Why Small Sided Games?

The move to small-sided games for children/youth players is based on educational research on the way children learn. Just as with their academic education their football education is progressive. Empirical studies have been conducted into the improvement in the game environment for children in small-sided games as opposed to the adult version of the game. Mathematically, levels (or lines) of interaction are the possible passing connections between players. Each time another player enters the field of play the level of complexity of the game increases. The interactions are tactical possibilities. This obviously has an impact depending on the age and stage of the player. Pre-teen children find it difficult to understand complex patterns of play and the more players that are added to a game, the more difficult the learning experience becomes. Ultimately, this could stifle the child's ability to develop their technical and tactical abilities.

The number of possible passing interactions increases significantly depending on the number of players added to a game/training situation. The levels of interaction can be viewed below:

Number of Players on the Pitch Lines of interaction Between Players
3 6
5 20
6 30
7 42
8 56
10 90
11 110

Therefore it can be easily seen that the increase in passing interactions between the 5v5,6v6, 7v7 and 11v11 games increases from 20 to 30 to 42 to 110 respectively. In terms of the number of players in a team [and opposition], will determine the complexity of the decision making process and will have a direct correlation to success rate. It is clear that using small-sided games is more appropriate to the age and stage of children and youth players.

In terms of the key differences of the small-sided game over the eleven-aside game and the benefits of the 5v5, 6v6 and 7v7 formats, various well known observational research studies both in Europe and United States have demonstrated:

In 5v5, 6v6 and 7v7

USA Soccer Federation has provided 7 excellent reasons they have moved to 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! Less players on the field and less 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)

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?