The question asked is, 'Why is it said that small sided games are good for development of players?' The first point that always comes to mind concerns the fact that each player will touch the ball more. The obviousness of this point means that its importance is often over-looked. By touching the ball more, the player not only has more opportunities to improve his or her skill under the pressure of the game, he or she also has many more opportunities to make decisions as the game demands.
One of the major roadblocks to our development as a soccer nation is our inability to cope with the speed at which the world game is played. This is not pure physical speed; rather it is speed of thought and execution, the very elements small-sided games emphasize.
Of equal importance is the fact that each player is required to play a bigger role in each game. No player can be assigned a purely offensive or defensive role. All of the players must be involved in quickly transitioning from defense to offense when the ball is won, and from offense to defense, when the ball is lost.
When a player's team has the ball, he or she must become much more involved as part of the group that is attacking than is required in the 11 v 11 game. Similarly, when his or her team loses the ball, the player cannot expect others to carry the full responsibility of defending and winning the ball back. The game played on the world level often is won or lost by quick transition from offense to defense, or vice versa.
Another important product of the increased roles for each player in smaller-sided games is the development of concentration. The smaller numbers of players on each side requires each player to pay attention to where the ball is and what is going on around him or her. The ability to play the game on the world level demands incredible ability to concentrate for the full length of the game. Playing smaller sides increases the opportunities for players to develop such concentration.
Our kids are happy playing small sided games such as 8v8 at U8 now. Why upset the cart? Kids are happy playing in the mud, but that does not mean that they would not be much happier playing in the sand at the beach if they knew it existed and were given the chance to do so.
The issue really has nothing to do with upsetting the kids' apple cart, and that really is the problem. It is the adults' apple cart that is threatened. No it is more like the adults' orange cart, because the argument mixes apples and oranges. Adults have developed an organized system of leagues and tournaments, and created all kinds of periphery, based primarily on convenience and profit. It has nothing to do with development.
In essence, the organization of leagues and tournaments has procedural ramifications, but has nothing to do with the substantive issue of development, other than that maintaining the status quo is hindering development. There are virtually no substantive arguments against smaller sided play for these ages.
There is no expert in the game from any country that does not extol the value of smaller sided play for development. The "kids being happy" point is a red herring. Kids from all over the globe play the game in pick up games in their neighborhoods in much smaller numbers and in much smaller spaces. It is the game itself, not the numbers, that make kids happy.