Coaching 1v1 situations is a key part of player development. It allows us to coach a broad range of skills and moments of the game, enables kids to develop attributes that will benefit them as they progress to larger-sided games, and is beneficial for players of all ages and abilities. Here, we examine the value of 1v1s in player development and consider how to incorporate them in our sessions.

In This Article

What are 1v1s?

1v1s Mean different things to different people; while some coaches associate 1v1 dominance with dribbling and tricks, others consider it the ability to wriggle out of tight situations, and this variance is reflected in the range of ways we can coach 1v1s.

“You can even coach 1v1 playing out from the back,” says PDP Co-Founder Dave Wright. “After all, there are lots of occasions where center-backs have to cope 1v1 — they might be pressed 4v4 or 3v4 by opposition attackers — and they need to have those skills when they progress to 11-a-side football.”

Ultimately, factors like a player’s age, ability, position, and the stage they’re at in their development will determine the types of 1v1 duels they experience on gameday. And this should influence how we coach 1v1s in our sessions.

The Benefits of 1v1s

One advantage of 1v1s is the fun factor they can bring to training. “There’s a lot of enjoyment to be had in getting players into 1v1 duels,” says Wright. “We can make it competitive, maybe keep score, and get the kids having fun with it.”

From a developmental perspective, 1v1s afford great opportunities to work on individual possession. “Teaching kids to retain the ball, be brave, take lots of touches, be able to get into a duel and wriggle out — these, for me, are crucial things,” explains Wright.

“In the UK we do a lot of ball mastery, and then there can be a massive leap into playing in a team and making it resemble the adult game,” adds PDP Technical Advisor Dan Wright. “There’s probably a space in-between where we can work on the ‘run, retain, release’ part of the game.”

“We start with mastering the ball, but we probably spend too much time unopposed. I think we could jump to interference, to create more of that space where you’ve got to stay on the ball and find a way out.” This approach was infamously adopted by the Belgian FA, which successfully overhauled its model of player development to focus on smaller-sided games centered around individual duels.

1v1s Are also invaluable due to their versatility. “There are three moments of the game: attack, defense, and transition,” explains Dave Wright. “Those three moments exist within the 1v1, so it allows you to coach any number of things. You may choose to go into it with a theme, or you may work 1v1s from different angles, see what you observe, and change the experience accordingly. There’s so much within that moment that represents the game that it’s critical in player development. I think players of all ages need to be doing this.”

Tailoring 1v1s

We can also incorporate representative design into 1v1s, taking moments that our players experience on gameday and recreating them intraining. For example, if we have a winger who is struggling with their decision-making, we could use the same area of the pitch, match them against a fullback, and recreate that picture over and over.

“Taking that moment of the game and shining a light on it: it’s representative, there’s repetition, and it’s realistic,” says Dave Wright. “That’s how you can take a 1v1 idea and then apply it within a team context.”

Alternatively, with younger players, we can simplify 1v1s, perhaps likening the practice to a video game and giving them a ‘mission’. “You receive the ball, the goal is behind you, the pressure’s coming from behind, and your mission is to somehow turn around and go forward,” suggests Dan Wright. “It’s another way of exploring different types of 1v1s. And different players will have different ways of attempting it. That’s a nice thing to explore with kids when they’re young; what are their super strengths?”

“1v1s Enable us to talk about all of these things: moments of the game, signature strengths, age groups… it’s a melting pot of complexity.”

The Key Points

  • 1v1s Can be a great way to inject fun and competitiveness into our sessions.
  • It’s essential that we work on individual possession, helping kids to develop ball mastery under pressure, not just unopposed.
  • We can use representative design to make 1v1s resemble specific moments in the game.
  • We should encourage players of all ages to develop their skills in 1v1 situations.

Image Credits: Unsplash

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