Why is it said that it is good for development of players?
Question 1:
Why is it said that it is good for development of players?
GARY ALLEN, Assistant Director of Coaching for the Virginia Youth Soccer Association, USSF National Coaching Staff.

The first point that always comes to mind concerns the fact that each player will touch the ball more. The obviousness of this point means that its importance is often over-looked. By touching the ball more, the player not only has more opportunities to improve his or her skill under the pressure of the game; he or she also has many more opportunities to make decisions as the game demands. One of the major roadblocks to our development as a soccer nation is our inability to cope with the speed at which the world game is played. This is not pure physical speed; rather it is speed of thought and execution, the very elements small-sided games emphasize.

Of equal importance is the fact that each player is required to play a bigger role in each game. No player can be assigned a purely offensive or defensive role. All of the players must be involved in quickly transitioning from defense to offense when the ball is won, and from offense to defense, when the ball is lost. When a player's team has the ball, he or she must become much more involved as part of the group that is attacking than is required in the 11 v 11 game. Similarly, when his or her team loses the ball, the player cannot expect others to carry the full responsibility of defending and winning the ball back. The game played on the world level often is won or lost by quick transition from offense to defense, or vice versa.

Another important product of the increased roles for each player in smaller-sided games is the development of concentration. The smaller numbers of players on each side requires each player to pay attention to where the ball is and what is going on around him or her. The ability to play the game on the world level demands incredible ability to concentrate for the full length of the game. Playing smaller sides increases the opportunities for players to develop such concentration.

Question 1:
Why is it said that it is good for development of players?
ANDY BIGGS, State Director of Coaching for Maine Youth Soccer, Region I Regional Age Group Coach.

When players compete in age-appropriate small-sided games, they have greater involvement in the action. For players, this means doing more of what they love most about soccer - shooting, dribbling, passing, scoring goals, blocking shots, and simply running after the ball. And in terms of their development, this increased involvement results in improved technique, clearer decision making, active participation in both the attack and defense, and a greater appreciation for game.

In order to develop their skills, players need opportunities to try them in games. Players who compete in small-sided games have significantly more contacts with the ball. In a pilot study, the California Youth Soccer Association -- South, compared the number of passes attempted by a U8 player in an 8v8 game to the number attempted by the same player in a 4v4 game. In the 8v8 game, the player attempted 12 passes, completing 3. And in the 4v4 game, that same player attempted 46 passes, and completed 18. While the increased contact with the ball is clearly a benefit to skill development, it also translates to more opportunities to hone decision-making.

Soccer is often referred to as a player's game, and the best players stand out for their ability to solve the problems the game presents. In small-sided games, players are exposed to many of the same problems presented by the 11 a-side game. There are decisions about when to pass rather than dribble and decisions about where to run to support the ball. However, in small-sided games, players confront these problems more often, and, with fewer players, the choices are more clear. With only 4 players on a team rather than 8, it's easier to see where there isn't a player to support the ball and then to run there to help out.

Having fewer players on the field also allows each player to take an active role in both the attack and in the defense. With fewer players and a smaller field, the game often demands that players move quickly from an attacking position to a defensive one, as a single pass and short run can often result in a chance at goal. The result is that players begin to feel free to move into different areas of the field, and in the long run that can only result in better and more complete players.

At first glance, it may appear that by competing in games of 3v3, 4v4, 6v6, and 8v8, it will take players longer to adjust to 11v11. However, given that small-side games provide increased contacts with the ball and more opportunities to hone decision-making while moving quickly from attack to defense, by organizing these games, our players will be better prepared to play 11 a-side.

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