Physiological Requirements of Small-Sided Games

Small-sided games provide more on-ball activity for players, meaning more opportunities for technical and tactical skill development. However, the perception is that small-sided games are easier than full-sided games or that they fail to reproduce the same physiological responses as a full-sided game.

In a recent study in Revista de Psicología del Deporte by Jaime Sampaio, Catarina Abrantes & Nuno Leite (2009) studied the heart rate of 15-year-old boys in 3v3 and 4v4 games. First, they used a yo-yo intermittent test to find the players’ maximum heart rates. Then, during the 3v3 and 4v4 games (25-minute games), the players’ heart rates were over 80% of HRMax with the 3v3 games posting slightly higher heart rates.

The researchers wrote that these games produce “similar cardiovascular stress as other intermittent exercises specifically designed to improve athletes’ endurance.”

Therefore, small-sided games are not easier than full-sided games and provide a comparable physiological stress for young athletes.

By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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