Small Sided Games Good for Parents Too!

By Tony Earp

There is plenty of information out there from all the top experts from around the world and the US in regards to the benefits of youth players playing small sided soccer games (4v4). If you search the internet for “small sided soccer games” and “youth soccer” you will find a plethora of information talking about the benefits of small sided games for developing players. Especially at the youngest age groups, small sided games give players more touches on the soccer ball, more opportunities to try skills, more involvement in the game, and puts players in a game environment that is cognitively appropriate for their age. Outside of all of benefits for player development, is there another argument to be made for the use of small sided games in youth soccer? Believe it or not, the use of small sided games also benefits the parents!

What would the benefits be to the parents if teams played small sided games each weekend (festivals) versus playing in leagues and in tournaments? Below, I have outlined just some of the benefits to the parents (some also benefit the kids as well). Mainly, playing small sided games eliminates many of parents’ biggest frustrations with youth soccer. If players up to U9 played in these types of formats, youth soccer at the youngest age groups would not only become more about the kids again, but create an environment that is beneficial for the parents as well.

Playing Time
For parents paying “X” amount of dollars every season for their kids to play soccer, it is normal for those parents to have the expectation that their kid gets time to play in games (especially at the young age groups). Those games should be about development and the kids having fun, right? Even if a coach divided time up evenly for a team of 10 players, playing 6v6, in a 50 minute game, almost every player would play less than 50% of the game. I will go out on a limb and say most parents probably want to spend their time on the sideline of the soccer field watching their kid get to play, not their kid watching the game from the other sideline.

If you take the same 10 players on that team and break up into two 4v4 games against another team with 10 players, the two teams could play two smaller 4v4 games and each team has one sub. In this scenario, the kids would get a drastic increase of time on the field playing (which is needed to improve). For a parent, the games would be more enjoyable to watch if you got to watch your child playing the majority of the time. Could you just have fewer kids on a team playing 6v6? Yes, of course and playing time for all would increase. Although, still with larger numbers and field at the younger age groups, how often would a parent’s child be involved in the game?

Another issue parents tend have is kids getting stuck in certain positions. Maybe their child plays defender every single game because it gives the team the best chance of winning, despite not being developmentally beneficial for the player. In a small sided game, positions are fluid; you really do not have forwards, midfielders, or defenders. Everyone does everything! Every player gets to attack and defend all the time. The players just need to make sure they are not crowding each other and finding space on the field. For the parents, again, it would be nice to get to see your child get the same opportunities on the field as every other player and not have a “position” labeled too early keeping your child from getting to do learn different aspects of the game. Next: Cost and Travel + Happier Kids

Tony Earp directs SuperKick/TeamZone Columbus’ Soccer Skills programs. Tony has a Masters in Education from The Ohio State University. Tony was a standout player both academically and athletically at The Ohio State University, earning multiple honors both on the field and in the classroom. He can be reached at