The validity of small-sided games in predicting 11-vs-11 soccer game performance

Tom L. G. Bergkamp*, Ruud J. R. den Hartigh, Wouter G. P. Frencken, A. Susan M. Niessen, Rob R. Meijer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Predicting performance in soccer games has been a major focus within talent identification and development. Past research has mainly used performance levels, such as elite vs. non-elite players, as the performance to predict (i.e. the criterion). Moreover, these studies have mainly focused on isolated performance attributes as predictors of soccer performance levels. However, there has been an increasing interest in finer grained criterion measures of soccer performance, as well as representative assessments at the level of performance predictors. In this study, we first determined the degree to which 7-vs-7 small-sided games can be considered as representative of 11-vs-11 games. Second, we assessed the validity of individual players' small-sided game performance in predicting their 11-vs-11 game performance on a continuous scale. Moreover, we explored the predictive validity for 11-vs-11 game performance of several physiological and motor tests in isolation. Sixty-three elite youth players of a professional soccer academy participated in 11 to 17 small-sided games and six 11-vs-11 soccer games. In-game performance indicators were assessed through notational analysis and combined into an overall offensive and defensive performance measure, based on their relationship with game success. Physiological and motor abilities were assessed using a sprint, endurance, and agility test. Results showed that the small-sided games were faster paced, but representative of 11-vs-11 games, with the exception of aerial duels. Furthermore, individual small-sided game performance yielded moderate predictive validities with 11-vs-11 game performance. In contrast, the physiological and motor tests yielded small to trivial relations with game performance. Altogether, this study provides novel insights into the application of representative soccer assessments and the use of continuous criterion measures of soccer performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0239448
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 21-Sept-2020

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