To investigate the physical and physiological response to different formats of various-sided games.
Eighteen elite women’s soccer players wore 15-Hz global positioning system devices and heart-rate (HR) monitors during various-sided games (small, 4 vs 4 and 5 vs 5; medium, 6 vs 6 and 7 vs 7; large, 8 vs 8 and 9 vs 9).
Players covered more relative sprinting distance during large-sided games than in small-sided (P < .001, d = 0.69) and medium-sided (P < .001, d = 0.54) games. In addition, a greater proportion of total acceleration efforts that had a commencement velocity <1 m/s were observed in small-sided games (44.7% ± 5.5%) than in large-sided games (36.7% ± 10.6%) (P = .018, d = 0.94). This was accompanied by a greater proportion of acceleration efforts with a final velocity equivalent to the sprint threshold in large-sided games (15.4% ± 7.7%) than in small-sided games (5.2% ± 2.5%) (P < .001, d = 1.78). The proportion of time spent in HR zone 4 (>85% maximum HR) was greater during small-sided games (69.8% ± 2.5%) than in medium- (62.1% ± 2.8%, d = 2.90) and large-sided games (54.9% ± 3.1%) (P < .001, d = 5.29).
The results from this study demonstrate that coaches can use small-sided games as an aerobic conditioning stimulus and to develop players’ explosiveness and repeat-sprint ability over short durations. Large-sided games can be used to maintain aerobic capacity and develop maximum speed over longer distances.
The authors are with the Research Inst for Sport and Exercise, University of Canberra (UCRISE), Bruce, ACT, Australia.