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Posted in: General

Play time

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  • Wendyrussell

    Hi all,

    I am looking at how we encourage children to play as away of learning. With many examples, evidence  and research out there to support that this works.

    I would like to develop this into how we coach adults. I personally do a part of this, however want to develop further in my own and other coaches.

    Does anyone have any further advice, examples or research in "play time" and adults 

  • LizBurkinshaw

    Check out Flow by Mihaly Scikszentmihalyi.

    TedTalks also have a list https://www.ted.com/playlists/383/the_importance_of_play 

    I suppose it depends on why you are looking to increase playtime for adults. Is it to increase happiness? Then check out Action for Happiness. Is it to increase creativity and engagement? Have a look at Lego Foundation to see if any of their childrens info has relevance.

    I personally believe in the importance of play throughout our lives. Play is not just for children. Play is a foundation for creativity and learning. Being playful helps us build better connections and bonds to people, provides an environment where we can develop our confidence and allows us the freedom to become more competent.


  • Craigblain

    Hi Wendy,

    Try taking a look at games based learning theories, one that works well for Adults and Children alike is 'Teaching Games for Understanding' (TGfU). The approach was developed by researchers at Loughborough University to tap into children’s inherent desire to play, this is a concept that transfers to adults very easily.

    TGfU was orginally designed around skill aquisition but you can broaden it out too, here is a basic overview of the steps;

    1. Set a game-like challenge for your participants to complete.

    eg. Tennis: Get the ball to land in a hulahoop placed on the opposite side of the net.

    2. Afford time for them to explore the challenge through play.

    ie. Trial and error process for the participant, as a coach observe and try not to step in too quickly or frequently.

    3. Make changes using STEP to sustain the challenge.

    eg. Look out for changes in body language, success rates or lack of invention to complete the challenge.

    4. Support participants to understand what they did throughout.

    eg. were the particpants engaged in the process, can they show you what worked and can they tell you why they think it did.

    This is an effective way to motivate through the design of the session as it provides Freedom, Connection and a Sense of Achievement for the participants.

    The theories that sit behind motivation and being motivated (in the moment) all link to the concept of "play" too. This the same when understanding the word (play) as 'time to explore an activity creatively' as well as 'time to practice a specific skill'.

    For this, if you like reading up on other pieces of research, look out for "Self Determination Theory" as it links very well with Teaching Games for Understanding.

    I hope this helps and good luck with your coaching.




  • Wendyrussell

    Thank you Craig for this. Within education I use this a lot especially with the older students. I also try and get coaches to most certain use this method. 

    I have done this's with a slight twist, where I have a different types of equipment and then adults groups together and chose the equipment and go set up a challenge/task.

    Then they have to change it for a specific skill or principle that we are looking at. Getting them to think about what they are doing, but at the same time have fun and play

  • cheetham

    Hi Wendy


    An excellent book by Stuart Brown (Play)is a really helpful guide on learning through play. At the moment i am preparing for a conference presentation (which has a practical element) where i highlight how important it is that coaches revisit the experience of play by doing just that.  

    David Brooks (The Social Animal)  reflected how children are the masters of play. With a parent attempting to join in his children in a play session found "it was a big mistake, it was roughly the equivalent of a normal human being grabbing a basketball and inviting himself to play for the LA Lakers".

    We grow up and distance ourselves from what 'to play' is like, ask a child to go and play and i doubt they will say 'how?

    Hope this helps and here is the link http://www.coach.ca/richard-cheetham-p159475



  • Wendyrussell

    Hi Richard,

    Thank you you for this. Will get ordering :-)

    I have noticed more and more how young adults, and now, even older young people can not play. 

    Just the other day I asked some footballers to remove themselves from the all weather pitch I was just about to train on. They had climb the fence to get onto the pitch. However this pitch is surrounded by 2 fields of 4 football pitches. When I asked why they chose to play on the all weather and not the field, they replied they needed the goal. 

    We then had a conversation about imagination and what happend to the using bags and jumpers as post. They struggled with this concept, as when they play they have lines and goals. 

    I question are we as a society reducing imagination and play. (Which is whole other area!!) 

  • coach_lou

    That is a really interesting point about just playing without a marked court or official goals Wendy.  I remember my tennis court as a kid was outside the house in the road (kerbs were in, grass verge out - quite contentious at times!) and our football/cricket pitches were over the local rec. It got me thinking and then I realised that I hardly ever see young people just playing now either. The increase in new facilities has been really positive for sport but is it also stiffling the creativity of both coaches and participants?    

  • cheetham

    Coaching and playing is very often about improvisation. I wonder if too often coaches regard 'play' as a waste of time, where learning is not taking place and yet by integrating this as part of their practice adaptation, imagination and creativity can really happen. It is part of my coaching philosophy and one to encourage in others.

  • CycleCoach

    A really useful reminder of the importance of imagination and improvisation in sport. If you have only ever practiced set moves and drills how can you capitalise on the unexpected opportunities as they arise?

    In my cycling coaching we often finish the session with a short race. These usually conform to a known format and as exciting as they often are, the word 'fun' probably wouldn't feature in most young peoples' feedback. 

    Just occasionally we will have the 'bonkers' race; an elimination race where the rules get changed each lap depending on the whim of the coach who shouts instructions 10 m before the line: "Last one out" "First two out" "Fourth person across the line is out" etc... Chaos ensues but there is always much chatting and laughter. The riders recognise that there is an arbitrariness that means they can be caught out by circumstance or chance no matter how hard they try but it is a throw-back to the games we invent as kids that are pure PLAY.

    They will ask for it most weeks but kept in reserve to be brought out as required it is a nice way to spice up a training block.

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