The Importance of Small Sided Games in Youth Soccer Training
Through studies and learning, the soccer community has come to understand one great truth throughout the years. Development and growth depends on one thing alone: touches. The more touches that a young soccer player can get in their youth, the better they’ll be with a ball at their feet, and the better player they’ll be when they grow up. This is why the coaching world is now placing a heavy emphasis on small-sided games.
Some coaches now feel that young kids shouldn’t even be introduced to the full-sided game of soccer until their teenage years. With such an emphasis of playing big games as youngsters, kids are being overloaded with tactical planning and positional details while they lack the actual skills necessary to really master the game.
The brilliance of small-sided games comes with the number of touches a player has on the ball. When there are only 4 players to a side and the field size is reduced, each player will spend far more time engaged with the ball and learning the necessary skills to succeed with the ball in soccer, which is what the game is really all about. In such a game, any given player generally will touch the ball 5 times more than in a full-sided match, giving them a far greater experience with the ball and results in higher confidence and ability in the sport of soccer.
Also, when a player is young they really don’t need to worry about all the finer points in soccer like the offsides rule or how to take a perfect corner kick. All those things can be taught later in a player’s career. Instead, just getting on the ball and developing the muscle memory to really master the soccer ball is what is most important.
For a coach in a typical 8-player league or more, you can still use small-sided games in your practices. The great thing about this model of training too is that it is a more hands-off approach for the coaches. Obviously you can still point out tips, but generally the best way for someone to really learn is through trial and error. With small-sided games, a player will constantly be thrown into situations where they must pass the ball quickly or take a player on 1 on 1, in addition to similar situations defensively. Through all the constant battles, the player will learn and develop their skills to the next level.
Full-game scrimmages don’t really help a young player develop. Instead, they spend most of the time just running around and occasionally kicking the ball. In fact, most young players actually prefer small-sided games because they get so much interaction and really play the game. This will leave them better prepared for later in their playing careers and more advanced when the bigger games come. One important thing to realize is that any full-scale soccer match is comprised of tons of mini-battles throughout the field where players must pass around each other and work as a team. Small-sided games are the best way to perfect these skills as a youth!