TGfU CLA CGBL NLP…omg…can we not just play a game?

A key theme that emerged from the 2017 ECB Coaches Association Conference was the rise of games as a key coaching methodology.

Drills are out (or, at the very least, “gamified” by introducing game-like challenges); players should spend as much practice time as possible developing transferable skills (skills that have direct and obvious application in match situations) by playing games.

Sounds good…if we can get beyond the TLAs & FLAs (that’s Three & Four Letter Acronyms) and just get on with designing and playing games.

The discussions around how to design appropriate games (even about what games are appropriate, and when a game is the most appropriate option) are mostly confined to coach educators and academic sports scientists.

I am not seeing much input from active coaches outside academia or NGBs. It was noticeable after the ECB CA Conference that very few coaches were actively commenting on what they had seen and heard – lots of (thoroughly deserved) praise for the presenters across social media, but very little engagement with or analysis of the topics.

I have seen only one other coach/blogger (thanks @DavidHinchliffe) who has started to incorporate some of the themes from the conference into his coaching practice.

So a lot of the conversation that is going on online is (with apologies to the participants) often dense, acronym-heavy, (overly) academic in nature, and frequently more concerned with championing the correspondents’ (current) favourite methodology over any alternatives.

“XYZ has a greater theoretical foundation than RSTU.”


That [games-based] methodology is nothing like this [games-based] methodology.”

And the conversation seems to be missing the point (for coaches, for athletes). The relevance to practicing coaches of the various methodologies and pedagogies will be defined not by the academic rigour with which they are defended, but solely on the outcomes.

Can I see (or realistically hope for) improved performances from the players I am working with?

Do the players want to come to practice?

Even better, especially for the younger ones – do they play the games, or better ones that they have made up for themselves, when the coach isn’t with them?


  • TGfU: Teaching Games for Understanding
  • CLA: Constraints-Led Approach
  • CGBL: Cricket Games-Based Learning
  • NLP: Non-Linear Pedagogy
  • XYZ & RSTU: I made these up…but you knew that, didn’t you?


Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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