What are teachable moments?

Table of Contents


What are the "teachable moments"?

A teachable moment is exactly what the wording says. A particular moment or a situation from which an opportunity arises to teach an individual or a group of learners something specific.

The teachable moment provides a trigger or anchor point for a subsequent learning process, which usually only manifests itself as a result of the guidance from a learning facilitator (e.g., a coach or teacher).

The teachable moment can be of a very different nature. It can be an experience, a behavior, the result of a successful or unsuccessful trial, something we experience or just observe, an individual mistake, poor teamwork or an unexpected success…

Why are teachable moments in sport such a valuable tool?

There are a number of reasons why teachable moments are experienced particularly intensively in sport and are therefore especially valuable for individual and collective learning progress:

  • In sport, children and young people are not only passive observers but active participants.
  • For many young people, sport has a great personal significance and actions and experiences in sport are therefore often linked to intense emotions (nervousness, disappointment, joy, etc.).
  • In addition, the results of an activity are usually directly attributable to one’s own actions (I trained well, I really tried hard, I stuck to the tactics, etc.).

When do teachable moments occur?

In order to apply education through sport as a methodology of non formal education it is important to first understand that in sport, teachable moments can either occur from the context or situation or that they can be planned and triggered systematically by the educator.

And secondly, that in both cases it is necessary to follow-up the situation with a guided reflection process in order to ensure the envisaged learning outcome.     

Teachable moments in sport

A teachable moment can occur from the context or situation

A teachable moment can be triggered through a planned activity

A teachable moment should always be follow-up with a guided reflection process

How to create teachable moments ?

Use analogies

A simple way to intentionally create such a learning opportunity is to play an exercise or game that can be used as an analogy for a targeted situation outside sport.

For example, you may play Tic Tac Toe as a shuttle relay. In this game, the players have to decide under time pressure on which cone to place a ring for their team. In the discussion that follows, you would then have a starting point to discuss whether your participants have already decided on an educational path after school and whether they feel pressured to make this decision.

Get learners out of their comfort zone

A second approach is to put learners in a situation where they have to leave their normal comfort zone.

For example, they may have to confront their fear of heights during a climbing experience or jump from the 5m platform for the first time at the swimming pool.

 Such a challenge can already arise when a player does not play in his favorite position but is assigned a different role on the field. In any case, it is important as an educator to know your participants well and to challenge them without overwhelming them.

Give learners new and appropriate responsibilities

A third approach is to trust into your participants´abilities and to give them responsibility for something they are up to, but which is still a challenge for them.

For example, taking on the role of team captain, delivering the pre-match address, delivering one part of the training session, supporting a community event as a team etc.

Initiate interaction processes

Another way to deliberately initiate teachable moments is to create sport- and game-based tasks that require a good amount of group interaction processes.

This might include effective communication, creative problem solving, teamwork, leadership, taking on different roles and tasks, making aligned decisions under time pressure, etc.

Examples for teachable moments

Lucy shows kindness and fair play after winning the game


Josh repeatedly tries to cheat and bend the rules


Olli gets hurt badly during today´s training session and has to be brought to the hospital


Damir and Matti start arguing on the pitch

Damir and Matti

Maria doesn´t show any respect for the referee


We are 3 goals down, but still all kids support and encourage each other

Our team finally wins their first game

Be a careful observer, there are lots of teachable moments

How to follow-up and discuss teachable moments?

Teachable Moment

  1. Describe
  2. Explain
  3. Generalize
  4. Learn and Apply