Teaching Games

for Understanding

The Teaching Games for Understanding approach was developed by researchers at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom to tap into children’s inherent desire to play. Bunker and Thorpe (1982) developed TGfU around the concept of teaching kids games by playing games.  Butler et al. (2008) identified six Basic TGfU Concepts:

  1. Teach games through games.

  2. Break games into their simplest format – then increase complexity.

  3. Participants are intelligent performers in games.

  4. Every learner is important and is involved.

  5. Participants need to know the subject matter.

  6. Need to match participants’ skill and challenge.

Recent approaches to TGfU have advocated for a thematic approach to teaching games. Rather than teaching sport-specific units (e.g., volleyball unit, soccer unit), children and youth gain skills and knowledge to apply to different sports by playing a variety of games associated with 4 game categories:

  • Target Games in which the participant propels an object, preferably with a high degree of accuracy, at a target.

  • Net/Wall Games in which the participant propels an object into space trying to make it difficult for an opponent to return it.

  • Striking/Fielding Games in which the participant strikes an object so it is placed away from defenders in the field.

  • Territory Games in which participants invade an opponent’s territory to score.

These categories represent games and activities that are similar in structure. By exposing children and youth to the primary rules, fundamental skills, and tactical problems associated with each category, they become literate in a variety of games, activities and sports and develop an understanding and competency of the skills and tactics associated with playing sports.