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  • University of Groningen

    Small-sided games in youth soccer Olthof, Sigrid

    DOI: 10.33612/diss.96266862

    IMPORTANT NOTE: You are advised to consult the publisher's version (publisher's PDF) if you wish to cite from it. Please check the document version below.

    Document Version Publisher's PDF, also known as Version of record

    Publication date: 2019

    Link to publication in University of Groningen/UMCG research database

    Citation for published version (APA): Olthof, S. (2019). Small-sided games in youth soccer: performance and behavior compared to the official match. [Groningen]: Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.

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    Download date: 15-03-2020

  • “Zaterdag is de mooiste dag van de week

    En je wist als je naar je vriendjes keek

    Hier staat het nieuwe oranje”

    All Stars

  • Research presented in this thesis has been conducted at the Center of Human Movement Sciences, part of the University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, the Netherlands and the youth academies of FC Groningen, PSV and Vitesse.

    PhD training was facilitated by the research institute School of Health Research (SHARE), part of the Graduate School of Medical Sciences Groningen

    Printing of this thesis was financially supported by the University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, research institute School of Health Research, Lode Holding BV, ProCare BV and Inmotio Object Tracking BV.

    Paranymphs: Irmgard Olthof Lianne de Vries

    Cover design: Phanatique Layout: DTP at home Printed by: Gildeprint – the Netherlands

    ISBN: 978-94-034-1821-6 ISBN Digital: 978-94-034-1820-9

  • Table of contents

    p10 – p25 Chapter 1.

    General introduction

    p26 – p44 Chapter 2.

    Olthof, S. B. H., Frencken, W. G. P., & Lemmink, K. A. P. M. (2015). The older, the wider: On-field tactical behavior of elite-standard youth soccer players in small-sided games. Human Movement Science, 41, 92–102

    p48 – p67 Chapter 3.

    Olthof, S. B. H., Frencken, W. G. P., & Lemmink, K. A. P. M. (2018). Match-derived relative pitch area changes the physical and team tactical performance of elite soccer players in small-sided soccer games. Journal of Sports Sciences, 36(14), 1557–1563

    p68 – p89 Chapter 4.

    Olthof, S. B. H., Frencken, W. G. P., & Lemmink, K. A. P. M. (2019). A Match-Derived Relative Pitch Area Facilitates the Tactical Representativeness of Small-Sided Games for the Official Soccer Match. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(2), 523–530

    p90 – p107 Chapter 5.

    Olthof, S. B. H., Frencken, W. G. P., & Lemmink, K. A. P. M. (2019). When Something Is at Stake: Differences in Soccer Performance in 11 vs. 11 During Official Matches and Training Games. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(1), 167– 173

    p108 – p123 Chapter 6.

    General discussion

    p124 – p142 Appendices.



    Curriculum vitae

    List of publications



    General introduction

  • 12

    There is this game - played all over the world - called soccer. We play soccer in matches and we learn, improve, and refine soccer in training. Official regulations and playing rules define a match. In match-play, it is about performing and winning. The training is designed to emphasize and mimic specific situations of the match. In training, the focus is on learning. This thesis will focus on the relation between the match and training: can we replicate match behavior in training?

    Football is a simple game: twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes […].

    Gary Lineker - 1990

    Official soccer match

    Twenty-two players, representing two opposing teams, play soccer on a 105 x 68 m pitch with a ball, regulated by playing rules. This combination is specific for soccer and shapes the behavior of players during an official match (Glazier & Robins, 2013; Newell, 1986). A logical purpose of soccer is to win the match by scoring more goals than the opponent does. Players employ a combination of their physical, technical, and tactical capacities to reach this goal (Jones & Drust, 2007). However, there is a conflict in the relation between players present on the pitch: ball possession entitles players to attack and score a goal, but opponent players will make every effort to prevent that. This creates cooperation of players within a team and competition between players of opponent teams (Grehaigne, Bouthier, & David, 1997; McGarry, Anderson, Wallace, Hughes, & Franks, 2002). Moreover, teams try to score on different sides of the pitch. This oppositional relationship produces goal-directed behavior that goes back and forth in a predominantly goal-to-goal direction of the pitch (Frencken, Lemmink, Delleman, & Visscher, 2011; Grehaigne et al., 1997; McGarry et al., 2002).

    A main objective in soccer science is to capture this goal-directed behavior. In performance analysis, researchers quantify a player’s physical load, technical skills, and tactical decision-making in order to observe a player’s activities in the real context of the match, instead of using field tests or laboratory experiments. Time- motion analysis is used to quantify physical load and movement activity patterns, like the distance covered, high intensity activities, and sprints. With video analysis, both technical and tactical skills can be observed. Technical skills are mostly determined by quantifying (successful or direction of) actions on the ball (Hughes & Bartlett, 2002; Vilar, Araújo, Davids, & Button, 2012), where tactical skills are mostly related to qualitative observations of decision-making (van Maarseveen, Oudejans, & Savelsbergh, 2017). At this point it is important to note that soccer players are considered as the performers

  • 2


    of the game (Glazier & Robins, 2013). In order to use consistent terminology throughout the thesis, a player’s individual contribution to the game (in the physical, technical and tactical domain) will be called ‘performance’. This is a commonly used term in soccer science literature, along with other terms like capacity, skill, demand, performance outcome, outcome of behavior, etc.

    Thus far, performance analysis literature mainly gave insight into a player’s individual soccer performance. However, soccer is by definition a team sport with an intermittent character where teams alternately attack and defend. Moreover, it is characterized by its (temporary) interactions between players, formation of sub-groups, and unpredictability. Rather than a limited focus on only individual performance, soccer science can benefit from a more comprehensive understanding of soccer performance, including analysis on a team level (Vilar et al., 2012). An ecological approach, such as the dynamical system theory, enables capturing and identifying collective behavior (Grehaigne et al., 1997; Seifert, Araújo, Komar, & Davids, 2017). A player’s interaction with team members, opponents, and the environment define collective behavior (Grehaigne et al., 1997; McGarry et al., 2002; Seifert et al., 2017; Vilar et al., 2012). Such an ecological approach enables researchers to model and understand how players choose position and how teams organize and coordinate with respect to their opponent. In soccer science literature, collective behavior is also described as team tactical behavior. In this soccer context is team tactical behavior defined as the individual and collective actions of a team to best employ player skills in order to contribute to the team’s goal of attacking and defending by goal scoring or preventing goals (Carling, Williams, & Reilly, 2005).

    Collective behavior can be described as the dynamic relation at individual and team level, displayed as player-player (or dyadic), intra-team, and inter-team coordination. Dyadic coordination reflects the player’s interaction with a team member or opponent player and is often displayed as the distance between two players (Bourbousson, Sève, & McGarry, 2010a; Gonçalves et al., 2017; McGarry et al., 2002; Vilar et al., 2014). Intra-team and inter-team coordination reflect the cooperation within a team or competition between t


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