If you’ve ever been to a Foot-Tech Academy session you’ll have seen a lot of 1v1 football training. It is something that forms a big part of our curriculum, but what is it and why do we use it so much?
What is 1v1
Quite simply it is one player versus another player in an opposed practice. It can have a variety of aims - score a goal, keep possession - and you can do so much with it.
You can have a traditional 1v1 or you can do things such as 1v1v1v1 (think ‘Wembley’ or ‘Cuppy’ when we were kids!). You can adapt 1v1 sessions in a variety of ways to meet the aims of your session and the ability of your players.
Why we do it
This goes back to the conversations we had when we set up Foot-Tech in 2014. We identified a few areas that have impacted junior football in recent years:
A shift in mentality of young players. The rise of Pep’s Barcelona coincided with youth footballers becoming more interested in passing and creating as opposed to dribbling past defenders and scoring goals.
Grassroots football matches (to a certain age) were/are played mostly as friendlies.
Societal attitudes have changed. We don’t see as many kids playing football in the street or park anymore; particularly in winter time. The rise of in-home entertainment i.e. consoles, tablets etc has impacted this as well as increased child safety issues.
The FA revamped their coaches training to ensure English coaches were aiming to make junior players technically better.
Diving and play acting has become prominent in the Premier League and young players will often see their hero’s falling to the floor with the slightest touch.
So, in my opinion, I found players were becoming better on the ball but losing some of that competitiveness/aggression that was synonymous with the English game. The ‘Street Footballer’ was slowly dying out.
My view was pretty much validated at the trials for our County Representative Team. I was coach of the u18’s at the time, who were probably around 11/12 years old when the obsession with possession football began and who all will have felt the impact of the above points. I can't tell you just how much we struggled to identify strikers/forward players who simply wanted to score goals. On the flip side, we were spoilt for choice when it came to ‘number 10’s’.
Now, having players who were perhaps technically better than their same age-group counterparts of 5-10 years ago was great, but had we gone from one extreme to the other?
Could we create a curriculum that would develop both elements so we have a more complete footballer; technically advanced but with the desire to go win the ball, take players on when required and channel some positive aggression.
We didn’t see the point in being able to master a football if you don’t have the confidence to take on a player in a game situation. Add that to the fact that 1v1 situations happen all over the pitch - winger v full back, striker v centre back, centre mid v centre mid etc etc - it had us wondering why 1v1 drills were not more prominent in grassroots training.
We certainly aren't suggesting that passing/possession practices be totally binned off. It all has a place - we love a Rondo at Foot-Tech! However, passing is as reliant on your team mates' ability as it is your own, so we wanted to give the power to the individual. Be a good passer but have the ability to take matters into your own hands (or feet!) as an when required.
Pep’s Barca were the best club side I have ever seen. The football was beautiful to watch. Much was made of their possession style but not enough was made of the ability of the forward players to beat an opponent.
Iniesta, Xavi and even Busquets were masters of creating space for themselves with a drop of the shoulder to ghost past a man. And lets not forget what the little Argentinian fella upfront was doing to defences on a regular basis! How many games will Barca have won as a direct result of Messi’s dribbling? Passing will get you so far but there comes a time when you need some magic.
Lastly, 1v1 is fun! Who doesn't enjoy the thrill of trying tricks and taking on opponents? It is one of the most exciting parts of football so why not focus on teaching kids how to do it? It increases confidence in both attack and defence and they will experience 1v1 several times in a game so they need to be ale to handle it.
We have been going for just over 2.5 years and the results we have seen in our members has been fantastic.
It is the confidence factor that has really struck us. They are much more comfortable with the ball and are brave enough to want it under pressure. That has long been a trait of foreign players; they will happily take the ball with a man-on. We are pleased to see that happening with our members.
We have also seen an increase in desire to win the ball back if they lose it. In a 1v1 practice if you lose it, the opponent will invariably score…unless you work to stop that. It is black and white so, at the risk of losing, they will do all they can to get the ball back. Some of the ‘battles’ we see every week are amazing to watch.
For newer players we see a quick development. There is no hiding in a 1v1 so it is a case of get involved or get beat. They soon realise that just simply working hard and not giving up can yield results. Over time they increase their ability to beat their opponent but, for the less advanced players, they see good initial results from defending well and frustrating the attacker into mistakes.
A lot of it comes down to you as a coach. We allow the players to make mistakes and encourage creativity. We also praise effort on the defending side to help reinforce the hardworking mentality and we insist on fair play - 1v1 can sometimes frustrate some players into fouling so keep an eye on that. Matching them up ability wise at the start is a potential remedy for this.
All in all 1v1 works so many key areas in a junior footballers development. Adding them to your training sessions will yield positive results for the team and the individual from both a football and softer-skills perspective.
For any advice on 1v1 training please feel free to get in touch at email@example.com