How can we improve the game?
Some would have you believe that “Football is a simple game”, Breaking it down to its component parts, it’s an extremely complicated game e.g. in an 11-a-side game one player has the ball, he now has the option to pass it to one of the remaining 10 players or dribble with it himself, if he chooses to pass, what kind of pass? What height? How weight on the pass? To the player, in front, slightly behind or straight on?
Therefore we have to make a single decision from all of the above choices, its complicated even before we factor in the opposition, the space available and position on the pitch. Yet we expect children as young as 6 to make similar choices. Some expect these choices to be correct every single time.
We don’t ask children to write sentences on the first day at school or to read novels when they are just starting, they start at the beginning by writing/reading single letters before moving onto words. Why do we do the exact opposite with kids and football? 5 + 6 year olds playing 7-a-side, 9 year olds playing 11-a-side, it’s too complicated for their young minds to comprehend and hinders their true potential.
Make it simple
By reducing the number of players we also decrease the number of choices an individual player has to make. The options (do I pass? what height? etc) remain the same but there are less of them. Playing 7-a-side decreases the options by 40%, playing 4-a-side decreases the available options by a massive 70% compared to the full adult sized 11 a-side games.
7v7 or 4v4?
4v4 is the simplest form so it follows that if we are to coach the simple things first 4v4 is the way to go from a young age.
In 4–a-side all three principles of play (length, width and depth) are present; any less then elements are missing.
The players are ‘total’ players. They do everything attacking and defending, everything that needs done is done with the four on the pitch. There aren’t strikers or defenders and midfielders simply players. Because the players are playing all positions they become better all-round players and know each position well. They become footballers.
Due to the players playing all the positions they are more involved. They get more touches on the ball and more touches equals better technique. Better technique equals more time on the ball. More time on the ball equals more time to look. They begin to work things out for themselves looking for the answers themselves rather than the coach at the sideline telling them what to do. Kids learn the where, why and when of football.
More kids can be involved, on a full sized pitch 22 take part in 11-a-side and 28 for 7-a-side, depending on age between 32 – 48 kids on one full sized pitch.
Still need convincing?
Separate studies by Manchester and Abertay universities produced some quite similar results there wee more touches, more scoring, more opportunities, more goals and more fun, that’s why we all coach isn’t it?
4v4 games are easy and fun, just use your imagination. If you want to he team to use width more play the ‘four goal game’ want more dribbling – play the ‘line game’.