Human Limits

Exploring performance and health with Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

Photo of Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

Football (soccer) Learning: 4 on 4 Beats 5 on 5!

David Epstein the author of the Sports Gene circulated this note to his e-mail posse:

“Mike, I’d totally read you blogging your thoughts about this:

The link is about optimizing skills acquisition and learning in football/soccer. The take home message is that for indoor versions of the game played by primary school kids there more learning goes on with 4 on 4 vs. 5 on 5 games. In other words more touches per player, more and better passing, and more periods of continuous play.


My Response: This is so Triangle!

David, this is so triangle offense. All old school basketball coaches break the game down into 2 on 2 and 3 on 3s. If you also look at fast break drills and other traditional b-ball drills they are all 3 on 2 with a trailer. The whole point of all of this is to; 1) generate spacing, 2) that passes are faster than running or dribbling, and 3) to “feel” the pressure from the defense and generate a mismatch.

This is why the Spurs win, why John Wooden said later in his life that the women’s game was better than the men’s, and why Pop hired Becky Hammon etc.

I have the Wooden/Sharman book of b-ball drills I picked up someplace and it is all in there.

This is also classic Soviet ice hockey and Herb Brooks as well.


David’s Response

See! Ha…I knew it. You should just post this…….


2 Responses to “Football (soccer) Learning: 4 on 4 Beats 5 on 5!”

  1. November 27th, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Mark Carter says:

    Glad you read the article.

    The take home message is actually:

    “The biggest factor in determining learning per child is how many children are sitting watching as substitutes rather than playing. ”

    There are other important messages about competition, environment and development also.


  2. November 27th, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Mike Joyner says:

    Thx Mark, of course the number of kids playing vs. watching makes a difference. But to me a key message was the structure of the game (or practice) and the parallels to ideas about spacing and passing seen in other games used by well known coaches of adults. The data in your tables is striking.

    So maybe I got a second take home message!


Leave a Reply