Sided games are not enough to prepare your players for competitive matches

Sided games are not enough to prepare your players for competitive matches

The main task of a sports scientist is to make a training planning that ensures players to remain fit and strong the entire season without any injuries. As a result, coaching staff has access to the best players and therefore the team is more likely to win more competitive matches.

Nevertheless, a big challenge for sports scientists is to align their goals (conditioning from physical perspective) with the goals of the coaching staff (conditioning from tactical perspective) during training sessions. When these goals are not aligned with each other, the training exercises prescribed by the sports scientist will most likely not be followed up by the training staff. As a result, players might not be fully prepared for official matches looked from at least a physical perspective.

Fortunately, training exercises exists that combines both physical and tactical aspects of football; these training exercises are named Sided Games. Sided games are modified games played on small, medium or large fields with modified rules and which involve less players than traditional football games.

Filipe Clemente and other Sport Scientists (2018) researched the differences of sided games with different field dimensions. This study compared the relative physical demands of professional football players during official matches and sided games (medium and large) within training exercises. All professional football players wore a JOHAN GPS tracker to measure the total distance, running distance, sprinting distance, number of sprints, accelerations, decelerations. The sum of these metrics were quantified per minute to compare the different Side Games with each other.


Results. This graphic shows that the players during an official match perform 5.5 sprinting meters per minute (5.5 meters X 90 minutes = 495 meters per match). Compared to the Sided Games, the sprinting meters per minute in Sided Games are significantly lower than in official matches. Therefore: Sided Games are not enough to prepare your players for competitive matches.

Conclusion. This study revealed that medium-sided games are not appropriate for simulating the sprinting conditions of full competitive matches. However, medium-sided games are more intense than full matches in that accelerations are made more often in medium-sided games.

Advice. During a weekly cycle with only medium- or large-sided games, the coaching staff must be creative and change the sided games in such a way (i.e. increasing field dimensions and changing game rules) that it equals the match conditions. Another way to reach match conditions is to schedule separate sprint exercises in the week cycle. In this way players will reach higher performance with less risk of getting injuries.

Another lesson the coaching staff can take from this, is that these findings could never be given without technology, data and a sports scientist. Measuring performance with GPS is crucial to monitor players and prepare them for official matches.


Research shows that increasing the field dimensions will result in more sprinting meters per player.

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Filipe Clemente and other Sport Scientists, (2018) Variations of external load variables between medium- and large-sided soccer games in professional players

Jelle Reichert