Primary Schools

Small Sided Games for Football

As we have explored over the last few weeks, training to support development should be designed with Long Term Athletic Development at the heart of the programme. This programme can be supported by considering Phases of Training and the Principles of Training. This is important to remember, as it gives young athletes and players a base to develop physical and technical skills from, and when appropriate and effective programmes are utilised properly the results can be outstanding!

Small Sided Games (SSG’s) can be a great activity to include in your training programme and although there are many, many, reasons for this, lets address the main one first…


Coaches of team sports will have heard “can we have a match later?” for years! Children want to play games. They watch their idols playing matches, scoring goals and they want to replicate it. So, before we look into other ‘benefits’ let’s just remember that they are fun, as sport should be, so get them into your sessions whenever you possibly can!


Should the game be the teacher?

The answer to this question has been argued many times, especially in the football world, here’s our thoughts:

As part of a well thought out development programme for players, prior to Peak Height Velocity (younger players), training should be unstructured and players should focus on fundamental movement skills such as running, jumping, throwing and catching as this will provide basic developments in strength, power, speed and agility. Therefore, prior to peak height velocity, playing lots of games could have benefits on the players physical and skill development. To develop a range of skills, it would be appropriate to mix the type of sport that they play. Although this blog is football focused, we are suggesting that sometimes you play football, other times handball, maybe rugby, cricket etc. This will broaden the skillset of your players… it will give them more tools for their toolbox!

However, post peak height velocity, training should become more structured. Remember, the more experienced players become, the more structured and specified training should become, therefore, although there are many benefits to playing small sided games as part of your programme, playing sport alone is not enough to support development and get players ‘sport ready’ and they are unlikely to reach their full potential.

Training at the mastery, advanced and elite stages should not only become sport specific, but also player specific and the need to ensure appropriate levels of strength, speed, endurance, power and agility is vital, this cannot be achieved through SSG’s alone this is where our Sports App’s can support your players.

Therefore, in answer to the original question, SSG’s can’t be the only teacher, there needs to be more to properly support your players, but they are great fun and a great activity to use as part of a well thought out training plan in team sports.


But what are the benefits to using SSG’s for Football?

  1. Players get more touches: Football is a game involving 22 players and 1 football! Simply put, time on the ball is limited in 11v11’s, if we want our players to develop on the ball in game situations, they need more time with the ball at their feet, 3v3, 4v4, 5v5 etc. increases the time players have with the ball at their feet.
  2. Easier Decisions: Less players on the pitch means less chaos, less and less options, it means that players can be more focused with their decision making. We are not saying this makes it easy, just easier!
  3. SPACE! The space on the pitch can be adapted to meet the needs of your players. More space to make the game slightly easier and to give players time on the ball, or to make forward runs etc. Less space to make the game tighter to encourage players to deal with the ball in tight areas etc.
  5. Encourages Creativity: The games can be modified to meet the needs of the players, encouraging them to develop techniques. The use of SSG’s should be used to add to your players understanding, they are great way to consolidate learning by adapting the rules and to encourage the players try different techniques in different scenarios.

We have included some different set ups for SSG’s for football below, but remember these set ups can be transferred to other sports with a little bit of thought.


Line Ball 

Set up a small pitch to meet the needs of your group, but 20*30 yards for a 4v4 should provide the players with enough space but provide a challenging environment.

The players will play normal football, but instead of goals, players should look to dribble the ball over, or stop the ball on an end line to score. This encourages the players to spot opportunities to run with and dribble with the football, and it allows coaches to work on these techniques in a competitive situation.

Line Ball


2 Goal Football

Set up a small pitch to meet the needs of your group, but 20*30 yards for a 4v4 should provide the players with enough space but provide a challenging environment.

The players will play normal football in a smaller pitch to encourage more touches on the football.

2 Goal Football


4 Goal Football

Set up a small pitch to meet the needs of your group, again, 20*30 yards for a 4v4 should provide the players with enough space but provide a challenging environment. Place to goals at each end towards the corner of the pitch.

Players will play directional football but have two goals in wide areas to score in, this will encourage players to spot spaces on the pitch and to switch the play with quick passes into wide areas.

Players should be encouraged to run with the ball and dominate in 1v1 scenarios.

4 goal football


360 Football

Set up a small pitch to meet the needs of your group, but 30*30 yards for a 4v4 should provide the players with enough space but provide a challenging environment. Place a goal on each side of the pitch.

Players can score in any goal, but once a goal has been scored, they cannot score in that goal again until another goal has been scored.

This game encourages players to receive the ball on the back foot and turn when possible, along with encouraging quick combination play with team mates.

360 FB

Small Sided Games are brilliant in all sports, the players love them and they can be a very valuable coaching tool, but remember, playing sport alone is not enough to be sport ready, players need the correct physical foundations to be able to perform effectively and to ensure that they limit the risk of injury as much as possible.

We can help, our Sports App’s allow your players to train at home to build the correct foundations, giving coaches more time on the pitch to develop technical and tactical skills with their players, allowing them every chance of realising their potential. Check out our apps below to find out how we can help.

Want to become a better footballer? 

Our Sports Apps below can help

TF App

The Total Football App, is designed to support players of all ages and skill levels. It is the only Football Coaching App that integrates 5 phases of skill acquisition and long-term athletic development, meaning that all sessions and activities are designed to meet your current skill level whether you are just starting out, or are an experienced academy player. All our turning sessions are designed by UEFA Qualified Coaches and are supported by further sessions in:

Ensuring that players aren’t just practicing but are practicing with the highest quality. We also have a range of physical development practices, healthy lifestyle sessions, and psychological tips to help develop the total footballer. If your child needs help developing their turning, or any part of their game, you can try the app for free now!

Order the App         FreeTrial 

Total S&C

Stength and Conditioning Platform for Clubs and Academies

Our Total S&C platform helps coaches to deliver a LTAD and S&C programme efficiently to a large number of athletes across all age groups playing different sports.


Our Strength & Conditioning platform consists of a Portal for the coaching team, enabling them to modify training sessions, monitor players training history, input test results and identify players who are sports ready. The athletes are provided their own S&C Player App which allows them to take control of their own training, self-test, log exercise history and track progress.

We get athletes sport ready. We reduce overuse injuries and burn out. We help to develop independent and healthy athletes.

  • Automated session generator saves time
  • Monitor athlete adherence and progress
  • Online management portal for coaches
  • Training App for all athletes
  • Testing and profiling to identify sport readiness