I was following a pretty good Facebook post the other day which ventured onto the topic of Game Based Approach (GBA) coaching. The various motor learning research available indicates that GBA coaching is indeed a very effective method of teaching kids to play sports like tennis.
First let’s quickly remind ourselves what GBA coaching is, because it remains very much a misunderstood concept. GBA teaches tactics first, and the technical skills are learned as solutions to tactical problems. In a most simple example a red ball player must develop consistency by hitting the ball over the net (tactic). To achieve this they will need to learn to swing with a low to high racquet trajectory (technique).
One of the misunderstandings voiced in the Facebook thread and that I remember when GBA dramatically appeared in the tennis coaching landscape 15-20 years ago occurs when coaches assume that GBA and “old school” basket feeding coaching are mutually exclusive and can never happen on the same court.
In truth realistic feeding situations are vitally important to skill development and part of GBA coaching. The “tossing of balls to one another” to build reception abilities is not the only principle of GBA coaching. Coaches must recreate specific and realistic game situations through feeding to accelerate the learning process.
A great example of this would be the feeding of approach and volley combinations, allowing players to develop their skills playing in the mid court and net. In the absence of feeding the young player might spend their developing years exclusively at the baseline. Without basket feeding the learning process could become too random and undirected.
The second misconception around GBA coaching is that it ignores the technical aspects of the game and therefore technique must be practiced in isolation using basket feeding only. What GBA coaching involves is the combination of technical and tactical, it’s hard to do, but this is where the best learning happens.
So why use the Games Based Approach…it meets the needs of kids.