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Why do we play small-sided games and is it mandatory?

AYSO recommends that all children under the age of 12 play small-sided soccer (less than 11 players per team) for the following reasons:

Young soccer players need special consideration:
They are children playing a child’s game. They must be regarded as young children, not mini adults. They are essentially self-oriented and relate naturally to one or two others, not to large groups. Fun and activity factors must be a central part of a child-centered program.

Educators agree that early learning experiences are the most important and produce the most retention:
Most children cannot sustain prolonged activity. They function best in suitable starts and stops (rest periods). Concentration span is limited, so frequent changes of pace and activity are essential.

Children love to learn:
They learn a great deal more when the ratio of teacher (coach) to student (player) is reduced. With small numbers and the simple nature of soccer, the best teacher is the game itself. With fewer players on the field, each player gets more touches on the ball and has greater opportunity to change location in a fast-flowing, fluid game. Playing small-sided allows players to make simpler decisions and develop an earlier, better understanding of organization of play. Smaller fields mean more players are directly involved in play, creating increased levels of both concentration and interest. The reduced field size encourages more shots on goal by all players, therefore more goals scored.

Residual benefits:
Parents are introduced to the game in smaller, more understandable doses. Small-sided soccer is a great place to train new referees. The rest of the world is playing small-sided games to develop player skills and we are part of the soccer world.