Small Sided Games – Let The Kids Play: A Message Off The Subject

by CoachZ on March 17, 2009

Why would a sex-specific, soccer-specific strength and fitness trainer go off the reservation, so to speak, and post a video about small sided games and training?

The answer is really very simple! I was speaking to a group of soccer coaches recently about soccer-specific strength and fitness training and during the question and answer portion, someone asked my my opinion on the use of small sided games as a coaching strategy. Well, he did it, he asked my opinion! During the next 45 minutes, we discussed all aspects of the small sided game technique, pros and cons. I have to tell you, it was a heated discussion.

Small sided games versus the traditional mode, drills!

Frankly, I believe there is room, and in fact a need for, both. That being said, I weigh in heavily in favor of small sided games and, as the title suggests, letting th e kids play! I have used a video, clearly not my own, to illustrate the small sided game technique. The video is a rather tame version of what I used to do as a coach. In all fairness to Jeff, he was teaching them a new technique and, as such, the kids weren’t really up to speed yet.

Speed of play and touches on the ball!

The main benefit to small sided games is in getting your players as many touches on the ball as possible. As the game progresses, the emphasis can change and the restrictions focused so you have to touch the ball once, twice, three times before passing and you need to complete five successful passes before trying to score. You can go two versus three, you can have a neutral midfielder. In other words, mix it up, depending on what your team needs, your weaknesses, and your strengths.

Fully adaptable model!

The real benefit to the small sided game is that it is fully adaptable, quickly and, in many instances, on the fly! You can see a need during training, adjust accordingly, and proceed with training. With drills, kids stand in line, wait their turn, and have limited touches on the ball. The small sided game eliminates this draw back and keeps the kids playing. The latter is far more intense and effective in so many ways.

Small sided games and the D License

I remember way back, well over ten years ago, I was in a coaching clinic for the D license and Tom Turner of Ohio Youth Soccer Association-North (Ohio-North) was the instructor. At the time, the debate about the small sided game technique had reached fever pitch, with Tom being one of the chief proponents, particularly in Region II but nationally as well. The emphasis of his classes? You got it! Small sided games. Well, the crowd was about 70-30 against until the end of the clinic. By then, every coach save one was sold. There’s always one, isn’t there! And this was an intense class, every soccer coach from just about every premier club (top level club teams) in Ohio-North was in that class, and a few coaches from nationally ranked high school and college squads, like Walsh Jesuit. So, it was a tough crowd, but Tom won almost every coach over, not by instruction but by demonstration.

Small sided games gain in popularity and favor

Well, it’s been ten or fifteen years now and the small sided game is the model. The drills of the past? Some things linger and sometimes the terminology remains but the practice defined is different. Unfortunately, drills has remained firmly entrenched in our lexicon. The military connotations notwithstanding, the word drills should be put to bed once and for all. In fact, one of the coaching methods I am currently advertising calls his program 20 drills! UGH! But the guy is good and he has some really helpful strategies. Do I think it could be better? Yes! Are there better programs out there? Not many! So, if you have specific questions you can always contact me, otherwise click the link below for one of the programs listed or the side panel Soccer U.

Three programs to get your team going, made for coaches starting out or wanting to step thing up a notch!

Fast Break Soccer Program

250 Award Winning Soccer Drills

Organize You Soccer Team: Top to Bottom!

Good Luck and check out the video below.

John P. J. Zajaros, Sr.
Skype: johnzajaros1

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