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Born in the USA – Small sided Games

What makes for skillful play?  What type of game encourages players to try clever tricks?  The answer, obviously is small sided games.  Yet still the majority of junior leagues in the country only play the adult game of 11-a-side where chance and force generally crush skill.  To my mind there should be a national crusade to advance small sided leagues and then skill would stand a better opportunity to flower.

For all concerned, children, coaches and parents, small sided-games provide better prospects for enjoyable and educational participation than the full sided 11 v 11 games.  If you wish your child or team to improve and express their abilities more fully, 4, 5 or 6 aside soccer is the vehicle that offers these opportunities.  Consider these reasons as well.

When a player plays 11 v 11 on average each player should touch or make contact with the ball around 30/40 times a game.  However, there is the physically big child who tends to dominate the play and will get more than the average number of contact and then you have the frail youngsters who will get far less contacts.  For this child many of the touches will be poor or unsuccessful ones.  Not too conducive to improving skill is it?

With less player on the field means more space and space means time.  Time is a vital factor for a poor player especially. The more time will allow the child to make more composed decisions and so improve the skill level of the player.

For both players and coaches who are newcomers to this great sport his is the best way to learn as the game is simplified with fewer players on the field.  The ‘pictures’ are easier to see.  You can recognize 2 v 1 or 1 v 1 situations from the beginning as these ‘pictures’ are the basis for real team play.  On the other foot, you try to unravel what is happening when young players are in a full sided game, it’s like bees round a honey pot.

Another major plus is through having only 5 players on the field the coach is not trapped into thinking about systems of play but more about basic techniques and skill and only very, very simple tactics.

Do not regiment children to one position r restrict them to playing in only one part of the field.  By all means give a position as their base of operations but allow them freedom to go forward when attacking.  This applies to back-players as I have seen three Backs standing like soldiers on guard watching the play from afar in their own penalty are while their Forwards are trying to score at the other end.

The habit of thinking in adult terms often means children lose out.  We tend to over-organize or blindly imitate the professional model.  Because the adults play 11 v 11 then we think our children must play the same game.  This is comparable to giving a child quadratic equation as an introduction to math at elementary school.  Absurd, yet we do it.

Like any form of learning the problem set, be they soccer or math, must be reachable for children to obtain success and learn.  This is why small sided games are important to enjoyment and learning the sport.

The purpose of soccer is to offer young player the best possible outlet for their energies and dreams and the small version of the game is tailored to reflect these qualities.

Final Notes: This article is the first article written in the USA to promote the importance of “small sided soccer.”  It was written in January 1971 by Graham Ramsay former National Staff coach –USSF (now US SOCCER).  Coach Ramsay is one of Koach Karl’s most influential mentors who has contributed invaluable information to the FUNdamental SOCCER methodology since 1979.

Graham Ramsay

Graham Ramsay is the Director of Soccer Sphere, a soccer educational cum marketing company based near Washington, DC. He is also the former Director of Soccer Development for the Maryland State Soccer Association with nearly 20 years of service to the youth in that state. Graham was one of the first National Staff Coaches for US SOCCER and has written several books and numerous articles. His latest book, SOCCER FOR GIRLS has sold nearly 60,000 copies worldwide. Graham has spent extensive time traveling with soccer teams in Brazil. As well as coaching in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and across Europe. While in the USA has coached in over 30 States doing clinics, workshops to helping college teams reach the NCAA's to taking Annandale Boys Club to winning the McGuire Cup (U19 National Championship) to developing high school programs to help creating one of the finest youth programs in the USA - MSI in Montgomery County, Maryland. Graham Ramsay also runs Soccer Clinics! Click here for more information.