Game Maps in Physical Education

Within the sports industry there has been an explosion of data visualisation, advanced statistics and analytics. It doesn't matter what the sport is, I am sure you have seen some fancy visualisation of game statistics pop up on your TV screen. Collecting, analysing and interpreting data in sports is big business these days, it could be the difference between winning and losing a championship for your team. If you have ever seen the film Moneyball you will have seen how data can change the way an entire sports is played. 

Not sure what I am talking about? Here are a few examples:

What does this have to do with Physical Education?

If you made it this far you are probably thinking "this is interesting but how does this apply to physical education" and "I don't have the technology, resources or time to create such elaborate data visualisations, and why would I want to?"

Lets stop and think for a moment. Why do data analysts spend their time creating images like the ones I have shared with you above? The answer is simple. To better understand and gather evidence player performance and provide feedback to players, coaches and spectatorsBy collecting evidence of player performance in the form of data and then displaying that in a visual manner it makes it easy for players, coaches, TV analysts and spectators to understand how the game is being played by both individuals and teams. It provides feedback to enable future improvement. Take the tennis example I have shared with you above. This graphic shows where Kei Nishikori is likely to hit the ball based on his positioning on the court. This graphic provides valuable feedback to not only Kei and his coaches but to his opponent as well. By knowing his tendencies both he and his opponent can make tactical decisions about game play.

In a physical education context, data visualisations can help understand and gather evidence of student performance as well as provide feedback to students, teachers and parents. Recently in my #PhysEd classes I have been trying to use data visualisations to both help my students understand their performance in games, as well as collect evidence for assessment purposes. Below I will share a couple of examples of how I have used what I call "Game Maps" with my students.

Passing & Catching Game Maps

Last year during my invasion games unit I used a Passing & Catching Peer Assessment that I created to collect data on student decision making and skill execution. You can read all about the process in our Assessment in Invasion Games blog series. While my students continued to use this peer assessment and collect data on if their peers were making good decisions and executing their passes successfully, I wanted to find another way of identifying where students were moving on the court and what type of passes they were engaging in. Were they more attacking or more defensive? Did they favour short passes or long passes? Enter the Passing & Catching Game Map:

These game maps were completed by students in Grade 3 while they were watching their peers play a generic invasion game. On both of the maps above you will notice two different colours. The first time the students peer assessed they were just looking for where their player was when they received the ball. When they saw their player receive the ball they made a mark on the game map. The second time they peer assessed they were not only watching where their player was when they received the ball but also where they passed the ball. They would first mark the map and they draw an arrow indicating where the ball was passed. Following the game the observer would share the game map with their player and they would discuss the players performance. I asked students to look for any patterns within the game maps and if these patterns could help them better understand the players performance. Game Maps like these can be used in a variety of ways to help your students understand and reflect upon their performance, and if you have recently attended one of my workshops you will no doubt have used the Heat Track Map tool, which can help demonstrate how effectively students use space within games.

Striking & Fielding Game Maps

If you have downloaded our Levels of Tactical Complexity resources you will know that to be successful in striking & fielding games, students need to be able to successfully send an object away from the fielding team. During my recent Grade 2 Striking & Fielding Games unit I noticed that no matter what type of modified striking & fielding game we played almost of my students were hitting, kicking or throwing the balls out into the game space without being aware of or thinking about where there were fielders were. I wanted my students to be able to reflect upon where they were sending the objects so that they might be able to make better decisions the next time it was their turn. Enter the Striking & Fielding Game Map: 

The game map above was created using the Paper app by FiftyThree (Find out more about this amazing app in Joey Feith's SCOPE Vlog) to show where my students were hitting the ball while playing a version of Continuous Cricket where students would kick the ball rather than hit it. Every time a player kicked the ball I would draw an arrow on the game map to show where on the court the ball had gone. At the end of each innings we would view the game map and reflect upon where they had chosen to kick the ball. Did they kick the ball to an area that would enable them to score runs, or did they kick the ball into an area where there was a fielder. I found that by doing this I immediately saw a difference in the way my students were approaching the game. Previously they would step up to kick the ball as hard as they could without thinking about where the fielders were. Now as they stepped up for their turn they were more aware of where the fielders were and they were more deliberate with their performance.

These simple game maps helped me to gather evidence of student performance and helped my students to better understand their performance during game play. By being able to visually see what they were doing when they were playing I noticed a big difference in their decision making during game play. Students were more aware of the game environment and were better able to know how to be successful within the game. While I know these game maps are not by any means revolutionary it shows how simple data collection and visualisation can be a valuable addition to your physical education program. If anyone else out there in Team #PhysEd is using Game Maps or something similar in their school I would love to see it, feel free to share them with me on social media.

Nathan Horne is a physical educator currently based in Singapore (soon to be in Vancouver, Canada) and the founder of iPhys-Ed.com Be sure to never miss out on any of iPhys-Ed.com’s future posts by joining our mailing list or connecting with us via TwitterFacebook, Youtube or Instagram.

Related Articles


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *