Manipulating Task Constraints in Small-Sided Soccer Games: Performance Analysis and Practical Implications

Carlos Humberto Almeida*, Antonio Paulo Ferreira, Anna Volossovitch
Faculty of Human Kinetics, Technical University of Lisbon, Estrada da Costa, 1495-688 Cruz Quebrada, Lisbon, Portugal.

© 2012 Humberto Almeida et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Faculty of Human Kinetics, Technical University of Lisbon, Estrada da Costa, 1495-688 Cruz Quebrada, Lisbon, Portugal; Tel.: +351 967990275; Fax: + 351 214144712; E-mail:


Since an awareness of key task constraints can be extremely beneficial for coaches, the lack of scientific background about the effects of altered game rules/conditions on individual or team performances during soccer practice is surprising. The aim of the present study was to analyze the influence of different small-sided game (SSG) playing rules (“free-form”, “two touches” and “four passes to score”) on the offensive performance of young soccer players. Eight U-13 male soccer players were divided into two balanced teams. The experimental protocol consisted of three testing sessions separated by one-week intervals. In each session, teams faced each other in the three SSG conditions (3vs.3+goalkeepers) during periods of ten minutes interspersed with five minutes of passive recovery. Simple (i.e. Duration of ball possession, Players involved, Ball Touches, Passes, Shots, and Result of the Offensive Sequence) and composite (i.e. Players involved/ Duration, Ball Touches/Duration, Passes/Duration, Ball Touches/Players involved, Passes/Players involved, Passes/Ball Touches, and Goal/Shots) performance indicators were used to characterize the offensive performance of both teams. Results revealed that the factor “playing rule” had a significant effect on simple and composite indicators (p<0.05). It was concluded that manipulating task constraints, such as game rules, can direct practitioners towards intended behaviors, and consequently promote skill acquisition and improve performance in youth soccer. Further research is needed to extend the knowledge about the modification of playing rules in team sports practice.

Keywords: Constraints-led approach, performance, rules modifications, small-sided games, technical component, youth soccer.