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How to Define and Capitalize on the Constraints Led Approach, with Ken Martel

By The Coaches Site, 03/18/24, 1:00PM CDT


Those who attended TCS Live 2023 were introduced to the “Constraints Led-Approach” by Ken Martel, Senior Director of Player and Coach Development with USA Hockey. Although the concept can seem overwhelming, it’s actually quite simple.

The central idea of the Constraints-Led Approach is that skill development and learning are influenced by the interaction between three types of constraints: individual, environmental and task constraints. These constraints, according to Martel, shape the learning process and guide the development of skills and decision-making in athletes. 

Martel, a former defenceman with Lake Superior State University who offers over 25 years of experience in player development, demonstrated the Constraints-Led Approach by leading an on-stage demonstration using coaches from the audience and playing a variety of handball-style mini-games in front of the crowd in attendance. Martel’s goal was to progressively introduce different variations to the game being played on stage, including the size of the playing area, the number of players, the scoring system, and ways to score. Martel used these constraints to show how changing the rules led to changes in behaviours, such as increased communication, physicality, and movement. 

In this 26-minute TCS Live presentation, Martel stresses that every drill you run in practice will incentivize certain behaviours and discourage others. The key for coaches is to step back and observe what is really happening in a drill so that they can adjust and stress certain areas of the game to maximise player development.

Be prepared to take quite a few notes on the constraints led approach to enhance your coaching!

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