Small-sided games in soccer: amateur vs. professional players' physiological responses, physical, and technical activities

J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Sep;25(9):2371-81. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181fb4296.


The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between the playing level in soccer (i.e., amateur vs. professional players) and the physiological impact, perceptual responses, time-motion characteristics, and technical activities during various small-sided games (SSGs). Twenty international players (27.4 ± 1.5 years and 17.4 ± 0.8 km·h(-1) of vVO(2)max) and 20 amateur players of the fourth French division (26.3 ± 2.2 years and 17.0 ± 1.2 km·h(-1) of vVO(2)max) played 9 SSGs (i.e., 2 vs. 2, 3 vs. 3, and 4 vs. 4) in which the number of ball touches authorized by possession varied (1 ball touch authorized = 1T, 2 ball touches authorized = 2T, and Free Play = FP). Heart rate (HR), blood lactate ([La]), subjective perception of effort (rating of perceived exertion [RPE]), physical performance, and technical performance of all players were analyzed during all SSGs. Across the various SSGs, amateurs completed a lower percent of successful passes (p < 0.01), recorded higher RPE and [La] values, lost a greater amount of ball possessions (p < 0.001), and covered less total distance with respect to sprinting and high-intensity running (HIR). The HR responses, however, were similar when expressed as %HRmax and %HRreserve. The comparison of the professional and amateur soccer players' activities during SSGs showed that the playing level influenced the physiological responses, physical and technical activities. Consequently, this study has shown that the main differences between elite and amateur players within SSGs concerned their capacity to perform high-intensity actions (HIR and sprints) and execute various technical abilities (in particular number of ball lost per possession and percentage of successful passes).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletes*
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lactic Acid / blood
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Exertion / physiology
  • Running / physiology
  • Soccer / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis


  • Lactic Acid