8 striking benefits of training 1v1s

As I wrote in the Coach’s Column last week, I believe 1v1 training activities have an amazing number of significant benefits.

They produce improvements in players in technical, tactical, physical and psychological areas.

Having written in the last issue about the different types of 1v1 scenarios we can introduce to players, here are the various potential benefits to giving players a good amount of 1v1 training…

01 – FUN

Simply put, 1v1 activities are among the most enjoyable games for players. And there is plenty of research to support the idea that enjoyment is connected to learning.

One reason why 1v1 activities are so enjoyable is scoring chances come every few seconds – whether into a small or big goal, by dribbling through a gate or into an endzone, or hitting a target player. In bigger- sided activities, it can take minutes to score a goal. But in 1v1s, they happen constantly.


Soccer is a player’s game, not a coach’s game. Players need to learn creative ways to solve problems and 1v1 activities are a great way to help players develop this critical aspect to their game.


The game of soccer is all about space – recognizing where space is on the field and how to exploit it.

Using 1v1 activities, especially multi-goal games, can help players develop an ability to constantly assess where space is, where their immediate opponent is, and where they should find space to attack.


Similar to the previous point on awareness, playing 1v1 training games constantly puts players in situations where they need to learn where to play their first touch to avoid opponent pressure, to push the ball past an opponent, to secure the ball, or to keep it from going out of bounds.


Players need to learn creative ways to solve problems – and 1v1 activities can help with this


In a full-sided match, all players become defenders when the opponent has the ball, regardless of position. They need to understand how to pressure an opponent, how to delay and how to win the ball.

Using 1v1 activities provides players with a higher amount of these opportunities than any other kind of activity that could be worked on in a training session.


I don’t 100% agree with the statement ‘the game is the best teacher’. But there is some merit to it – 1v1 games can be a great teacher.

Each time players try a move or turn based on the positioning of their opponent, they get instant feedback on success or failure. And each time they are not aware of where the ideal space to attack is, they learn a mini- lesson on how they can improve next time.


In 1v1 training games, each player relies only on themselves and they are matched up with a direct opponent. There is nowhere to hide, and errors are often punished.

I don’t want to make 1v1 activities seem brutal. But our sport is competitive and our players need to be placed in competitive, challenging situations – and 1v1 training games provide this environment instantly.


All 1v1 training games are physically demanding. Having players play them for 60 or 90 second intervals can develop certain aspects of soccer-specific fitness, as well as soccer-specific movement patterns and functional speed and agility.

All of these are preferable to having younger players do laps, sprints or run through speed ladders.

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