When bigger isn't always better

MAYBE the hardcore purists are still to be convinced of the worth of introducing Small Sided Games (SSG) into soccer but North Coast Football Manager Bob Harris believes the switch is already a smash hit.

"In fact, I'd call it incredibly successful and while those who still don't feel it's a good move have a right to their opinion, I'm hoping they'll read the mass of information that's out there on the subject and try to keep an open mind," he said.

While the critics of the new format for youngsters getting their first experience of soccer are small in number, the points they make do have strident supporters, especially among football 'fundamentalists.'

They don't agree with the reduction in field sizes, removing the strict competitive aspects and withdrawing by-the-book control after sending referees and coaches from the pitch to the sidelines.

"The point the diehards miss is this is about kids having fun, not about parents and officials - and every code in recent years has found it necessary to remove the 'win at all costs' attitude from their games for players who are just starting out," Harris said.

"The AFL have Auskick which is a big success and League ease the kids into the game with Mini and Mod football ... in other countries where Small Sides Games have been introduced, particularly in South American and in Europe, the skill levels have gone through the roof from the times the kids get a handle on what it's about."

Harris said an article, Missing the Point on SSG written by Hunter Valley Community Football Officer Peter Haynes, is the best he'd seen on the subject.

Among many points raised, the article discusses children learning how to handle disappointment, sharing the fun of playing with others without the demand of winning the game, while still acquiring the basic concepts of good ball control, awareness, technique and game intelligence.

"We have surveys that show every SSG player is getting up to 500 per cent more possessions on the field," Harris stated.

"It's a no-brainer ... the more they get to kick the ball around, the more they learn to share, the more fun they have and the more natural skills develop."

Harris believes if the parents and purists are still not convinced they shouldn't condemn the new order out of hand, but instead keep searching and watching.

"There's a stack of information out there," he said.

"All the clubs have received pamphlets and if you go onto the internet, there are literally hundreds of articles explaining the benefits.

"Small Sided Games are here to stay because so much more than we ever expected is being added to football."


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