How does practicing in smaller and tighter situations translate to the eleven a- side game?

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1 Small Sided Games Difficulty of the skill: Green this is a core skill for all ages. What are they and why use them? Small sided games are game like situations held within a small game area. The size of the pitch varies depending on the number of players and/or the type of skills or scenarios being practiced. In some cases rules or conditions are applied to the games in order to concentrate on specific areas of the game. When playing in small sided games players are likely to have more time with the ball than they would do in a full sized game. This increased time on the ball should lead to them spending more time performing skills and routines than they would with more players on a larger pitch. With the use of small sided games coaches are able to recreate situations players will face whilst playing full size games. The competition element to small sided games enables players to perform skills at game speed, keeps players moving and develops both individual and team skills. How does practicing in smaller and tighter situations translate to the eleven a- side game? The game of hockey can be broken down into periods of play. During some periods players will find themselves in tight situations. Enabling players to practice skills in smaller areas where there is less room to execute skills will enhance their skills during eleven a-side games when they are faced with similar situations. As players practice and become more confident at performing skills in smaller and tighter spaces they will be better placed to replicate these skills within full sized games. Developing better decision makers It may sound obvious but when a player is faced with a situation during a game which they have practiced and dealt with many times before they are better placed to make appropriate decisions. Practice of game like situations through small sided games enables players to decide what decisions are/are not appropriate to make during full sized games. Learning from mistakes and positive experiences should be explored and encouraged by coaches. How do small sided games fit in with practicing individual skills? Individual skills should be practiced through skill specific exercises as demonstrated in many areas of Proud to Coach. Small sided games should be used in partnership with skill Page 1 of 8

2 specific practices in order for players to accomplish skills and learn through experience. How to organise small sided games? It is not enough for players to play small sided games during training sessions which are not organised to concentrate on specific areas of the game or certain skills. Coaches can be creative when using small sided games within their training sessions, for example changing the pitch dimensions, number of goals, putting constraints on how the players can pass/receive the ball, dictating the number of touches players can have on the ball before they pass the ball or time constraints depending on what the small sided game is set up to practice. However the coach decides to set up the small sided game they must make sure that it is relevant to the full pitch game in some respect, whether that be putting core skills into practice or practicing certain set plays or phases of play. Typically small sided games last for short time periods for example 8-12 minutes are good time periods in order to maintain player interest and ensure that skill levels do not drop through fatigue. Does the Long Term Athlete Development stage of an athlete determine what kinds of small sided games I should coach? Yes, the stage the player is also at on the Long Term Athlete Development pathway will impact on a number of areas when it comes to small sided games. Athletes at the Fundamentals and train to train stages can play small sided games which don t have to be hockey specific but concentrate on being fun and work on agility, balance, coordination and speed. Invasion games such as tag, throwing and catching to score goals, statues (holding balance), hopping and skipping games, dodge ball, tag rugby and games where players have to change their speed at various points are just some examples of those which could be played. Games for fun which are aimed at building ABC skills are covered in further detail in the Page 2 of 8

3 Games for Fun section of Proud to Coach Basic Skills. As athletes progress into the training to train stage and above hockey specific small sided games can be introduced as part of training. Increasing and decreasing the area of play Either increasing or decreasing the area of play will affect game play. Increasing the space will give players more space to move with and transfer the ball (pass and receive) with other team mates, defend over a larger area and practice specific zonal or man to man marking. Decreasing space on the other hand will mean that players will be under greater pressure from opposing players meaning their focus will have to be on:- maintaining possession pressure from defenders in a restricted space, making accurate passes/movements with the ball, scanning to identify passing/movement options, having a good first touch and defending in smaller areas. Support Players The use of support players can be valuable to employ during small sided games in order to: create situations where teams find themselves with a numerical advantage/disadvantage; decrease the amount of space available to other players to move into; increase/decrease passing options and can be used to balance out teams in situations where mixed abilities of players are grouped together. Restricting movement space Restricting a player s movements to certain parts of the pitch in order to create game specific situations could be employed. For example the coach may wish to practice/encourage players to attack down the left/right channels and therefore may restrict the left and right wing players to specific channels. Alternatively the coach may wish to practice moving the ball around the defending players and could place the restriction that all defenders must stay in a certain area for a certain period of time. For example this could be nearer to the defending goal when moving the ball from defensive sideline passes, defensive free passes or hit outs. Page 3 of 8

4 Restrict/require a certain number of passes/touches This type of restriction will enable players to practice an array of skills such as passing, receiving, movement, support and using space and time effectively. Restrictions such as increasing/decreasing the amount of passes/touches the attacking team can have will lead to the attacking team having to work harder both cognitively and physically. For example if players are having trouble linking passes together during games then the coach may put the stipulation on the game that the attacking team must put 5* passes together before they score a goal. *The number of passes stipulated here is just an example. The coach should be able to decide upon a realistic number of passes/touches, dependant on the player s ability level. Suggested games The following games are examples of small sided games which could be used on order to help players practice certain skills/situations. Game 1 Restrict the number of touches In this small sided game the players have been split into two teams of four within a quarter of a pitch. Players are restricted as to the number of touches they can have on the ball which in this case is three (this number could be increased or decreased dependent on player ability). In this game it has been decided that in order to score one point the team in possession of the ball must string five passes together. If the ball is turned over the team in possession of the ball becomes the attacking team. Why have the number of passes been restricted? During the training session ahead of the small sided game the players have been working on passing and receiving the ball with particular attention to their first touch. This exercise will give the players the opportunity to practice their passing and receiving skills in a game like scenario. What do players have to pay particular attention to? Without the ability to move very far with the ball in this exercise, players will have to work on their pre-scanning before they receive the ball to identify passing options and their post- Page 4 of 8

5 scanning once the ball has been received to ensure that the original passing options are still avaliable. If players make poor decisions and do not utilise appropriate passing options they will find that possession is turned over to the opposing team. Also in order to maintain possession the player needs to ensure that they receive the ball well, that their first touch places the ball appropriately for their next move and that it does not make it easy for a defender to dispossess the receiver. Players off the ball will have to work hard in order to create space and passing options for the ball carrier working with and off other team mate s movements. Key Attacking players Passes Player movement (attack) Defending players Cones Player movement (defence) In this example the first three passes of the exercise are demonstrated. Pass one Pass three Pass two Page 5 of 8

6 Game 2 Adding a joker player Players have been put into two teams of five players. There is one additional player with a different coloured bib on (in this case yellow) and this player is known as the Joker. The joker during this game is always on the side of the team in possession of the ball therefore they switch between teams as possession is turned over. Teams score goals through gates placed at each end of the pitch as they would in traditional hockey games. What is the aim of this game? There could be two different reasons for playing this game depending on whether attacking skills or defending skills are being practiced. Attacking skills If attacking skills are being practiced then this exercise could be used to practice over load situations when the attacking team find that they have greater numbers than the defending team. The attacking team must work to use their numerical advantage in order to maintain possession and create overload situations (i.e. 2v1 s or 3v2 situations) in order to score goals. This exercise might be utilised if the players have been concentrating on attacking in small units such as 2v1s or 3v2s during other parts of the session or if the players have been practicing moving quickly in attack when they have numerical advantage over the opposition. Defending skills From a defensive point of view the team without the ball will find themselves being able to practice situations in which they find themselves at a disadvantage numerically. The defence will have to work as a unit in order to reduce the attacking team s advantage and to re-gain possession by employing defensive principles such as: double teaming, zonal marking, cover and delay or channelling to give examples. This exercise might be utilised if the players have been concentrating on defensive principles during other parts of the session. Page 6 of 8

7 In this example the movement and passing options are demonstrated as the ball is transferred from defence, through midfield to attack. This example demonstrates the exercise from an attacking point of view. With the first pass the ball is transferred from the left attacking defender to the right attacking defender as the left defender is under pressure from an opposing blue player. With the second pass the Joker receives the ball after making a leading run from the right wing to the centre of the pitch. Their defending player overtakes them and covering dangerous space within the middle of the pitch. Identifying that the joker player has moved away from the right wing another midfield player identifies that space has been created in this area and moves into it. By making a leading run into this space they enable for a pass to be made from the joker to themselves (third pass). As the final part of the pitch is closely guarded by defending blue players it is necessary for the right forward player to post up towards the midfield player on the right wing in order to collect the ball from the fourth pass. Once this forward player receives the ball from pass four they are in a position with the other forward player to create a 2v1 against the last defender (fifth pass) in order to take a shot at goal. Page 7 of 8

8 Key Attacking players Passes Player movement (attack) Defending players Joker Player movement (defence) Cones (goals) Pass five Pass four Pass three Pass two Pass one Page 8 of 8

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