Teaching basketball to sampling-year athletes: A game-centered and situated learning perspective

Document Type


Publication Date



© JPES. Game based coaching such as that of Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU), although pedagogically challenging in its practice, has been suggested as an effective approach for promoting players’ psychomotor and affective responses to learning. The purpose of this study was to investigate sampling year athletes’ learning progress within a TGfU unit of basketball, and interpret it naturalistically and in regards to their adaptation to contextual constraints. Participants were 35 boys (5-8 years; M=6.17, SD=1.01) from a sport club in Greece. Two coaches taught 16 basketball sessions to either a TGfU group (n= 14) or a placebo group (n=21), which received skills-first direct-instruction and was included in the study to rule out confirmation biases. Pre-and-post measures were completed using: (a) basketball skill tests and, (b) the game performance assessment instrument. Qualitative data in the form of a journal narratives based on the first author’s lived experience of both groups’ coaching sessions were also collected. Quantitative results revealed significant changes overtime in dribbling for both groups and game involvement for the placebo group. No significant changes between pre and post phases of the study in passing, decision-making, and skill execution scores were noted in either group. Qualitative findings supported the notion that for all children technical skills developed earlier than tactical awareness, being dependent upon institutional interacting constraints, as well as on coaches’ ability to understand features of instruction and give them a culturally sensitive educational form. This study suggests that games can be a valued part of sampling year athlete training only in cases when the coach handles interacting constraints with developmental and contextual sensitivity.