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Changing drills to increase team player fitness

Peter Reaburn, Department of Health and Human Performance, Central Queensland University


For years, coaches have been using drills to increase player’s skill levels. Smart coaches combine fitness training with skill drills to improve both fitness and skills as well as be more specific in training for the demands of an actual game. Recent sport science research from Italy has examined what affect changing field size, exercise type, and coach encouragement has on the intensity of small-sided games.


Twenty amateur soccer players (73.1 ± 8.6 kg, 1.79 ± 0.05 m, 24.5 ± 4.1 years, VO2max 56.3 ± 4.8 ml • kg-1 • min-1) did aerobic interval training using three, four, five and six-a-side games (exercise types) on three differently sized pitches, with and without coach encouragement. Heart rate, rating of perceived exertion (RPE) on the 1-10 scale, and blood lactate concentration were measured in each type of condition.


Significant differences were found for exercise type, field dimensions, and coach encouragement. During a six-a-side game on a small pitch without coach encouragement, exercise intensity was 84 ± 5% of maximal heart rate, blood lactate concentration was 3.4 ± 1.0 mmol • l-1, and the RPE was 4.8. During a three-a-side game on a larger pitch with coach encouragement, exercise intensity was 91 ± 2% of maximal heart rate, blood lactate concentration was 6.5 ± 1.5 mmol • l-1, and the RPE was 7.2.

Coach's takeout

The results demonstrate that exercise intensity during small-sided soccer games can be manipulated by varying the exercise type, the field dimensions, and whether there is any coach encouragement. By using different combinations of these factors, coaches can modulate exercise intensity within the high-intensity zone and control the aerobic training stimulus. This research showed that smaller sided drills on a larger field with coaches encouraging the players gets the greatest aerobic training effect.


Rampinini, E, Impellizzeri, F, Castagna, C, Abt, G, Chamari, K,  Sassi, A,  Marcora, S 2007, 'Factors influencing physiological responses to small-sided soccer games', Journal of Sport Sciences, 25(6), pp. 659-666.

Source: Sports Coach Volume 29 Number 4

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