The effects of two versions of the games for understanding approach on the application of tactics, motor skills and physical fitness of grade four children
The aim of this study was to determine the effects of participation in a single sport small-sided games (SSG) programme compared to a multi-sport SSG programme on the physical fitness, gross motor coordination, soccer skills and application of tactics during soccer games of grade four children from a disadvantaged community. Two intact classes of boys and girls (n= 39 and n=40) participated in a six-week, 2x per week intervention programme. One class specialized in soccer and the other engaged in a diversified programme where they sampled hockey and team handball along with soccer. In terms of pedagogy, both classes followed a deliberate play model with its focus on intrinsic learning and non-intervention by a coach. Data were collected during pre-, post- and retention test periods. Both boys’ groups achieved significant improvements in their muscle endurance-push-ups, power and aerobic endurance on the retention test. Only the boys who participated in the multi-sport SSG programme achieved a significant improvement on their muscle endurance-sit-ups. The girls from both groups showed significant improvements in all physical fitness variables, with the exception of the girls in the muti-sport programme who did not achieve a significant improvement in their speed. Significant improvements were experienced by all groups for gross motor coordination and soccer skills. The boys in the soccer SSG programme demonstrated improvements in both offensive and defensive tactics while the boys in the multi-sport SSG programme improved in the application of their defensive tactics only. The girls who participated in the soccer SSG programme also improved in their defensive tactics while the girls who participated in the multi-sport SSG programme achieved improvements in their application of both offensive and defensive tactics. The results of this study support proponents of the Developmental Model of Sport Participation as presented in current sport pedagogy literature, who claim that the physical and tactical benefits pre-pubescent children derive from participation in a diversified games programme will be similar to those benefits derived from participation in a specialized sport-specific game programme, providing the sports involved are late specialization sports. These results support the conclusion that it is not necessary for pre-pubescent children to specialize in a late specialization sport such as soccer in order to progress in their ability to play soccer. They can make similar progress if they participate in a diversified games programme that provides them with a broader experience with sports that have similar physical and tactical requirements.