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The effect of pitch size manipulation during small sided-games performed by different age category football players: a pilot study

  • Mário C. Espada1,2,3,*,
  • José M. Gamonales4,5,6
  • Carlos E.L. Verardi7,8
  • Dalton M. Pessôa Filho7,9
  • Cátia C. Ferreira1,4
  • Ricardo A.M. Robalo1,10
  • Amândio A.P. Dias11
  • Víctor Hernández-Beltrán4
  • Fernando J. Santos1,2,10

1Escola Superior de Educação, Instituto Politécnico de Setúbal, 2914-504 Setúbal, Portugal

2Life Quality Research Centre (CIEQV-Leiria), 2040-413 Rio Maior, Portugal

3CIPER, Faculdade de Motricidade Humana, Universidade de Lisboa, 1499-002 Lisboa, Portugal

4Optimization of Training and Sports Performance Research Group, Faculty of Sport Science, University of Extremadura, 10005 Cáceres, Spain

5Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Francisco de Vitoria, 28223 Madrid, Spain

6Doctoral Program in Education & Technology, Universidad a Distancia de Madrid, 28400 Madrid, Spain

7Department of Physical Education, São Paulo State University (UNESP), 17033-360 Bauru, SP, Brazil

8Graduate Program in Developmental Psychology and Learning, Faculty of Science, São Paulo State University (UNESP), 17033-360 Bauru, SP, Brazil

9Graduate Program in Human Development and Technology, Institute of Bioscience, São Paulo State University (UNESP), 13506-900 Rio Claro, SP, Brazil

10Faculdade de Motricidade Humana, Universidade de Lisboa, 1499-002 Lisboa, Portugal

11,Egas Moniz Center for Interdisciplinary Research (CiiEM)

12 Egas Moniz School of Health & Science, 2829-511 Caparica, Portugal

DOI: 10.22514/jomh.2023.110

Submitted: 30 May 2023 Accepted: 25 July 2023

Online publish date: 16 November 2023

*Corresponding Author(s): Mário C. Espada E-mail:


This research aimed to analyse the pitch size manipulation effect on internal and external load and to study the age effect on the studied variables in different small-sided games (SSGs) formats. Male U-12 (n = 8), U-15 (n = 8) youth football players, and U-23 (n = 8) professional cohorts participated in the study. Two SSGs formats were analyzed, goalkeeper (GK) + 4 vs. 4 + GK, 3 minutes play in 20 × 30 m and 24 × 36 m, with 3 minutes rest between bouts. The variance analysis Anova two-way was used to analyse two independent factors, pitch size, and age group. The playing area manipulation had an effect under the following variables: distance (p < 0.001), speed 0–6 km/h (p < 0.001), speed 12–18 km/h (p < 0.001), speed 18–21 km/h (p < 0.001), accelerations (Ac.) 1–2 m/s2(p < 0.001), decelerations (Dc.) 2–3 m/s2 (p < 0.001), metabolic power (Pmet) (p < 0.001) and high metabolic load distance (HMLD) (p < 0.001). The age group influenced the distance covered (p < 0.001), speed 0–6 km/h (p < 0.001), speed 6–12 km/h (p < 0.001), speed 12–18 km/h (p < 0.001), speed 21–24 km/h (p = 0.030), Ac. 1–2 m/s2 (p < 0.001), Ac. 1–2 m/s2 (p < 0.001Pmet (p < 0.001), HMLD (p < 0.001) and training impulse (TRIMP)(p < 0.001). Playing area manipulation in football SSGs promotes an increase in external load intensity, namely, larger areas are suitable for larger effects at high speeds (>21 km/h) and TRIMP. A careful and detailed evaluation of training tasks, considering the different age category football players, is important to optimize the planning in football, aiming at improving players’ condition and performance and avoiding health problems and injuries.


Reduced games; Global positioning system; Training; Internal load; External load

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Mário C. Espada,José M. Gamonales,Carlos E.L. Verardi,Dalton M. Pessôa Filho,Cátia C. Ferreira,Ricardo A.M. Robalo,Amândio A.P. Dias,Víctor Hernández-Beltrán,Fernando J. Santos. The effect of pitch size manipulation during small sided-games performed by different age category football players: a pilot study. Journal of Men's Health. 2023.doi:10.22514/jomh.2023.110.


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