Choices Make Champions! – Decision Making in PE

Choices Make Champions! – Decision Making in PE

During my time in education, the biggest change to have happened was the 2014 switch to the new curriculum. As educators, we all have our opinions on the new curriculum and often like to share our thoughts on its flaws. However, there is one element of it which I feel is hugely under praised: reasoning.

Gone are the days where children simply learning a skill was sufficient. Today, we must teach children to be critical thinkers; to understand why and most importantly, to make informed decisions for themselves about when to use these skills in their learning. In my opinion, this is one area of teaching PE where we can all do more.

During lessons within the classroom, teachers often question children – “What are you going to do?” This will encourage them to draw upon the skills taught and make an informed decision as to how to tackle the problem. The follow up question often uses the word why, for example, “Why do you think that will work?” This process is now fundamental in children reaching Age Related Expectations at the end of Key Stage 2. However, is this process taught enough to children within a sporting environment?


I have recently finished reading Clyde Brolin’s book – ‘In the zone’. Within this, the author describes the main difference between a champion athlete and their competitors as their mindset, more specifically, the ability to make the right decision at the right time. This does not happen naturally within children and as previously mentioned, is something which must be taught repeatedly.

The key skills children need to develop for decision making are:

  • identifying when a decision needs to be made
  • thinking of possible options
  • evaluating the options, and choosing strategies for making the decision and reviewing how it works.

(KidsMatter 2008)

Psychologist Jim Taylor has a keen interest in decision making. In an article for Psychology Today, he talks through how decision making is so important for young people as they grow into adults – ” Decision making is one of the most important skills your children need to develop to become healthy and mature adults.” (Taylor 2009). He explains how young children find decision making difficult as they will often seek instant gratification. In a sporting context for example, you may find a child will shoot from anywhere to try and score for themselves. At this young age is where good decision making habits need to start, and as adults we need to encourage them to see the bigger picture.

He goes on to also explain how we can “raise good decision makers” by starting with a limited number of choices. In a sporting context, this could be providing certain zones to move or pass into, or through scaffolding their decision making by showing them two options for a pass and then increasing the number and freedom of choices, in-line with the age or ability of a child, as opposed to just letting children play in a game situation on an open pitch. Following on from this, he explains that decision making must be spoken about. After children have made decisions, it is important that they are discussed so that they can be learnt from. This is a key teaching point for children, especially those exceeding expected standards in PE in terms of physical ability.


A key component of our planning at Edsential is that every lesson has a decision making task. which will encourage children to go through this process in every area of the PE curriculum. Alongside this, when delivering lessons with teachers through our curriculum support, we ensure that teachers understand how important this aspect of teaching PE is. Children must be given the chance, in different situations, to make decisions and learn from them. To me personally, these are the key teaching points of a lesson, especially for children who may be exceeding expectations for their age in PE.

Differentiation in PE comes in many forms: use of equipment; use of space; adapted and inclusive challenges. However, one key aspect which is often under-used is reasoning. Can children explain how they can improve their performance? Do we give children enough time to think about this in PE? Can a child explain which decision may have been better than the decision made? This is a key part of learning which needs modelling at first, but most importantly, needs to be given time.

In an age where children and young adults are under increasing pressure and stress, the skill of decision making is playing more of a role than ever. The new pressure of social media, combined with the age-old pressure of peers means that children now have more opportunities to make poor decisions than previous generations once did. Good decision making underpins all our hopes for the young people in our care. Whether these decision making skills help them go on to be champion athletes, successful learners or just keep them safe and healthy, the ability to make informed and appropriate decisions is a life-skill which surely we should be taking every opportunity to get children into the routine of.


Taylor, J. (2009) Parenting: Decision Making: Help Your Children Become Good Decision Makers.

KidsMatter. (2008) Five tips to help children develop better decision-making skills. © Commonwealth of Australia 2008, reproduced with permission.