What are Games?


Games or educational games are activities involving one or more people, on the move with or without an object or implement, playing under mutually agreed upon set of rules.  Games can be used for practice/self-testing skills, cooperative play or competitive play.  There are four basic types of games: invasion/territory, net/wall, striking/fielding and target. 


Invasion games are goal oriented and characterized by “invading” another team’s half of the space or playing area.  Invasion games include: lacrosse, football, hockey and the like.  There can be a focused goal such as a basketball hoop or lacrosse goal or an open goal such as a rugby or American football end zone.  Many forms of manipulative skills are used in this type of game.  The game space is usually rectangular and shared with all players.  Invasion game players usually have specified roles (e.g., positions on offense and defense).  Invasion games are the most complex type of game.


The objective in net and wall games (e.g., tennis, squash, volleyball) is to send an object over a net or off a wall into the most open space. The team or player receiving the ball needs to defend his or her space.  Striking with hands, rackets, and paddles as well as volleying are primary skills in net and wall games.  The space is usually divided in half.


Batting, fielding, and run scoring games include softball, baseball, and cricket.  In these games students need to develop the ability to strike a ball with a bat to open spaces.  Fielding team players need to be able to throw, catch, and collect.  The space is shared with the batting team traveling on a track (e.g., basepath).


Target games such as golf, archery and bocce involve sending objects toward a target.  Sending objects is the major movement skill used here (e.g., striking and throwing).  The playing area is shared.  The players alternate turns and do not interfere or interact (in an offensive or defensive manner) with one another.  Target games are the least complex type of game.


Game Learning Targets – Movement Skills, Strategies and Tactics


Students should first understand the purpose (e.g., offense and defense) of the game and how it is played (i.e., rules of the game).  The rules should be simplified for beginners.  The rules that we impose on players will determine what and how they use movement skills and tactics.  During the games unit students learn movement skills (e.g., striking with a bat, dribbling, catching, sliding while defending) and how to make tactical decisions.  Students must also learn to understand the purpose of the skill and when to use the skill within a game.


Skillful play within these games requires manipulative skills that come from the following three broad categories:


  1. Sending an object away – striking, volleying, kicking, or throwing it
  2. Receiving/gaining possession of an object – by catching (trapping) or collecting it (i.e., gaining control of and/or redirecting an object coming along the ground
  3. Traveling with and retaining the object – by carrying or propelling it (e.g., dribbling).


Teaching Games for Understanding


There are many ways to teach students game skills.  Teaching games for understanding (TGFU) is a popular method.   A TGFU approach includes: introducing students to: a type of game (e.g., invasion, net/wall, fielding or target), tactical awareness (e.g., learn tactics associated with each game type), decision making (i.e., recognize situations in which tactics can be applied), and skill execution (e.g., learn ways to perform skill appropriately within each game type).


Strategies and tactics are skills themselves. A strategy is an overall game plan and the sum of all tactics used. Tactics are decisions about what actions to take in response to problems that arise during a game. Students must understand the tactics and strategies appropriate to each game in order to be successful. 


Students must have control over their bodies and over an object before they can apply the strategies and tactics successfully to a game. Thus, players who have more control of their body and objects will be able to employ more skills more successfully.    Students need to play games at a developmentally appropriate level throughout the unit.  How skillfully a player can play is strongly influenced by the game setting he or she is in.  Performance is also influenced by the skill levels the opponents and the teammates.