The physical and technical effects of manipulating the playing dimensions during soccer small sided games
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The aim of this study was to determine the acute effects of manipulating the pitch dimensions on the physical and technical responses during small-sided games (SSGs) of young developing female soccer players. Thirteen young female soccer players (mean ± SD: age 16.2 ± 1.2 years, body mass 59.3 ± 6.6 kg, height 166.2 ± 6.5 cm and VO2 max 45.2 ± 1.7 ml.kg.min-1) participated and played 3v3 and 4v4 SSGs using two different length: width ratios for the pitch dimensions: 1: 1 and 1: 1.3. Each game was played during regular training sessions for 4 × 4 min interspersed with 2 min of passive recovery, following a standardised warm-up. Heart rate (HR) response, time-motion outputs and technical performance was measured continuously throughout all games. The playing intensity during 3v3 SSGs was significantly greater (p < 0.05) compared to 4v4 SSGs for mean HR (ES = 1.51), work-rate (ES = 1.24), efficiency index or Eff. Index (ES = 1.10), high-speed distance (ES = 1.32), high deceleration distance (ES = 0.73), and peak velocity (ES = 1.04). The 1: 1 playing area resulted in significantly (p < 0.05) larger work-rates (ES = 0.54), Eff. Index (ES = 0.78) and Player Load (ES = 0.27) only compared to the 1: 1.3 playing area. Regarding the technical analysis, the players had an average of 1.2-1.5 involvements.min-1 with no significant effect of player number or length: width ratio. The typical outcome of the players’ individual possessions was rated as being only ‘slightly effective’ in all game formats. Finally, there was substantial variation in the number of individual involvements per minute with CVs of 38-43%. In conclusion, the acute physical and technical responses of young female soccer players were relatively low compared to previous findings reported in the literature with males. The length: width ratio had minimal influence on physical and technical outputs of players. However, player number during SSGs was influential for physiological and time-motion demands suggesting that it would be the more important variable to consider when prioritising physical development.