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


Beat the defender.


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


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.


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


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

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


Possession game focusing on passing, support & individual play.


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.


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.


  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.


  • 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.

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


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


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'.


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.


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


  • 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.

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


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.)


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.


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.


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


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.

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.

4 Responses to “Do you coach enough 1 v 1’s?”

  1. Hi Tim,

    Nice post. My U14 players also love to practice 1v1 both offensive and defensive.

    We had a great 1v1 offensive week with two sessions some weeks ago. Where we progress from some feints to individual 1v1 game to SSG with emphasis on 1v1.

    I could send it to you, if you like.


  2. admin says:

    Cheers Daniel, would love to receive your session, email through to my normal address : )

  3. Ok I will. Just need to translate it from Danish to English…

    Unless Danish is fine with you 😛

  4. admin says:

    lol, I’ve just grasped English not to mention Danish lol.

Leave a Reply