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Do you coach enough 1 v 1′s?

How many coaches in the UK (& parents!) do you hear on the touch line shout, ‘PASS!’ or even worse, ‘GET RID OF IT!’  Why do we never hear & encourage players to, ‘TAKE HIM ON!’?  It all comes down to our cultural & how we develop young players.  If we are not encouraging enough 1 v 1′s in training it certainly isn’t going to happen on the pitch.

1 v 1 high pressure drills are great

As football fans what do we love to see?  Well I love to see players dribble & take players on.  That is why so many of the legends of the game stand out simply for that reason.  George Best & Pele are to stand out players & more recently in the modern game we have players like Giggs, Ronaldo & Messi.  So with this in mind we should spend more time working on dribbling & 1 v 1 scenario’s in training.

I know a number of coaches that stop doing 1 v 1′s after kids are 10 because they feel they want to go on to ‘more advanced’ drills.  1 v 1′s are not only great to develop dribbling, skills & taking someone on but they are great for speed, fitness & development.  It’s not only junior teams performing 1 v 1′s but top European Clubs have their players working on them.  On my last club visit to SC Braga we watched the senior team perform 1 v 1′s, 2 v 1′s & 2 v 2′s.  They really worked the players in a tight area working on dribbling, skill, touch, speed & decision making.  Players obviously enjoy 1 v 1′s – especially if you have a target or goal at the end!

When I visited Barcelona they had all their youth teams performing 1 v 1.  It is such a simple game but simply played on different levels.  For example one of the Barca sessions involved players working in partners with a ball.  One would start with the ball on the throw in line with his partner facing him a couple of yards away.  They both nodded & played 1 v 1.  The attacker would try to dribble to the far side while the defender looked to gain possession at attack the line he was facing.  Simple?  Of course.  Effective?  Yes.  Result?  Players enjoy the session & Barcelona’s methods have been known to develop the odd good player ; )

Below you will find my session plan that focus on 1 v 1′s developing on to possession games that encourage 1 v 1 duels.

Please remember to stop long lines forming!  It is my one pet hate!  Set up a number of areas so you can divide your players.  It is fine to have a few players in a line as that will act as recovery for the players.  Also let the players see & feel your excitement.  If you see a player perform a great skill to beat the defender really applaud & cheer.  Don’t be a stuck up, boring coach – get down to the kids level & have fun!

1 V 1 Dribbling Game

1 V 1 Dribbling Game

Emphasis

Beat the defender.

Set-Up

One end line marked out with 2 cones 5 yards apart.  Also angle another 2 end lines either side at an angle.

Objectives

Attacker starts approximately 10 yards away from the end line.  They run with the ball trying to beat the defender & dribble through one of the end lines.  2 points through the central end line, 1 point for other angled end lines.

Defender wins 1 point for kicking the ball out or 2 points for winning the ball & playing to next attacker in line.

Avoid long lines!  Set up a couple of areas the same as above if you are working with large numbers.

Progressions

  1. Increase / decrease area depending on group size & success rate.
  2. Encourage attacking players to perform skills to beat the defender.

Coaching

  • Assertive, determined dribbling in tight space.
  • Speed of approach with the ball.
  • Good ball control.
Summary

This is a nice session for players to come into after a warm up (with the ball of course!)  I always feel the players motivation is better if there is a goal or reward at the end of it.  I simply operated the session as ‘every man for themself’!  They kept score from all successful 1 v 1 duels & were also able to add the points from any successful defending.
I then like to develop the session into a small sided game.  Basically taking the technical side of the session into a more tactical game.

Improving Passing & Movement

Improving Passing & Movement

Emphasis

Possession game focusing on passing, support & individual play.

Set-Up

40 x 40 yard area, 5 v 5 inside the grid with 3 neutral players.  Have a supply of balls around the outside of the grid to keep the game flowing.

Objectives

5 v 5 match inside the grid with 3 neutral players combining with the team in possession to make it 8 v 5.

A goal is scored by stopping the ball on your opponents end line (red top, blue bottom.)

Play 5 minute games or shorter depending on the fitness of the group.

Progressions

  1. Limit the touches.
  2. Bonus points for special combination, i.e. 1-2 or overlap.
  3. Attack either end, i.e. after scoring & giving possession to the other team you can keep it & attack the other line.
  4. Attack either side (all 4 sides of the square) but introduce mini goals to limit the area you can score along the line.

Coaching

  • Pass & move.
  • When to play & when to pass, beat the opponent on your own or with a 1-2 combination.
  • Quality passing.
  • Support play.
  • Work rate & movement on / off ball.
  • Communication.
Summary

As always I am flexible with how I set my sessions up.  As I was working more on 1 v 1 play I made the pitch smaller & tighter to try & create more 1 v 1 scenarios.  I had 16 boys report for training so I adapted the game to play 5 v 5 + 1 neutral player inside the area.  Another team of 5 played as wall players & simply played with the team in possession.  There was obviously an overload in attack but I don’t mind this as it offers success but at the same time it makes the team without possession work hard to win it back.  It also teaches how important ball retention is!  I played 4 minute high tempo periods.
I enjoyed this session as one team stood out for me in terms of being the most successful at the game.  What was their secret?  They were brave, if you like, took risks.  They weren’t afraid to take players on.  They also learnt by beating a defender they always then had a man over & they used it to their advantage.  Their decision making & movement on & off the ball was terrific.
It is also nice to offer players a goal to hit.  I added a simple 1 v 1 shooting session that is shown below.  I operated this using 2 goals so it kept the lines to a minimum & kept players moving.

1 V 1 Shooting

1 v 1 Shooting

Emphasis

1 v 1 with passing, dribbling, feinting, shooting & defending.

Set-Up

A group of players with a supply of balls position themselves behind a cone on the goal line midway between the goal & 18 yard line.

Another group of players position themselves behind a cone just outside the ‘D’.

Objectives

Player A passes the ball to player B.  Player B dribbles towards the goal, tries to feint player A & score.

If player B scores, or if player A wins the ball, play starts again with two new players.

Progressions

  1. Players rotate positions so that they both get an opportunity to attack & defend.
  2. Limit time to encourage speed.

Coaching

  • Accurate passing.
  • Feint & skills to beat the defender.
  • Speed.
  • Shooting technique.
  • Follow shots in.
  • Defensive technique.
  • Close down attacker but don’t dive in – jockey.
  • Position your body so that you can force attacker wide of goal.
  • Keep eye on ball & be patient.
  • Decision making.
Summary

This then led my session to the tactical game.  I refer to Barcelona a lot – but for good reason.  Not only is their ball retention superb but on the occasions they lose possession just watch how hard & quickly they look to win the ball back.  This is not pointed out enough.  The stars of Barca don’t receive enough credit for the work rate they put in to win the ball back.  For players to do this it must be coached, you must also add an incentive & reward for it being carried out right.
Below you will find my transition game to encourage my players to win the ball back as quickly as possible.

6 Second Transition Game

6 Second Transition Game

Emphasis

Teams are at their most vulnerable in terms of losing the ball in the first few seconds after gaining possession.  It is this transition period that we are looking at, both in terms of winning the ball back quickly & then keeping it.

The key is the first 6 seconds after losing the ball.  This period is when the opposition have not yet switched from defensive to possession mode.

The other key period is those 6 seconds after you have won the ball back & need to maintain possession during that critical period when your team is changing shape & finding space (going wide & deep.)

Set-Up

40 x 25 yard pitch with 2 mini soccer goals.  You can play 4 v 4 – 11 v 11 depending on the amount of players you have available.

Have a supply of balls in either goal.  Play starts with the goalkeeper rolling it out.

Objectives

In this game when a team lose possession they have 6 seconds to win the ball back (the coach counts this out loud.)  If they win it back in that time they are awarded a point (a goal.)

The idea is to double team & work frantically to get the ball back in the allotted time frame.  If they fail to achieve this they must then go to the centre & make sure they close all the gaps & limit the space for the opposition.

If they do win the ball back within 6 seconds, if they are high up the pitch they must look for an immediate goal scoring opportunity.  If they are in a more crowded midfield area they must look for an ‘outman’ who can get hold of the ball & maintain possession through the crucial 6 second period.

Progressions

  1. Adapt amount of players & size of pitch.
  2. Award bonus points for set amount of passes / time opposition keep the ball.

Coaching

Trying to win possession;

  • Concentrate on closing down – ‘PRESS’.  When a player goes to win possession players around them close space – tuck in.  Don’t dive in!
  • Keep shape, apply pressure while others react & drop off but cover space in behind.
  • Communication.
  • Nearest player pressures the ball.
  • On the call, ‘PRESS’, all players should look to win the ball off the opposition.

In possession;

  • Quality passing – weight & accuracy.
  • Decision making.
  • Support play.
  • Work rate on / off ball.
  • Receive ball side on.
  • Head up.
  • Play simple pass.
  • Look for space.
  • Use of width & depth.
Summary

My players love sessions like this as much as I do.  They receive so many touches of the ball.  The full session was carried out to such a high standard.  Always remember to reward your players with free play.  I offered 15 minutes free play at the end before carrying out a cool down.

Remember you can have full access to all my session plans by clicking here!  As always please add your comments & if you like to use the session & share with others please credit my work with a link back to my blog or coaching website.

U12 Training Session

I took a session for a local U12 side last week.  I always prefer my sessions to run smoothly so players aren’t standing about but also that each session is based around the same theme.  Last Thursday was an awful night.  Strong winds and rain so essential that the players were kept busy and always moving.  Likewise, having your coaching area set up so players can move from one thing to the next without you having to have them stand about and take time to re-set your coaching area.  I like to see all players with a ball during the warm up dribbling, performing skills and juggling the ball.

My warm up started with all players in a 10 x 10 yard grid with a ball.  I made a further 4 different coloured 10 x 10 grids in either corner.  This concept is taken from my great Dutch friend, Bert-Jan Heijmans.  All players remained in the centre grid dribbling the ball, perfoming skills & juggling the ball.  I then performed the ‘Ronaldo 7′ which is 7 different skills performed while the ball is stationary.  The idea is that your feet is furthest away from your brain so through repetition will lead to improvement on speed, reaction and the idea of performing skills on the pitch ‘without thinking about it’ or if you prefer, instinct.

I then worked on a spatial awareness game.  I had 16 players in the centre zone so I wanted them to react on my whistle and dribble at speed to either of the 4 outside grids.  If done correctly we would have 4 players in each grid.  The players had great success from this.  You can also operate a number of  ‘mini games’ within each grid like ’3 v 1′ or ‘Ball Hunter’.

My diagram below doesn’t exactly show what I have explained as it is another variation on my session.  If you add another grid in the middle and obviously base on the idea that the players will be split equally amongst the grids.

Dribbling Grid Game

Dribbling Grid Game

Emphasis

Dribbling, spatial awareness & listening skills game.

Set-Up

Great game if you are on your own as a coach or waiting for another group to finish before your allocated time meaning no set up time or little preparation.

Start the session inside a 10 x 10 yard grid using all the same colour of cones (although in my diagram you can’t see this the grid should appear in the middle with the other 4 grids on the outside.) All players have a ball & dribble around. While the players are doing that set up another 10 x 10 yard grid alongside it, but leaving a 10 yard safety area. This time use a different colour of cones.

Encourage players to look for space & perform skills. Again leave another 10 yard safety area & set up a third 10 x 10 yard area using another colour but keeping inside a ‘square’ shape. Finally set up a forth 10 x 10 yard area using a forth different colour of cones.

Objectives

With four different coloured 10 x 10 yard areas set up on the outside players should dribble within the centre grid.  On the coaches call players should dribble at speed to the outside grids.  I worked with 16 players so ideally there should be 4 players in each grid (unlike my diagram!)  On the next call players return to the centre grid.

This is an excellent session for players to improve their decision making & getting their head up.

Progressions

  1. Play mini games when players are in the outside grids like ’3 v 1′ & ‘Ball Hunter’.

Coaching

  • Dribbling skills.
  • Tricks.
  • Head up.
  • Look for space.
  • Change of direction / speed.
  • Awareness.
  • Listening skills.

Set up well so players don't stand about

It is essential to plan and set your session up so that it runs smoothly and players aren’t standing about getting cold, distracted & bored!
I wanted to work on 1 v 1′s and continue the theme of dribbling, skills, turns and work at a high tempo.  My next session was easily combined into the set up from the first part of my session.
With having 4 grids set up on the outside all I had to do at the start of the session was leave a couple of extra cones down in each grid for the mini goals.
Players then worked in their groups of 4, playing 1 v 1.  This in turn kept the high tempo but also allowed enough recovery for each player.
Having mini goals on either side of the grid insures players can change direction to beat & fool the defender.  Although if the defender should gain possession they then become the attacker.
Rotate players so that everyone has an opportunity to play both as an attacker and a defender.  I named the session after PSV as I viewed it at their Academy!

PSV 1 V 1

PSV 1 v 1

Emphasis

1 v 1 duel, beat the defender with a move at speed.

This is a simple session that I viewed at the PSV training ground.  The Academy played this at a high tempo.

Don’t have long lines although work in groups of 4-5 players per grid so each player receives a recovery period.

Set-Up

Set up 10 x 10 yard grids with a safety area between each one.

Players should position themselves at the top of the grid in the centre facing the defender at the bottom of the grid.

A mini goal should be placed on either side of the grid.

Objectives

Defender starts with the ball (red player).  They make a firm pass to the attacker (yellow player).

The attacker should meet the ball & both players come to the middle of the grid.  The attacker performs a skill & attacks one of the goals while the defender applies pressure.

Encourage the attacker to be brave, perform a skill & play at speed.  They should also be patient & if they cannot score in one goal look to switch & attack the other goal.

Progressions

  1. Increase / decrease area depending on age & group ability.
  2. Change roles so each player has an opportunity of being a defender & an attacker.
  3. If defender wins ball they can attack either goal.

Coaching

For attackers;

  • Accurate driven pass.
  • Good close ball control.
  • Assertiv, determined dribbling in tight space.
  • Use of both feet.
  • Change of direction.
  • Skills & turns.
  • Fakes.
  • Be direct.
  • Speed.
  • Be brave.

For defenders;

  • Deny time & space for opponents.
  • Pressure first touch.
  • Close down space quickly.
  • Jockey opponents.
  • Force player wide – away from gate.
  • Tackle opponent correctly – not from behind, make contact with ball & ensure correct timing.
  • Don’t go to ground unless the ball is played out of play.
  • Showing a player inside – outside.
I am always keen to take what is learnt in the technical session into a tactical themed game.  I thought the 5 goal game was perfect as it encourages spatial awareness with changing the point of attack.  The scoring system encourages 1 v 1 and dribbling as a player dribbling through the gates receives a goal.  It also combines team play & passing.  If a player passes to a team mate they receive 2 goals and to encourage movement and support the team is awarded a bonus goal for a 1-2.
I had 16 players so I played 5 v 5 + a neutral player (i.e. they play with the team in possession making it 6 v 5).  To keep all players active and not to over crowd the pitch I played another team of 5 as wall players.  They were spread around the outside of the pitch and were restricted to 2 touches and couldn’t be tackled but had to play at speed.  They could move up & down but not allowed to enter the playing area.  I played roughly 5 minutes a match with every team taking a turn as wall players.

5 Goal Game

5 Goal Game

Emphasis

Possession & combination game focusing on changing the point of attack.

Set-Up

2 equal teams play on half a pitch.  5 mini goals / gates are set up within the area using poles or dome cones.

You can adapt the size of the area & the amount of mini goals set up to suit your group.

Objectives

Teams combine to score a point through dribbling through the gates, passing through the gates or score a bonus point by playing a 1-2 / give-&-go through the gates.

Players are not allowed to score back-to-back goals in the same gate.

Progressions

  1. Add more mini goals / gates.
  2. Colour code certain gates, i.e. gates on the wing to encourage good width.

Coaching

  • Good first touch.
  • Quality passing.
  • Movement & work rate on / off ball.
  • Don’t force it through gate, look to open up & switch.
  • Always receive ball side on.
  • Awareness.
  • Communication.
I finished with small sided games with no restrictions (again I rotated the teams but the resting team played as wall players to stay active).  Apart from some encouragement, praise and lighted heartedness let the kids play – they listen to us coaches enough!
Let me have your thoughts on my session plan and if you have tried it.  Great to have feedback!  One thing you will see is that my players always have a ball at their feet.  With the session being set up so well players did not get cold or frustrated.  They were kept moving during the entire session and I kept my coaching points short and to the point.  They were that busy enjoying the session the gale force winds and rain were forgotten about!

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