Why 1v1 Soccer Drills are Essential for Youth Players

Modern soccer is a sport that requires high levels of individual skill. Players must be able to dominate 1v1 duels and link up with their teammates. 1v1 soccer drills for youth players are crucial in developing their skills and becoming more effective. In this article, we will highlight the benefits of 1v1 soccer drills, and how to incorporate them into sessions. We will provide some interesting statistics about 1v1 in the Champions League and some 1v1 drills of course.

Find out why 1v1 soccer drills are crucial for developing youth players. Discover the benefits and learn how to include these drills.

Benefits of Using 1v1 Soccer Drills for Youth Players

Developing Dribbling Skills

Dribbling is a fundamental skill in soccer. It allows players to keep possession of the ball and escape tight situations. Ideally, a player dribbling should be trying to move toward the opposition’s goal. 1v1 soccer drills help players to develop their dribbling skills by providing opportunities to practice dribbling under pressure from different opponents. Through these drills, players learn to dribble past defenders and make quick decisions on the pitch.

Improving Decision-Making

Soccer players have to make quick decisions. Players frequently make split-second decisions to pass, shoot or dribble the ball. Coaches need to design 1v1 soccer drills to improve their player’s decision-making skills under pressure. By providing players with a chance to practice 1v1’s in a game-like situation, helps players to become more confident and decisive on the pitch.

Enhancing Defensive Abilities

Defending is an important aspect of soccer. Top defenders can shut down opposition attacks and prevent their immediate opponent from progressing or scoring. Using 1v1 soccer drills for youth soccer players can help to develop a player’s defensive abilities by providing them with opportunities to practice against attackers in a 1v1 situation. Through these drills, players learn to mark, tackle, intercept, and block shots effectively.

Boosting Confidence

Confidence is a key factor to success in soccer. When players have confidence in their ability, they are more likely to take risks and try new things on the pitch. Success and repetition of 1v1 soccer drills help to build confidence by exposing players to different matchups and game-like situations. This, in turn, helps players to become more confident in their abilities because they get familiar and comfortable with the pressure that 1v1’s created.

How to Incorporate 1v1 Soccer Drills into Sessions

1v1 soccer drills for youth players

Start with Basic Drills

To start incorporating 1v1 soccer drills into sessions, it is important to keep it simple. 1v1’s can occur from a variety of different angles. Coaches should plan drills that are simple and easy to understand. They should focus on developing basic skills such as dribbling and tackling. Incorporating a goal or end product is also vital to successful 1v1 moments.

Add Complexity Gradually

As players become more comfortable with the basic drills, it is important to add complexity gradually. This can be done by increasing the difficulty of the drills or by introducing new skills such as passing and shooting. The coach could also introduce a second ball or a further transition to ensure that players gain exposure to the demands of the game.

Add Pressure

The pressure that players face in 1v1 moments can occur from a variety of angles. See below for some ideas to create different pressures on the players.

  • Facing the pressure: The attacker is running directly at the defender and is trying to get beyond the defender.
  • Pressure behind: The attacker has a defender behind them and they need to get turned to get beyond the pressuring defender.
  • Pressure on the sides: The attacker is under pressure on the sides and the space is either in front of them or behind them.

Coaches can increase pressure using time constraints or matching up players of similar levels. They can decrease pressure by fixing defenders into zones or by only allowing them to intercept rather than tackle.

Add Realism

The key with any 1v1 situation is to ensure it is a true reflection of something that might happen in a game. The coach can add target goals or gates to ensure that both players have an aim as opposed to just keeping the ball for the sake of it. When designing your 1v1 ask:

  • What position will the player be in when they receive the ball?
  • Where will the pressure come from?
  • What end product do I want?

The answers to these three basic questions should give you the make of a good 1v1 practice.

Incorporate Small-Sided Games

Small-sided games are an excellent way to incorporate 1v1 soccer drills for youth players. These games allow players to practice their skills in realistic situations while also developing their teamwork and communication skills. Another benefit of small-sided games is the volume of touches that a player experiences are far greater than that of a game with larger numbers. Tactical challenges can be incorporated into small-sided games. The players have to consider where and when to dribble.

Interesting Statistics about 1v1 in the Champions League

The Importance of 1v1 in the Champions League

Some of the stats below demonstrate the relevance of having youth players who can dominate 1v1 duels. At the highest levels of the game 1v1 skills are vital to the success of teams. Research shows that the teams who perform well in 1v1 situations are more likely to win the Champions League. In fact, the team that has won the Champions League in each of the last six seasons has had a higher percentage of successful 1v1s than their opponents.

  • According to UEFA, 1v1 situations account for 37% of goals scored in the Champions League. This highlights the importance of 1v1 skills in this highly competitive tournament.
  • In the 2020-2021 Champions League, there were over 6,000 attempted 1v1 duels, with a success rate of around 43%.
  • The team with the highest success rate in 1v1 duels in the 2020-2021 Champions League was Bayern Munich, with a success rate of 53.7%.
  • Lionel Messi, who is widely regarded as one of the best soccer players in the world, has a success rate of over 60% in 1v1 duels.
  • In the Premier League, the average success rate for 1v1 duels is around 44%.

These stats show that 1v1 duels are a significant part of the game, and success in these situations can have a big impact on a team’s performance. By incorporating 1v1 soccer drills into training sessions, youth players can improve their success rate in these duels and become more effective on the field.

Find out more UEFA Champions League stats HERE

1v1 Soccer Drills for Youth Players

1v1 Soccer- Central and Corner Goals

Drill Detail

Set up the playing area as shown. The players start on opposite sides of the playing area. The goals are reversed. The first red passes the ball to the black player opposite. The red player closes down. The black must touch the ball out of their feet and try to score in either of the mini goals. The black player may need to dribble and change direction before they score. If the red defender wins the ball they must dribble into any of the corners, beyond the dashed line.

Coaching Points

This drill requires the attacker to play with their eyes up. They must observe the defender’s actions and use their touch to give them time and space. Skills and changes or speed are essential to the attacker. They have to create distance between themselves and the defender once a skill has been performed. A quick reaction to defend is essential if the attacker loses the ball.

1v1 Dribble Beyond or Turn Back

Run the Drill

The playing area has the goals staggered. The players stand between the goals on opposite sides of the pitch. A halfway line is used as a reference point for the players. The red defender starts the practice by passing to the black attacking player. The attacker must get beyond the dashed line before they are allowed to score in either goal. The defender should press aggressively. If the defender wins the ball they score in the goal that they are facing (goal behind the attacker).

Key Detail

The attacker should be direct and get at the defender. They should try to commit the defender into making a tackle. The timing and disguise of any skills are important. The attacker should use these assets to deceive the defender and create a scoring chance. Turning out away from pressure is an option for the attacker, especially if the defender is really tough to best. It is important to react quickly to turnover in possession by applying immediate pressure.

Back to Play in a 1v1 Soccer Drill

Drill Organization

This drill is played with four players. One attacker and defender in the middle of the playing area and one target player at each end of the playing space. The playing area should have a central zone. The attacking player cannot receive a ball from the targets in the central zone, they have to have had a touch in the white outer zones before they can progress back through the shaded central zone. Once the attacker is in the shaded central zone they are allowed to pass to the opposite target.

To help improve ball retention the targets should always pass the ball to the designated attacker. If the defender wins the ball they pass it to a target player (Goal), who then passes back to the attacker. The attackers, defenders, and targets should be rotated regularly. The central attacker scores by working the ball from target to target. Try to keep a running score for the players.

Coaching Detail

Body position to receive the ball is essential. The attacking player must be aware of the defender’s pressure. The Red attacking players should try to hide the ball from the black defending player with their bodies. Ideally, the attacker should try to be forward facing and get beyond the defender into the central zone before passing to the opposite target. The attacker can use the target as a bounce player to get beyond the pressuring defender.


In conclusion, 1v1 soccer drills are essential for youth players to develop their skills and become better players. These drills provide players with opportunities to develop their dribbling skills, improve their decision-making, enhance their defensive abilities, and boost their confidence.

To incorporate 1v1 soccer drills into sessions, it is important to start with basic drills, add complexity gradually, and incorporate small-sided games. The importance of 1v1 skills in the Champions League further emphasizes the value of these drills in soccer development.

A final reminder would be to coaches. You must make sure that the player gets lots of exposure to different types of 1v1 moments and pressures. Be realistic about the success rate of the players. Encourage them to aim for an end product at the end of the 1v1.

So many players have a great moment of success in a 1v1 dribble then fail to retain the ball or set up a chance. Really push the narrative of the end product on everything the players do. Finally, be patient, Messi’s 1v1 success in the Champions League is only 60%.

Related Content

Here are some links to similar content that may be of some use.

This website provides some different 1v1 dribbling practices than the ones provided in this article. They can be found HERE

Frequent Questions

Are 1v1 soccer drills suitable for players of all ages? Yes, 1v1 soccer drills can be adapted to suit players of all ages and skill levels. They should be a mainstay in the program of any player development model.

What equipment is needed for 1v1 soccer drills? All you need for 1v1 soccer drills is a ball, cones, and a playing field. Mini goals are also useful to have for 1v1 moments as players love to put the ball in the back of the net. If you don’t have goals then use the cones to create gates.

How often should 1v1 soccer drills be incorporated into training sessions? 1v1 soccer drills should be incorporated into training sessions regularly to allow players to develop their skills consistently. Remember you must practice from a variety of angles with the pressure being applied at the front, sides, and from behind the attacker.

Are there any other benefits of 1v1 soccer drills besides skill development? Yes, 1v1 soccer drills can also help to develop teamwork, communication, and game understanding. There are also physical benefits in terms of speed, strength, Endurance, and agility. This makes 1v1 a great tool for coaches.

Can 1v1 soccer drills be used in team tactics and strategy? Yes, 1v1 soccer drills can be used to develop individual skills that can be incorporated into team tactics and strategy. For example pressing, in 1v1’s players can learn to press, close down, and slow down. The angle of the press can also be discussed.