Influence of field size on the physiological and skill demands of small-sided games in junior and senior rugby league players

Tim J Gabbett, Bruce Abernethy, David G Jenkins
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2012, 26 (2): 487-91
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of changes in field size on the physiological and skill demands of small-sided games in elite junior and senior rugby league players. Sixteen elite senior rugby league players ([mean ± SE] age, 23.6 ± 0.5 years) and 16 elite junior rugby league players ([mean ± SE] age, 17.3 ± 0.3 years) participated in this study. On day 1, 2 teams played an 8-minute small-sided game on a small field (10-m width × 40-m length), whereas the remaining 2 teams played the small-sided game on a larger sized field (40-m width × 70-m length). On day 2, the groups were crossed over. Movement was recorded by a global positioning system unit sampling at 5 Hz. Games were filmed to count the number of possessions and the number and quality of disposals. The games played on a larger field resulted in a greater (p < 0.05) total distance covered, and distances covered in moderate, high, and very-high velocity movement intensities. Senior players covered more distance at moderate, high, and very-high intensities, and less distance at low and very-low intensities during small-sided games than junior players. Although increasing field size had no significant influence (p > 0.05) over the duration of recovery periods for junior players, larger field size significantly reduced (p < 0.05) the amount of short-, moderate-, and long-duration recovery periods in senior players. No significant between-group differences (p > 0.05) were detected for games played on a small or large field for the number or quality of skill involvements. These results suggest that increases in field size serve to increase the physiological demands of small-sided games but have minimal influence over the volume or quality of skill executions in elite rugby league players.


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