Benefits of Small Sided Games

The use of small sided games within a range of sports is becoming more prominent in modern coaching. This is due to greater research showing its range of benefits. From a recreational sporting standpoint, we aim to detail the benefits for a child’s development and enjoyment in this blog.

What are small sided games?

Small sided games are when a coach reduces the number of players and the size of pitches. E.g. rather than playing 11v11 over a big pitch, a small sided version may be 3v3 over a smaller pitch.

Some facts about small sided games in football!

11 aside football compared to small sided alternatives…

  • Players touch the ball five times more in four-a-side football and twice as much in seven-sided games.
  • Players are involved in three times as many one-on-one situations in four-a-side football and twice as many in seven-sided games.
  • On average, in four-a-side football goals are scored every two minutes and every four minutes in seven-sided games.
  • Goalkeepers make two to four times as many saves in seven-a-side football than they do in 11-a-side.
  • The ball is out of play for eight per cent of the playing time in four-a-side football, 14 percent of the playing time in seven-sided games and 34 per cent in 11-a-side football.

The evidence above shows that small sided games allow for greater game involvement and touches for every child playing in small sided games compared to larger versions. However, what does this mean for a child’s enjoyment and development?

Small Sided Games are Fun!

There is nothing more demoralizing and demotivating for a child than to be involved in a game where they might touch the ball once every 5 minutes. Then that touch might be them losing the ball straight away. How can we expect to keep children within sports when they are coached like this? 

Child engagement within sports comes from having fun. Fun is about being fully involved in the games that they play. Research has proven children get greater pleasure from playing in smaller teams. This is because by reducing the number of children on each pitch, each child will get greater opportunities to touch the ball. E.g. rather than every 5 minutes, they might get it every minute. Over the course of the game that may equate to 5 times as many touches.

Technical Development!

By children having more touches of the ball, they get a greater opportunity to enhance their skill set. It gives them more chances to dribble, pass, perform skills, shoot, etc… This means that over time they will have a more advanced technical progression due to the environment they have been placed in. 

Game Understanding!

Within small sided games children are placed in more decision making moments, as they are more involved in the game throughout. This will enhance their level of game understanding and knowledge. Consequently, the pace at which these children learn the game and develop is increased.

Physical Enhancement!

Fitness levels are also impacted by playing small sided games. Due to the greater game involvement and the fast paced nature of small sided games, children will develop greater physical capabilities. This is due to the higher intensity they are playing at. Giving them more sprints per game, more changes of direction, more distance covered, and so on. This will impact a child’s strength, speed, and endurance.

Social Skills!

As teams have smaller numbers, all children in each team will need to be fully involved. When teams are bigger it is easier for children to hide in games and not be involved. Hence, there are more opportunities for children to become leaders, communicate with each other, display sportsmanship, and so forth. Enhancing a child’s key social skills, which are not only important for sport, but also across their everyday life.

To conclude, the practical and theoretical evidence for small-sided games is definitive in showing how essential they are for a child’s physical, technical and tactical development within sports. On top of this, small sided games enhance enjoyment levels. Thus, will keep children within sports for longer, decreasing the amount of dropouts.

We at Boom Sports incorporate small sided games within all our sports coaching sessions, due to their clear importance. We have seen first hand the benefits they bring within our extra-curricular sports clubs, PE lessons, and holiday camps. Furthermore, our Boom Sports founders continue to develop and improve the scheme of work delivered by our coaching team.

For more information about our services contact us via or 02082265450.