10 Must Haves of the GAME PLAY LEARN Approach

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GAME PLAY LEARN is across all contexts that involve relationship and learning. Both go hand in hand as we collaborate in the complexities of life with a very deliberate intent to encourage growth and draw out one another’s potential.

The principles and values of GAME PLAY LEARN enables a natural life-learning process not by instruction, but by experience. It invites the participant to be drawn into an experience so deeply, that they may not even realise they are learning.

A GAME PLAY LEARN facilitated environment can appear messy and perhaps chaotic from the outside, but on the inside everyone is experiencing a unique journey of connection, creativity and confidence.

What is the Game Play Learn Approach?

The GAME PLAY LEARN Approach values learning principles that can be applied to any group doing an activity or task. It’s intent is to be a guide for facilitator’s to empower their participants to contribute in a group setting and be active learners in their own lives be it in sport, work or family life.


If GAME PLAY LEARN was a lifestyle, then The GAME PLAY LEARN Approach is the practical application of it’s principles in a learning environment, a well-suited example being the sporting environment.

Your role becomes facilitator

To apply The GAME PLAY LEARN Approach, your role as leader needs to shift from traditional ways associated with ‘teaching’ and ‘instructing’  to becoming a Facilitator and Learning Designer.

Empowerment and exploration then become the biggest magnets for your participants to engage in their learning, under the guise of play.


Embracing the complexity of human development, means you are more at peace with life’s uncertainties and willing to accept everyday and experience as a new opportunity to learn. As the profound Heraclitus quotes -

“No man ever steps into the same river twice. For it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.”

Rather than emphasising Planning which suggests rigidity and structure,  it’s more about Preparation for the expected and the unexpected:

If it’s expected that you’ll play a game, prepare the obvious: What equipment/space do you need, etc? Whereas what’s unexpected may be numbers, social factors and the real time emergence of behaviours , affordances and constraints. It’s difficult to plan for those unknowns but you are prepared for them having alternatives and being flexible to change.

The 10 Must Haves:

The following guide helps to prepare for your group activity whilst staying flexible and ready to embrace emerging dynamics to create an authentic experience for each learner.

(We’ve used questions where possible for a more personal guide and to stimulate further considerations in your context that can be related daily or over the long term.)

Design the Game

To view GAME PLAY LEARN Game Design examples click HERE 

1) context

“Coaching in Context: In the context of the game and the needs of the child (learner)” - Mark O’Sullivan

Know your Context:

  • Are your participants children, teenagers or adults?
  • What are their needs? Are they learning as beginners, developing or performance-based? Do they need more nurturing or independence? Do they need more focus or more freedom?
  • What are the socio-cultural or environmental factors? These can affect energy and motivation levels.
2) environment

“Provide a safe environment whilst inviting freedom for exploration whilst also using variation and diversity for a holistic experience.”

  • Set boundaries with the group for safety
  • Give freedom for exploration and expression.
  • Use varying spaces and diversity often so as to stimulate new experience and greater adaptation and resilience.
3) Set a task 

“We take responsibility for “WHAT” but the concept of “HOW” the players must themselves fill with life.” - Mark O’Sullivan 

  • What’s the purpose today? Repetition:Representative Learning? Consider conditioning, physical literacy and a strategic principles focus?
  • What’s a task or game to shape a desired behaviour?
  • Spend some time in game design and/or collaborate with your learners to stimulate creativity, autonomy and self-determination.
4) Modify with constraints

“A constraints-led approach is based around the idea that movement is influenced by a dynamical system of interacting constraints on either the task, performer or environment.  By definition, a constraint is a boundary which encourages the learner to emerge with certain behaviours.” - Thomas Devine Golf Coaching

Let them Play



“Allow techniques to emerge as an adaptation to problems presented by the ever-changing and dynamic environment” - Stuart Armstrong

  • Look for behaviour emerging that can highlight key areas of information.
  • What are the strategic principles that are being challenged and highlighted?
  • Try to juggle a balance of successful and challenging actions for both teams.
  • Do you need to make any adjustments or are the participants interpreting something different or new that can be encouraged?

Are all participants engaged? If not:

  • Do team numbers need to be reduced for more actions per player? (higher repetition)
  • Ask a question in relation to the task to prompt contribution in another way.
  • Speak to the individuals who are struggling to see if they understand the game.
  • Get input from the players to modify the game further.

Watch them Learn


Oberve the dynamics emerge from their play and facilitate:


Observe the interactions within the group and environment:

  • Look for challenges and/or collaboration experiences between teammates and opponents which indicates thriving dynamics.
  • Encourage communication and interdependence with each other while creating a healthy independence from you as the Facilitator.
  • Effective Questioning in relation to tasks is a great tool to promote further connection.

They will develop varying functional solutions in a dynamic environment.

  • Don’t get caught up in what it their ‘technique’ looks like, each player will be unique in how they into attune to the environment and respond to it.
  • Be open to learners tactical solutions being different to yours. Encourage difference!
  • Creativity and diversity is a great sign of confidence and connection to an environment.

Remember, the learning journey is non-linear and a long term approach is recommended with patience as the key.

  • It may take awhile for learners to adjust, adapt and feel safe enough to explore and thrive - Patience.
  • Learning is non-linear with days/periods of progression and regression - Patience.
  • Development is a long-term journey and isn’t always recognisable or measurable - Patience.

Facilitate a group reflection on their findings and learnings.

  • Use questions to draw out the experience of the learners and get to know them more as individuals.
  • Some will be articulate and take initiative, others will be shy and find it difficult to respond. Respect each learner’s place but encourage their contribution.




  • Some further Qs for Your ENVIRONMENT:
    1. How have you implemented the learning principles and values as a Facilitator in your environment?
    2. What other principles and values do you draw on during a session?


    Please share your experience below in the comments or email playnews@gameplaylearn.net

download the Summary Guide

10 Must Haves of the GAME PLAY LEARN Approach For Facilitators

3 Comments on “10 Must Haves of the GAME PLAY LEARN Approach”

  1. Love it. I look forward to sharing the work I have done on the tennis court. I think it matches all 10 of your Must Haves. Thanks for your blog.

  2. Pingback: A Facilitators Framework: Let them PLAY - Game Play Learn

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