Coaching Soccer – Effective Use of Small Sided Games

Filed under: Game Strategy, Youth Soccer, Youth Soccer Coach by: admin

By Nigel Reed

Small sided games are the back bone of developing fundamental concepts of the game and provide the coach and player a like a simplified “game like” environment to explore and teach the concepts. (I have covered the Basic Principles of the Game in another article)

Small Sided Games are a must for the major part of your coaching sessions. You do need to ensure that a lot of ball drills are used to ensure that players are technically able to play, and I structure my sessions such that players get a lot of touches as part of the warm up. Having technically sound players makes it far easier to introduce some of the concepts of small sided games.

However, the vast majority of learning comes from small sided games.

What is a Small Sided Game?

Small sided games should be either 3v3 or 4v4 and the rules or conditions adapted to suit a particular theme that is being coached. Sometimes you may have an odd number of players, so it may be necessary to make one player an all time attacker. Ie One player is always on the team with the ball.

Better for the players

Small sided games give the players the opportunity to explore and discover how to play soccer in a simple environment, whilst still needing to observe and react to the 3 main parts of soccer:

  1. When the have the ball (attacking).
  2. When the opposition team has the ball (defending).
  3. When the ball changes from one team to the other team (transition)

Small sided games will ensure that all players are involved and engaged in the game, and so will ensure better participation and learning for players

Better for the coach

Because of the simple nature of small sided games, the coach will find it far easier to analyze the game and players performance, making it an easier task to observe and make corrections where necessary.

The standard game

The format for the standard game will teach many aspects of the game. When playing 4v4, players will quickly discover that a diamond shape works well, and that they need to work well as team, offering good supporting angles and distances when attacking and defending.

The basic rules

  • Field dimensions 40yard by 30 yards
  • No goal keepers
  • There are no throw ins, so when the ball goes out over the sideline, play is restarted with a kick in. The kick can not go directly into the goal, the player may also dribble the ball in.
  • There are no corner kicks. When the ball goes out over the end line, it is put back into play either by dribbling or kicking the ball back into the playing area.
  • After a goal has been scored, it is put back into play by either dribbling or passing from the end line.
  • Kick offs that begin each period of play are taken from the approximate center of the field.
  • Players can score from anywhere on the field (unless you have modified the rules to emphasize a concept)
  • All fouls are penalized with an indirect free kick. The opponent must be three yards away from the ball at the time of the kick.

What Can be taught using Small Sided Games?

By simple adjustments of the rules or conditions, many different aspects of the game can be taught using Small Sided Games.

The following are examples of field settings that will encourage certain aspects of the game. It is not hard to think of ways to modify the rules to encourage certain aspects of the game.

  • Make the game 2 or 3 touch to encourage good support from attackers, which forces the defenders to support effectively
  • Change the dimensions of the field eg longer to promote depth and penetration of passes and wider to promote width and switching of play
  • Make goals scored by dribbling the ball through a goal instead of passing the ball
  • Make goals only be scored from headers to encourage lofted passes
  • Have 2 goals at each end to encourage switching of play
  • Have multiple goals in placed in the playing area to encourage passing and receiving
  • Have End Zones that the ball must be received in to score a goal to encourage penetration

I hope this has helped to give you an understanding of how Small Sided Games can be used to emphasize coaching points.

By using your imagination I am sure that you will be able to come up with many more variations of Small Sided Games to get your players playing great soccer.

Review of Coerver Coaching System

I have made use of the Coerver Coaching Method whilst coaching and have found that the technical aspects and skills based learning within Coerver combined with Small Sided Games has produced great results in terms of individual players and team play.

Go to to see a full review of the Coerver Coaching System
The SoccerHelper coached his team to the top of the league using the Coerver program combined with a SPECIAL ingredient. Click Here for Details
© 2007

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