- Written by Walter Pless
- Published: 30 October 2010
Photos: The 1977 article in the Education Department of Tasmania journal "Panorama"
Following my recent article about the Sporting Lisbon Academy, there was some debate about the development of young players.
The Sporting Lisbon Academy players are trained solely in 5-a-side sessions on outside pitches.
The concept may be similar to Futsal, but the latter is, by virtue of its very name, played indoors and on hard surfaces.
Some may consider this an exercise in semantics and a case of splitting hairs because, they argue, five-a-side is five-a-side, regardless of where it is played.
That may be so, but it ignores the fact that true Futsal is played with a different and heavier ball and with its own specific rules.
Nevertheless, the overriding concept is that small-sided games are far more conducive to skill learning for youngsters than the 11-a-side game.
That is the philosophy at the Sporting Lisbon Academy, where the 11-a-side game is used only in league competition.
Barcelona have a similar philosophy at their academies, as indeed, do many clubs around the world.
In Europe and South America, it is generally the rule that 5-a-side is the norm for players under the age of 12 years.
Only when players are in their teens do they play the 11-a-side game on larger pitches. There may be a progression in some countries to the 11-a-side game via 7-a-side, 9-a-side and similar.
One person commented on the previous thread that they would like to see an article I had published in the Tasmanian Department of Education journal “Panorama” about the benefits of 5-a-side football for primary school children.
The article is reproduced above.
It was written and published in 1977, well before the current trend in Australia for small-sided games.
My ideas were met with hostility in some quarters of the junior game, but changes were made, albeit reluctantly in some cases.
Various versions of small-sided games were put in place, but gradually, the 11-a-side version crept back in for some juniors.
It seems inarguable, however, that the basic premise that small-sided games for younger players promotes greater skill development than the 11-a-side version on large pitches is true.
Given our relatively primitive training facilities at senior level (in terms of adequate lighting, quality playing surfaces and size of training areas) I would also argue that incorporating 5-a-side at a club’s night training sessions would do more good than harm.
Few clubs here have the facilities at senior level where one can adequately play 11 v 11 on a full-size pitch in order to work on things such as shape, tactics, pressing and formations.
At least 5-a-side training sessions would result in some skill development, and it would be easy to organise a series of round-robin competitions at training between 5-a-side teams made up of seniors, reserves and under-19s to maintain interest at all times.