Posts tagged ‘Small-Sided Games’

Using Small-Sided Games

Presenting your players with many different small-sided game environments is a great way to keep them thinking and adapting to the format of the game. If you choose the format carefully you can put the emphasis of the game on just about any area of the game that you’ve been working on in training .

We have three different books that I look to for new ideas when it comes to small-sided games. One of them is ‘Coaching Soccer Champions‘. The author, Terry Michler, is the winningest high school coach in the country. He’s been the Head Coach Continue reading ‘Using Small-Sided Games’ »

Changing Your 4v4 Games

Small-sided games are an excellent way to give your players a lot of touches while retaining the core elements of the game. In my opinion the 4 v 4 format is the best of all. It has everything the full sided game has but it allows for a lot more touches and opportunities for each player to contribute to the game. There’s no where to hide in a 4 v 4 game.

Obviously, different methods of scoring drastically change way your players approach game. I like to challenge the players with different environments that challenge them to come up with solutions to the problems the game presents.

We have three different books that I look to for new ideas when it comes to small-sided games. One of them is ‘Coaching Soccer Champions‘. The author, Terry Michler, is the winningest high school coach in the country. He’s been the Head Coach Continue reading ‘Changing Your 4v4 Games’ »

Training Indoors for Outdoor Games

As the winter indoor season comes to an end coaches start to look at transitioning to the outdoor game while we’re still forced to do most of our training indoor. This is a challenge as they prepare for outdoor leagues and tournaments just around the corner.

I’m fortunate to train my teams on two basketball courts that are side by side. This allows us to start to spread things out a bit and get the players looking for longer passes in open space.

Here are a couple of games that I used last week to start the transition.


After warming up and playing some 4 v 2 possession games we moved to Continue reading ‘Training Indoors for Outdoor Games’ »

Different Scoring Methods

Small-Sided games are a great training tool used by most coaches. Most of the small-sided games I see used require each team to score in the same way.

Games like the ones below from Coaching Soccer Through Small-Sided Games are used by coaches at every level, all around the world.

The standard small-sided game has two teams playing on a small field between two goals.


This type of game will give each player more Continue reading ‘Different Scoring Methods’ »

Winter Outdoor Training

With more and more turf soccer fields being installed around the country an increasing number of coaches are training their teams outdoor during the winter months. This provides a great opportunity to continue to focus on playing ‘Real Soccer’ when we used to be limited to practicing and playing small indoor versions of the game.

The challenge is that while the surface allows us to train outside we are often still dealing with cold temperatures. This makes it difficult for the players to focus if we use these sessions to try to teach too much. I’ve found that they get the most out of the session if we have a very active warm-up, like the one I described in last week’s post, followed by a series of small-sided games focused on a particular topic. This allows me to reinforce the key points of the chosen technical or tactical subject while keeping all of the players active and engaged.

This is also an extremely easy session to motivate the players for because it’s fun. I also add to the competitive atmosphere by having consequences attached to the results. It may be as simple as having the losing team put the equipment away or fitness based where the winning team has to complete one repetition of a fitness activity but the losing team has to complete four reps.

The small-sided games that you can use for this type of session are limitless but I like to put the players into some new training environments so I look for games that we didn’t play in the last outdoor season. My favorite resource for innovative small-sided games is is Brazilian Training Games.



The book contains more than 100 small-sided games. There are some very unique and interesting games that will be different from any games you’ve used before. Here are a couple of examples.


Heads Up

Organization: 4v4 to 9v9

Description: A regular game is played without vests. All players wear a swimming cap. Female players can wear head bends instead of swimming cap.

Coaching Points:
– Heads up/better vision
– Communication

Equipment: Ball, discs, cones, swimming caps.


Vests with Numbers

Organization: 6v6 to 10v10

Description: Game is played will all players wearing vests with numbers on. All rules will be determined by the numbers.

Examples: #1 to # 4 play 2 touches , the rest are free (unrestricted)
– Just # 5 to # 8 can score, the rest must assist
– Even numbers play weak foot rule and odd numbers are free

Coaching Points:
– Speed of thought
– Cognitive development
– Communication

Equipment: Ball, discs, vests with numbers


Color Ball

Organization: 2 teams of 4v4 to 8v8 + goalies

Description: Game played with 3 different colors ball. Each color means the number of touches on the ball.

Ex: white = 1 touch, black = 2 touches and gray= free touches

Coaching Points:
– Speed of thought
– Communication

Equipment: discs and balls with different colors

Your options for small-sided games are limited by your experience so I would suggest searching out new ideas like those in Brazilian Training Games.

If you have an interesting format for a small-sided game please share it with other coaches by describing it in the comments section below.

Have a great day!


Just Let Them Play

I sat down to plan my U8 and U10 practices the other day and while going through my old sessions and thinking about previous games I realized that it would be a great day to just let them play. We didn’t have any games the following weekend and there hadn’t been a practice this season that I just let them go at it.

I regularly have the boys play various 1v1 games and we always finish with a small-sided game at the end of training but every once in a while I like to plan an entire session around playing competitive 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 and 4v4 games. This gives the players a break from the usual format and gives them a chance to use all of the skills that we’ve been working to improve. They love it because Continue reading ‘Just Let Them Play’ »

Defending Small-Sided Games and Drills Competition

We recently asked coaches to submit their favorite defending drills and small-sided game. We picked one from all the entries as the winner and the coach received a $200 gift certificate to our site. The winner was Gabriel Celante for his Transitional Defending Game. Here’s a look at the game.

Transitional Defending Game
This Transitional Defending Game focuses on developing and practicing defending cooperation, defensive pressure, and specific decision making while defending. This small sided game also focuses on developing transition to Continue reading ‘Defending Small-Sided Games and Drills Competition’ »

Small-Sided Games in Training

Small-sided games are a great tool for player development. But as with any tool they must be used correctly to achieve the best results. It’s not enough to create two teams of eight and drop a ball. The more specifically you design the game, the more your players will benefit.

Most coaches will choose a game that focuses on the technical or tactical elements that were worked on earlier in the session but many miss the one factor that can be the difference between a session that translates into improved performance in the next match: the formation that the teams use during the small-sided game.

Playing small-sided games in the same formation that your team uses on game day means that the players will get used to the shape and angles of support of your formation and know more about what to expect from their teammates and the opponents.

Here’s an excerpt from, ‘Formation Based Soccer Training‘, that talks about this in more detail.



Players and equipment: 7 players; square shaped grid large enough to play 3 v 4 to small, Pugg type nets; seven bibs, three one color and four a different color; two Pugg nets placed opposite each other at each end line.

Objective: To force the four players on one team (backs) when defending to stay compact playing flat and defending zonally; and to force the three players on the other team when playing offense to move the ball wide with centered balls to the vital area to create shots on goal.  This exercise is for the benefit of the defending players. Use four backs on one side. The other side should be the one attacking mid at the top of the diamond shaped midfield and the two front or the two outside midfielders and the one defensive mid at the bottom of the diamond. Remember, this is only a sample objective. The objective changes each time a training session theme changes but positional play remains the same.

Set up: Square shaped grid with small, Pugg type nets placed opposite each other at each end line large enough to play 3 v 4, two-way directional (about 40×40 yards). Two teams of three players on one team and four backs on the other team in different colored bibs playing against each other, no limit on touches. Place 3 soccer balls in each Pugg type net to be used to keep the game going after a shot on goal.

Exercise: Two teams in bibs, two-way directional competition to score to goal. Unlimited touches. Defending team must maintain flat shape. First team to reach three goals wins. Use multiple grids so all players are involved at one time.

Progression: From Pugg type nets to target players: Remove Pugg type nets and replace with a target player without a bib at each end line. The target player moves in the goal channel, behind the end line to stay open to collect a ball shot to him. The target player belongs to the team on his side of the grid. Rather than shooting to the Pugg type nets, each team now shoots or passes to the target on the opposite team who collects the ball and passes it back to a player on his team (the opposite team that passed the ball to him) to start play again. The pass made by the target player must be done quickly to keep the game moving.

To small cone goals: Leave the target player as is and add a cone about two yards to his right and another cone about two yards to his left creating a small goal area. The target player can move laterally within this small goal area to collect the ball. The purpose of this small goal is to give perspective to the shooter with an obstruction (the target) in goal. The shooter is to try to avoid the target rather than pass to the target as in the earlier progression. The target which could be a keeper using his hands or a field player not allowed to use his hands, tries to stop the shot on goal. He collects the ball and distributes to his team.

To full sized goals with no keeper: Replace the target and small cone goals with a full sized goal with no keeper. The full sized goals are at each end line.

To full sized goals with keepers: Add a keeper in each goal.

The square shaped grid marked with cones or disks remains the same for each of these 3 v 4 exercises.

Or, use four backs, flat, and two outside midfielders with a defensive mid at the bottom of triangle.

Next, restrict touches for the 3 attacking players to two touch.

Have a Great Day!


Unique Small-Sided Games

I continue to run one practice per week outdoor with my older teams during the winter months when weather permits. This means that we are often training when the it’s pretty cold. On very cold days I organize small-sided games to keep the players moving and loose. They get a lot more out of playing games than they would if I tried to coach specific concepts.

Playing small-sided game should not be a matter of dividing up into two teams and throwing the ball out. My favorite small-sided games are those that demand specific skills or tactics to be successful. These are the games that really teach players something rather than just have them use the skills and knowledge they already possess.

Here are three small-sided games that are a bit different than those you may have seen before but they are trying to draw out something very specific from the players. These games come from, ‘Brazilian Training Games’. This is my favorite resource for unique small-sided games. This book has given me many good games that have worked well with my teams.

GAME 16 – Transition – 3 Games

Organization: 2 teams – 6v6 to 9v9 + goalie

Description: 3 games are played in a progression. The coach controls and changes the games with a whistle or a signal.

Game 1: Regular game in half of the field with 2 regular goals. Vertically
Game 2: Horizontally 4 goals games with each scoring in 2 goals.
Game 3: In the whole field a possession game is played with each team trying to get 5 consecutive passes = 1 point.

Observation: in both situations (game 2 and 3) the goalies become field players

Coaching Points:
– Positional adjustment
– Fast transition offensive thru defensive situation and vice- versa
– Communication

Variation:  2 or 3 touch on the ball restriction

Equipment: balls, discs, small goals

GAME 17 – Transition – 3 Games + Colored Balls

Organization: 2 teams – 6v6 to 8v8 + goalie

Description: Same game as #16, in this case the coach will add 3 balls with different colors developing 3 specific rules.
– 2 touches = white ball
– Ball on the ground = gray ball
– Weak foot = black ball

Coaching Points:
– Communication
– Speed of thought
– Speed of improvisation

Equipment: colored balls, discs and small goals

GAME 18 – Transition – 3 Games + Handball

Organization: 2 teams – 6v6 to 8v8 + goalie

Description: 3 games will be play in a progression. The coach control and change the games with a whistle or a signal.
Game 1: Handball Goal Vertically (played with the hands)
Game 2: Horizontally 6 goals games with each team scoring in 3 goals.
Game 3: In the whole field a possession game is played with each team trying to get 5 consecutive passes = 1 point.

Coaching Points:
– Positional Adjustment
– Communication
– Speed of thought

Equipment: Discs, small goals and balls

Training a Team with Two Goalkeepers

This is the first time I’ve coached a team with two players that think of themselves as full-time goalkeepers. We came to an understanding before the season began as to how playing time would be divided. We also decided which events they would have a chance to play on the field when they were not in goal. In other events they would play one half in goal and not play in the other half.

This has worked well in large part because everyone has known what to expect and there have been no surprises. I also think it has been very good for both goalkeepers because there is an element of competition that is usual among field players but doesn’t often happen with goalkeepers because a youth team usually only has one. They are aware of how the other goalkeeper is doing in a exercise or game and they push themselves to be as good or better. This is in spite of the fact that they  have had strictly even playing time up to this point. They know that there will come a point in the season, around the time of State Cup, that the goalkeeper that has proved themselves to be more consistent will get to play more in important games.

One of the keepers had never played on the field before this year and that opportunity has not only helped her with her foot skills but also taught her the game from the perspective of a defender. She has grown in confidence to the point where she looks like she belongs as much on the field as she does in goal.

Having two goalkeepers has helped the team in a number of ways as well. It gives us a sense of security because we know if one of the goalkeepers picks up an injury the other one is there to take her place instead of having to use a field player. Fortunately, both have remained healthy but in a long year of competition I would expect one to be out for a game or two sooner or later. The greater benefit has been in training. Having two goalkeepers makes for more realistic and competitive exercises and small-sided games. With only one keeper, the team she is on has a distinct advantage over the team that has to put a field players in goal. This also takes a developmental opportunity away from the field player because she is practicing something she would almost never do.

I’ve enjoyed incorporating specific sessions aimed at the goalkeepers into our practice routine. The book, ‘Team Training for the Goalkeeper‘ has been an excellent resource for me to find sessions that benefit the team but especially the keepers. Here are two small-sided games that we’ve used with a lot of success.

Small-sided game 3 – GK dealing with pullbacks
Organization: 30×60 / 5v5 w/ 4 targets (in 5×5 boxes), two goalkeepers and full goals / ball starts w/ GK1 / combines w/ team 1 and targets to score / goal must come from a ball pulled back from one of the two targets

Coaching Position: Behind the goal

GK Coaching Points
Angle play: prioritize front post
Stand up / be big
Low hand save with cutbacks across goal
Contingencies (rebounds)

Team can use targets but not required to score a goal

Can play the same game to emphasize the goalkeeper’s distribution decisions and techniques in counter attacks / goalkeeper’s first look is to the targets – develop mentality to exploit opponent’s with distribution patterns

Small-sided Game 4: GK dealing with crosses
Organization: 4v4 w/ goalkeepers and full goals / four wingers / 36×44 w/ 5 yard wide channels / Game starts with a free cross into GK1 / game begins with the condition that a goal must come directly from a cross

Coaching Position: Behind the goal or wide of the exercise to see starting positions, decision making and recovery movements

GK Coaching Points
Starting positions in relationship to the ball
Stay or go decision
Angles of approach
Catch/box decision

Crosses can only come from the defensive half (deep crosses) or attacking half

Do your teams usually have one goalkeeper or two? At what age do you think having two makes sense for the goalkeepers and the team?

Have a Great Day!