Effects of small-sided games on physical conditioning and performance in young soccer players

Athanasios Katis, Eleftherios Kellis
Journal of Sports Science & Medicine 2009, 8 (3): 374-80
The purpose of this study was to examine, first, the movement actions performed during two different small-sided games and, second, their effects on a series of field endurance and technical tests. Thirty-four young soccer players (age: 13 ± 0.9 yrs; body mass: 62.3 ± 15.1 kg; height: 1.65 ± 0.06 m) participated in the study. Small-sided games included three-a-side (3 versus 3 players) and six-a-side (6 versus 6 players) games consisting of 10 bouts of 4 min duration with 3 min active recovery between bouts. Soccer player performance was evaluated using five field tests: a) 30m sprint, b) throw-in for distance, c) Illinois Agility Test, d) dribbling the ball and e) horizontal jump before, in the middle and after the implementation of both game situations. Heart rate was monitored during the entire testing session. Each game was also filmed to measure soccer movements within the game. The ANOVA analysis indicated that the three-a- side games displayed significantly higher heart rate values compared with the six-a-side games (p < 0.05). The number of short passes, kicks, tackles, dribbles and scoring goals were significantly higher during the three-a-side compared with the six-a-side game condition (p < 0. 05) while players performed more long passes and headed the ball more often during the six-a-side (p < 0.05). After the three-a-side games, there was a significant decline in sprint and agility performance (p < 0.05), while after both game conditions significant alterations in the throw-in and the horizontal jump performance were observed (p < 0.05). The results of the present study indicated that three-a-side games provide higher stimulus for physical conditioning and technical improvement than six-a-side games and their use for training young soccer players is recommended. Key pointsThree-a-side games display higher HR compared with six-a-side games.In the three-a-side games players performed more short passes, kicks, dribbles, tackles and scored more goals compared with the six-a-side games.Impairment in endurance and field test performance was observed mainly after three-a-side games.The use of the three-a-side games to develop physical fitness and technique in young soccer players is recommended.

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