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Principles of Training Games for Understanding in Soccer

Vasco Nunes Ph.D.


Training Games for Understanding (TGfU) is an instructional approach that emphasizes the use of

modified games to develop a deeper understanding of sports concepts and strategies.

Originally developed for physical education, TGfU has been successfully adapted for various

sports, including soccer. The primary goal of TGfU is to enhance players' decision-making skills,

tactical awareness, and overall game intelligence through active participation in game-like


1. Game-Centric Approach:

   - TGfU shifts the focus from isolated drills to small-sided or modified games that replicate real match situations. By engaging in actual gameplay, players develop a better understanding of how skills and tactics apply in different contexts.

2. Problem-Solving Emphasis

   - TGfU encourages players to analyze problems and make decisions on the field. For example, a coach might introduce a game where players need to break through a compact defense, fostering creativity and critical thinking.

3. Decision-Making under Pressure

   - Soccer is a dynamic sport where decisions must be made rapidly. TGfU creates an environment where players learn to make effective decisions under pressure, improving their ability to read the game and respond quickly to changing situations.

Examples of TGfU Activities in Soccer:

1. Conditioned Games:

   - Modify traditional games to focus on specific aspects of play. For instance, a coach may limit the number of touches each player can take, encouraging quick decision-making and precise ball control.

2. Small-Sided Conditioned Games

   - Use smaller field dimensions and fewer players to create scenarios that mimic various game situations. This allows players to experience the tactical nuances of different formations and strategies.

3. Game Simulations

   - Replicate real match scenarios during training sessions. For example, simulate a counter-attack situation or practice defending against set-pieces to reinforce specific aspects of the game.

4. Positional Play

   - Introduce game scenarios that focus on positional awareness. For instance, a coach may organize a training session where players work on maintaining defensive shape or executing effective build-up play from the back.


Benefits of TGfU in Soccer

1. Improved Game Understanding

   - TGfU enhances players' comprehension of soccer dynamics, helping them recognize patterns, make better decisions, and understand the interconnectedness of different aspects of the game.

2. Increased Motivation and Engagement

   - Players often find TGfU activities more enjoyable and engaging compared to traditional drills, fostering a positive training environment.


3. Transferability to Matches

   - The skills and strategies learned through TGfU are easily transferable to actual match situations, making training more relevant and effective

4. Holistic Development

   - TGfU promotes holistic player development by integrating technical, tactical, and cognitive aspects of the game, leading to well-rounded players.

Incorporating Training Games for Understanding in soccer training sessions can significantly enhance players' overall understanding of the game, promoting smarter decision-making and better preparation for the complexities of real match scenarios

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