Great Play's Unique Approach to Teaching Sport Skills
A vastly superior (and more fun!) 2-step process for acquiring sport skills
Getting off to the right start is critical
From a young age, children start labeling themselves as athletic, or not. Feeling successful on the field, court, playground or even in the back yard leads to a continued desire to play, which leads to more learning and greater success. Tragically, the opposite is also true – getting off to a bad start can cause a child to want to sit out, missing the opportunity to develop fully during key growth years and making their self-doubt about their athleticism snowball into a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Every child can and should be athletically successful, and the skills needed to be successful are absolutely learnable for virtually any child, provided:
- They receive individually tailored instruction to learn proper technique for each skill at their level, and
- They get the repetitions necessary to build the "muscle memory" for that technique (see: How Children Learn Motor Skills for more information).
The challenge is that most resources for developing skills fall short on one or both points. Many coaches and sports classes use a sink-or-swim teaching technique that can set children up for failure. And then tedious practice sessions, which most kids don't enjoy, are held for repetitions.
At Great Play, we approach this in a much different way. First, we use a proprietary teaching method called SCORE to ensure Players are learning proper technique appropriate to their current level of experience, and then we turn practice into play with unique games in our patented Interactive Arena (see below for more information on both).
Each 50-minute class gives children another skill for their toolkit for athletic success and starts them down the path to a physically active life.
1. Learning Proper technique with our SCORE™ Teaching Method
At Great Play we use a proprietary teaching method, which divides complex skills (such as a basketball shot or a baseball throw) into a number of discreet steps or levels. We start a child who is new to a skill with the minimum set of steps necessary for a positive result, even if it is a small one. As the child has success with that step, we add on the next step. If they have difficulty with a more complex version of the skill, we move back to a simpler version until it is mastered.
We call this method SCORE (Successes COntinuously Reinforced and Extended), and it has a number of benefits for children acquiring new skills:
- Players succeed immediately, which is fun and builds confidence and self-esteem, even if it is a relatively small success.
- Learning is individualized and more predictable: Our coaches help Players advance individually through discreet stages as their skills progress. If a stage proves too difficult, coaches simply return to the prior stage. Also, different Players can be working on different stages of a skill in any given class, so each child is always making progress appropriate to their experience level.
- Players will be more likely to stick with it because it is enjoyable and they always feel they are doing well -- because they are always challenged right at their current level.
- It is a better match for how we learn motor skills - adding on just one thing at a time to our base. It is nearly impossible even for an adult to focus on making two changes to an athletic task simultaneously.
- The skills they learn in any given class can be used immediately. They are never just part way through learning a skill and frustrated. They leave each class having mastered a skill to a certain level, which they can use when playing. And next time they can learn the skill at a higher level!
For instance, a child learning to throw, which, in its full form, is a very complex motor skill using coordinated motions of the entire body, might start by isolating just a portion of the arm motion (start near the ear, finish to the target). This is sufficient to go out and play catch and not be embarrassed by having something go terribly wrong (like having the ball go backwards!), which can lead to opting out of the sport altogether. From there the child progresses as we add on additional pieces of the skill, until a complete, advanced motion is being used. And at each step along the way, the child is able to use the skill and have fun being successful with it.
2. Turning Practice into Play in our Patented Interactive Arena™
In addition to being taught proper technique, the other critical component necessary for learning a skill is performing many repetitions of that proper technique ("practicing" it). You can think of this as "burning" the technique into muscle memory (learn more about the science of learning motor skills).
There are two problems with most typical practice sessions though. First, usually practice simply isn't fun - kids want to play, not practice! Second, even when they do practice, if it's not properly supervised to ensure they're using the proper technique, they will actually be burning poor form into their muscle memory, which can be harder to overcome than learning something from scratch.
At Great Play, we keep the instruction short and focused, and then play a series of games with the newly learned skill that turn practice into play! Our Interactive Arena technology makes it fun, and it doesn't feel like practice at all. For instance, after working on throwing technique, Players rotate through a series of stations, including hitting targets on the interactive walls and seeing their progress on the speed gun. Each station is coach-supervised to ensure proper technique is being used.
Our coaches make it fun to learn!
Each Great Play coach receives extensive training to be able to teach in the SCORE system, and each skill is supported by a detailed set of SCORE steps. This structured process has a number of benefits that aren't available in programs centered around a single coach's expertise:
- We have compiled best practices for the technique of each of the 30 sport skills we teach, and they are taught consistently at each Great Play nationally. Your child will not be subject to a single coach's bias or unconventional method for teaching a skill.
- Each of our coaches teaches the skills the same way, so you can change classes and times knowing that you'll receive the same excellent approach.
- And because we are not relying coaches having their own personal teaching methods, we are able to focus on selecting coaches based on their ability to make learning fun for the kids. (Come try a class and you'll quickly see what we mean!)
We offer this program in several versions
Follow these links to learn more and pick one to come try:
- Multisport Program for Grades K to 5th - build a comprehensive toolkit of skills to succeed in sports broadly.
- Seasonal Single Sport Programs for Grade K to 5th - at different times of year we focus on baseball, basketball, soccer or flag football, with each class in an 6-12 week cycle focused on just that sport. This can be helpful before or during participation in a recreational league for instance.
- Multisport Junior for ages Ages 3½-5½ - an introduction to the skills of baseball, basketball, football, soccer and hockey, made super-fun for younger Players! We offer a multisport and a soccer-only version of this program.