Offensive Sequences in Youth Soccer: Effects of Experience and Small-Sided Games

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The present study aimed to analyze the interaction and main effects of deliberate practice experience and smallsided game format (3 vs. 3 and 6 vs. 6 plus goalkeepers) on the offensive performance of young soccer players. Twentyeight U-15 male players were divided into 2 groups according to their deliberate practice experience in soccer (i.e., years of experience in federation soccer): Non-Experienced (age: 12.84 ± 0.63 years) and Experienced (age: 12.91 ± 0.59 years; experience: 3.93 ± 1.00 years). The experimental protocol consisted of 3 independent sessions separated by one-week intervals. In each session both groups performed each small-sided game during 10 minutes interspersed with 5 minutes of passive recovery. To characterize the recorded offensive sequences we used the Offensive Sequences Characterization System, which includes performance indicators previous applied in other studies. No interaction effects on the offensive performance were found between both factors. Non-parametric MANOVA revealed that the factor “experience level” had a significant effect (p<0.05) on performance indicators that characterize the development of offensive sequences, especially in 6 vs. 6 + GKs. While experienced players produced longer offensive sequences with greater ball circulation between them, the non-experienced participants performed faster offensive sequences with a predominance of individual actions. Furthermore, significant differences were observed (p<0.05) in the development and finalization of offensive sequences within each group, when comparing small-sided game formats. Evidence supports that small-sided games can serve several purposes as specific means of training. However, the manipulation of game format should always consider the players’ individual constraints.

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