What are small sided games?

Small sided games (SSG) are football games with fewer players competing on a smaller sized field that encourage players to have more contact with the ball because fewer players are playing in a smaller playing area. Small sided games have a definite developmental impact on younger football players.  

Why change to small sided games?

  • It makes the game of football a better experience for children
  • More touches on the ball
  • More opportunities to make decisions
  • More actual play

Players will be more active due to playing both attacking and defensive roles within a match and will understand the importance of team mates and playing and working together.

What are the benefits of small sided games?

A significant amount of research has been conducted in countries where small side games are popular, which highlights the following benefits:

  • More touches of the ball by all players throughout all areas of the pitch
  • More shots on goal
  • More efficient use of facilities, given there can be  multiple games on one standard size field
  • Repeated decision-making experience
  • The ball is in play far more often
  • The emphasis is on player development rather than winning or losing
  • Better success rate leads to improved quality of play, self-esteem and player retention 
  • The game is easier to understand
  • Freedom of expression - no positions in early stages
  • Less perceived stress on the players
  • Less perceived pressure from coaches and parents
  • Parents more likely to volunteer for SSG game leader roles
  • Children enjoy the progressive and sequential game formats

Who else has small sided games?

Small sided games are played and endorsed throughout Brazil, Argentina, Japan, England, Ireland, The Netherlands, Scotland, Germany, France, Korea and USA, to name a few.

Why are results not kept below the age of 12?

The emphasis of small sided games is on participation and enjoyment, and an associated removal of the current emphasis on the importance of winning.

Children are much more likely to enjoy their football playing experience, will be keen to play more often and are less likely to drop out of the game.  Clubs, coaches, team supervisors and parents play the most important role in creating the right environment for small sided games and need to stress and adhere to the following playing conditions:

Under 6 - 11: 

  • No official recording of tables, results, finals and statistics. 
  • Games focus on participation, enjoyment and skill development.

Source: Football Queensland

Further reading

Small Sided Games Handbook produced by Football Federation Australia.

SSG & Goalkeepers: an article written by Rob Baan, Football Federation

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