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Practice Design Principles

Designing the practice environment is arguably the most challenging part of a game based coaching approach. Here are some tips on how to have success.

Practice Design Principles

Designing the practice environment is arguably the most challenging part of a game based coaching approach. Here are some tips on how to have success.

Here is a diagram to help with the Practice Design process:


Before you start, you need a clear outcome you are trying to achieve. Without a clear purpose / outcome, you are merely just playing. Game-based coaching is founded on 'purposeful practice.'

  • What are you trying to get better at?

  • What does success look like?


This is arguably the most challenging aspect of a Game-Based Coaching approach. The STTEP principles should help here. Remember to always link back to your purpose. This explanation is relatively generic. Refer to videos on the Intasport App for specific content and ideas.

S - Space

Consider what space would best work. Think both laterally and longitudinally. The bigger the space the more room players have to execute skills, where a smaller space reduces decision-making time as there is more player traffic.

  • You can also use spaces within spaces. E.g. spaces where the ball can’t go, or set players can enter. 

T - Task

What tasks or rules can you give them to help achieve desired outcomes. 

  • Consequences v incentives. Both are acceptable and have different advantages. A consequence is useful to discourage certain behaviour. For example, performing a skill incorrectly and the team loses the ball. 

  • Point systems - incentivising players to do certain actions and rewarding with points. Make sure it is simple. E.g. "Pass for Points" - the more passes the more points. 

  • Rules - stick to 1 or 2 rules maximum when starting a new game. Once they understand it, you can add new rules. KISS - keep it simple stupid.

T - Time

Adjust time constraints. For example, 

  • Play for a certain amount of time. 

Playing for long periods of time may increase fatigue. You can match this to the realities of rugby (the ball may be in play for 1-2 minutes). 

  • Slow time down, using ‘freeze’ (when certain players have to freeze) or slow motion.

E - Equipment

Consider how different equipment can help. The basic equipment you may use are balls, cones and bibs, however get creative. 

  • Using oversized equipment (such as heavy balls) 

  • Equipment that may encourage certain skills. For example, a swissball to encourage low tackling, or holding tennis balls to encourage a strong wrap.

P - People

Manipulate the people to get different outcomes. Simple ways are to play small-sided games within your squad (see examples in this course). You may also give different players different tasks or constraints to stretch and support. For example, if a player doesn’t pass, then give them a constraint that they can only run a certain distance (e.g. 5m) or must pass within 3 seconds, which will force them to pass.


Then it’s a matter of letting them play / practice. Now, it won’t be perfect from the start. And even if you’ve given the worlds best instructions, there will be some players who won’t get the game, until they see it unfolding. 


  • Play for 2 minutes, stop and give the players an opportunity to ask questions to get clarity on the rules. 

As the game unfolds, adapt the design where necessary. Remember, to think about the purpose / objective of the game.


Use questions to unpack learning. Refer to the GROW model and CONTEXTS links.


Grout, H., & Long, G. (2009). Improving teaching and learning in physical education: McGraw-Hill Education (UK).

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