Building engagement in sporting practices through gamification

3 March 2020

One of the key concepts linked to Sport New Zealand’s Keep up with the Play campaign and Balance is Better philosophy is that for young people to fall in love with sports we need to make sure that they are having quality experiences. Ken Martel from USA hockey who visited New Zealand last year shared their vision of engaging their youth players by creating training sessions and games that have the same feel and excitement of a ‘carnival or fair’.


Some of the key people in sports who can bring this concept to life are coaches, and recently Sport Wellington explored an approach on how coaches could do this at the recent summer Student Coach workshops which were attended by 80 coaches from 15 colleges.

In the United Kingdom, some sports & organisations have started to explore and adopt a design approach called Gamification. This approach involves coaches incorporating video game design ideas into the design of their training activities and games to better engage their players and to get them thinking and problem solving throughout the games and activities.

There are 5 key principles:

  • What’s the mission? - Create a mission for the players to solve
  • Level-ups – the opportunity to set a series of more difficult challenges by changing something about the game at each different level – eg: change the space, task, participants.
  • Super powers – create a way that players could earn extra powers in the game – they then need to work out how they could use them to their team’s advantage.
  • Pausing – an option for players to use – when they pause the game they could do one of the following:

Cheat/Clue– be given an answer or example on how to solve the mission

Change – change something about the game rules to their team’s advantage

Challenge – make the task more difficult

  • Save progress – allow the players to return to the game at the same level they are at another session


At the Student Coach workshops the coaches were very quick in picking up this concept and applying it to their practical coaching tasks and we look forward to seeing them apply this approach within their team environments.