Identifying opportunities to generate uncertainty – Using the principles of co-adaptability at the scale of performance and learning

I think a lot of people forget about co- adaptability when making games up – Ian Renshaw (Co-author of  Nonlinear Pedagogy in Skill Acquisition, Senior lecturer Queensland University Brisbane Australia)

Keith David’s (Professor of motor learning) touches on co-adaptability during his “Perception & Action” podcast with Rob Gray. There is a reference to co-adaptation at the evolutionary scale where the work of theoretical biologist and complex systems researcher Stuart Kauffman is cited. Animals in the wild, predators and prey forming different systems are engaged in a sort of arms race. One group evolves the capacity to behave in a certain way and that will allow them to not get eaten as much. The predators then have to adapt to that species so there is a co- adaptation process going on.

Using the principles of co-adaptability at the scale of performance and learning the coach can try and “nudge” the young learners in to constantly trying to adapt new ways to counteract new strategies that opponents are introducing in to the game.

A key point is to use game forms in training sessions that “directly talk to the players”. This means that feedback is directly “coming from the game forms”, so that the coach has to give less feedback from the outside by providing instructions that reduce the player’s breadth of attention – Daniel Memmert (Footblogball interview)

Creating, identifying and attacking free space: We want our players to identify key information sources that enables them to perceive opportunities to attack free space. We must help our young players learn to become perceptually attuned to the dynamics of the game.

Design a task that simulates an aspect of the performance environment

3v3 1

3v3 game-A goal is scored if one team dribbles the ball over the opponents end-line

We  want to encourage our players to create, identify and attack free space. From this game many “1v1” situations should also emerge.


3v3 2

To encourage the players to create, identify and attack free space we can add a “no forward passes” rule. This also creates another learning opportunity with regard to the principles of the game.  A player will naturally take up a position of support and depth behind the player in possession and this will in turn create space for that player to attack with the ball.


Let’s develop the game and open up for the possibility of the use of other tactical components.

3v3 3

We still want to encourage the players to identify and attack free space (gaps) by dribbling the ball. Now we also want them to achieve something similar by passing the ball in depth to an oncoming forward (identifying gaps and timing).

Rule: Forward passes may be played from the attacking teams own half.

Before this rule was applied there is a distinct possibility that the defending team will press high and try and gain possession high up the pitch.  Now we are creating an opportunity for the attacking team to also exploit the space created behind the defending team if they press high.

We should not forget about co-adaptability when designing games.




3 thoughts on “Identifying opportunities to generate uncertainty – Using the principles of co-adaptability at the scale of performance and learning

  1. The article has given me a new perspective on how to design my training sessions. From now on, all my training sessions will be about creating, identifying and attacking space.

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