Small Sided Games

Benefits of Small Side Games

Small-sided games are extremely beneficial for young children. Anecdotal evidence and research studies show that youngsters derive greater pleasure from playing football in smaller teams and with adapted rules. As well as getting involved in the game more often, players learn more quickly and take more decisions during the course of a match. And as the ball is never far away, greater concentration is required on their part.

This all means that they gain a better understanding of the game than they would in playing on big pitches. The fact there are less players on the pitch and on each team also means that they receive more attention and have more chances to score goals, which is what children play the game for. Goalkeepers, who are not used in four-a-side football and smaller formats, are also more involved, while outfield players are exposed to more attack and defence situations, increasing their enjoyment and the pace at which they learn.

From a tactical point of view small-sided games are designed to enhance players’ vision of the game and their understanding of defensive and attacking aspects.

Below are just some of the statistics that underline the benefits that small-sided games offer in comparison to 11-a-side football:

  • Players touch the ball five times more in four-a-side football and twice as much in seven-sided games.
  • Players are involved in three times as many one-on-one situations in four-a-side football and twice as many in seven-sided games.
  • On average, in four-a-side football goals are scored every two minutes and every four minutes in seven-sided games.
  • Goalkeepers make two to four times as many saves in seven-a-side football than they do in 11-a-side.
  • The ball is out of play for eight per cent of the playing time in four-a-side football, 14 per cent of the playing time in seven-sided games and 34 per cent in 11-a-side football.

In small-sided games can benefit the player in many ways:

  • Plays the whole game
  • Receives the ball on a regular basis
  • More Touches
  • More 1v1’s
  • More attacking opportunities – dribbling, passing and shooting
  • More defending opportunities
  • More space and less bunching
  • Simpler lines of interaction and decision-making
  • Encourages better shape and team-awareness
  • Has the freedom to play
  • Develops Game intelligence
  • Faster play and faster transitions from defence to attack and vice versa
  • More Runs
  • Increases Fitness
  • More goal-mouth action
  • More goals
  • Enjoys the game more!!

These benefits are obvious when young players play games that are smaller than the adult 11-a-side game, but are even more pronounced when the age-appropriate competitions are played. A player usually has 3-5 times as many touches, more 1v1 encounters, dribbles, shots, encourages them to do skill and more goals are scored than if young kids played the ADULT 11v11 game.

“Nature decrees that children should be children before they become adults. If we try to alter this natural order, they will reach adulthood prematurely but with neither substance nor strength.” – Jean Jacques Rousseau

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Also worth a read Youth football development is more than balls, bibs and cones.

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