A review on the effects of soccer small-sided games
Posted by Dean Holden at July 17th, 2013
by Marco Aguiar, Goreti Botelho, Carlos Lago, Victor Maças, Jaime Sampaio
Journal of Human Kinetics volume 33/2012, 103–113
Over the last years there has been a substantial growth in research related to specific training methods in soccer with a strong emphasis on the effects of small-sided games. The increase of research in this topic is coincident with the increase of popularity obtained by specific soccer conditioning, which involves training players to deal with soccer match situations. Given the limited time available for fitness training in soccer, the effectiveness of small-sided games as a conditioning stimulus needs to be optimized to allow players to compete at the highest level. Available studies indicate that physiological responses (e.g. heart rate, blood lactate concentration and rating of perceived exertion), tactical and technical skill requirements can be modified during small-sided games by altering factors such as the number of players, the size of the pitch, the rules of the game, and coach encouragement. However, because of the lack of consistency in small-sided games design, player fitness, age, ability, level of coach encouragement, and playing rules in each of these studies, it is difficult to make accurate conclusions on the influence of each of these factors separately.
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In SSG the players experience similar situations that they encounter in competitive matches (Owen et al., 2004). Due to this fact, game-based conditioning using SSG has become a popular method of developing specific aerobic fitness for soccer players (Impellizzeri et al., 2006). Despite the increasing popularity of SSG, not many research projects have examined how the intensity of SSG can be manipulated to alter training stimulus (Hill-Haas et al., 2009c). Research was focused on evaluating physiological, tactical and technical responses of athletes when factors such as a number of players, the size of the pitch, rules of the game, and coach encouragement were modified in SSG. The studies appear to confirm that by altering these factors we can manipulate the overall physiological and perceptual workload.
Across the presented studies, we conclude that by changing factors such as a number of players, pitch size, presence/absence of goalkeeper and goals, coach encouragement and the rules, coaches can manipulate the effect of SSG on players. However, because of the lack of consistency in SSG design, player fitness, age, ability, level of coach encouragement, and playing rules among the studies, it is difficult to make accurate conclusions on the influence of each of these factors separately. Due to this limitation, SSG management requires further investigation. The use of standardized conditions in SSG studies will probably allow a better understanding about the role of individual factors and may help researchers to find more reliable conclusions.