Why Small-Sided Games?
US Youth Soccer has thought long and hard about the answer to the question, "Why Small-Sided Games?"
What does "Small-Sided Games" mean? These are soccer games with fewer players competing on a smaller sized field. These are fun games that involve the players more because fewer players are sharing one ball.
All ages can play "Small Sided Games", but it has a definite developmental impact on our younger soccer players. US Youth Soccer recommendations for "number of players" at the various age groups are as follows:
U5 | 4 against 4 no goal keepers
U7 | 4 against 4 no goal keepers
U9 | 7 against 7 with goal keepers
U12 | 9 against 9 with goal keepers
U13+ | 11 against 11 with goal keepers
Here are some of the reasons why we believe, as soccer coaches, administrators and parents must guarantee that our young soccer players play small-sided games:
1. Because we want our young soccer players to touch the soccer ball more often and become more skillful with it! (Individual technical development)
2. Because we want our young soccer players to make more, less-complicated decisions during the game! (Tactical development)
3. Because we want our young soccer players to be more physically efficient in the field space they are playing in! (Reduced field size)
4. Because we want our young soccer players to have more individual teaching time with the coach! Fewer players on the field and fewer players on the team will guarantee this! (Need to feel worthy and need to feel important)
5. Because we want our young soccer players to have more, involved playing time in the game! (More opportunity to solve problems that only the game presents)
6. Because we want our young soccer players to have more opportunity to play on both sides of the ball! (More exposure to attacking and defending situations)
7. Because we want our young soccer players to have more opportunities to score goals! (Pure excitement)
8. Because we want to include children of all temperaments, assertive to shy, to have more opportunities to interact with others and the game! (Socialization)
These are the reasons why we adults must foster "Small-Sided Games" in our youth soccer programs. The "Small-Sided" environment is a developmentally appropriate environment for our young soccer players. It’s a FUN environment that focuses on the young soccer player.
It just makes sense doesn’t it?
Small Sided Game Study
Manchester United youth players have been introduced at a young age to small-sided training as part of the curriculum in their training. This included the uses of a 4 v. 4 model with no goalkeepers and matches lasting eight minutes. The formats of the matches are also altered “to reflect upon soccer environments where the young players were free to learn, practice and develop their soccer skills without being shackled by the imposed structures, expectations, attentions and scrutiny of significant others.
Following the completion of the Manchester United study, it was determined that increases in soccer-critical situations increased exponentially.
• Increased passing by 135%
• Increased scoring attempts by 260%
• Increased the number of goals scored by 500%
• Increased the number of 1 v. 1 encounters by 225%
• Increased the number of dribbling skills (tricks) by 280%