The Games Approach and High School Football

Submitted by Luke Nielsen

Luke Nielsen is an educator and strength and conditioning coach at Saint Ansgar High School in Saint Ansgar, Iowa.  He received his Master of Sports Science degree from the United States Sports Academy, and is currently pursuing a terminal degree through the Academy.


Purpose: This article was adapted from an unpublished essay previously submitted by the author as a course requirement for SAB 571: Sports Coaching Methodology at the United States Sports Academy in Daphne, Alabama.  This article offers an examination of research related to the games approach, which for the purposes of this investigation will be identified as the implementation of coaching tactics that utilize open-skill training techniques that closely mimic the physiological and psychological demands of competition.  Specifically, this essay explores the efficacy of a games approach to coaching high school American football and offers suggestions for the effective implementation of games approach techniques.  Methods: An extensive collection of existing research was examined for this literature review.  Research related to general tactical sports training, the possible influence of a games approach to sports training, and specific games approach techniques were examined.  Special consideration was given to research that was deemed highly applicable to high school football.  Results: Athletic performance is comprised of physical, technical, and tactical components, yet performances in closed-skill technical assessments do not necessarily translate to performance in open-skill competition.  However, games approach techniques can be implemented to effectively address all three components of athletic performance, and guided discovery learning techniques were found to be most effective in eliciting positive gains in actual competition performance.  Conclusions: High school coaches can effectively overcome many of the constraints facing secondary athletics programs and address the physical, technical, and tactical components of football by incorporating guided discovery learning into games approach training techniques.  Applications in Sports: High school football coaches are charged with the task of training young and inexperienced athletes—many of whom must fulfill a variety of other academic and extracurricular commitments—to effectively perform the many highly complex tasks that comprise American football.  This can be a difficult task.  This essay summarizes existing research findings regarding games approach athlete training techniques and provides coaches with suggestions for the effective and efficient implementation of such tactics.