More on Small Sided Games

Nothing earth shattering but good to point out and verify that small sided games are significantly different both in terms of technical and physiological load. Technically, players make less blocks, headers, interceptions, passes and receives in small-sided games but more dribbles, shots, and tackles. On the physiological side, small sided games produce both a higher heart rate response and a longer duration near maximal heart rate.

Heart rate responses and technical comparison between small- vs. large-sided games in elite professional soccer.


Sports Science Department, Rangers Football Club, Glasgow, Scotland.


This study aims to examine the difference in heart rate (HR) responses and technical activities placed upon European elite players when exposed to 2-sided games differing in the number of players and playing area. Fifteen male soccer players from a Scottish Premier League team (26.3 ? 4.85 years, 182.4 ? 6.99 cm, 79.5 ? 8.05 kg, VO2max of 54.36 ? 5.45 ml?kg(-1)?min(-1)) performed both small (3 vs. 3 plus goalkeepers) and large (9 vs. 9 plus goalkeepers) sided games each lasting for 3 ? 5 minutes interspersed with 4-minute passive recovery during the 2009-2010 season. The HR responses and players’ technical actions were recorded throughout all sided games. Results show that small-sided games (SSG) induced significantly (p < 0.05, large effect) higher HR responses as compared to large-sided games. Furthermore, during SSGs, players spent significantly longer time in the >85% maximal HR zone (p < 0.05, large effect) as compared to large-sided games. Technical analysis revealed a large practical difference (effect size ranged from 1.5 to 21.2) between small- and large-sided games: less number of blocks, headers, interceptions, passes, and receives but more dribbles, shots, and tackles in SSG. Furthermore, SSG induced significantly lesser total ball contacts per game (p < 0.05, large effect) but significantly greater ball contacts per individual (p < 0.05, large effect) when compared to larger-sided games. The different technical requirements also enable coaches to carry out training games more suitable to specific playing positions such as SSG for midfielders (more dribbles, tackles, and ball contacts per player) strikers (more shots), and large-sided games for defender (more blocks, headers, and interceptions).

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Mike Young

Director of Performance at Athletic Lab
Mike is the Head Fitness Coach for the North Carolina Courage and North Carolina FC. He is also the owner and Director of Performance at Athletic Lab sports performance training center. He previously served as the fitness coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Carolina Railhawks. He has a PhD in Biomechanics, an MS in Coaching Science, and a BSS in Exercise Physiology and has coached Olympic and professional athletes in Skeleton, Track & Field, MLS and NASL Soccer, PGA Golf, NFL Football, MLB Baseball and Olympic Weightlifting. He has lectured around the world and authored 2 books and dozens of research and coaching articles.