During the month of June I have been highlighting my four favorite 1 v 1 training methods. This final week focuses on 1 v 1 Round Robin Evaluation. The ultimate test of a player's 1 v 1 ability is to play a competitive game against a motivated defender.
A number of coaches I know use some form of 1 v 1 game where scores are kept and statistics calculated. The most well know is Anson Dorrance, Women's Head Coach at the University of North Carolina, has created what he calls the, 'Competitive Cauldron'. Each coach goes about it slightly differently but they have a number of things in common: all players match up against every other player during the session, two players compete to score (although the method of scoring can vary), the score is recorded after a set period of time. The idea is that the competitive environment and the knowledge that scores are being kept motivates the players to work as hard as possible and make every effort to win.
The are a number of different scoring methods that you can use. Dorrance has strikers play between two full-sized goals with goalkeepers while the rest of the team attempts to score by creating space and hitting a large traffic cone. Hitting the cone represents making a pass to a team mate. While this is definitely functional, shooting and scoring is something that all players, especially younger one, should spend some time doing so I prefer to have all of my players shoot as a method of scoring.
I have all of my players, in pairs, on a field that 25 yards long with no wide boundaries. Each pair has a ball and plays 1 v 1 for two to three minutes. I use goalkeepers if they are available or only allow shots that hit the net in the air if there are no goalkeepers. For advanced players, I limit them to the 'triangles' in the corners of the goal. We play 'make it, take it' so that when a player scores, they keep the ball and attack the other goal once the defender is ready. This balances out any difference in goalkeepers and forces the defender to play hard to win the ball back.
The players are put in a list on the Score Sheet which gives them each a number. Those numbers refer to numbers in the Round Robin Matrix. At the end of the round the players give me their scores and I record them in the score sheet. Once everyone has played each other once then I add up the number of goals scored and allowed which will also give a goal differential. The players can then all be ranked on Goals Scored, Goals Allowed and Goal Differential. While it's not a definitive method, it is interesting to see that you're most defensive personalities will rank very high in Goals Allowed although they may not score as many goals. Likewise, attacking personalities will score a lot of goals but may also concede more than a few. Often, players who do well in both areas do very well playing in the midfield. I don't use this evaluation to decide how to make my line-up but it is interesting to look at the statistics in this way.
I've found that this format is also an effective way to determine how hard a player is willing to work. If they are not motivated to do their best in this type of environment they are unlikely to play any differently in a game.
The four 1 v 1 formats that I've described in this month's blog post provide a great progression for teaching and encouraging 1 v 1 attacking. They can be equally good if you'd like to focus on defending.
Please let us know what your favorite 1 v 1 drills or exercises are by leaving a comment on this post.