Grassroots Coaching

The use of simplified small sided games in training.

Players love playing football. Take any group of players, the first thing they will do is make two goals, select sides and have a game. Football is fun, the concept of using simplified small sided games as an integral aspect of training is to provide players with an opportunity to do what they enjoy doing the most, playing a game.

During the process of playing a game players are constantly faced with observing, analysing and solving a succession of quick moving problems. As the game ebbs and flows, their ability to react and deal with constantly changing situations is always being tested.

Whilst technical and skill practices have their role to play in training players, with an emphasis on their “how things are done” repetitive mantra, they don’t always take into account the “when to” and “why” of playing football. Simplified small sided games challenge players to make decisions on the “when to” and “why”. The decisions players are forced to make in simplified small sided games develop improved technical performance in all aspects of the game, players having lots more touches of the ball and greater participation in the game, a better understanding of working and co – operating in units of players, quick transition between attacking to defending and defending to attacking, an appreciation of finding and creating space for themselves and others, vital communication skills, greater fitness and most importantly of all FUN. 

What are simplified small sided games?

  • Invasion games. Games that have goals or targets, objectives and outcomes
  • Games that have a reduced number of players, 2 v 2, 3 v 3, 4 v 4 etc
  • Smaller playing areas
  • Simple and flexible rules that are adaptable to the structure of the game
  • Fewer structured stops and starts, free kicks, corners, throw ins etc
  • Opportunities for players to have a greater participation and to have more touches of the ball.
  • Lots of opportunities to repeatedly practice a range of technical skills
  • Less reliance on players playing in specific positions.
  • Lots of opportunities for players to be exposed to game situations that involve the ball, opponents and team mates. Which will improve their decision making process as they progress to more complex games, 7 v 7 upwards.
  • Greater communication and co – operation between players.
  • Greater freedom of play, more rotation of positions, developing more complete and intelligent players

From a coaching perspective, simplified smaller sided games can be structured or conditioned to achieve a specific training objective, for example passing and support, running with the ball, recovery runs when defending etc.

 This can be achieved by structuring and conditioning the small sided game, for example:

  •  Add floating players who can play for the team in possession, which results in an overload situation for the team in possession and can assist in greater success for the team with the ball.
  • Using targets, instead of goals, for example to improve running with the ball, the team must run the ball into a target area.
  • By conditioning the game. If the team in possession can score a goal by completing five successive passes as well as by scoring in the traditional way, then this will encourage passing and support and keeping possession of the ball.
  • By making the pitch smaller, so that for finishing games, the ball is always in an area where a shot might be taken.


In this blog, we have put together a simplified small sided game that can help with switching play as well as defending.

A SSG to improve changing the point of attack – Printable PDF

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