Understanding
EditorsShane Pill, Ellen-Alyssa Gambles, Linda Griffin
Place of PublicationUnited States
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781003298298
ISBN (Print)9781032287355, 9781032287294
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2023


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