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Do modified small-sided games assist university student's develop game sense in Australian football?

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on 17 April 2014

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Transcript of Do modified small-sided games assist university student's develop game sense in Australian football?

Literature Review
Do modified small-sided games assist university student's develop game sense in Australian football?
Research Question
Game sense
Game sense emphasises the use of SSG to achieve tactical and strategic thinking and develop sport specific motor skills (den Duyn, 1996). Stolz and Pill (2013) support that game sense develops student’s game knowledge and understanding, tactical and technical skills and player’s ability to understand game rules and their impact on game play thus developing player’s performance. Chen and Light (2006) investigated the responses of a year 6 class using a game sense approach finding game sense generated significant improvements in social interactions, developed players understanding of the game and created positive attitudes towards sport with players experiencing a sense of achievement. Light (2004) reported on coaches experiences using game sense, finding game sense assisted the development of players conceptual capabilities and decision making abilities, placed all learning and development within an environment that replicated game situations improving game performance, developed players autonomy by placing them in situations where they were required to make decisions and motivated players.

Benefits of small-sided games
SSG create greater opportunities for game participation and involvement compared to full-sided games (Coyle, 2009; Calleja & Kern, 2008), increasing opportunities to be a decision maker and learn by doing, leading to accelerated skill learning (Coyle, 2009). Greater technical, physical and tactical requirements are induced through SSG (Dellal et al., 2012) leading to higher heart rate responses (Owen, Wong, McKenna & Dellal, 2011) and aiding skill development (Jones & Drust, 2007). Research supports that SSG replicate the movement demands, intensity and technical requirements of traditional games (Gabbett & Mulvey, 2008; Little, 2009), facilitates the development of technical skills and tactical awareness within the context of the game (Allison & Thorpe, 1997; Little, 2009), limits tactical complexity, simplifying the decision making process (Mitchell, Oslin & Griffin, 2013) and compresses the game’s essential tactical and technical skills (Pill, 2013), providing greater game motivation and engagement (Little, 2009; Pill, 2013).

Qualitative data was collected for this investigation. Video footage of the entire game was recorded and analysed to determine the benefits of the game and player’s game sense and tactical understanding. In order to determine player’s tactical understanding, a Game Performance Assessment Instrument (GPAI) specifically designed for Australian football was conducted on all participants. A GPAI evaluates game performance behaviours that demonstrate tactical understanding as well as player’s ability to solve tactical problems by using appropriate skill (Oslin, Mitchell & Griffin, 1998). Total number of appropriate and inappropriate actions was recorded for game components: passing skill execution, ball control, decision making, support and defensive action to determine the tactical understanding of each player. Players’ involvement was recorded through counting the number of touches of the football made by each player in one half. A questionnaire consisting of ten closed questions (figure 1) relating to players experience of participating in SSG was developed, allowing players to comment on their own experience of playing SSG. This qualitative data was used to answer the research question and sub questions.

In order to protect the anonymity of participants all names used in this research are pseudonyms.
All players had been familiarised with playing 6v6 modified Australian football (for game rules, see figure 2). Players participated in the SSG, receiving a 2 minute break at half time. The entire game was video recorded for later analysis. A GPAI was conducted on 6 players during the first half. To increase reliability of data, the GPAI was checked twice using video footage. After completion of the match players had a week to complete questionnaire in their own time.
Example of Australian Football GPAI
Pill (2013) indicates to develop players game sense, players must be placed in situations that encourage decision making, problem solving and contextualised technical and tactical skill learning, allowing players to learn in the context of the game. Players with expert game sense know what to do and how to do it in the context of play and have the ability to execute the response successfully (Pill, 2013)

Pill (2012a) advocates the use of modified SSG to teach fundamental soccer skills to encourage players to think about actions and specific responses to game situations. These games challenge players to develop an understanding of game rules and tactical and technical elements required to succeed in game (Pill, 2012a). Using specific rules, a minimum number of players and the use of questioning within these modified SSG lead to the development of thinking players (den Duyn, 1997) who are technically proficient and understand what to do in game play (Pill, 2012a), thus developing players game sense.

The literature highlights numerous benefits of using a game sense approach and the use of SSG, however mainly focuses on the physiological benefits of SSG. Despite the benefits of game sense, this approach has not meaningfully infiltrated into sport teaching (Pill, 2011). At present there are limitations in research investigating the use of SSG to develop player's game sense. There are also limited studies of all sports including Australian football (Coutts et al., 2011) that investigate whether SSG specifically develops tactical skills and tactical understanding, which are essential skills required to develop game sense. This information is important for coaches and educators to ensure they use the best approach to benefits player's and to assist the campaign for this approach to be used in schools thus more meaningfully infiltrate into physical education practices. Therefore this investigation will investigate if modified SSG increase university student’s involvement and assist develop their tactical understanding in Australian football.
Research Method
The rules, number of participants and structure of the game had an effect on player’s tactical understanding development. The rules emphasised the use of short passes and keeping the ball moving requiring players to create open spaces and move back into position once passed the ball aiding development of tactical understanding. The SSG placed participants in a game environment which increased opportunities for players to touch the ball, increasing the number of times they were a decision maker and performed a skill and created fewer passing options. Furthermore the game environment created opportunities for players to read the situation thus decide where best to position themselves, respond with appropriate movement to advantage their team, react to produce appropriate skill execution and recover with appropriate off-the-ball movement to set-up further play (Pill, 2010), evident in table 3. The game environment encouraged decision making, problem solving and technical and tactical learning within the context of the game thus created a backdrop for development of tactical understanding and game sense. Furthermore, this SSG replicated the movement demands and technical requirements of a traditional Australian football game, similar to Light (2004) findings, assisting players transfer skills and knowledge into actual game.
Participants demonstrated moderately effective to very effective levels of skill performance in most game components, confirming some level of tactical understanding was developed. Conversely, in future weeks when game play was not assessed it was evident through observation that participant’s technical and tactical understanding further developed therefore suggesting participants tactical understanding at completion of a SSG unit would further develop from base-line. Gray and Sproule (2011) compared a game based approach and a skill-based approach over a five week period finding participants in game based group made better on and off-the-ball decisions, provided appropriate support, increased successful skill execution and displayed greater tactical knowledge compared to their base-line data and the skill-focused group, thus supporting hypothesis. Additional research (Harvey, Cushion, Wegis & Massa-Gonzalez, 2010) also found participation in SSG over an eight week period led to faster responses and quicker reactions within the game environment off-the-ball and improved the number of appropriate game responses from baseline, further supporting argument.
It was evident that more skilled players demonstrated higher levels of tactical understanding, however assessment of the level of tactical understanding and comparisons of level achieved goes beyond the scope of this study. Conversely this information would prove useful and promote support of a game sense approach thus should be an area for future investigation.

This study lends support to the literature advocating for the use of SSG and a game sense approach (for example Light, 2002; Pill, 2011), with evidence suggesting SSG are a highly beneficial approach for coaches and teachers to use to teach sport skills. The information in this study will prove useful for coaches and teachers when selecting which approach to use to teach sports. This study and future studies that address the studies limitations should assist warrant the effectiveness of this approach, thus leading to game sense more meaningfully infiltrating into physical education practices and more students possessing the skills knowledge and understanding to engage in sport in meaningful ways.

6v6 modified Australian Football Rules
This study found that SSG within modified Australian football was effective in increasing player’s participation and developing player’s tactical skills and understanding.
Table 1: Number of touches of the football by participants in first half
Table 2: Participants GPAI results from first half of match
Appropriate (A) Inappropriate (I) - For full breakdown of game components refer to figure 3.
Table 3: Questionnaire Results
Refer to figure 1 for question description
Players passing skill execution ranged from very effective to moderately effective with most players ball control being either effective or very effective. Players decision making skills varied with two players always making correct decisions with others displaying moderately effective or weak performance. All players demonstrated effective or very effective levels of performance for support and defensive action components, thus players understood to assist maintain possession the importance of creating a passing option for a teammate with the ball and pressuring the ball carrier.
Do small- sided games increase player’s involvement?

The SSG allowed all participants to be actively involved, with most students perceiving SSG to accelerate their skill learning (table 3). All except one player demonstrated a significant number of touches of the football (table 1). However only 50% of players agreed participation in SSG significantly increased their involvement (table 3).
What effect do SSG have on university student’s tactical understanding?

The SSG placed players in a situation where they were required to be decision makers and created opportunities for development of tactical understanding. All players displayed some level of tactical understanding evident in GPAI results (table 2). Players made more appropriate than inappropriate actions, with all players demonstrating moderately effective to very effective levels of performance, excluding one participant in decision making component. Providing support to teammates was the highest level of tactical understanding effectiveness displayed in GPAI. More experienced players demonstrated a higher level of tactical understanding than less experienced players. Consistent with the GPAI results, players to some degree found SSG assisted in their ability to read, respond, react and recover with appropriate skill movement. Video footage revealed SSG created more open spaces to receive a pass and created fewer options.

Do modified small-sided games assist develop university student’s tactical understanding in Australian football?
The following sub questions will be used to guide the investigation:

• Do small-sided games increase player’s involvement?
• What effect do small-sided games have on university student’s tactical

figure 3
Reference List
The End...
Figure 1
A game sense approach to sport teaching emphasises tactical and movement skill learning in game context, developing players tactical and technical sport competency (Pill, 2013). Game sense encourages development of thinking players (den Duyn, 1997) through placing players in situations where problem solving and decision making are central to successful game performance (Pill, 2013). This approach has recently made an impact on coaching practices in Australia, however has not meaningfully infiltrated in physical education teaching practices (Light, 2004; Pill, 2011).
Players with well developed tactical understanding, a product of game sense, have the ability to read the game thus identify tactical problems that arise during a game, respond with appropriate skill for situation, react to produce appropriate skill execution and recover with suitable movement ready to read play again (Hopper, 2003).

Small-sided games (SSG), a pedagogical element of a game sense approach are games played on reduced pitch sizes, often with modified rules and involve smaller number of players than the traditional game (Coutts, Dawson, Hill-Haas & Impellizzeri, 2011).
Sport and games form significant components in physical education programmes and when taught appropriately either in schools or clubs offer various positive outcomes (Chen &Light, 2006). However as research highlights (Pill, 2008) traditional approaches that focus on technique first do not develop player's tactical understanding or game performance. It has been acknowledged that a game sense approach is a superior approach to sport teaching compared to technique first teaching (Stolz & Pill, 2013). There is need for approaches to teaching and coaching that promote player involvement and development of tactical awareness in order for players to successfully perform the skills of the game. However there is little research investigating game sense approaches and in particular the use of SSG to teach sport skills to support this approach. In setting out to address this oversight in the literature this study investigates university student’s responses to participation in 6v6 modified Australian football. It analysed player’s involvement and the effect SSG have on tactical understanding to determine if SSG assist develop university student’s tactical understanding and game sense.

Generalisations from this data are limited due to small sample size and limited data collection period however the results deem promising and useful. The investigation has found that SSG within modified Australian football increase player’s participation and allow development of player’s tactical understanding. While Australian football was the focus for this investigation these results may be applicable for other invasion games which share similar principles of play.
According to Calleja and Kern (2008) players are classified as involved if they touch the ball a minimum of one time every two minutes. This SSG resulted in all except one player achieving well above the minimum of four touches in eight minutes (see table 1). These findings concur with previous research (Coyle, 2009; Calleja & Kern, 2008) in that SSG increase player’s participation. The game rules implied that only forwards can score and must be in their zone. Bianca chose to constantly stay in her zone, thus always created a passing option if necessary, reducing her number of touches however demonstrated good game and tactical understanding which is not evident in her GPAI results. Data from questionnaire revealed players believed that playing SSG to some degree increased their involvement and accelerated their skill learning, consistent with Coyle (2009) findings that increased participation creates more opportunities to learn by doing within game play thus accelerates skill learning, alluding to the importance of using SSG to teach sports.
Players highlighted that cues and feedback from teammates somewhat assisted develop their tactical understanding. Gray and Sproule (2011) findings suggest players need to be made aware of their performance off and on-the-ball to aid appropriate tactical development and increase positive perception of their tactical abilities. Therefore player’s tactical understanding and perception of abilities (exhibited in questionnaire results) may have been further enhanced through the use of questioning and feedback from players and coaches. As this study has highlighted these two components as assisting with tactical understanding development, further research should focus on the combined effect of these two elements.
Participants and setting
Six participants; three female and three male second year physical education university student's with mixed skill abilities, aged between 20-23 years participated in this investigation. All players were involved in Sam’s Little League and members of the same team the ‘Tizzy Tigers’.
Players participated in one match (2 x 8 minute halves) of 6v6 modified Australian football, at Flinders University sporting grounds on Thursday 17th October 2013.
This investigation has assisted address the limitations in the literature around the use of SSG specifically to develop tactical understanding in the sport Australian football by assessing only the direct effects of SSG on players involvement and tactical understanding.

This study concludes that SSG provide the opportunity to increase players participation thus accelerate skill learning and create a game environment which promotes the development of tactical understanding. Participation in 6v6 modified Australian football allowed university student’s to develop knowledge about the game including rules and an understanding of situations that arise, thus their decision making skills within an authentic game context, which traditional approaches do not allow for, consistent with research (Gray & Sproule, 2011; Pill, 2012a). Through creation of environment which developed thinking players and tactical awareness about what to do in game play this contributed to university student’s game sense development.

Further limitations of study relate to sample population used. Participants do not depict the average individual as all participants were undertaking a university degree in physical education thus have an interest in physical activity and may have higher skill levels than average students. Furthermore as discussed above it was evident that players made tactical decisions such as always staying in their zone which demonstrates tactical understanding however was not assessed in GPAI, therefore it is suggested that future tactical awareness assessment developments take this into account.
Figure 2
By Briana Mysak
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