A constraints-led approach is a teaching/coaching method used in sport and Physical Education. It is based on the idea that learners can develop skills and find solutions to problems by working with certain boundaries referred to as “constraints.”

These constraints can be grouped into three categories: individual, environmental, and task-related. By manipulating these constraints, learners are presented with different information and are encouraged to find effective solutions on their own.

The constraints-led approach emphasises that movement is an emergent property of these interacting constraints. This means that changes to any of the constraints can lead to changes in how the learner organises their movements.

For the constraints-led approach to be successful, it’s important to have an understanding of ecological dynamics, which provides the guiding principles for designing practice environments that support this approach.

The three categories of constraints (Newell, 1986).

Organismic (e.g. the individual, cognition, emotion, skill level, learning, genetics, height, weight, strength).

Environmental (e.g. physical space, gravity, temperature, ambient light, support networks, motivational, financial, and socio-cultural influences such as peers and your coach).

Task (e.g. outcome goals, rules, boundaries, structure of practice, kit, equipment, coaching methods).