Academy Coach Course

SSG Structure & Design

**Module 2: Structure and Rules of Small-Sided Games**

How to Structure SSGs: Number of Players, Field Size, Game Duration

Small-Sided Games (SSGs) can be structured in a variety of ways depending on the age, ability, and objectives of your players. 

**Number of Players:** SSGs typically involve fewer players on each side to increase individual engagement and opportunities for skill development. The number can range from 1v1 to 9v9, though 3v3, 4v4, 5v5, and 7v7 are common formats. 

**Field Size:** The size of the field should be reduced in proportion to the decrease in players. A smaller field ensures that players are consistently involved in the action, yet there should still be enough space to allow for freedom of movement and tactical play. 

**Game Duration:** Shorter match lengths are typical in SSGs. The exact length can vary, but 10-20 minute games are common. Shorter games keep the intensity high, ensure players stay engaged, and allow for frequent breaks to provide coaching input and hydration.

**2. Rules Adaptation: Offsides, Restarts, Goalkeeping**

Adapting traditional soccer rules is a crucial part of SSGs to make the game suitable for younger or less experienced players.

**Offsides:** In most SSGs, especially for younger age groups, the offside rule is not enforced. This simplification can keep the game flowing and reduce complexity.

**Restarts:** Restarts (throw-ins, goal kicks, and corners) can be simplified. For example, throw-ins can be replaced with pass-ins or kick-ins. This modification ensures that the game resumes quickly and gives players more opportunities to play the ball with their feet.

**Goalkeeping:** Depending on the age and skill level, SSGs may not have designated goalkeepers, or may allow all players to use their hands within the goal area. This adjustment allows players to experience different positions and roles within the game.

**3. Scaling Complexity with Player Age and Ability**

As players age and improve, the structure and rules of SSGs should evolve to continue challenging them and promoting development.

**Increasing Players and Field Size:** As players get older and more skilled, you can gradually increase the number of players and the size of the field. This change introduces new tactical challenges and better prepares players for the 11v11 game.

**Adding Rules:** You can introduce more complex soccer rules, such as offsides, as players progress. This development prepares players for standard match play.

**Introducing Tactical Concepts:** As players’ understanding of the game grows, you can start to introduce more advanced tactical concepts into SSGs, such as playing out from the back, pressing, or maintaining a high defensive line.

**Increasing Game Duration:** As players build their physical fitness and concentration, the length of games can be increased. Longer games introduce a stamina component and require players to manage their energy levels throughout the game.

Overall, the structure and rules of SSGs should be flexible and adaptable to meet the needs and abilities of the players. The aim is to provide an engaging, enjoyable, and developmentally appropriate environment for all participants.

**Module 3: Designing Small-Sided Games**

Key Considerations: Age, Skill Level, Learning Objectives

When designing Small-Sided Games (SSGs), it’s important to consider the age, skill level, and learning objectives of your players.

**Age:** The age of players impacts their physical abilities, attention span, and understanding of the game. Younger players will require simpler, more engaging activities, while older players can handle more complex tactical concepts and longer game durations.

**Skill Level:** The abilities of your players should dictate the complexity of the SSG. Novice players might need basic games focused on individual ball skills, while advanced players will benefit from games that challenge their tactical understanding and technical execution under pressure.

**Learning Objectives:** Each SSG should have a specific learning objective. It could be a technical skill (like first touch or passing), a tactical concept (like maintaining width or pressing), or a physical attribute (like agility or endurance).

**2. Balancing Competitiveness and Fun**

While competition can drive player engagement and improvement, it’s important to balance this with creating an enjoyable, inclusive environment. SSGs should be designed in a way that encourages fair play, teamwork, and creativity. Make sure to regularly rotate teams to prevent a ‘win at all costs’ mentality and encourage players to respect their peers, regardless of the game’s outcome.

**3. Variety in SSGs: Games with Different Goals**

Different SSGs can be designed to emphasize different aspects of the game. For example:

**Possession Games:** These are designed to help players maintain control of the ball under pressure. An example could be a 4v4 game where teams score a point for completing a certain number of consecutive passes.

**Transition Games:** These games focus on quickly switching from defense to attack (and vice versa). An example might be a 3v3 game where teams score by counter-attacking quickly after winning possession.

**Finishing Games:** These SSGs emphasize shooting and scoring skills. You might set up a 2v2 game with multiple goals or target areas to encourage lots of shooting opportunities.

**4. Incorporating Skill Work into SSGs**

To maximize skill development, incorporate specific skill work into your SSGs. This could involve a technical skill challenge (like performing a certain dribble before scoring) or a tactical challenge (like successfully executing an overlapping run).

For instance, in a possession-focused SSG, players might need to execute a particular turning technique when they receive the ball. In a finishing-focused game, they might need to perform a one-two pass before they can shoot.

Incorporating skill work ensures that players get to practice key skills in a realistic, game-like context, boosting their ability to transfer these skills into matches. Remember to provide clear demonstrations and explanations of any skills you want players to work on.

The design of SSGs is an art that requires a deep understanding of your players’ needs, as well as creativity in creating engaging, developmentally-appropriate games. As a coach, you should continually reflect on, adapt, and refine your SSGs based on your observations and player feedback.

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