Size matters: Pitch dimensions constrain interactive team behaviour in soccer

Wouter Frencken, Jorrit van der Plaats, Chris Visscher, Koen Lemmink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Pitch size varies in official soccer matches and differently sized pitches are adopted for tactical purposes in small-sided training games. Since interactive team behaviour emerges under constraints, the authors evaluate the effect of pitch size (task) manipulations on interactive team behaviour in small-sided soccer games. Four 4-a-side (plus goalkeepers) small-sided games were played: a reference game (30×20 m), length manipulation (24×20 m), width manipulation (30×16 m), and a combination (24×16 m). Using position data (100Hz), three measures quantifying the teams' interaction were calculated: longitudinal inter-team distance, lateral inter-team distance, and surface area difference. Means and standard deviations, correlations and coupling values were calculated. Running correlations were calculated over a 3-s window to evaluate interaction patterns. As expected, a shorter pitch results in smaller longitudinal inter-team distance, lateral inter-team distance decreased for narrow pitches, and smaller total playing area resulted in decreased surface area. Unanticipated, a crossover effect was present; length and width manipulations also triggered changes in lateral and longitudinal direction respectively. Inter-team distances and surface area difference differed significantly across conditions. Interaction patterns differed across conditions for all measures. So, highly tactically relevant, soccer teams seem to adapt their interactive behaviour according to pitch size in small-sided games. © 2013 Institute of Systems Science, Academy of Mathematics and Systems Science, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)85-93
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Systems Science and Complexity
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2013


  • constraints
  • dynamics
  • performance analysis
  • small sided games
  • tactics


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