It is well known that the reason young footballers (soccer) play small-sided soccer matches such as 4v4, 5v5, and 6v6 is because they are smaller, younger, and need to play with less people to have the same relative experience that older players have in a standard 11 a side match. That statement is a myth. The truth behind the matter of small-sided games actually lies in the process of youth development.
Just like the world of academia, the athletic learning curve is best developed in stages. An 8-year-old is not going to learn how to solve algebra before being taught simple addition and subtraction. The creation of small-sided games in US Youth Soccer was in order to accommodate for the same type of learning experience, so that players could learn in developmental stages. On a smaller field with less players, each player has more time on the ball, less decisions they have to make, and more chances to go at the opposition’s goal. This combination lets younger players learn the game quicker than if they were to jump into an 11 a side match, the algebra. However, the actual benefits of small-sided games go far beyond creating a learning curve.
According to a study by the University of Abertay Dundee on the effects of small-sided games, smaller games increase the speed of play, create more attacking attempts per game, more touches on the ball for all players, more 1v1 situations, and more shots on goal, among numerous other benefits.
Steve Welch of Jess Sports commented his personal observations of the effects 3v3 soccer has had on his kids who play the sport, saying “it really does wonders for improving my kids in all areas of the game. I have all of my little soccer players do 3v3 every summer, and it’s amazing to see them get back to their regular clubs in the fall and surpass their peers in terms of decision-making and skill on the ball.”
This type of information is what inspired the vision of the Caño Cage, a way to tremendously ramp up the effects of small-sided soccer on youth development. The Caño Cage is a portable, moveable, shapeable set of interconnected panels and goals with the vision of transforming US Youth Soccer development training. Due to the numerous benefits small-sided soccer has on player development, the creators of the cage thought “why not smaller?”, thus bringing the vision to life with Caño.
“The ball is always in play, kids learn to control the ball, manipulate it using the sole of their foot, block, tackle, create angles and get very fit in the process. By the way, we don’t teach them anything at this point, the kids go in the cage with no inhibitions and experiment, have fun and all come out smiling whether they have won or lost. Did I also mention they get 50+ touches in just three minutes? When was the last time a kid got 50 touches in a game?” – Paul Harvey, Coach at Oat Box Hill United, Australia.