By: Emma Glasgow

The benefits of small-sided games like 3×3 basketball and 4v4 soccer have long been observed by coaches, parents and physical educators world-wide. More time engaged in physical activity, more meaningful touches on the ball, and more players involved in play, are just a few of these benefits. At SNYB we strongly believe the 3×3 model is the best way to engage and develop young players. As a result, we will continue to share new research and resources on the benefits of small-sided games until the 3×3 model becomes commonplace for young basketball players!

As it stands, much of the research on small-sided games is originating from the world of soccer. This is likely because the progression from 4v4 to 7v7 to 11v11 has been the standard for a number of years. Recently a friend of SNYB passed along some more of this research from the Ministry of Football: Positive Football Learning Environments. The conversation is often reemerging and we were inspired to include our SNYB readers in the discussion. We will be using this post to share with you a few resources on small-sided games. The research will range from the effects of small-sided games on learning, to heart rate, to gender participation from a variety of sources, some scientific and some experiential. We hope that you enjoy this post and feel compelled to continue the conversation with your fellow coaches, colleagues, parents and friends!

Measuring Learning in Small-Sided Games
By: Mark Carter–Ministry of Football

The study particularly focuses on measuring learning in small-sided games. The video does an excellent job of demonstrating the overall level of involvement and physical activity of the participants, but also provides a good comparison of small-sided vs large-sided games. It is evident that small-sided games allow for more touches on the ball and more time spent active, but the author took things a step further with his research and began assessing the video analysis for meaningful, deliberate touches on the ball characterized by successful passes and deliberate dribbling. He averaged the data analyzed from the video and found the following information:

Indoor football (videos 1&2): 36 touches, 6 passes and 2 dribbles per child.

Futsal (videos 3&4): 76 touches, 11 passes and 4 dribbles per child.

4v4 Mini-League (videos 5-7): 173 touches, 23 passes and 15 dribbles per child.

So if we use passes and dribbles as a proxy for learning, then we can conclude:

There is four times more learning in 4v4 Mini-League than in the indoor examples given, and over twice as much learning in 4v4 Mini-League when compared to Futsal!

If you would like to see the study in full, we encourage you to check out the link provided above!

The Effects of Game Size on Physical Activity Levels
By: Kenneth Bell, et al., Journal of Kinesiology & Wellness

This scientific study, similarly compared involvement in small-sided games but measured the effects of game size on physical activity amongst a PE class of 10 & 11 year old boys and girls. The study utilized pedometers to measure the number of steps, accelerometers to measure the intensity of movement and general observations to gather data while comparing physical activity levels in 3v3, 6v6 and 12v12 games that focused on throwing and catching skills.

The results were the following:

a) significantly more accelorometer counts (intensity) & ball touches in 3v3 and 6v6 than 12v1

b) more pedometer counts (steps) in 6v6 and 12v12 than 3v3

c) boys exhibited more pedometer counts (steps) in 6v6 and 12v12 but there was no difference in pedometer counts between boys and girls in 3v3

  • increased number of ball touches indicated that there are greater opportunities to gain possession of the ball and therefore greater opportunities to work on individual skills
  • more opportunities to engage in play often translates to higher participation levels across the board
  • students may not have taken as many steps, but were more likely to engage in moderate to vigorous activity levels, or in other words at a higher intensity, in 3v3 most likely due to more 1-on-1 opportunities and a higher involvement in the play
  • 3v3 highlights the importance of providing girls with an equal opportunity to participate in high intensity physical activity

  • middle- to large-sided games ended up simulating small-sided games because only the highly skilled participants were able to remain actively involved in the play

Heart Rate Differences in Small-Sided Games in Formative Basketball
By: F. Gracia et al.

This study strictly looked at physical activity levels in 3×3 and 4×4 basketball games through observation and heart rate monitors. Interestingly, Gracia et al., also recorded how physical activity levels were influenced by coach feedback.

There results:
  • significantly more time spent engaged in high intensity physical activity during 3×3 than 4×4
  • significantly more time spent engaged in high intensity physical activity across the board when coach was present providing feedback

3×3 offers a higher level of intensity and engagement from all players involved than even 4×4 can offer. The study would need to look at touches on the ball and comparisons to 5×5 for more conclusive data.

We love hearing from you! Got a question or another resource? Please share your thoughts and comments below!
More Resources:
Small-Sided Games and Player Development
By: Brian McCormick

Source: Steve Nash Youth Basketball Blog
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