Influence of pitch length on inter- and intra-team behaviors in youth soccer

  • Julen Castellano Universidad del País Vasco (UPV/EHU)
  • Eneko Fernández Universidad del País Vasco (UPV/EHU)
  • Ibon Echeazarra Universidad del País Vasco (UPV/EHU)
  • Daniel Barreira Centro de Investigação, Formação, Inovação e Intervenção em Desporto, Universidade do Porto
  • Julio Garganta Centro de Investigação, Formação, Inovação e Intervenção em Desporto, Universidade do Porto
Keywords: task-constraints, tactical behavior, GPS device, team sports, coaching.


Tactical behavior could be affected by changes in small-sided game (SSG) formats. The aim of the present study was to analyze the influence of different pitch lengths during 7-a-side SSGs played by young football players. Fourteen male soccer players in each age group (13 and 14 years old, U13 and U14 teams) were divided in two teams of seven players who played four SSGs of 7 minutes, interspersed with 4 minutes of passive recovery. The only modification to the SSG format was pitch length: 60 m (SSG60), 50 m (SSG50), 40 m (SSG40), and 30 m (SSG30), while the width of the field was kept constant at 40 m. The variables used to characterize collective behavior were grouped in a) intra-team variables, namely, team length (L), team width (W), effective area of team play or convex hull (CH), and stretch index (SI); and b) inter-team variables, namely distance between centroids (DC), length of both teams (L2), width of both teams (W2), convex hull of both teams (CH2), and stretch index of both teams (SI2). Our results revealed different intra and inter-team behaviors according to SSG format and player age. L, CH, SI, DC, L2, CH2, and SI2 all increased with increasing pitch length, while W and W2 showed only minimal changes. The differences were greater in the U13 group, suggesting that younger players were more likely to vary their collective behavior in response to changes to pitch length, inter-task, particularly in the longer pitches (SSG50 and SSG60). Conversely, using the analysis of the entropy, greater unpredictability of tactical behavior was observed in the U14 group, intra-task, compared with the U13 group. Overall, the findings suggest that responses to task constraints, such as modifications to pitch length and accordingly relative area of play, are dependent on age (experience, skill) and this is something coaches should consider when designing SSGs to develop team tactics.


Download data is not yet available.


Barnabé, L., Volossovitch, A., Duarte, R., Ferreira, A. P., & Davids, K. (2016). Age-related effects of practice experience on collective behaviours of football players in small-sided games. Human Mov Sci, 48, 74–81.

Casamichana, D. & Castellano, J. (2010). Time–motion, heart rate, perceptual and motor behaviour demands in small-sides soccer games: Effects of pitch size. J Sports Sci, 28(14), 1615-1623.

Casamichana, D., Castellano, J., & Dellal, A. (2013). Influence of different training regimes on physical and physiological demands during small-sided soccer games: continuous vs. intermittent format. J Strength Cond Res, 27(3), 690–697.

Casamichana, D., San Román, J., Calleja, J., & Castellano, J., (2015). Los juegos reducidos en el entrenamiento del fútbol. Barcelona: Futbol De Libro.

Castellano, J., Álvarez-Pastor, D., & Blanco-Villaseñor, A. (2013). Analyzing the space for interaction in soccer. R Psi Deporte, 22(2), 437-446.

Castellano, J., Casamichana, D., Calleja, J., San Román, J., & Ostojic, S. M. (2011). Reliability and accuracy of 10 Hz GPS devices for short-distance exercise. J Sports Sci Med, 10: 233-234.

Castellano, J., Casamichana, D., & Dellal, A. (2013). Influence of game format and number of players on heart rate responses and physical demands in small-sided soccer games. J Strength Cond Res, 27(5): 1295-1303.

Castellano, J., Silva, P., Usabiaga, O., & Barreira, D. (2016). The influence of scoring targets and outer-floaters on attacking and defending team dispersion, shape and creation of space during small-sided soccer games. J human kinetics, 51(2), 153-163.

Clemente, F. M., Couceiro, M. S., Martins, F. M. L. & Mendes, R. S. (2012). The usefulness of small-sided games on soccer training. J Phy Educ Sport, 12(1): 93-102.

Cohen J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, HillSDale, NJ.

Duarte, R., Araújo, D., Correia, V., & Davids, K. (2012). Sports Teams as Superorganisms. Sports Med, 42(8): 633-642

Duarte, R., Araújo, D., Folgado, H., Esteves, P., Marques, P., & Davids, K. (2013). Capturing complex, non-linear team behaviours during competitive football performance, J Sys Sci Complex, 26, 62-72.

Folgado, H., Lemmink, K., Frencken, W., & Sampaio, J. (2014). Length, width and centroid distance as measures of teams tactical performance in youth football. Eur J Sports Sci, 14(1), 487-492.

Frencken, W., Lemmink, K., Delleman, N., & Visscher, C. (2011). Oscillations of centroid position and surface area of soccer teams in small-sided games. Eur J Sports Sci, 11(4), 215-223.

Frencken, W., Van Der Plaats, J., Visscher. C., & Lemmink, K. (2013). Size matters: Pitch dimensions constrain interactive team behaviour in soccer. J Sys Sci Complex, 26(1), 85-93.

Galé-Ansodi, C., Langarika-Rocafort, A., Usabiaga, O. & Castellano, J. (2016). New variables and new agreements between 10Hz global positioning system devices in tennis drills. J Sports Eng Tech. DOI: 10.1177/1754337115622867.

Gréhaigne, J. F. & Godbout, P. (2013). Colective variables for analysing performance in team sports, in: McGarry, T, O'Donoghue, P. and Sampaio, J. eds. Routledge Handbook of Sports Perfomance Analysis. Routledge, Oxon, 101-114.

Halouani, J., Chtourou, H., Gabbett, T., Chaouachi, A., Chamari, K. (2014). Small-sided games in team sports training: a brief review. J Strength Cond Res, 28(12), 3594-618.

Hill-Haas, S. V., Dawson, B., Impellizzeri, F. M., & Coutts, A. J. (2011). Physiology of small-sided games training in football: a systematic review. Sports Med, 41(3), 199-220.

Memmert, D., Lemmink, K. A. P. M., & Sampaio, J. (2016). Current Approaches to Tactical Performance Analyses in Soccer Using Position Data. Sport Med. DOI 10.1007/s40279-016-0562-5.

Moura, F. A., Martins, L. E. B., Anido, R. O., Ruffino, P. R. C., Barros, R. M. L., & Cunha, S. A. (2013). A spectral analysis of team dynamics and tactics in Brazilian football. J Sports Sci, 31(14), 1568-1577.

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 Mov Sci, 41, 92–102.

Sampaio, J. & Maçãs, V. (2012). Measuring tactical behaviour in football. Int J Sport Med, 33(5), 395-401.

San Román-Quintana, J., Casamichana, D., Castellano, J., Calleja-González, J., Jukić, I. & Ostojić, S. (2013). The influence of ball-touches number on physical and physiological demands of large-sided games. Kinesiology, 45(2), 171-178.

Seifert, L., Button, C., & Davids, K. (2013). Key properties of expert movement systems in sport. Sports Med, 43, 167–178.

Silva, P., Aguiar, P., Duarte, R., Davids, K., Araújo, D., & Garganta, J. (2014a). Effects of pitch size and skill level on tactical behaviours of Association Football players during small-sided and conditioned games. Int J Sports Sci Coach, 9(5), 993-1006.

Silva, P., Duarte, R., Esteves, P., Travassos, B. & Vilar, L. (2016). Application of entropy measures to analysis of performance in team sports. Int J Perform Anal Sport, 16, 753-768.

Silva, P., Duarte, R., Sampaio, J., Aguiar, P., Davids, K., Araújo, D., & Garganta, J. (2014b). Field dimension and skill level constrain team tactical behaviours in small-sided and conditioned games in football. J Sports Sci, 32(20), 1888-1896.

Silva, P., Garganta, J., Araújo, D., Davids, K., & Aguiar, P. (2013). Shared knowledge or shared affordances? Insights from an ecological dynamics approach to team coordination in sports. Sports Med, 43(9), 765-772.

Silva, P., Travassos, B., Vilar, L., Aguiar, P., Davids, K., Araújo, D., & Garganta, J. (2014c). Numerical relations and skill level constrain co-adaptive behaviors of agents in sports teams. PloS One, 9(9), 107-112.

Travassos, B., Gonçalves, B., Marcelino, R., Monteiro, R., & Sampaio, J. (2014a). How perceiving additional targets modifies teams’ tactical behavior during football small-sided games. Human Mov Sci, 38(0), 241-250.

Travassos, B., Vilar, L., Araújo, D., & McGarry, T. (2014b). Tactical performance changes with equal vs unequal numbers of players in small-sided football games. Int J Perform Anal Sport, 14(2), 594-605.

How to Cite
Castellano, J., Fernández, E., Echeazarra, I., Barreira, D., & Garganta, J. (2017). Influence of pitch length on inter- and intra-team behaviors in youth soccer. Anales De Psicología / Annals of Psychology, 33(3), 486-496.
Monographic theme: Observational data analysis