Training vs. 5-a-side: What's Your Odds-on Favourite?

Published on September 3, 2008

There comes a time in every great club when a key decision needs to be made. As Chairman, I want to get everyone's thoughts on this immediately, as it could alter our existence in a number of ways. The topic of discussion for this post is "Training vs 5-a-side".

Over the last couple of weeks we've had very enjoyable training sessions down at Xiaowuji on Wednesday evenings. The weather has been nice and at the beginning of the season numbers are always high. There have been no 5-a-side matches so far, but this week ClubFootball is kicking off a new round of 5s matches which sees both the As and Bs compete on different days.

This raises a number of questions:

  • Do we want to have both training and 5s midweek? If yes, what day is best for training? If no, do we drop training or do we kick 5s into touch?
  • What are the benefits of regular training and how does that compare to the benefits of 5-a-side?
  • What would happen if training became compulsory and we kept 5s alive through a combination of A and Bs?

These are all important questions and it's something the management have discussed time and time again. I now open the floor to you all to share your thoughts on the idea. Training obviously has its benefits, but are the benefits great enough to sacrifice 5s. More importantly, are you guys committed enough to come to train when it's minus 10 degrees outside? Or simply put, do you just prefer playing 5s?

I look forward to your comments.


The Chairman

[We received a good deal of feedback on this question. Below are the comments from the original post, which was in our old Wordpress blog.]

#1 jay jay on 09.01.08 at 7:24 pm
The 5 a-side is just like a training session except the fact that we have the competition as an added value. It brings us together for a good challenge every Wednesday evening. (B's have been in 3rd div for 2 years!!)
We cannot cancel it. The training we did the past two weeks is great to get back in shape after the summer. We should keep them as well for the beginning of the season at least, perhaps another month. I would suggest to have more exercises with ball controls instead of killing us running from one side to the other of the pitch 25 times and do push ups if we lose. :)
#2 siriDyal on 09.01.08 at 7:58 pm
I am relatively new to the Barbarians. This will be my first full season as I came half-way through last season to play with the B's.
As you mentioned this debate has gone on for a long time with the main two arguments probably being: 5-a-sides are fun, but don't really help the team/club as a whole when it comes to full field matches, and while practice really helps with strategy and team cohesiveness on the field it's not that fun and probably doesn't have that great of a turnout.
For a team to play well together it needs to practice. My understanding was that the A's were more serious and intent on winning and therefore had practices, while the B's, while we like to win, are in it more for fun.
I play with the B's 5-asides as well. And what I've found is that in general you have some of the core players of the 11′s that try to make it every week, while there are quite a few players that only make it for the 5′s who I've never seen play 11′s.
Though the B's are in it more for fun I think we would win more and therefore be happier individuals should we have formal practice together at least every other week (which seems doable).
All of that being said, my simple answer is: yes. Formal practice is more beneficial than 5-a-sides. If practice every week is too much, then make it every other week (with at least one mandatory practice per month...?).
#3 Philip Heggli on 09.03.08 at 12:02 am
Dropping 5-a-side will get a lot of people disgruntled. Me included. Having a training and a 5-a-side along with 11-a-side on the weekend sounds ridiculous too. Perhaps training should be organised when there isn't a 5-or 11-a-side match in the week. Pre-season worked out great in this sense.
#4 Jerry Geng on 09.04.08 at 10:22 am
I hope to keep 5s for practice in mid week.
#5 Striker Dan on 09.11.08 at 11:33 pm
I think they're both very useful for a number of reasons, primarily fitness, which is key if we want to do well in a long league competition this season. So why can't we have both?
The current situation is ridiculous with fives on the same day as training, so why not switch one? I guess fives is harder to switch, as it's out of our hands, so why not stick training on another night? We can train anywhere (don't need goals), anytime, even on those little pitches outside your house, Rich, so finding a location can't be that hard, especially with Mr. ClubFootball on our side.
If we switch training we could then encourage everyone to also go to fives. We could have, say, three teams in each fives tournament made up of all the 15-20 guys who turn up to training each week and whom, I'm sure, would also love fives.
Importantly, the three teams should be randomly chosen each week. So no A-, B-, C- teams, just Barbars Reds, Barbars Whites, Barbars Blues, for example (Dave could pick the teams on email the day before so people know what colour top to wear). That way we'll get A-team players playing with B-team players, which will help with Club camaraderie, and we won't get people getting too competitive about it. Save that for the 11s at the weekend.
We would, however, keep needing to stress the importance of Club training. Let's not forget, fives is basically just a laugh. If we want to install some sort of discipline into the two 11-a-side teams we must have training. Otherwise the whole thing just becomes a bit of a joke that no one's really that bothered about.
I know this is all too late for this current five-a-side tournament, but it's maybe something to think about for the next one?
Hope that helps. See some of you tonight, the rest on Sunday (see, stupid, isn't it?)
#6 Dave C. on 09.11.08 at 11:36 pm
(In response to comment #5)
Dan, I like your ideas a lot, and we have discussed similar plans already, though no final decision has been made. I just want to clarify something for everyone about the 5s, which may help in coming to a solution for the 5s/training issue.
For the ClubFootball leagues, a player cannot switch teams more than once during a season (and I'm not even sure if they allow one switch anymore, though I know they used to). This applies to switches between teams in the same league. (There are two leagues: the North League, playing in Si De Park and Chaoyang Park, and the new South League, playing at Xiaowuji.) However, one player can play on one team in the North League and one team in the South League simultaneously.
Currently the Barbars A team plays in Division 2 and the Bs play in Division 3; both are in the North League. Unless we're very careful about keeping track of who plays when, it would be best to have most of the switching of players happening between the North and South League teams.
That point addresses the idea of random 5s teams, which I like a lot. But an even bigger problem with any weeknight planning is that it's hard to have players switching nights all the time and still expecting strong attendance. Getting a team together on weekends is hard enough, but weeknights can be even more difficult, because of the late finish times and all the other things we've all got going during the week. In my experience, it's much easier to get consistent participation when guys know that Thursday night is 5s night (or training night), so that they can plan around it for work, family, etc.
Of course, one way around this is to try and schedule things so our 5s teams are all on one night. Our options here are limited by the league, however, and will tend to put us in with lower divisions. That is, we could request to be moved down a division or two to make it fit our schedule, but obviously we can't ask to move up. In addition, there are four seven-week 5s seasons per year. We could be promoted or relegated in any given season, which might require further juggling with the schedules each time.
To give everyone enough rest, the best solution would be to have one activity (5s or training) on a Tuesday and the other on a Thursday. But even if we work out the schedule, it will be tough to get people going to both throughout the season. Moreover, at least a few people prefer 5s to training. Say all you want about commitment, but that's the way it is, and pushing too much is only going turn some guys off completely.
#7 Striker Dan on 09.11.08 at 11:39 pm
And so, here's what I think now (in response to comment #6)
Thanks for explaining everything about not being able to switch fives teams, Dave. Kind of kicks my idea into touch, but not much we can do about that.
Glad to hear training will change days from next week. Rich, I know what you mean about Thursday being the ideal day for training but, at the end of the day, training on Tuesday is still far better than not training at all. And if it gives players the chance to practice twice a week (first at training, then at fives), then better still.
I would say, though, that if there aren't extra fives places for those of us who currently go to training each week, then the switch isn't going to benefit anyone apart from the five or six players who currently do fives but can now also attend training. Still, that's better than the current situation, i.e. training without the A-team's three most senior players, including the captain and the goalkeeper!
I still think there would be enough interest to fill three Barbars teams in Thursday's fives leagues, as long as it was discussed seriously at training one week and as long as people were made aware of the fact that it would be a season-long commitment.
By the way, I still think we should call those three teams Red, Blue and White (or something similarly innocuous) rather than A, B and C, even if players can't switch from one team to another. That way we can mix it up a bit. And we won't have people thinking, "s__t, I'm playing for the Barbars' worst fives team."
#8 davecarini on 09.22.08 at 11:56 pm
Thanks to Dan for posting my comments. Here are some other things I'd like to say in response to his most recent comments (comment #7):
Personally, I love playing 5s and if forced to choose would probably take weeknight 5s over weekend 11s. I like the fast action -- unlike 11s, you're always involved in the play. I like the quick counterattacks and the quick shifts from attack to defense. I like the focus on passing and ball control. I like the referees, who are generally much better than what we get for 11s matches. I like the relative lack of dangerous fouls (sliding is illegal) and faked injuries, both of which I see all too often in 11s. I like having to run so hard that I need one or two quick rests on the bench each match. I like the reasonable costs (usually about 40 RMB per week).
I'm not saying that I dislike 11s, but I want to make the point that for me at least, 5s is very fun and not just a supplement to 11s.
The Barbs have been in the CF 5s league since the beginning, playing several seasons/tournaments a year over the past few years. There is an expectation that we will continue to participate, and we have already committed to the league. Additionally, our 5s participation has always been rooted in a desire among MANY club members to play during the midweek time and in the 5s format. Last spring the club fielded two full 5s teams and on some weeks had to turn some guys away because both teams already had 9-10 players. We recognized that, in the absence of any other midweek activities, it has greatly helped with our fitness, skills, and teamwork. It also has served as a way to find new players, give new recruits a place to "try out" for the Barbs, and help keep certain players (those who aren't getting much playing time on the weekend) happy.
I'd like to hear from the rest of you about the relative importance of ALL of our various club activities (11s, 5s, training, darts, social events, recruiting, etc.) and whether we should promote some at the expense of others, if needed. Traditionally, we have tried to accommodate as much as possible, and I am in favor of continuing in that spirit. There are plenty of things we COULD do to try and improve performance, aside from training. Two extreme examples: no drinking the night before a game, and no smoking at all. Both would probably help a lot, but the loss in overall team spirit and players fleeing for other clubs would hurt us far more than the improvements in individual performance.
Whether it's sitting on the bench weekend after weekend, coming to training regularly, or anything else, I suspect there's a limit to what many of us are willing to do in terms of preparation for 11s. I'm not saying we should accept the current level of commitment, but we need to be realistic about how much we can change. At the end of the day, we're a bunch of weekend warriors in a city where people are coming and going all the time. Even our core players can't make it all the time due to conflicts with work, family, travel, etc. For most of us, soccer is a fun activity, a way to get some exercise, and a chance to hang out with the boys.

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