Small Sided Games- coaching and playing benefits!

When you watching football match, there are many games going within a game! Equal numbers, underloaded, overloaded, you name it, they all there happening. The playing circumstances, environment and constraints are constantly changing. Players must make decisions, solve problems and consistently adjust their movement and positioning. This is required high level of competencies from players across all four corners. Why then coaches perception is: this is not a proper game? You often hear: This is just 3v3 or 5v5 side game, where we don’t need to coach! Why? I see this completely differently in this thought-provoking piece. Because I am reluctant to follow established trends, ideas or rules in conservative world of football, I like to challenge status quo and raise questions that might challenge people views and thoughts. Learn more about coaching and playing benefits of SSG.

1. Believe or not you will improve your observation skills.

Less numbers, smaller pitch, less space present FANTASTIC opportunity for you to learn to notice details with your players that you will struggle to do in larger game format i.e. 9v9. This will also be allowed you to coach in greater details individual tactics much need it before your players move up the ladder and learn unit and team tactical solutions.

2. SSG -variety support players adaptation to different game situations on the pitch

Adaptation means you will broaden youngsters’ experiences tactically. Size and shape will help players adjust psychologically (decision making and problem-solving repetition) and physically (intensity). It will be allowed you to set up constraints in relation to individual needs, space they play on and individual tactical positioning development.

3. Less is more-development of players learning brain and potential

How often you shout to your players about wrong movement or positioning on the pitch? Well, there is a learning reason for it, so no need to blame kids? I already outline in my other piece: that distances, angles, positioning kids learn quicker in SSG. It is easy for them to understand, due to less numbers playing. If we rush to more numbers to early, game become more complicated, thus players start struggle with tactical understanding and decision making.

4. SSG-means quicker and YES more effective decisions

Larger game format means more time and space and options in general. Therefore, if we want effective and quicker decision-making players, this will be far harder to achieved. Decrease the options and far more likely you will make quicker and better decisions. Then repeat this number of times with proper PSYCHOLOGICAL ENGAGEMENT and you potentially have good problem solvers. When then players move up to play larger format, they will be ready to do the same with more options on the pitch. They already been there, develop their individual tactical positioning competencies so they now won’t be struggle in more complex tactical game and environment. Shallow end to deep end, no other way around!

5. Kids will master individual tactics and tactical situations

Correct technique using in right time and place at the top speed, isn’t what coaches want? Going too early to larger games format means team tactics. Coaching team or unit tactics required very good understanding of individual tactic in first place. Larger format won’t help kids with that as much as smaller game scenarios! So, when kids force too early to play “COACHES PROPER GAME”, we must also accept the fact that most kids will struggle!

6. The best way to play the game is to replicate the game and play in variety of forms.

This is not Rocket and science, doesn’t? Yet, majority still thinks is better to place mannequins and force kids to practice pre-determined patterns of play in complete isolation which never happen on football pitch? It may sound like I am criticising; I am not really; I just think differently. Since I do have kids who can kick a ball, why on earth they need that, when they can do same thing within a game situation, with real opponent, pressure, engagement. Coaching is about engagement. Does isolated practice required brain engagement?

7. Building relationship with your players

Small Sided Game present great opportunity to build closer relationship with young players. You will be able to recognize more what is not measurable such as: human interactions and human traits. How does the player behave in 2v3 game situations? They out of comfort zone, outnumbered, do they struggle mentally or learning to be more resilient, more determined. This is great opportunity to connect on emotional level with kids, that you find harder in so called “PROPER GAME”
I am not saying kids should not experience larger spaces or games format. I am argued they must be ready for it. Coaches prepare kids what the game format looks like on Sunday rather than build competencies they need in longer term. Moving to early means we will continue to lose high level potential kids and we continue to preach we DEVELOP players!