Horst Wein, who has mentored more than 11,000 soccer coaches in 55 different countries around the world, believes that small sided games are the most essential element in developing youth soccer players. This comes from a man who knows a thing or two about this vital topic – his book “Developing Youth Football Players” is the official textbook of the Spanish Football Federation, and has also been adopted by the Football Federation of Australia, having sold more than 100,000 copies worldwide.
Small sided games in Training
Coaches should focus more on games rather than drills in training. Isolating particular techniques and concentrating on them using repetitive drills and exercises is known as the “analytical method” and often poses difficulties when the players come to apply what they have been working on in the real game scenario. The “global method” of training involves creating more game-like scenarios in training that can be more seamlessly integrated into the actual game itself. This is done through creating simplified games, which are scaled-down versions of the real game, but that can focus on particular themes necessary in the real game.
The concept of using games rather than drills and exercises has been studied for many years all around the world. Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) has been applied to many different sports and been found to be very effective. In Australia, it is also known as “Game Sense” and “Play practice.”
There are many benefits to this games-oriented method in soccer:
1.Most importantly, players prefer to play games than to do drills (especially the younger ones).
2.The games can be modified through different variables to concentrate more on specific elements that need to be addressed; The size of the playing area, the number of players, duration of the game, technical rules etc, means that in the hands of a skilful coach, games may be used to achieve all the requirements of playing the real game.
3.Small sided games require smaller pitches and can be suited to any number of players.
4.Small sided games provide a much more intense physical workout than larger games.
5.Small sided games allow the coach to develop the players Game Intelligence, as they may focus on the true dynamics of the game of soccer e.g. the 2v1 situation.
Small sided games in competition
This means that the competitions that young people play should be tailored to the specific requirements of their age group.
“The competition you play should be like your shoes, it should fit you perfectly! “
Benefits of small sided games in competition (and training):
- More touches of the ball
- Simpler decisions to make
- Better game-related fitness, short duration of high-intensity vs laps
- More time with coach per player
- Easier to coach especially for parent coaches
- More opportunities to solve game problems
- More attacking opportunities (dribbling, shooting, passing )
- More defending opportunities
- More shooting and more goals = more fun!
- No hiding place, players don’t get lost in these games
- More opportunities for the full range of skills