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Horst Wein Recommends Small Sided Games for Grassroots Football Development
Horst Wein, who has mentored more than 11,000 soccer coaches in 55 different countries around the world, believes that small-sided games are the most essential factor in developing young soccer players. This comes from a man who knows a thing or two about this important subject – his book “Developing Youth Football Players” is the official textbook of the Spanish Football Federation and has also been adopted by the Football Federation of Australia, selling more than 100,000 copies worldwide.
Small side games in training
Coaches should focus more on games than drills in training. Isolating specific techniques and focusing on them using repetitive drills and exercises is known as the “analytical method” and often presents difficulties when players come to apply what they are working on in real game situations. A “global approach” to training involves creating more game-like situations in training that can be more seamlessly integrated into the actual game itself. This is done by creating simplified games, which are scaled-down versions of the actual game, but can focus on specific themes that are needed in the actual game.
The concept of using games instead of drills and exercises has been studied around the world for years. Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) has been applied to many different games and has been found to be very effective. In Australia it is also called “game sense” and “play practice”.
This game-oriented approach to soccer has many advantages:
1.Most importantly, players prefer playing games (especially young ones) over drills.
2. Games can be modified by different variables to focus more on specific factors that need to be addressed; The size of the playing field, the number of players, the duration of the game, the technical rules, etc. mean that in the hands of a skilled coach, games can be used to meet all the requirements of playing a real game.
3.Small sided games require smaller pitches and can accommodate any number of players.
4. Small sided sports provide a more intense physical workout than large sports.
5.Small side games allow the coach to develop the game intelligence of the players, as they can focus on the actual dynamics of the game of soccer e.g. 2v1 situation.
Small sided games in the tournament
This means that the competitions that young people play should be tailored to the specific needs of their age group.
“The competition you play in should be like your shoes, they should fit you perfectly!”
Advantages (and training) of short-sided games in competition:
- More touches on the ball
- Easy decision making
- Better sport-related fitness, high-intensity vs shorter duration of laps
- More time with the coach per player
- Training is especially easy for parent coaches
- More opportunities to solve game problems
- More attacking opportunities (dribbling, shooting, passing)
- More rescue opportunities
- More shooting and more goals = more fun!
- There is no hiding place, players do not get lost in these games
- More opportunities for a whole range of skills
- Encourages good posture and awareness among teammates
- Encourages fast play, quick transitions from defense to attack
- Success is easier for young athletes – which means happiness and retention for these athletes.
Manchester United Conducted a pilot scheme in 2005 that compared 4-a-side soccer to 8-a-side soccer, the results were very telling…
Averages in 4v4 vs. 8v8 were:
1. 135% plus pass
2. 260% more scoring attempts
3. 500% more goals scored
4. 225% more 1v1 encounters
5. 280% more dribbling skills (tricks)
Small sided games around the world
Today, the value of small-sided games is being recognized around the world and many federations have successfully introduced them into youth development programmes. The Dutch system focused primarily on 4v4 and then 7v7 games before introducing players to the 11-a-side game.
All over continental Europe there are variations of 4v4 or 5v5 for the first game that children play. In the British Isles, Wales has led the way, having introduced small-sided games there in 1996. The FA in England is determined to introduce the following formations by 2013: 5v5 (7-8 years), 7v7 (9-10 years), 9v9 (11-12 years), 11v11 (13+ years)
Generally USYS (United States Youth Soccer) 3v3 and 4v4 or 5v5, 6v6 or 7v7, 8v8 etc for under 6 years old.
Short sided games in the Horst Wein model
In the Horst Wein Youth Football Development Model, a progressive short-sided game structure recommended for children’s competitions is:
- 3v3 for 7-9 years
- 5v5 for 10 years
- 7v7 for 11-12 years
- 8v8 for 13 years
- 11-a-side for 14+ years
In addition to these competitive games, each age group has its own full program of short-sided, simplified games for training in its development model, which emphasizes the intelligence of the game and provides a deep understanding of the tactical situations of the game of football. Training games can be used to prepare players for their respective competitions or as corrective measures for problems identified during play.
The emphasis is always on games for learning rather than drills and running.
Sports are teachers
Mini football for players aged 7-9 years
Many claim that mini-soccer (3v3 on four wide goals) is a revolutionary game for young players aged 7 to 9 years. Revival of Street Football.
MINI-FOOTBALL VS 4V4
While many advocate the benefits of 4v4, which is arguably far more beneficial than 8v8 (or 7v7), Horst’s own mini-soccer game which is 3v3 on 4 wide goals has some serious advantages over 4v4.
Most importantly, using 4 rounds instead of 2 creates:
- Width. There is more play down the flanks and less swarming.
- Because there are only three players and two goals to defend, this usually results in an under-defended goal, meaning options are open.
- Wider goals allow players to find the best options, improving perception.
- Young players learn to interpret what they see and make better decisions, improving their game intelligence even at this young age.
- There is more goalmouth action and usually all players score during the game.
- There is more intense defense and attack than other small sided games.
- There are no fixed positions that provide a more rounded experience and a more complete player.
- It teaches the use of the triangular formation, which is superior for passing and support, and also for balance in defence.
- More touches on the ball.
- More time to read the game.
- Better passing and less long ball tactics.
- More physical involvement as all players are needed in the team.
Horst Wein is the greatest living exponent Short side games in footballHundreds of games have been created for the development of young players and for excellence throughout the game.
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