5 Ways Small Sided Games Make a BIG Impact

Watch Jessica Shawley share her ideas on small-sided games (6:39)

The use of Small Sided Games, or SSGs for short, has given my program the biggest bang for my buck in terms of maximizing participation, inclusion, skill development, and assessment opportunities while keeping the learning environment enjoyable.

Small Sided Games re-create the physical or tactical demands found in game-play but in a smaller setting while still allowing for improvement to fitness levels. Using SSGs has challenged me to re-think the “traditional”.

I remember as a first year teacher, I’d take 35 students out to one field for the softball unit and try to go through drills, and then more drills, for skill development and only go into full game play at the end of the unit. Most everyone was unable to hit more than once in one period, especially with my larger classes, nor had they had enough opportunities to practice hitting because I had not maximized the learning environment through SSGs earlier in the unit. As a former collegiate softball player and the current high school coach, my favorite sport was my least favorite unit. It was terrible…until I learned about SSGs.

Times have changed in our profession and thankfully, so have I. You should no longer see a team of 10 students playing another for two straight weeks of softball (or anything for that matter), especially at the elementary or middle level. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for overall true game play, like they’d experience in adult recreational leagues, but this should often be saved for late-middle school or high school after a successful progression of other lessons and skill development through SSGs.

Below you will find out how your program will be impacted through the use of small-sided games.

Top 5 Ways Small Sided Games Can Make A BIG Impact In Your Program:

  1. Concept Knowledge:

    Gym Space - Small Sided Games

    • ​​A purposeful progression of SSGs allows students to better learn concepts and tactical strategies. Example: A 3 vs. 3 or 4 vs. 4 game of mini-handball in a smaller space with adapted situations (single focuses on “finding an open space” or types of passes) enhances content knowledge more quickly. (See example above)
  2. Inclusion:

    • ​​SSGs allow for more successful inclusion of students of all ability levels. The layout of smaller teams and settings along with modified equipment is more manageable and flexible so that the needs of students can be met and all feel included.
  3. Success Rate & Maximum Participation:

    • The smaller the teams the more opportunity each player has for participation, which maximizes skill development and a student’s success rate (not to mention enjoyment). When students feel more competent and successful their overall participation also increases.
  4. Assessment Use:

    • ​​The SSG environment allows for more authentic assessment situations because teachers are able to view all students in action in a specific situation with a select focus. Teachers can quickly identify needs and strengths of individuals and/or the class and make adjustments in instruction.
  5. Teacher Feedback:

    • Lastly, because participation is maximized with a specific focus in a smaller setting the teacher is able to give specific feedback more often. The teacher-student relationship is strengthened because students feel a sense of value when teachers are able to show and speak interest to their progress as well as provide feedback during their learning.

Continue the Conversation: What is one of your favorite ways to incorporate Small Sided Games into your program? What is a favorite SSG you use? You can leave a comment below. Thanks for sharing!

Jessica is a Physical Education Teacher, NBCT in Moscow, Idaho. She is the 2012 National NASPE Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year, a National Board certified Physical Education Specialist, and served on the SHAPE Idaho board for over 7 years as President, Conference Manager and District Representative. She has and continues to travel the country providing professional development workshops and keynotes on a variety of topics.

Jessica is a Physical Education Teacher, NBCT in Moscow, Idaho. She is the 2012 National NASPE Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year, a National Board certified Physical Education Specialist, and served on the SHAPE Idaho board for over 7 years as President, Conference Manager and District Representative. She has and continues to travel the country providing professional development workshops and keynotes on a variety of topics.

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