Simple Small-Sided Games
Simplified Games as the Pillars of Teaching & Learning of Youth Players
by Horst Wein
Understanding the complex games of soccer, basketball, volleyball, hockey or
handball can be best achieved through the practice of a logical progression of
simplified games, with a gradual increase in the numbers of players on the teams.
Just as young players are growing physically and mentally, the difficulty and
complexity of the simplified games are growing as well.
The games are called “simplified” because they have these characteristics:
* Reduced number of participants
* Reduced dimensions of the playing field
* Simplified rules that are flexible and adaptable to the existing conditions
* Limited numbers of game situations
* Simplification of the problems
* Easier contexts for coaches to be able to observe, analyze, evaluate, and correct
the performance of all players in the game.
These qualities that characterize the simplified games have a positive impact on both
coaches and players for several reasons:
* Exposing children to simplified games with teams of only two, three, or four
players leads to far fewer technical and tactical errors when competing later on in
more complex games (e.g., 7-on-7 or 8-on-8 soccer).
* Frequent execution of the same techniques stimulates the acquisition and
perfection of skills, as does having less distraction by many other teammates and
opponents. Moreover, with fewer players, there is more time and space available,
facilitating correct execution of techniques.
* To become a good soccer player, a child must learn to perceive with acuity and a
wide field of vision the current game situation: the position of the ball, teammates
and opponents on the move, location of the goals, and lines on the field. The
simplified games not only aid the progressive development of perception but also
enable young players to analyze game situations and make correct decisions thanks
to the soccer knowledge they have gained through game practice.
* The frequent appearance of the same basic game situations allows players to
experiment with different solutions until they are able to resolve on their own the
problems presented in the simplified game. Later, when the same or similar game
situation reappears in a more complex competition, the player is likely to recognize it
and instantly recall a good solution.
* The reduced number of players allows less-skilled ones to become intensively
involved in the game.
* Because each team consists of just two to four players, the simplified games
progressively develop the capacities of communication and cooperation between
players. These are essential aspects of top soccer performance that have often been
underestimated in the past.
* No premature specialization for any playing position occurs; the simplified games
make every player play defense as well as offense or attack, on the right and on the
left as well as in the center of the field. Simplified games help develop complete and
intelligent soccer players.
Simplified games contain a reduced number of players, which allows each child to
play an intensive role in the game.
Children don’t need a high level of ability or specific game knowledge to enjoy
training and competing with simplified games. The simplicity of the game itself
immediately attracts young players and encourages them to resolve the problems
they find in it. After a certain amount of practice, if the coach observes a deficiency
(technical or tactical) that is limiting the children’s playing capacity, he or she
interrupts the game, isolates the problem aspect, and presents the children with
corrective activities or exercises. The goal is to overcome the deficiency discovered
in the global game.
For the children, practice appears in a completely different light. Instead of simply
working on a skill that the coach has predetermined, the child, having discovered
that he or she still lacks something to win the simplified game, is motivated to learn
a particular skill determined from the context of the game. The youngster wants to
master it to a certain degree. So the mastering of a skill is perceived not so much a
prerequisite for playing a game but as a complementary part of it; the training has
the clear purpose of raising the level of performance in the game in order to win it.
This way drill practice does not “kill” the enthusiasm of the young players whose
main wish is always to play, and also win games, rather than mastering a
determined skill. By using simplified games, a bridge is built between the learning of
a new skill and its application in a complex game situation.
Horst Wein has worked for many top clubs such as Real Sociedad, Leeds Utd,
Sunderland, Inter Milan and is currently at the Centre of Research and Development
of the Royal Spanish Football Federation. He has also wrote numerous books on
soccer, offers regular coaching courses and recently ran a course for the English
Simple Small-Sided Games