Small Sided Games….The Advantages

I am fortunate enough to have been coached and coached with a ‘Rugby Yoda’ character named Lynn Evans. He is now my coach mentor. We regularly discuss coaching trends and also the benefits of Teaching Games for Understanding.


We share a similar coaching philosophy which is also heavily influenced by French Rugby Coach Pierre Villepreux.

Lynn has kindly sent me some of his practical thoughts on the above topic, enjoy;

Coaching Small Sided Games

Why coach small sided games as opposed to nearer full game situations?

Reason 1

During small sided games we can look at the micro situations that constantly occur in the full game. For example in a two v one situation in the full game, we can see many more examples of two v one opportunities occurring in five v five, thus providing the players with the chance to practice the considerable number of differing two v ones that occur. The two could be in a lateral situation (side by side) or in the deep support position (support player behind the ball carrier). The players now have to tactically assess what is different and how to make both a tactical (decision) and technical (effective pass) action.

Reason 2

The coach can vary the size of the playing area according to what objectives he is trying to achieve. For example in a narrow area 20m  x 10 m wide, with 5 v 5 players the objective might be to work more on the deep support of the ball rather than too much width with lateral support. Conversely there could be two pitches side by side, pitch 1 narrow, and pitch 2 wider. The game could move from one area to the other to see how the players adapt to the changing from narrow to wide and vice versa.

Reason 3

A series of small sided games will ensure more players have opportunities to be involved in the action. A good example might be two games of 5 v 5 and another of 10 v 10 played simultaneously. With this arrangement we might be looking at specific skills in the smaller games that are transferred to the larger game. This also makes use of the coaching staff that will have special objectives to coach in the games. We then rotate the groups so all the players have experience in the smaller game and transferred to the large game.

Reason 4

In the small sided games there are greater opportunities for individual coaching as the coach does not have as many players to observe. Also it may be possible to prioritise extra coaching for the less able players. Alternatively the more able players could be playing together in one of the minor games in order to put more pressure on their skills and decision making.

Reason 5

It is vital the coach finds various ways of restarting the game after stoppages. Briefly that would include how to introduce the ball before play begins, contest ball, kicked, thrown, rolled in are just a few examples. We should make it as close to game situations as possible. Vary the starting space between attack and defence – so how do each team deal with the changes? Begin as much of the restart situations with the players ‘in movement’ and not from static situations. The reason for this is to add more dynamic and variation that is closer to moving game.


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