Let's talk about Game Sense

Game Sense is an innovative, student-centred approach to physical education that places the game at the heart of the session. The Game Sense approach to teaching physical education was developed in the mid 1990’s, as a sport specific variation of the Bunker-Thorpe model of Teaching Games for Understanding.

It focusses on the game, rather than on technical skill drills and practice, to encourage students to develop their tactical awareness and decision making and how these apply to different sport technical skills (from why to how). (Breed & Spittle, 2021).

Breed and Spittle (2021) describe it is an instructional approach for teaching and learning that aims to:

  • Emphasise game understanding and the development of tactics and strategy
  • Assist players in developing technical skills as they recognise and understand their importance in the context of games
  • Enhance social and communication skills by presenting small teams with strategic challenges to solve (personal, social relationships)

The pedagogy can be simplified into three easy steps:

  1. Develop and establish clear objectives i.e. what are you trying to achieve?
  2. Use of questioning to guide learners and help them to explore movement options/solutions
  3. Modify task constraints and replay the game to challenge learners to discover new movement solutions

Questioning is a vital component as it challenges and facilitates further learning and should be open-ended. Breed and Spittle (2011) suggest there are three ways of asking questions during game play. These include:

  • Strategy-guiding: help with decision making (e.g.: when should you run, pass or shoot the ball? Why?)
  • Sport-linking: help to transfer skills (e.g.: when in netball and soccer should you consider slowing down the play?)
  • Scenario: help to determine modifications to be implemented by the teacher (e.g.: what type of defence should you use if you are two goals down with one minute left to play?)
What are the benefits of implementing the Game Sense model?

With the recent COVID pandemic and remote learning, students have become more sedentary and disengaged with physical activity.  The Physical Activity and exercise guidelines for young people (5 to 17 years) outline that the recommended amount of physical activity is at least 60 minutes per day, however, studies show that this is the case for only a small percentage.  The Victorian Government’s Physical and Sport Education Policy also mandates specific time requirements for physical education per week.

When the Game Sense model is applied to all Physical Education lessons students experience benefits far beyond meeting these recommendations, such as:

  • Develops participants who are smart, not just skilled
  • Allows for modifications to better suit variety of skill levels
  • Improves fundamental movement skills relevant to each developmental stage
  • Builds confidence and team work
  • Starts with games involving basic skills and gradually builds to make more complex game situations
  • Develops the whole student whereby all four physical literacy domains are referenced:
    • Physical – movement skills, coordination, strength, speed, flexibility, etc
    • Psychological – confidence, motivation, engagement, enjoyment
    • Social - relationships, collaboration, ethics
    • Cognitive – tactics, strategy, reasoning, rules
How to structure a lesson using the Game Sense model

The pedagogical challenge of the Game Sense approach is in the purposeful design or selection, and then shaping of games to focus the play on the concepts and movement responses to be learnt.  Small sided games are played to develop the skills and tactics transferable across different sports (shown in table below).

This allows students to build their skills across the game categories, rather than focusing on a singular skill only used in one sport.Students learn these transferable skills in a modified and progressive environment where there is more emphasis and encouragement on tactical and decision-making skills, promoting achievement and thus enjoyment through student centred learning.

FMS/SSS: Game concepts:
Small-sided games:
Run, leap, dodge, vertical jump, overhand throw, catch, bounce 
  • Use of space – defensively, offensively  
  • Receiving and moving into propulsion  
  • Rules that impact movement, interception
End Zone 
Crazy Ball 
Team Tag Ball 
5 Passes Down
Overhand strike , sidearm strike, overhand throw, catch, run, dodge, leap, bowl, underarm throw


  1. Ball (object) placement  
  2. Shot selection  
  3. Positioning  


  1. Moving into position
  2. Receiving the ball 
  3. Returning the ball (object)
Team Rapid Fire 
Bowler Goaler 
Beat the Ball 
French Cricket 
Batters Bonanza
Overhand strike, overhand throw, catch, run, dodge, jump/leap


  1. Shot selection 
  2. Positioning of the body 
  3. Ball (object) Placement 


  1. Moving to position (striking) and striking the ball (object) 

Reading play

Critical rules related to different sports (legal shots, in/out, scoring points)

Four Square
Corner Ball
Wall Ball
Happy Feet


Game Sense lessons focus on:

  • Playing small-sided games to maximise participation and present only the main rules 
  • Using open-ended questioning to encourage participants to critically explore tactics, techniques and strategies 
  • Replaying games after questioning to allow participants to implement/improve areas discussed 
  • Modifying games (rules, equipment, aim) to address constraints and promote inclusion and success 

The constraints-based approach views the learner as an active problem-solver and emphasises a guided-discovery approach to learning. Teachers need to be viewed as a facilitator who adjusts and changes constraints to guide the learner towards finding appropriate movement solutions. By being able to better understand constraints, teachers (as well as coaches and students) can more effectively manipulate learning activities and strategies to suit changing environments, and the varying needs of different students

What does the model look like in ‘real terms’?

In each lesson you would have 2-3 (depending on time constraints) small sided, modified games focussing on a skill and/or tactical aspect of a traditional sport.  Below is just one game idea from each of the Game Sense themes that you could use.

Game category: Activity description and modifications:
KTP and key questions:

Equipment: basketball, coloured bibs per team 


  • Be aware of players swapping position after goal scored
  • Alert players to receiving pass on sidelines

Activity – Crazy Ball

  • Use full basketball court (or similar sized area) and 2 teams
  • Maximum of 8 players per team on the court and additional players along a dedicated sideline (one side per team)
  • The objective of this game is to maintain possession until a scoring opportunity becomes possible
  • Players can pass out to players on sideline if needed
  • Once a player scores they move to the sideline and a sideline players joins game on court in their place.


  • Vary type/size/number of ball(s). 
  • At least 2 passes to different sideline players must occur before scoring is permitted.

Teaching points:

  • Move and pass towards scoring end
  • Move into space
  • Give and go

Key questions:

Q. Was your strategy to maintain possession and score effective? Why?

Q. What 'on the ball' skills or movements help your team to maintain possession and score? 

A. Direct team mates where they should move for next pass, pass to players on the move, give and go, look to pass towards the scoring end

Q. Can you describe some 'off the ball' skills or movements that will help your team to maintain possession and score?


Equipment: One racquet per player, 1 shuttle or koosh ball per court/playing area, cones/lines to mark out playing areas


  • Ensure groups adequately spaced
  • Students to only go for shot when number called

Activity – Happy Feet

  • In groups of 4 (3 hitters and 1 feeder), hitters line up along baseline or between cones. (Can be played on a court or field area).
  • Players on baseline are given a number 1 to 3
  • Players on baseline are jogging on spot, fast feet, sideline jumps etc.
  • Feeder calls out a number and throws shuttle/koosh ball.  Numbered player must react and move to hit back to feeder
  • After set time rotate/swap roles


  • Smaller court size to begin
  • Vary type and size of equipment
  • Increase number of players per group or feeders

Teaching points:

  • REACT with a shot – what type of shot will I use? Where am I aiming for?
  • Forehand strike with bat/racquet – drop, bounce, underarm swing, follow through over opposite shoulder
  • Forehand volley – side on, block ball with racquet head above wrist, no swing

Key questions:

Q. What kind of shot would you use close to the net? Why?

Q. How can you ensure you have a quick reaction time in this activity and in a game?


Equipment: 2 cones, 1 bat and 1 ball per batter



  • Do not throw bat when hit ball (take with you)
  • All other players - 3-5m away from batter
  • Keep bat swing below shoulder height


  • Eye check with the fielder you are throwing to
  • Adjust force of throw appropriate to distance

Activity - Team Rapid Fire

  • Divide class into 3 teams - batters, bowlers and fielders. The bowling and fielding team work together.
  • Instruct bowlers to bowl at the same time. Bowlers underarm bowl the ball to the batters one at a time. Batters hit bowled balls one at a time and then run at the same time between the sets of cones in front of them. Fielders can run and field balls once all batters have hit their ball and return to the bowlers. 
  • Batters face 3 balls and then become the fielders. Fielders become the bowlers, and bowlers become batters. 
  • Batters count the number of runs made before the bowler gets the ball back. Individual scores are added to make a team total. Team with highest score wins.


  • Overarm bowling
  • Batters all hit at same time


  • Vary distance between bowler and batter 
  • Change bat/ball type

Teaching points:

  • Batting – Hit into space
  • Fielding – fastest way to get ball back?

Key questions:

Q. How do you know when to run when batting?

A. Depends on how close to fielder the ball is, how important the run is etc…

Q. When fielding, how do you minimise the opponent’s run scoring?


Equipment: Cone/Poly dot, 9 hoops, 1 frisbee per pair


  • Adequately space each group
  • Pairs positioned so throwing away from each other (from centre of area outwards)
  • Students instructed not to collect frisbee until all groups have thrown and/or on teacher command

Activity – Frisbee Golf

  • Set up a course of a variety of hoops/frisbee golf nets and a base from where players start from (best played on an oval or open space)
  • Divide class into groups of up to 4 players and start each at a different hole
  • Players take turns attempting to get the frisbee into the hoop/net
  • Goal is to get the lowest score after all 9 holes are played


  • Increase the number of targets or distance from the target. 
  • Begin 5m away from hoop, after 5 successful throws to the hoop, pairs move their marker two steps back to create a greater distance


  • Increase/decrease distance from target
  • Increase/decrease size of target
  • Vary throwing object to a ball or bean bag

Teaching points:

Frisbee backhand throw

  • Thumb on top, Index finger on ridge, other fingers bent underneath
  • Hold disc at waist height
  • Step with same foot as throwing arm
  • Extend arm and flick wrist. Follow through with hand in direction of target

Key questions:

Q. How does force affect your throw of the frisbee?

A. If I apply more force my disc will travel further. If I apply less for force, it will travel less distance.

Q. If you throw the frisbee and it lands to left or right of the target, how would you correct this in your next throw?

Q. Were there any challenges using a different throwing object in this activity?


Need a little extra help implementing Game Sense in your lessons?

If you are new to teaching HPE at level 7 and 8, or just in need of some great ideas to incorporate Game Sense into your classes, we offer in-school workshops for staff to assist with planning and implementing a Game Sense approach.

A range of unit plans and assessment ideas is also available to get you started, and can be purchased here

If you have any further questions, please feel free to get in touch with a member of our PL team, Renae Fraser or Jo Ritson or phone 03 9274 8914 for a chat.