Game Sense Player Empowerment Coaching Model

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Jerome, Jun 26, 2017.

  1. Jerome

    Jerome FHF Top Player

    Jan 2, 2014
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    Western Australia
    Game Sense/Player Empowerment Coaching
    By Jerome Buck
    What is a game sense/player empowerment approach to coaching?

    The game sense/player empowerment approach to coaching is best summed up in four key words-

    1. Engage: players in modified game strategies and concepts where they have an opportunity to develop both their skills and understanding of tactics.

    2. Promote: developing players to have a 3 dimensional hockey brain.

    3. Encourage: through game modification (easier or harder) to accommodate varying abilities thus maximise inclusion and challenge

    4. Modify: game rules, playing area and equipment for purpose of highlighting aspects of the game.


    · Fun

    · Playing

    · Thinking

    · Challenging

    · Communicating

    · Inclusion


    Player Centred

    At the heart of the Game sense/player empowerment approach to coaching is the player. As a coach your role is to facilitate, you are there to guide rather than direct the players in their understanding of hockey. The players should be encouraged to think about the WHY rather than being told about the WHAT through asking questions like-

    · Why should we be running into space?

    Instead of telling the player where they need to stand, if you follow this approach I guarantee you will be surprised at the responses you get from your players, no matter what age or ability.

    How do we apply a game sense/play empowerment approach to training?

    Well this starts be re-defining what a hockey skill is, by using this simple equation-


    The biggest thing to remember is that anyone can stand in partners and pass the ball between two, but where in a game of hockey does this practical apply, so why do we practice it? The game sense/player empowerment approach is, when boiled down to it practicing the skills of hockey in a game situations that progressively challenge and motivate our players to acquire the strategies, skills and rules required to succeed. It’s giving your players ownership of the game.


    We start by shifting away from static hockey drills, to Game Skills Practice’s (GSP’s), that are engaging and keep everyone involved in the training session. These GSP’s also need to as we said previously progressively challenge and motivate your players.


    Every training session you run, must have an objective or purpose to it, if it doesn’t then your players simple we get nothing out of it and it will be nothing more than busy work.


    As a coach it is vital that you establish routines for both training and game day, an give responsibility to your player for these routines that then free you up as coach to focus on the all important player development.

    As Coach you can have routines for-

    · Putting out the equipment and packing it away at training.

    · Warming up and cooling down before training and games.

    Also as a Coach I highly recommend you develop a consistent routine for moving from coaching instruction to activity to reduce management time. If your players know where to go and what they need to do when they get there then this will mean more time for GSP.


    For the Game Sense/Player Empowerment Coaching approach to work at its best it is vital that you engage every single player, adopting the following strategies can do this

    1. Voice and Expression

    2. Eye Contact

    3. Signal for attention (AVOID WHISTLES)

    4. Asking questions

    5. Praise and compliment

    6. Quality instructions

    7. Increase participation

    How do we apply a game sense/play empowerment approach to the game day?

    Game day is where the Game sense/player empowerment approach to coaching all comes together. If you have been following the approach in everything you do leading up to game day, then this should bring reward and results.

    This approach at the end of the day is all about empowering your players to take ownership of their game, and the game in front of them. It is all about having a squad of three-dimensional thinkers on game day, players who when they realise something is working, can quickly change things up without requiring you as coach to do it for them. The most important thing a coach must remember on game day when taking this approach to coaching, is you need to let go and realise that, YOU CAN’T PLAY THE GAME FOR THEM.

    So what are some practical examples on game day of where you as a coach can apply the game sense/player empowerment approach to coaching?

    - Pre game talk: during the pre game talk make your key-points first then invite a couple of your players to contribute points as well.

    - Pre game warm-up: appoint a player or players to coordinate this, I generally have one player take the warm-up and stretches, then I hand over to my Captain and senior players to coordinate the pre-game hitting up on the turf.

    - Half time talk: again I will have a couple of key points to go through, then I will ask the keeper for there views then call on key players across the field to make some key points, one key to remember at half time your players will most often only take in three key points generally, so you want it as much as possible to be short and sharp.

    - Post game talk: this is where this approach really kicks in, my approach is to generally head off with the team for a post game walk and cool down to a quite part of the turf, and here I will pose questions like

    § So what do we think worked well during the game?

    § What do you think we need to improve as a team?

    With these questions you are getting your players to think, and working together to set the approach for training the next week and setting the approach for the next game.

    My final tips to all coaches when you decide to adopt the Game Sense/Player Empowerment Model of coaching are-

    1. You are a facilitator at training and games and not the centre of attention.

    2. It may take a while for all or some of your players to embrace this approach, stay true to the approach and hold the space eventually your players will move into that space and you can step back.

    Useful Reference

    · Australian Sport Commission:

    · Aussie Hockey

    · Physical Educator
    TheThinkingCoach likes this.
  2. David Richardson

    David Richardson FHF Newbie

    Oct 19, 2017
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    Jerome - can you tell me - are you a member of "Common Purpose"? You appear to be using all their language:

    "Game Sense/Player Empowerment Model of coaching" - "This approach at the end of the day is all about empowering your players to take ownership of their game" - "You are a facilitator" - "accommodate varying abilities thus maximise inclusion and challenge" - "challenge and motivate our players to acquire the strategies, skills and rules required to succeed"

    This language all comes right out of the "Common Purpose" manual and has nothing to do with hockey - it is just nonsense brainwashing language - hockey is a simple game - it does not need all this garbage.

    I know "Common Purpose" is well embedded in Australia - as it is in the UK and USA - but hadn't realised the extent to which it had crept into sport as well!!!
    Ravennghorde likes this.
  3. Jerome

    Jerome FHF Top Player

    Jan 2, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Western Australia
    I was debating whether to respond to this rant guised in a question, in the end I decided that I would.

    Frankly I have never heard of Common Purpose and frankly I don't care whether you think that is the truth of not. I have my opinion and you have yours, all coaches develop there own ways and there own style, you call it garbage and you are entitled to that opinion that is fine.

    I will finish this by saying Coaches who fear the Game Sense/Player Empowerment Facilitation model of coaching fear it because they see being a Coach as being powerful and having power, they see being a coach is all about them and not the team, where as Coaches who like myself embrace the Game Sense/Player Empowerment Facilitation model are the future of the sport of hockey and sports coaching in general and we don't see ourselves as the centre of the sports coaching universe like you do.
  4. BigBird

    BigBird FHF Newbie

    Apr 5, 2017
    Likes Received:
    I don't think finishing with this was really that helpful. I think what David Richardson was saying (if poorly) is that a lot of the wording sounded like the speak you see in your usual, Big Business Inspirational Management guide.. which is never simple and can turn people away (ie, what does a 3 dimensional hockey brain mean? It sounds cool.. but there's no real substance)

    On topic though -
    My take is that there is more focus being placed on developing skills in modified games, rather than repetition around cones. A good example being learning to look while running with the ball; you can make a kid run cone to cone and yell out the number of fingers you're holding up, or you can put 20 kids in the D and tell them they can't run into each other.
    In the former, a player will look at the ball until the moment they need to look up, and then look back down at the ball.. because that's the easiest way to complete the drill, but it serves only minor benefit to their skills.
    The latter has more game-style chaos, and can be made harder by you stepping in and tackling those who don't avoid you, and harder again by making them able to tackle each other. If they wish to 'succeed' they must look up, but they must also watch the ball, so they're now working out (for themselves) how they are able to do both at the same time.. as you would in a normal match.

    Of course, that can't always be the case and I'll nab one of your examples, "stand in partners and pass the ball between two", to explain why:
    This is a terribly boring thing to do, and making it part of a game is definitely more enjoyable. However, if the aim is to focus purely on technique - either as a total beginner first learning the skill, or a top level player making the slightest tweak to wrist position - then to stand in partners and pass the ball between two is the only possible solution.
    So, game learning is only useful if the players are capable of doing the skills you want them to do... otherwise it becomes a messy and completely useless affair. So both mindsets may be needed depending on the level you're coaching; walking them through cone work to understand what they're doing and obtain muscle memory, and then slowly add chaos by making it part of games so they workout when and why they need that skill.

    I was lucky to work with an international coach for a while, and his mindset was that people will pick the easiest way to win. So the easiest option must be the way you want them to win a certain situation, otherwise you aren't being helpful. But you must also keep situations game-sensible so they learn realistic habits. Rather than making a game 2-touch (which isn't a rule in normal games) have multiple goals so passing the ball is more efficient than running, and then you're teaching them to ship a ball around rather than restricting their skills.

    Just my two cents.. having a view of how top level or international teams train, or are taught to think, would be interesting for a discussion about this!
    Mick Mason and steve like this.
  5. Krebsy

    Krebsy FHF All Time Great

    Oct 10, 2014
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    One has to remember that a coach is employed to provide experience and knowledge, and to simply make the players come up with the ideas is lazy coaching.

    As with all these things there is a middle-ground which shifts for each individual situation which actually is where the key to success is.
    Players need to realise that part of their job is to be part of a team and part of the coach's plan. However a good coach needs to realise that the players on the pitch have a much more acute understanding of what is actually going on and that view must be heard and given credence, but the coach can provide an abstract overview which can bring outside experience into a game where the players are bogged down in the here-and-now. The coach can take a step back and consider bigger pictures as they have time to do this during games. Players do not necessarily have that time.

    Empty-headed management waffle is transferable across all topics of all things because it doesn't actually say anything and like the definition of "art" can be bent and twisted by anyone who needs to justify their existence.

    Empowerment is a word that is as dangerous as it is good. Used properly it can develop, aid and benefit everyone, abused and it can be a destructive excuse for self-aggrandisement and selfish obsessions with people's overblown perception of their own ability.

    As with all these things, there cannot be one path and one answer. We need experienced people to assess all different approaches and use their skill and guile to weave an intricate path which best fits their situation.
  6. freebird

    freebird FHF All Time Great

    Feb 8, 2009
    Likes Received:
    I enjoy these threads :)
  7. JE87

    JE87 FHF Regular Player

    Aug 28, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Ritual - various to suit my coaching needs!
    I agree with this. My thoughts, although the information above from @Jerome is not necessarily wrong, if misinterpreted it can become a problem (especially the language/jargon!). For example, in older age-group and senior teams, to get the team to buy into what you are trying to achieve, they should have input into how it's achieved - with of course the coach as the "expert" is there to facilitate, guide, and ultimately help the players reach the same conclusion as the coach. The coach may even create an illusion of "empowerment", but actually controls the path to go where they feel it is best (with prior analysis as to the strengths and weaknesses of the team).

    Of course - over-instruction and/or an autocratic style will not be as good for development over long-term, and as the competition becomes more difficult.

    Game Sense/Player Empowerment approach - made simply, coaching to encourage decision making. But the parameters/guidelines/principles should be set by the coach to help the players make decisions on the pitch. These principles should ultimately inform their decisions in many situations - the "Game Sense" part is creating an environment where as many different situations/scenarios which challenge the player to make decisions.

    Again - as @Krebsy says, how far you can push these boundaries and how much "empowerment" (or the illusion of empowerment) you can give the players totally depends on the group and the individuals within.
    Mick Mason likes this.
  8. johnniewalk

    johnniewalk FHF Newbie

    Sep 14, 2016
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    excellent one shared here, thanks for the post.

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