Rod Thorpe's story

Author: Rod Thorpe
Rod Thorpe's story

Rod travelled to Australia and New Zealand to find out more about innovative approaches to teaching sports in schools.

In the late 1970's and early 1980's Rod was central to a team at Loughborough University developing a new approach to teaching games in school. Rod and his colleagues felt traditional approaches did not encourage the less able, held back the talented and neglected perception and decision making. The approach developed was called Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU).

In the late 80's Rod heard about Aussie Sports and Kiwi Sports. These were approaches designed to give children in Australia and New Zealand more appropriate sport experiences, not least by modifying the sport. Having seen the support literature and curious to know more, Rod applied for a Felllowship and in 1992 left for three weeks in New Zealand and five weeks in Australia. 

The lessons learnt led to the refinement of an initiative he was already working on called Playsport. This was adopted, and continues to be developed, by the Youth Sports Trust as TOP Sport, a programme that is used in primary schools throughout the world.

Rod’s report also led to an invitation to return to Australia in 1994 and talk to Australian coaches, with the clear instructions: “Don’t tell us what we are doing right, tell us where you feel we are going wrong.” The approach Rod and the team had first developed for teachers in school was now being recognised as important for coaches.

Rod presented his thoughts and findings to his Australian counterparts in what was their national Year of the Coach. He returned on four more occasions to work with their coaches, travelling throughout the country, and the result was the development of an approach based on TGfU and Playsport known as Games Sense. Rod presented TGfU and Game Sense workshops to teachers and coaches throughout New Zealand on three further occasions.

The development of ideas like these involve many people in different environments sharing thoughts and ideas. TGfU is now a recognised throughout the world.

"The Fellowship contributed to this spread, but perhaps more significantly through Games Sense made the approach more attractive to coaches, hence reaching many more providers of children's sport. I am convinced that more children are having a better sport experience as a result of my Fellowship."

Rod Thorpe retired as Director of Sports Development at Loughborough University in 2003, but continues to work with teachers and coaches in his retirement.