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Ben Oakley
Young people Organising and Planning

Clicking for Success: Game Play as Coach Learning

Open University Senior Lecturer Ben Oakley outlines the background behind their new interactive game 'Medal Quest' which challenges players on whether they can guide a budding young athlete from childhood potential to championship success

It was a compelling challenge; how do you design an online game that compresses knowledge of developing young athletes from 10 to 20 into an engaging, educationally sound experience for coaches, parents and athletes.

Where were we to start? Stories and journeys were the answer: they are memorable and often fascinating in sport. We started to consider what typical dilemmas athletes, parents and coaches face in each of the ten years beyond childhood. ‘Players’ would act as mentors helping an adolescent athlete make difficult choices. The title of ‘Medal Quest’ resonates with the idea of an uncertain journey perhaps towards championship success depending on the decisions made.

Some of the big issues in coaching developing athletes: specialisation, autonomy, mindset, challenge versus support and holistic life skills are all considered. Using 20 scenarios, we consulted parents and coaches in many sports including rugby, football, swimming, and leaders at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and UK Coaching. These developed into 10 scenarios from age 10 through to age 19, here is an example of the first scenario:

Aged 10: Kade is already a good ‘gymnast’. They train with a junior club and love it. But sometimes they'd rather just hang out with their friends. Is that OK?

Clearly it partly depends what sport you are talking about so we opted on players guiding either: a gymnast (Kade), a swimmer (Ivy), a footballer (Zoe) and a Paralympic runner (Andrew). This provided team, individual and other sporting characteristics.

The use of ‘Gamification’ to aid learning is part of an increasing blend in online education that helps keep people engaged through interaction and decision making.

We borrowed an idea from UK Coaching's talent workshops; a representation of a graphic equaliser, showing the impact of each decision on ‘Early success’ (i.e. U18), ‘Chance of injury’, ‘Long-term prospects’ and ‘Motivation’. When certain threshold numbers in the background are reached a player either reaches a championship final aged 17-20 yrs. or has to retire early from the sport, with a few different outcomes in between.

Try the game and compare your results with other coaches, share with your athletes and their parents. This would be a great discussion point for a ‘Coaching Conversation’. There is lots of research to suggest that one feature of successful development environments is when those involved are ‘aligned’ with similar beliefs and attitudes.

Medal Quest

Can you guide a promising young athlete to championship success?


Related Resources

  • Parent Power: In Support of 'Parents in Sport Week'

  • Are You Helping Your Athletes Be the Best They Can Be?

  • How to RAMP it up as a Talented Athlete


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Ben Oakley