Gamify your coaching!

The blog is going to be for coaching or performance related things that I don’t know how to fit into a podcast yet. Hopefully you’ll find some of these ramblings interesting!

Recently I’ve had a play with gamifying some of the sessions I coach. Some of you will know what gamification is, what its not is just adding games to a session. Instead gamification is the idea of borrowing game mechanics and using them to help people achieve goals in other fields of their life.


If you’ve got a smart phone and are into fitness and your health there’s every chance you’ve experienced it.


Apps like Strava, Myfitnesspal and Pokemon Go all reward you for being active or just using them, you get badges or experience points (or a pokemon) for logging in and tracking your exercise or diet. If you’ve got a fitbit or health tracker that’s another example where you are rewarded for achieving goals like your step count or achieving a high heart rate. Gamification is everywhere, and its becoming more common in professional sport, with coaches in Golf, Baseball and Adventure Sports all openly using it to increase athlete engagement in training.


I coach 2-3 times a week at a university club, we’re really lucky because we get great numbers and a broad spectrum of players, from beginners to national medallists, and they’re a fantastic to teach. However, with the broad range of abilities it can be a struggle to keep everyone engaged with the content of the session- either pitching it too high or too low for a group of players, or a group of players not getting the time or support they need.


Sometimes we can accommodate this with other coaches supporting the session, but not always, and looking around trying to find something that could help resolve the situation is when I discovered gamification.


There are some aspects of martial arts that already fit with gamification, we all strive to level up and get a new belt and learning new skills, randori and sparring are times where we can test our skills against other players, however, I’m sure we all also recognise being bored during a session, doing endless set of uchikomi and nagekomi, or not really being sure what we are doing?


Nothing was included that the group didnt understand, hopefully all of would be able to transfer to another group in another club (with a few tweaks).


The experiment went as follows-


I designed a 30 level game.

Each level was a task that had to be completed, that hopefully progressively harder (for example, 5 static nagekomi, would go onto become straight line nagekomi, then moving nagekomi in space, then nagekomi against multiple partners moving at speed towards you).

If you fail a level you go back to the previous respawn point.

Every five levels was a boss level and if you passed it a new respawn point


I asked low grades to play the game based on a technique we had been doing in previous sessions, whilst allowed higher grades to pick their own. I wanted players to be doing good technique, and largely left it up to them to police themselves- which they did.

Some levels were really hard to fail, and the experienced players were able to race on ahead before they found levels more challenging, whereas less experienced players. Players ended up drilling without knowing they were doing the endless repetitions, because it was so broken up by the game structure.


The few times I’ve run it the session seems to have worked really well at keeping everyone engaged, and feedback has been good. It looks like chaos, everyone doing different things, but there is a method to the madness!


Its clearly not perfect, 30 levels was way too many for an hour session (players were only reaching late teens), some of the early levels were too tough and later ones too easy. Its not the be all and end all either. I wouldn’t want to base all my sessions around this model, its not a way to teach something new, but every so often I think I will keep it in because it was so good at keeping everyone engaged.

 A great place to find out a bit more about game like training is

Next post, I’ll put up the plan of the session- so you can see exactly what it looked like, along with my revised version. If you’ve done something similar, or think you’ll come up with your own version, let me know how it goes and what you did- any advice for planning this session would be much appreciated!