Academy Coach Course

SSG Different Formats & Set Ups

Small-Sided Games (SSGs) are extremely flexible and can be tailored to fit the specific objectives, skills, and abilities you want to develop in your players. This flexibility is achieved through the modification of game formats, objectives, and goals. Here are some ways you can customize SSGs:

**1. Multiple Goals:** You can use multiple goals in your SSGs to promote different skills. A four-goal game, for example, encourages players to think about the direction of their play, since they can score in two different goals. A game with one large goal and two small goals could be used to teach players about changing the point of attack, as the large goal might be easier to defend.

**2. Different Size Goals:** By changing the size of the goals, you can emphasize different skills. Smaller goals make scoring more challenging and can be used to improve shooting accuracy, while larger goals might be more suitable for younger players or games focused on shooting and finishing.

**3. Use End Zones and Lines Instead of Goals:** In some SSGs, players score by dribbling or passing the ball into an end zone or over a line, rather than into a goal. This modification can emphasize skills such as ball control, dribbling, and accurate passing. It also encourages players to maintain possession of the ball, as they need to control it within the end zone to score.

**4. Different Size and Shape Pitches:** The size and shape of the pitch used for a SSG can be altered based on your coaching objectives. A smaller pitch can increase the intensity of the game and promote quick decision-making, while a larger pitch might encourage long-range passing and spatial awareness. The pitch doesn’t always have to be rectangular – it could be square, diamond-shaped, or any other shape that suits your objectives.

**5. No Go Zones – Keep Kids Out Of The Goal:** ‘No go zones’ can be used to discourage certain behaviors or tactics, like ‘goal hanging’. For instance, you might create a zone in front of the goal where attacking players aren’t allowed, which forces them to shoot from distance or find creative ways to approach the goal.

**6. Safe or Free Zones Where Players Can’t Be Tackled:** ‘Safe zones’ or ‘free zones’ can be used to give players a place where they can maintain possession without being tackled. These zones can be useful for promoting skills like ball control and dribbling, or for giving less confident players a chance to play with the ball without pressure.

**7. Number of Touches:** Implementing restrictions on the number of touches a player can take before they have to pass can encourage quick decision-making and improve players’ ability to control and pass the ball under pressure.

**8. Directional Play:** Instead of scoring in any direction, you can set up your SSG so that teams have to attack in a specific direction. This setup can help teach players about positional roles and the importance of shape and structure in a team.

By changing the format, objectives, and goals of your SSGs, you can create a diverse range of game scenarios that challenge your players in different ways, helping them to develop a broad set of skills and a deep understanding of the game.

SSG Terms

**1. Neutral Player:** A neutral player is someone who is not assigned to any particular team and plays for the team in possession of the ball. They are typically used to create numerical superiority, thus encouraging more passing and possession. For instance, in a 4v4 SSG, adding a neutral player effectively makes it a 5v4 when a team has the ball, allowing more passing options and teaching players to exploit numerical advantages.

**2. Sideline Neutral Players:** These are neutral players positioned along the sidelines (or sometimes end lines) of the pitch. They’re usually used in a support role to retain possession or to widen the play. For example, in a 3v3 SSG, two sideline neutrals could be used. When the team in possession is under pressure, they can pass to the sideline neutrals, who will then return the ball, maintaining possession and teaching players about support play and width.

**3. Target Players:** Target players are usually positioned at opposite ends of the pitch, and the objective is to get the ball to them to score a point. They can be used to encourage long passes, accurate passing, or quick transition play. In a 4v4 SSG, one target player could be placed at each end, and teams score by passing the ball to their target player. This encourages players to look up and consider longer, more strategic passes to achieve their goal.

**4. Winner Stays / Kings Court:** This is a competitive format where the winning team stays on the pitch to play against the next team, while the losing team rotates out. For example, if you have three teams of four players each, the first two teams play each other in a SSG. The winner of that game stays on to play the third team, while the losing team steps out. This format is motivating and encourages a high level of effort, as teams want to stay on the pitch as long as possible. It can also foster a sense of resilience, as losing teams have the opportunity to regroup and come back stronger in their next game.

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