Youth Soccer Development: The #1 Skill to Have

Here’s a gem you can use to REALLY up the sometimes dismal youth soccer development we got going on these days:

Learn from the best himself – the oooold cranky Scottish guy coach who also happens to be probably the most successful coach in all of sports who said something along the lines of this:

“the team that has the players who win the most 1v1’s is the best.” ¬†[Note, I’m kind of paraphrasing, I don’t remember the quote word for word.]

#1 Skill Bonus Download a free drill to quickly start beating defenders and combining some awesome moves in a super simple 1v1 drill that gets quick results

But you get the point though I hope… And no, it’s not speed like many think.

If you don’t we have other skills to work on first before continuing with this one ūüôā

Ok ok ok, back to the point.  First answer me a riddle regarding youth soccer development:

If you had one soccer skill you had to pick that you could be the very best in the world at, what would it be?  What skill?

Think hard, don’t give this up easily. ¬†Only one thing you can be dominant at.

Ok wanna know mine?

It’s this: 1v1 ability

The ability to consistently destroy any defender upon me, OR don’t forget this one either, the ability to stop any attacker. ¬†Also a huge part of 1v1 ability…

Think of it this way:

* essentially any time you have the ball you’re in some kind of 1v1. ¬†I mean heck, maybe you’re in a 1v2, (hopefully not), but most of the time it’s some kind of 1v1.

Same goes for when you’re defending whoever has the ball.

Always remember this: 1v1’s happen all the time. ¬†You are a part of 1v1’s ALL the time in a game. ¬†And the mistake most people make in understanding 1v1’s is this:

They think 1v1’s are those situations where the attacker is going¬†directly¬†at the defender. ¬†You know, the classic replay where you see an attacker skinning a defender head on…

But that’s where you would be wrong.

You see, if you have the ball, essentially you’re in some kind of 1v1. ¬†A defender may be in front of you, may be to your side, or they may be behind you…

Those are all 1v1 situations!

Similarly if you don’t have the ball and you’re the nearest to that player who has the ball, you’re creating a 1v1 with them.

And the question is: can you consistently hold your own?

Win the ball?  Hold your position at least?

And let’s clarify something here first. ¬†You don’t have to beat a defender to be “doing your job in 1v1’s.” ¬†Often, it’s simply not giving up the ball. ¬†It’s creating a little bit of space so you can do a successful pass. ¬†That would be considered holding your own in 1v1’s. ¬†I’m not just talking about getting past the defender.

Also, remember this:

If on average, a player loses more than %50 of their 1v1 situations, their probably hurting your overall team success more than helping it.  

Give me a team with 11 players better at 1v1’s than the other team and I’m winning every time…

When it comes to youth soccer development there’s just nothing (in my humblest of opinions) that holds up to 1v1 ability…

And YET… it’s almost never developed or practiced enough.

It blows my mind how we never work on this. ¬†In fact, (here I go again), that’s why players who grew up playing street soccer are almost always better at this skill. ¬†They grow up naturally being involved in 1v1’s non-stop, in an environment where (crazy) parents/coaches are NOT¬†yelling at kids when mistakes are made.

Nevermind the Barcelona effect where people only care about passing without realizing how naive that actually is.

So, if there’s anything you take from this dear amigo, it’s this; bend the equation to add way more 1v1’s into your soccer practice.

And this doesn’t just mean your “club practice.”

This means any kind of soccer practice you get – team practice, team games, practice on your own, playing with friends, etc etc…

Coaches always ask me: “how often should I work on skill development and ball skills?”

The quick answer is you probably couldn’t over-work that if you tried since the best players grow up getting WAY more practice of that kind than %99 of the world. ¬†The more realistic answer? ¬†Add it into every single session you can at the beginning. ¬†Do less of those warm ups where nobody touches the dang ball and instead get them working on the ball. ¬†Work on foot-skills and ball control at the beginner of every session, and then progress into mini games where kids can do 1v1 competitions or small scrimmages. ¬†It doesn’t have to be long. ¬†You can still progress into your other stuff after.

People argue so much about what should be worked on when it comes to youth soccer development. ¬†But here’s an easy answer; develop those 1v1’s so at the¬†very least,¬†even if you suck at passing and or whatever, else you dominate those 1v1’s…

And remember; developing 1v1 soccer ability doesn’t have to be hard.

Set up two mini nets and giv’er!

To dominating 1v1’s…


Have you noticed kids struggling with this skill? 

Any other questions? ¬†Pop them in below…

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