Small Sided Games in England
Interview with Samantha Sharman from the English FA
Nearly every nation in Europe is making changes to their small side game to promote better development and get away from teaching kids that winning is more important.
What changes are being made to the small sided game in England?
First off let me explain our current situation within England’s football structures: Currently in our youth football, leagues can play in the formats of 5 v 5s, 6 v 6s, or 7 v 7s up to the age banding of U8’s.
Do you print results?
These mini soccer/youth leagues do not print results of the fixtures, do try and take away the emphasis of winning and encouraging the development of the young players. This was made mandatory across all youth leagues 3 seasons ago.
From U11’s the player format moves to 11 v 11 and moves to a formal league where league tables are introduced and results can be printed.
A lot of research has been conducted through the Youth and Mini football manager Nick Levett, who has been travelling across the country speaking with County Football Associations, leagues and children (players). This research does support some of your views from your email. From this research Nick has put forward recommendations to The FA Youth Development : –
Review of the below:
5v5s at U7 & U8
7v7s v at U9 & U 10
9v9s at U11 & U12 onwards
11v11s from U13 (natural progression as this is when the children move from primary to secondary schools)
U7’s to U11’s are known as development football, from 12s+ leagues to be known as development leagues
According to the format above, the size of the pitches and goal posts will also change. (To come in line with Europe)
Another area that may interest you in your research is Relative Age Effect. RAE is an area Nick is also researching into to overcome the problem. A player born in September is grouped together with a child born in August, however physically the player born in September is (majority of the time) a year more advanced (physically) than that of the player born in August, therefore being stronger, faster.
Due to the emphasis of winning coaches/managers tend to pick the players that are bigger and faster to increase the chance of winning; therefore the player will have more playing time than others, hence an increase in development.
As you can imagine this is fairly hard to overcome and is another piece of research that Nick is currently co-ordinating.
“Some of the format changes we are looking at for under-sevens and under-eights, making the game five-a-side as mandatory so they get more touches, more shots, more dribbles and more fun within the game by just being involved more” FA Development Officer Nick Levett
Are the British nations talking to each other? To make you aware, a Home Nation Youth Development meeting was created in 2010, that have met up twice and a meeting is set for this year.
All home nation FA’s are represented (English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish FA) to discuss each other’s current developments in youth football and to discuss any issues that have arisen and how we believe they should overcome them from our previous experiences.
I have a few copies of the FA Football Development Programme Mini-Soccer Handbook, if you want one?