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Small Sided Games Increase Athlete Participation

Soccer match analysis shows that players are in possession of the ball for only 2% of the game duration. By using small sided games in practice, you increase the experience of each player and help athletes have fun while playing.

What Are Small Sided Games?

Small-sided games are designed to simulate the setup of a real game with a reduced number of players on a field. This can be done with any number of players participating at a time as long as it is less than in an official match. While small-sided games are a simple training exercise, many coaches will benefit greatly from implementing them into their practices regularly.

Benefits of Small-Sided Games

  • Increased touches on the ball 
  • Accelerated mental development of young athletes 
  • Increases game speed decision-making 
  • Maximizes time at practice 

Study of 4v4 Soccer:

  • Including small-sided games into your practice routines will help expedite peak performance of the young athletes. 
  • This study presented consistent findings about the effects of mental fatigue on the training load, mental effort, and enjoyment of soccer players. 
  • Research suggests that more data would be beneficial in solidifying findings, yet these findings are very promising. 


  • The smaller nature of the four-on-four format allows the ball to be handled by the players more frequently than a full 11-on-11 match. This can enhance the players' ability to improve their ball-handling skills because they have more exposure to dribbling, ball-handling, and shooting on the goal. 
  • Small-sided games mean that players will have ample opportunities to learn how to decide quickly, in high pressure circumstances, so that when the time comes during an actual match, they will already have the quick ability to make important decisions in the moment. 
  • Increased exposure in game situations, with the smaller four-on-four format, allows young athletes to absorb information more quickly than their counterparts who don’t have that type of training. 
  • Adding small-sided games to already established training routines can greatly benefit the players physically and mentally. 

Taking Action

  • Start implementing small-sided games into your practices NOW. 
  • Participate in or run a Four-on-Four soccer tournament with your club soccer team. 

For a more comprehensive scientific summary about this topic, refer to: Katis, et al. (2009)
1. Clemente et al. The effects of small-sided soccer games on tactical behavior and collective dynamics: A systematic review. Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, 134 
2. Aguilar et al. A Review on the Effects of Soccer Small-Sided Games