One of the best ways to naturally bring out the competitive nature in your soccer players during practice is by adding in 1 v 1 activities, small sided games, and races. The human spirit is instantly ignited when there is a goal to score, a race to win or an opponent to beat. Below we give you 5 simple, yet competitive 1 v 1 soccer activities to ramp up your practices and help players work on their 1 v 1 skills.
Before we dive into the activities, take a look below at 5 basic dribbling skills to use when beating a defender. Watch the video and practice the skills displayed so you can become more elusive in a 1 v 1 setting!
What were some of the main takeaways in the video above?
- Use a low athletic position with knees bent. If you are standing up straight it is hard to be explosive.
- Use the inside and outside surfaces of foot.
- Use small touches in close, and then larger touches when you are behind the defender so you can to separate yourself from them.
- You don't just have to dribble around someone to beat them. In some moves all you need to do is use body or lake fakes (without moving the ball) to make a defender think you are going one way and then you can explode the other way.
The video above was aimed to give general ideas on how to beat a defender. Get creative and have fun thinking of other ways to go around someone! Use body fakes, leg fakes and various touches to be deceptive! If you would like to sharpen up your dribbling, check out our post on 5 Dribbling Exercises to Sharpen Your Footwork.
Now that we a basic understanding of some key skills that can be used to go around a defender in a 1 v 1 setting, let's jump into the 1 v 1 soccer activities! These can be done at home with a friend or in a youth soccer practice with groups. Have fun with these! We will start simple and increase complexity with each activity.
Activity 1: Keeping Possession 1 vs 1
Keeping Possession Overview
This is a simple activity where a player works to keep possession of a ball within a 10 x 10 yard box until time runs out. Coaches can switch up the amount of time the 1 v 1 battle goes on for so that players do not know when the game will end. Encourage players watching to cheer!
- Make several 10 x 10 yard grids.
- Play 1v1 in the center, while next pair is on outside of the grid.
- Play until whenever the coach says ‘stop!’
- The player with the ball at that point wins (change the duration of the game every time for intensity since the players will want to battle every second). Anywhere between 15 - 45 seconds is a common time frame that can be used.
- If ball goes out of bounds, a new ball is played in by the pair outside to whoever’s ball it is.
- After game is over, next two in line go!
Keeping Possession Coaching Points
- Work on little touches in tight spaces.
- To protect the ball, make sure your body is between the ball and the defender.
- Players in the center try and hold possession by shielding.
- Get Creative! It is ok if you lose the ball, this is practice and the whole point of the activity is to work to get better!
Activity 2: Attacking Space 1 vs 1
Attacking Space Overview
This activity builds on the first one. Players battle 1 v 1 and work to cross an endline in a 10 x 10 yard box. The coach keeps score and players watching should cheer and encourage their team!
- Make several 16 x 10 yard grids.
- Max of 3-4 players per line.
- Two players play 1 v 1 in center.
- Game is directional.
- A goal is scored by dribbling over opposing endline.
- Once goal is scored, the player first in line on that side dribbles in and plays 1 v 1 against the first person in the other line.
- Players return to their own lines.
- If ball goes out of bounds, restart in a dribble in.
- Keep score to make it a team competition!
Attacking Space 1 vs 1 Coaching Points
- Keep ball close when attempting to get around defender.
- Take a larger touch when in the space beside/behind defender so you can build up speed faster.
- Once past a defender, your first touch should be behind them to cut off their angle of recovery.
- Be deceptive!
Activity 3: Get In The Zone!
Get In The Zone! Overview
This activity builds on the second activity and gives the players more space to dribble (and defend) and requires them to score on a net for a point. Players watching should be engaged and cheer for their teammates!
- Expand your field to a 15x20yd field, and add restraining lines 5 yards from each goal. Each endline has two goals.
- Split team into two lines, one is defending and one is attacking.
- Ball starts at the attacking line. Once an attacker dribbles in, a defender from the opposite side comes to defend.
- Players must dribble past restraining line before they can shoot on either of the goals on the endline they are attacking.
- After a goal is scored, or the ball goes out of bounds, next two players play. Players return to their own lines and keep score.
- Play for 2 minutes, and then switch sides.
Get In The Zone Coaching Points
- Encourage attacking the defender with pace and creativity!
- The attacker should not turn their back to the defender. Doing so ruins any momentum they have.
- Ask attackers to dribble at the defender’s front foot. If the defender angles their body to the left, you should attempt to dribble to the right to get them off balance.
Activity 4: 1 vs 1 4 Goal & 4 Gates Game
4 Goal & 4 Gates Game Overview
This activity adds a conditioning component into it as both players need to sprint to the ball. Once the ball is claimed, a player must dribble through the gates before they are allowed to shoot on net. Again, watching players should encourage the two players battling. It is always fun to hear your teammates cheering for you. Coaches keep score and switch up the ball placement!
- Make a 15 x 15 yd field as shown.
- When the coach passes a ball onto field, players run around cone to their left.
- Players play 1v1 to any of the four goals, but must first dribble through the gate in front of that goal before they can shoot.
- Progress to 1pt for a goal scored, and 1pt for using a move to beat an opponent.
4 Goal & 4 Gates Game Coaching Points
- Constant reinforcement of 1v1 moves when trying to get behind a defender.
- Little touches vs. big touches. Little touches in tight and big touches when trying to create space away from the defender.
- Being aware of the field and the open spaces to attack each goal.
Activity 5: 1 vs 1 Wall Passes Under Pressure
Wall Passes Under Pressure Overview
This 1 v 1 activity introduces the concept of wall passes and give and gos into game play. The goal is to get to the other side with the ball. This activity requires only one soccer ball, three players, and one coach.
- Set up two lines of players facing each other about 20 yards apart.
- There should also be a boundary marked out by cones along the side opposite from the coach so players do not go too far. This activity is meant for players to practice head on 1 v 1's with a passing option.
- The overall goal for the offensive player is to get to the other line with possession of the ball.
- The activity starts by having the defensive player passing the ball to the offensive player.
- The offensive player receives the ball and dribbles towards the defender.
- The defender challenges the offensive player.
- The offensive player can use the coach for a wall pass or dribble around the defender.
- 1 point if the offensive player gets to the other side. 2 points if the defender takes the ball and makes it to the other size. 0 points if ball goes out of bounds.
Wall Passes Under Pressure Coaching Points
- The offensive player should go right at the defending player.
- The offensive player should use deception to either go around the defender or to pass and jump to space behind the defender.
Extra Credit Activity 6: 1 vs 1 with Bumpers
1 v 1 with Bumpers Overview
This 1 v 1 activity builds on the previous one and introduces the concept of wall passes, give and gos and shooting. Use deception, creativity and possibly a wall pass to get a shot on net!
- The offensive player can dribble around the defender, or use a bumper before they take a shot on net.
- This starts as a 1 on 1 soccer drill with an option to use a bumper to make it a 2 on 1.
- F1 starts with the ball and is trying to score against the defensive pressure of D1.
- F1 has the advantage of using P1 & P2 to their advantage.
- If F1 thinks they can beat the D then they can, however, they should be encouraged to use a bumper for a give and go.
- Bumpers can move.
- Play practice with offsides rules.
- Have players rotate so they can practice being the shooter, defender or bumper.
1 v 1 with Bumpers Coaching Points
- The offensive player should use deception to throw the defender off.
- Make sure after the player passes the ball to a bumper they are calling for it back.
- The bumpers should play the ball to space so the player can run into the ball and shoot right off the pass.
- If the pass is too far out in front then the goalie needs to come out to play it.
1 v 1 Activity Recap
As stated above, the human spirit is instantly ignited when there is a goal to score, a race to win or an opponent to beat. Adding 1 v 1 soccer activities into your practice session is not only a great way to increase practice intensity but a valuable skill to help players develop their soccer game. Plus these 1 v 1 battles are a blast for your team!
If players learn how to dribble to continue to possess the ball, or dribble to beat a defender, the whole game will open up for them. Then they can start to pick their head up, pass the ball to a teammate and jump to space. Or, if the opportunity presents itself, they can take a shot on goal. Have fun with the soccer activities listed above! Give your players fundamental coaching points and also encourage them to be creative!
Looking for more 1 v 1 Soccer Activities? Click to view 30+ 1 v 1 Soccer Activities & Games.