Why bother with skills?

One thing I find useful about working indoors is the development of a player’s 1v1 skills. I had interesting conversation about the use of 1v1s this week and it caused me to stop and think about how and why I was coaching this skill.

On an indoor pitch the ball runs quick and true, which is ideal to work on skills. Outdoor pitches are not exactly going to help with the skills side of the game at the moment, as they are far too sticky, so why practice them? It’s an obvious answer, but developing young players is all about the future and building up their ball control skills.

So, we were working on skills this week and one of my Under 10s said: “where on the pitch would I use this?”

It was a great question and one to stump the watching adults. Where would you use a feint to get past a player? You certainly wouldn’t use it, if it takes you into a pack of players.

Kids like to see things in context and this was one context I had to explain. And the best way to explain is to use sessions that highlight areas to use them, such as counterattacks and wide areas to get past a player. Once the technique has been worked on, there has to be a game to put it into context.

Winning 1v1s

Players need a number of different ways to win 1v1s because if they are in a crowded penalty area and they receive the ball, how will they create space if the only skill I have taught them is the feint?

As coaches we are all great at talking about decision-making and how to coach it but the players have to have the skills, the context for those skills and a number of hours spent using them in game-like situations.


The players must be challenged so they think about why they should use this skill. The answer, they will see for themselves, is to create space to shoot or cross the ball.

We have a player who is nine and he is big for his age, so he doesn’t really need to use a skill when he is in a crowded penalty area – he can use the size of his body and his strength against the other players. My job is to create situations where he would use a skill to copy his hero Cristiano Ronaldo rather than relying on simple brute force.

Under pressure in a match he will always revert to strength – but we are working on that. My job is to make sure he has the relevant 1v1 tools to help him develop into a player that can cope when the rest of his age group finally catch him up in size and strength.

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