In addition, there is another fundamental element of the 1v1 that is rarely included, but is vital to the game of football.
Football skills are often broken down into the ‘before, during, and after’ parts of an action. Yet, many practices simply focus on the ‘during’ part of skill execution. In the case of 1v1, this would involve the player on the ball doing turns or dribbling moves.
However, if the aim is to create game-realistic practices, as coaches we must consider what a player must do to earn the right to be in a 1v1 situation facing their opponent?
In my experience, most 1v1 practices ignore the ‘before’ part of the skill which involves all the actions required before receiving. This may include multiple movements, repeated scanning for space and/or opponents, and different decisions based on whether you are receiving the ball in space or marked by an opponent.
By simply allowing the players to face an opponent with the ball at their feet we may be reinforcing the message that skill is only done on the ball. Instead, it is crucial to encourage players to understand that pre-movements and clever off the ball movement are equally as important. If we don’t, we are probably doing the players a disservice as they will struggle to get on the ball during a game.
It is an issue that I discussed with Seb Tidey, academy coach at Gillingham FC, as part of the in-situ coach development work provided for academy clubs. Over the course of a number of weeks we worked together to discuss, reflect and adapt some 1v1 practice designs with a particular focus on the ‘before, during and after’ involved in 1v1 situations.
The result of the discussion can be seen in Seb’s practice design [see image three, below] which includes a front-screen player providing a challenge to the attacking players to move to get on the ball. Including a goal also improves the motivation for the attacking players. Likewise for the defender who is challenged to protect the goal.