The Use of Small-Sided Games as an Aerobic Fitness Assessment Supplement within Elite Level Professional Soccer


Owen AL., Newton M., Shovlin A., & Malone S (2020).

Journal of Human Kinetics

DOI: 10.2478/hukin-2019-0086

Are You a Student of the Game?

The purpose of this investigation was to quantify the association between 5 vs. 5 small sided games (SSG) running performance and physiological performance during the Yo-YoIR1 test to ascertain the utility of SSGs as a potential fitness test modality within elite professional soccer players.

Twenty-three (n = 23) elite male professional soccer players (mean ± SD age 25.3 ± 3.1 yrs, mass: 76 ± 9 kg, height: 176 ± 9 cm) were assessed. Players completed an intermittent aerobic fitness test (Yo-YoIR1) and a 5 vs. 5 SSGs protocol for the purpose of the study. During all SSGs players wore GPS (Statsports 10-Hz, Viper Pod, Newry, Northern Ireland) and HR monitors (Polar, Oy Kemple, Finland) with these measures related to Yo-YoIR1 running performance. Results revealed SSGs running performance (TD; m) and physiological performance (HR) showed the lowest CV% (< 5%), with high speed movements, accelerations and decelerations highlighting higher CV% during SSGs. Possibly small to possibly very large associations were observed for running performance during 5 vs. 5 SSGs and Yo-YoIR1 performance, with negative associations observed between physiological performance during SSG and YoYoIR1 running performance.

To conclude, the current study observed how running performance during a standardised 5 vs. 5 SSG protocol within elite soccer cohorts is associated with the Yo-YoIR1 running performance. Given the low CV%, repeatability and large association of global running performance and internal load measures during a 5 vs. 5 SSG with Yo-YoIR1 performance, this particular soccer specific SSG protocol potentially supplements traditional non-sport specific testing assessments.

Practical Application

  • Soccer teams across the world can now use small-sided training games as part of a fitness monitoring & testing protocol with their playing squad.
  • Gives an insight into comparing physical training data from a training game vs. many different teams wanting to use this assessment protocol.
  • Coaches can use a training game confidently to see where their players are physically and supplement their fitness testing protocols.

About the author

Dr. Adam Owen

Dr. Adam Owen studied at the University of Lyon and specialises in training methodology, session design and coaching principles. Sky Sports describes him as ‘The best British coach that you’ve never heard of’

Are you a serious student of the game?

Enter your email to learn what’s coming from ISSPF.