Nine Steps – Two Parts, One Goal

By, Dan Minutillo

Nine steps (9-Step Practice Routine)
Two parts (1 + 1 and 1 v 1)
One goal (Developing Youth Soccer Players)

Steps three and four of the nine step practice routine are the 1 + 1 cooperative play, and the 1 v 1 competitive play parts of the routine. I use both parts at almost every practice with a heavy emphasis on 1 v 1 play.

The 1 + 1 part of the routine allows the coach to slowly, carefully and methodically move one player through movements with the ball that relate to the practice theme for the day. After a short instruction and demonstration, I usually ask the players to pair up so one of them could walk through this new move with the ball with some cooperative, very loose resistance from their partner. The partner will allow plenty of time and space so the player with the ball can move slowly and freely, make a mistake, yet feel comfortable with the ball as he or she practices the movement. After a few attempts at learning this new movement with the ball in a walk through with very little resistance from their partner, I then ask the partner to tighten up space a bit in order to provide a little resistance while still allowing plenty of room for his or her partner to move the ball. The 1 + 1 is a great way to help a player gain confidence with the ball when confronted with a new move.

Once I feel that the players understand this new move with the ball, I then go into a 1 v 1 routine which is highly competitive and forces each player to move the ball quickly under pressure away from his or her partner. The 1 v 1 part of the routine forces the player to improvise, move in various directions, try subtle movements with the ball consistent with this new move. The 1 v 1 should be game specific, that is, under pressure with short, quick movements by the player with the ball in order to evade the opponent. If you have properly demonstrated the new ball movement to your players, and you have allowed them to practice without resistance in the 1 + 1 part of the routine, most players will be able to handle the pressure of the 1 v 1 and successfully move the ball. I do the best that I can to stay silent during the 1 v 1 routine so I fight off any feeling that I have to interrupt the routine and provide coaching points. The game is the teacher during the 1 v 1 routine.

Why does the 1 + 1 followed by the 1 v 1 work, that is, why is it a good way to help a young player develop his or her foot skills? Instruction, demonstration, imprinting, repetition through practice with no pressure, then repetition under pressure forces imprinting—it’s as simple as that. After adequate instruction and demonstration, the new movement must imprint on the player. The new movement must become part of that players muscle response in certain game situations. Repeating the movement without pressure and then with pressure will imprint the movement so it becomes part of the player’s repertoire. Allowing a player to “walk through” the movement builds the players confidence in his or her ability to accomplish the move while imprinting the movement. Forcing the player to use the same movement under heavy pressure without instruction forces the player to be creative to find subtle, personal ways to improve the move so that it will work in a competitive game situation.

Some players will pick up new movements much quicker than others. For the slower learner, the walk through part of the 1 + 1 is very important in order to start the imprinting process. Take your time; make positive corrections in a very relaxed and non-intimidating way. Make sure that each player is doing the movement correctly during this part of the practice otherwise bad habits or poor technique will be imprinted.

When the 1 + 1 is over and the 1 v 1 starts, you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the results of your hard work. Nine steps, two parts, and you have reached the one important goal—developing your players.

Dan Minutillo, Author
“Formation Based Soccer Training”

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