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This is a great age-group for small-sided games. In fact there is an argument to suggest that the entire session should be small-sided games. After all, we want the children to learn to play football - so what better way to learn than by playing footballl? The challenge for the coach is to maximise the amount of learning that happens for all players in these small-sided games. A large part of this will be how to group players so they all experience success. It is worth remembering that team sizes do not need to be even - being outnumbered in games is realistic preparation for the adult game of football, and poses a new problem to the children. There are hundreds of modifications to small-sided games - all of which will change the challenge that the children face. The coach needs to ask themselves: What does this modification add to the learning process? If there is no benefit, then there is no use in modifying the game.
Children aged 9 to 11 are very capable at inputting into their own sessions and learning. They should be encouraged to take ownership of their sessions, make their own rules, and reflect on their own learning. The main themes for this age-group should be Decision Making and Small-sided Games.
Technical 'work' should be given as arrival activity, post-drink break activities (for children to return to) and for homework.
As well as previous versions of 1v1 games from 6 to 8 year old section, we should consider adapting and progressing 1v1 games for this age group to practice different outcomes and add variety.
1v1 line chase
In the game below, each pair of children has a defender and attacker. The attacker scores by getting to a line or cone before the defender. They can move left or right. You can play with or without a ball, but if playing with a ball, there is no tackling. This type of adaptation means a focus on changing direction, dummying and feinting, and acceleration.
1v1 obstacle race
This activity takes a little bit of time to set-up, so should only be used when the coach has time to organise it properly. Coaches should be imaginative about the obstacles they use. But try to include elements of decision-making. In the example below, the player playing the pass off the back wall needs to decide if it's ok to turn when receiving the ball or if the GK is too close to allow them to do so - what will they need to do in order to be successful in this decision?
Players can easily input into this activity be adding rules or changing/adding obstacles. Using ladders, hurdles, short sprints etc are good additions. Also, you could add a rule that players can tackle each other at any point during the race. Remember that in order to maximise learning: It is not necessary for one pair to finish before the next starts. Players should go as soon as there is space to do so and their opponent is ready.
This is bread and butter of Ministry of Football.
If the activity you have chosen doesn't contain more involvement, more relevant learning, more enjoyment and more decisions than the 3v3 game, then just do the 3v3 game instead.
There are various ways to vary the challenge of the small-sided game. The graphic here shows a different way of scoring, with balls on cones which need to be knocked off. When this happens, the cone and ball are stolen and taken back to the other side of the pitch.
The advantages of this type of modification are firstly a focus on a more accurate shot (as the ball on cone is a smaller target than a goal); and a game which naturally differentiates to take into account differences in ability between teams - the better you do at the game, the fewer targets there are to hit, and the more difficult the challenge.
3v3 with sweepers
The modification to this 3v3 is for each team to use a designated sweeper. A condition is added: That the team in possession needs to play the ball through the sweeper in the sweeper zone before coming forward. This condition aims to help children look behind them for support, as often they only think about going forward and do not realise that often the better option is to play back before going forward again. This modification also challenges the sweeper to support play behind the ball, to switch play, and to play one or two-touch to speed the play up.
3v3 back-to-back goals
The graphic shows 4v4, but that would be the maximum size appropriate for this age group, and may be better to be 3v3. The advantage of this set-up is that children need to be cleverer and work harder in order to gain a shooting opportunity.