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Theory to Practice: Stick2Hockey

Dennis Slade
Massey University

In the development of the Stick2Hockey programme the Kirk and MacPhail (2002) revision of
the original Thorpe/Bunker (1982) Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) model was a
timely publication. Their intention to provide a more robust and sophisticated version of the
TGfU model, one that explicated those dimensions of TGfU that seemed to be omitted or
underdeveloped, (Kirk & MacPhail, P.189) and one that would help inform future directions in
the practice of TGfU, provided a practical and theoretical framework on which to hang the
authors previous research and development of the Stick2Hockey programme. It is the
authors contention the revised Kirk and MacPhail model of TGfU provides teachers and
coaches with a clear and pragmatic direction for the use of the TGfU methodology. The
purpose of this paper is to suggest that the Stick2Hockey programme, a complete and holistic
introductory field hockey programme in CD-ROM format, mirrors, to a considerable extent,
both philosophically and pragmatically, the revised Kirk/MacPhail (2002) TGfU model.
Early Development
Early interest in developing the Stick2Hockey resource emerged as a consequence of work
with Physical Education secondary teacher trainees in a motor skill learning paper in 1999.
This initial work sought to compare outcomes in soccer with two classes of students (N=60)
aged 11 - 13 years taught using three different instructional methodologies. The
methodologies were mastery learning, skill based learning and TGfU. While the study by
Slade(1999) did not produce results conclusively in favour of any one of the methodologies,
subjectively and based on a mini tournament played at the conclusion of the instructional
period, one thing that did become clear was that the two groups receiving instruction based
on the TGfU methodology, had a heightened sense of game concept and tactics compared to
those receiving the other forms of instruction. The author then combined these findings and
his impressions of this study with his knowledge of field hockey, repeated the exercise with
other physical education secondary trainees and students to develop the programme that
eventuated, Stick2Hockey.
While early research and programme development in Stick2Hockey captured aspects of the
original Bunker & Thorpe (1982) TGfU model there were aspects of that work that did not
appear to sit as comfortably within that original model as a strict interpretation of the TGfU
might require. At this time the author also harboured more than a little empathy for the
McMorris (1998) comment that perhaps criticisms about a traditional skills base approach to
game instruction was more about a criticism of poor teaching than anything too wrong with
the methodology. However, as a practitioner, aware of the need to motivate students, Rinks
(2001) comments on the value of the TGfU methodology as a motivating tool were being
repeatedly supported by the authors research and observations using the TGfU model (Slade,

2003). and this factor was a great source of encouragement to continue with the TGfU
methodology in developing the hockey programme.
Adoption by National Sporting Federation:
The Stick2Hockey programme is unique in New Zealand in that it is the first TGfU based
programme to be adopted by a major sport (Field Hockey) for use in its National introductory
programme for young people. The New Zealand Hockey Federation have adopted this
programme as their introduction to hockey for use in schools and hockey programmes for
beginners in 2003. Within that finished product the author focused on four aspects of teaching
hockey within a physical education lesson. The first was to provide novice student hockey
players with a kinaesthetic appreciation for the feel of the game of hockey. The second was to
integrate three basic hockey skills/techniques into the sequence of instruction without losing
the TGfU philosophy. The third aspect was to integrate three games involving generic tactics
of defence and attack in team games that would provide additional learning opportunities
about game concepts for the students and near transfer to the hockey games. The fourth
was to ensure that the teaching of the game concept and skills/techniques emphasised a
context that was relevant and motivating.
Stick2Hockey and the revised TGfU Model of Kirk and MacPhail 2002
While it is the authors contention that the Stick2Hockey programme conforms to a greater
extent to the revised model of the TGfU paradigm suggested by Kirk and MacPhail (2002)
much of the early research into the Stick2Hockey programme took place in some isolation of
any conscious knowledge of the Kirk and MacPhail revised model. On reflection this
phenomenon of isolated but somewhat parallel evolvement of the Bunker /Thorpe model
lends support to the Kirk and MacPhail suggestion that the original model did require revision
and further explanation. It was though, the publication of the Kirk and MacPhail model, with
its emphasis on a situated learning experience and the additional steps in the model that
provided the author with the confidence that the Stick2Hockey programme would emerge as a
valid interpretation of the TGfU (revised) model.
The revised Kirk and MacPhail Model:
Game Form:
The game or game form and the individual learner are central to the TGfU philosophy and
this is acknowledged by Kirk and MacPhail in their discussion of their revised model of TGfU.
They note that when introducing students to a game there is a need for the instructor to have
some knowledge of what the learner already knows about the game. In addition to merely
acknowledging that importance within the traditional sense of the TGfU model, they suggest
that the introductory game also has to make a connection to and not be remote from, the
learners everyday experience outside of school (Kirk & MacPhail,(2002). They affirm that the
TGfU philosophy requires that there must be some form of modification of the adult game but
they also stress that the ensuing game must be authentic in the sense of the students or
learners situated learning experience. Such considerations, they note, are difficult enough
when dealing with one person - or a small homogeneous group, as experienced in coaching a

sports team - but it is a daunting task when faced with the myriad of experiences a teacher
confronts in teaching a typical physical education class.
In the design of the Stick2Hockey programme consideration for coping with these
contingencies was made through two features. Firstly by targeting the resource at a particular
age group, namely those between the ages of 10 - 15 years. In a general developmental
sense this age band covers the range of prior experiences and the general conceptual ability
necessary to play and enjoy the games in Stick2Hockey from a tactical perspective.
The second feature of the Stick2Hockey programme designed to maintain game authenticity
is speed. Despite the first game being played without hockey sticks in almost every other
fundamental aspect, for example the game concept and movement skills, the shape and feel
of the game is achieved. The lack of domain specific physical skills and use in the first game
of only four fundamental skills, namely running, dodging, rolling and stopping a ball - proved a
successful recipe for achieving the feel of speed in the game. Playing a game at speed is
usually only the preserve of experienced players but in Stick2Hockey players are able to
experience this from their first encounter with the programme. This results in a physical
sensation that matches their situated learning declarative knowledge of the game. The design
of the Stick2Hockey ensures that this feature is retained throughout the programme.
Game Appreciation, Tactical Awareness and Emerging Understanding
Within the revised Kirk and MacPhail TGfU model the suggestion is made that game
appreciation and an emerging understanding of the game should go beyond knowing rules,
player positions and the scoring system of the game. Kirk and MacPhail suggest that there
needs to be a link between both declarative and procedural knowledge and actually making
movements based upon decisions in relation to the players understanding of the game.
Conveying the concept of a game and helping learners make the connection between the
purpose of the game and the game form are noted as one of the key issues for teachers and
coaches. To make learners think strategically it is suggested that teachers/coaches need to
build within the activity tactical and strategic alternatives that require students to make
Within the Stick2Hockey programme, game appreciation, tactical awareness and emerging
understanding are achieved in three ways. Firstly players declarative knowledge of game
appreciation and emerging understanding regarding rules is established through simple
reinforcement of the consequences and potential plays associated with restarts. In field
hockey restarts take place following ball outs, after goals are scored or infringements of
rules. Within the authors research for the Stick2Hockey programme, pre and post test
surveys of participants declarative knowledge demonstrated significant improvement in their
understanding and certainly reinforced the Rink (2001) conclusion that TGfU is an effective
methodology for teaching and achieving declarative knowledge outcomes.
Modifying how tackles would be made in the Stick2Hockey programme was also done with a
view to aiding the players understanding of the game. Tackling in Stick2Hockey is completed
by using ones hand to tag the player with the ball. Teams are not limited by the number of

tags they incur so they are encouraged to maintain possession of the ball. In order to do so
relatively sophisticated game play concepts such as round the back passes are easily
explored by beginning players. This modification helps overcome the usual phenomenon
witnessed in field hockey of the beginner merely bashing a ball towards the opponent goal.
These types of tactics do not happen by chance and the lesson plans and voice overs that
accompany the video clips with each game of Stick2Hockey encourage the teacher and
coach to take responsibility to teach or develop the players cue perception of the how and
when these tactics can be gainfully employed in the game.
Tactical Awareness
Secondly, the modification of the scoring system in Stick2Hockey was a deliberate ploy to
force attackers and defenders to make tactical decisions in their respective roles. A 1-point
goal can be scored by crossing the base line either with the ball in hand or if it is rolled by one
player and stopped by another player on ones team behind the base line. However, the same
actions completed in the centre of the field, through make shift cone goals, are worth 5-points.
As part of the attacking strategy for a team they are encouraged in the first instance to look
for a 5-point goal but to take the 1-point option if nothing else is on.
For defenders the opposite tactics are required. They have to first look at how to prevent the
5-point goal. One of the questions built into the lesson plans for the first game of
Stick2Hockey that all players are expected to answer correctly is: What would be the main
priority for a defender left by themselves to defend an attack they could not stop? The
answer (provided) is of course to try and prevent the 5-point goal.
The way of scoring in Stick2Hockey also encourages players to play in front of the ball carrier
and thus be exposed to the fact that, apart from restarts after a goal has been scored, there is
no offside in hockey. The development of this concept is important in New Zealand because
the most popular games for children, rugby, soccer and netball, all have rules regarding
The third provision for developing this emerging understanding within the feel of the game
comes from the use of simple fundamental skills in the opening game. Within the
developmental age range this programme is aimed at, although there are or course
considerable differences in ability to perform the fundamentals, most children can perform the
movement skills required to play Stick2Hockey, to at least the associative level of
performance and many perform at the autonomous level. This allows students, even as
novices to the game, to divide their attention between movement execution at a purely
physical level, the primary task for most beginners in games and applying tactics, usually the
secondary task for beginners in games, at the same time. It is generally acknowledged that
the extent of this division of attention is one of the distinguishing features between novice and
expert performances. Creating a playing environment where beginners can almost
immediately enjoy this sensation is one of the outstanding features of the Stick2Hockey
programme. In addition, because novices can play Stick2Hockey at speed they also get to
enjoy making these type of decisions and developing their understanding of the game at

something like the speed at which the game is played by players with many years experience
and specific hockey skills.
Cue Perception and Decision Making
Cueing or cue perception is noted as an extremely important concept in the Kirk and
MacPhail(2002) revised model of TGfU and its role is made more explicit than in the original
Bunker/Thorpe (1982) model. A criticism of some constructivist teaching methodologies in
sport e.g. educational gymnastics, is that the time taken for the learner to construct their own
knowledge of a concept or skill, given the limited time available to coaches and teachers of
physical education, may have been better spent with some direct teaching. Kirk and MacPhail
note that there is often a discrepancy between a players written declarative knowledge, about
what to do in a game and recognising that moment in the actual game and applying
appropriate procedural knowledge. Improvements in this area for players usually occurs over
time with experience. Kirk and MacPhail in adding this intermediate step to their revised
model of TGfU reinforce the need for teachers to teach and not leave the learners
construction of knowledge about games totally to their own discovery. Making this explicit is
an important component of the revised model. Of course to be able to do this is a teachers
skill and is to a certain extent dependent on the teachers own declarative knowledge of the
Within the Stick2Hockey programme developing cue perception in the beginner player, is
referred to as the teaching moment and it is achieved in a number of ways. Firstly, to help
the inexperienced coach or teacher, there are prompts within the provided lesson plans, as
well as on the video clips, where the action is paused and segments are coloured to highlight
the concepts, to make these declarative concepts quite explicit.
Secondly, in addition to the development of decision making within the specific hockey
games, the Stick2Hockey programme includes three supplementary tactical games which are
designed to further develop learners generic understanding of tactics in sport. The basic
concepts associated with these three games provide near transfer opportunities to invasion
games and the design also encourages the teachers to look for opportunities to cue students
into the desired tactical concepts for hockey.
The three games called Zone defence, Outlet and Round the Outside,are part of the holistic
programme of Stick2Hockey and are designed so that the rules and scoring systems reinforce
the learning outcomes. In these games players adopt particular invasion game strategies
merely through the act of playing the games. For example, in the game Outlet on all
defensive turnovers the defending team must make a wide outlet pass to a player on the
side of the playing area. The player who makes that pass must then follow the pass they have
just made. That type of pass and movement are basic defensive tactics in any invasion game
that is played with a goal in the middle of the back line that must be defended e.g. hockey,
soccer, basketball or water polo. It is hoped that after playing Outlet players, when faced with
similar defensive dilemmas in hockey or other similar invasion games, will automatically look
to perform an outlet pass.

Finally the naming of the tactical games was another important design feature in terms of cue
perception. It was hoped that when students asked to play, for example, Outlet, their
knowledge of the concept of an outlet pass, cued to them by the teacher, would be further
reinforced through the word association of the name of the game.
Movement Execution, Technique selection & Skill Development
In the Kirk and MacPhail(2002) revised TGfU model movement execution and technique
selection are located within the interface of decision making and are explained in that way.
Kirk and MacPhail make reference to work by Thomas and Thomas (1994) who claim that
decision-making in games is strongly influenced by understanding ones own and the
oppositions movement ability. By Kirk and MacPhail making this interface explicit in their
model through the use of the additional steps in the model of, decision making, technique
selection and movement execution, they make clear what most experienced sports people
take for granted i.e. you play to your strengths and your understanding of your opponents
weaknesses. The aim of making this explicit within the model is to remind teachers and
coaches of the importance of getting players to reflect on the movement options they choose
(decision making). Decision-making obviously relates to game tactics and strategies and is
integral to the TGfU philosophy.
In their discussion of skill development Kirk and MacPhail(2002) reference it to a concept
credited to Bereiter (1990) and is described as a learning module. A learning module is
defined as a cluster or modularising of components of skill rather than discrete capabilities.
They are clusters of cue perception capabilities, strategies and techniques that are activated
together in specific game situations.
Within the Stick2Hockey programme technique selection is not so obviously important as a
strict adherence to the Kirk and MacPhail(2002) model might suggest. This is because the
Stick2Hockey programme currently only addresses field hockey at an introductory level.
Consequently only three specific physical field hockey techniques are taught and so selection
of appropriate movement techniques doesnt arise in the way that it would with more
advanced players. As explained, this is a deliberate part of the construction of the programme
because it allows students to divide their attention between movement execution and game
concept which as beginners they would struggle to do if more techniques were available or
required of them e.g. different scoring options, hitting the ball or tackling in the adult field
hockey sense of the game.
However within the Stick2Hockey programme some licence is given to the Bereiter(1990)
philosophy as suggested in the Kirk/MacPhail explanation of their revised model of TGfU.
The Stick2Hockey programme encourages the use of domain specific skills within the games
and does so in a way that caters for individual differences in learning and experience. But the
programme also uses skill based learning to introduce the techniques that in turn are to be
practiced within the contexts of the games. In order to achieve some basic mastery of the
three skills of trapping, push passing and dribbling, a practice model supported by Schmidt
and Wrisberg (2000) for learners at the verbal cognitive stage, namely, blocked practice, is
recommended. Schmidt and Wrisberg contends that blocked practice provides the best

outcomes in terms of developing formative motor programmes. The style of practice

suggested also ensures a very high level of on task time and engagement for the students
with specific learning outcomes. Hence technique is introduced unashamedly in this
programme in a skill based lesson format.
The Bereiter (1990) philosophy of putting together clusters of skills does, in the authors
opinion, require groupings of players of similar ability - perhaps a graded sports team and
appears to sit well with what sport teams from novice grades to the international arena do
under the name of game sense. The physical education class does not always provide those
clusters of ability.
The TGfU philosophy in relation to skill and technique development is still achieved in
Stick2Hockey if not in quite the pure sense that some proponents might recommend. For
example, teachers and coaches using the programme are requested to not move to teaching
the first technique until they have moved through the first two games. It is also suggested that
they wait until they can see the cue or the teaching moment before moving to the technique
activities. And while technique development is introduced within a skill based environment
teachers and coaches are instructed to limit the time in these environments and return to the
next game where the skill can be practiced within the context of that game. In this sense
players do get to practice the clusters of skills and can do so without having to have similar
development in domain specific sport skills.
Situated Learning: Learner Centred
The impact of what Kirk and MacPhail(2002) refer to as legitimate peripheral participation
and situated performance with respect to what todays young peoples experience of sport in
terms of their exposure to professional, high tech, elite adult versions of games as portrayed
in the mass media was no better illustrated than what was seen on television in New Zealand
over the period of the 2000 Sydney Olympics. At those Olympics the performance of the New
Zealand Womens Field Hockey team captured the attention and imagination of the New
Zealand public. They played with pace, flair and control. They did so well that their games
were televised live on the main State run television channel at prime viewing time. Young
people watching these matches on television could not help but form a perception of what it
must be like to play this game. Unfortunately the introductory games for hockey in New
Zealand at that time bore no resemblance to that perception. Field hockey was introduced to
learners with a skill-based programme teaching the grip of the stick, body position and other
discrete skills. This contrast between legitimate peripheral experience and the situated
learning experiences that young people and the public developed about how field hockey was
played and how it was actually taught to beginners could not have been greater. The gulf
between these two positions was one of the principle motivating forces to develop the
programme that emerged as Stick2Hockey.
In contrasting the two approaches to field hockey instruction from the skill based approach
and the TGfU perspective, Stick2Hockey builds directly on the learners preconception of how
the game will be played. The structure of the final game in the Stick2Hockey programme
allows for individuals to play the game either incorporating specific hockey skills or

maintaining the generic fundamental movement skills. In doing so the learners dictate their
own pace in the application of techniques. It also allows for the sometimes huge discrepancy
of ability that one finds in the physical education class environment and allows the expert and
the novice to play a game where domain specific procedural knowledge does not have to
discriminate between their ability to play, have fun and apply tactics and strategies within the
What also became abundantly clear with the development of the Stick2Hockey programme
and confirmed what Rink (2001) observed, was that the TGfU methodology provides a
learning environment that students found motivating and fun. Of course one wants to do more
than just have fun and the Stick2Hockey programme structure provides for that.
In relating this programme to the Kirk and MacPhail(2002) revised model for TGfU the author
contends that the Stick2Hockey programme provides a practical example of the potential of
TGfU methodology. As the Stick2Hockey programme illustrates the use of the TGfU
methodologies can be much more than adjuncts to teaching movement or games within
physical education lessons. It has, in the authors opinion, the potential to be the theoretical
underpinning and practical expression of National sport introductory programmes. Certainly,
the endorsement this programme received from the New Zealand Hockey Federation and the
Oceania Youth Hockey Federation is encouraging for the future acceptance of the
methodology within mainstream sport as well as in physical education teaching.
Post Script.
Shortly after the Stick2Hockey programme was launched it also received an endorsement
from The Oceania Youth Hockey Federation. This organisation was looking for a programme
to take hockey into the Pacific Islands. They looked at several skill and game sense based
programmes. In their endorsement of this programme the author received feedback that
stated that they choose Stick2Hockey because they felt the TGfU methodology reflected a
Pacific Island learning style in that it taught sport with a tactical, competitive and fun focus.
They felt these factors were very important for selling any game to young people in the Pacific
Islands. Ditto, I thought to young people everywhere!


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