Why 4v4 is good for youth soccer coaching
It should be government policy that soccer coaches use small-sided games before the age of 13. The 4v4 system accelerates development of technical ability and game intelligence. David Clarke looks at how 4v4 works.
So why teach 4v4?
Small pictures are clearer for children; space and options are more compatible with their abilities. 4v4 is the smallest sided game you can have that has all the elements of a real soccer match without any of the confusions that surround learning to play soccer (football).
In a real soccer match children have the option of passing the ball forwards, square or backwards. Three children cannot do this because one of the directions will be missing. With five children the extra one duplicates one of the elements. He becomes “also wide, also deep or also back.” This “also” position clutters the picture.
4v4 also provides the minimum numbers needed for all of the parts that make up a soccer game. One player is up top for penetration. Two are needed for width and one holds back to supply depth. In 4v4 the responsibilities are very clear. All tasks are covered and none are shared, which keeps things simple during soccer drills and match situations.
What do the players learn?
You are improving young players’ technique and skills by giving them a far greater number of ball contacts. The emphasis on control, passing and shooting skills gives the fundamental building blocks of (soccer) football. And it's fun for all the players, they are all involved, they attack and defend. The number of passes is increased and therefore the one-touch control, one-touch pass, sequence is used all the time.
It also gives a good indicator of players’ fitness because they are constantly running and playing the game. It is soccer-learning at its best, fun, creating match situations, fun soccer (football) drills and, therefore, a learning environment.
When I first started out as a soccer coach, as a team we grew sick to death of the best teams having big boys at the back who could kick hard and a fast player up front who could score goals. Wham bang thanks for the three points.
That was when I turned to the 4v4 system. AC Milan, Ajax and Barcelona were using it, so why not me? Now all my teams use soccer drills that focus on this. They not only enjoy themselves but by the age of 13 they have become successful on a team and individual basis. And boy have we produced some good players!
Evidence it works
You don’t have to look far to find the countries that use small-sided games. It’s a list of world champions: Brazil, Holland, France, Spain, Germany, Italy all play small sided games at young ages. You can see it in your players who visibly grow up during these games and you can feel the sense of achievement for yourself when players respond to the freedom.
Cut it out
Never mind the points system, the winning comes later. If you teach kick and rush football at the expense of technical development you’re not doing anyone any favours. You may win more matches with the younger age groups but you’re taking all the fun out of it. And you will find you’re pushing the stronger, faster players at the expense of some of the more gifted.
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