• Play the 1v1 Way!

1v1 Soccer FC Featured in Article by RedNation Online

ian_mcclurg_1v1_soccer_touchlineIan McClurg established 1v1 Soccer in 2000 and it quickly established itself as one of Canada’s leading soccer development companies, providing specialist soccer coaching to boys and girls of all abilities, aged from 5-16+. Director of Coaching McClurg is a UEFA “A” licensed certified coach, which is Europe’s top coaching qualification. He also holds US and Canadian B license qualifications and is a former provincial team coach for Ontario. McClurg has extensive coaching contacts throughout North America and Europe and recently served as a Toronto FC Academy staff coach.

Learn more about Ian McClurg and 1v1 Soccer at http://www.1v1soccer.ca/.

RedNation Online: Although soccer is in many ways the quintessential team sport, it is often what individual players do that decides the outcome of a game. The name 1v1 is one that suggests an approach focused on the individual player. What is your philosophy as a youth coach?

Ian McClurg: When I go over to Europe, what I see with their professional academies is that they are trying to develop players. That is the rule for the academy system. I’ve got some friends that work in that European system and when I talk to them, they talk about how they are asked by their bosses about which players they have developed. They are never asked about results they got in academy games. It’s all about what players they can bring through. They really are in the player development business.

I think over here we start trying to build teams and to try and train players within teams. But the reality is that if a player does not have the fundamental skills, they can’t go where they have to go. So I think we really have to focus on making sure the players have the fundamental skills, especially at the younger ages. I think what we do too much over here is focus on the team aspect of things. I think that is a different aspect of coaching and it has a different focus. With a team focus comes team goals, such as trying to win games versus trying to actually improve the players. I have called my academy 1v1 because I think that is a basic element of the game. I see the game as being ten 1v1’s across the field.

RNO: What is the history of 1v1 Soccer FC and how did it come about?

Ian McClurg: Basically, I was working in the provincial program, as a provincial coach, and the last year I was there as a provincial head coach, I started with 120 kids and I was told to pick a squad of between 22 and 24. So I was cutting some great players and the question that came back to me from them was, “How do I improve? What I do?” Basically, at that time there was only the provincial program and your club and nothing in between. So the players would go back to their cluba and the coaching level at the club level in this country, with many coaches being volunteers, is not great. So how could those players get better?

My concept was around the idea that if more players were exposed to quality training across the province, then obviously our elite programs would be much better. Another difficulty back then was that the players in the provincial program could only be within a certain driving distance. We had some players from London, but that was tough for parents in terms of bringing the kids in four times per week. So I thought there was definitely a need for additional training and coaching and for more players to be able to take advantage of it.

RNO: It’s been said that it takes 10,000 hours to develop an elite athlete. How does that variable impact what you are looking for in terms of the young players that you want to work with?

Ian McClurg: I think that is really has to be the player buying into the philosophy. For example, we don’t sign any player until they have come into our program and have had a free trial session. The training is very hard and difficult. For the first 30 minutes we really train at a high tempo from the first minute and it’s one ball, one player. It’s very intense.

We are looking for players who want to learn and get better. So we are essentially looking for players who are self-motivated or who have the ability to be self-motivated. As opposed to a player who comes in and maybe they have been told at a certain age that they are the next Lionel Messi. We find those players tend to shut off a little bit and maybe shut off from new ideas and advice being given to them. So we are really looking for players who want to get better and who want to learn.

RNO: Soccer is a truly a world sport and the competition to succeed at both the club and International levels is considerable. What type of training do young players require to succeed in the modern game?

Ian McClurg: It’s a very good question and I think there are a lot of factors to take into account. I think that they have to be self motivated and I think they have to be spending time by themselves with the ball. I think the technical skills will get them so far, but that they have to have other components as well. They have to understand the game properly and to be able to make smart decisions in games. They have to be very strong mentally, because I think that competitive sport is such that you will have disappointments along the way.

I think that sometimes in Canada that we suffer a little bit from that. Our culture is often to not disappoint people or to not give them harsh truths. And I think that sometimes we don’t react well to those types of advice. But if you look at the top players in the world, they have all had setbacks along the way and they were still the ones to make it. So I really do think mental strength is one of the biggest things.

When you hear stories about Didier Drogba and his success at Chelsea, he jumped on a plane very early on and went to France by himself. I know a player who I used to coach at TFC, he, for example, left Winnipeg at 14 to come to Toronto and now he is with Queens Park Rangers in England. Those kinds of players, with a strong mental strength and belief in themselves, as well as being players who want to work hard and learn, those are the players that I think tend to make it. At the top level, all players are good technically. So I think very few players will make it on technique alone. I think it comes down to the individual strength of the person.

RNO: It is a stereotype that Canadian players are often strong defensively while often lacking creative offensive skills. That is a very simplistic statement but it is not a stretch to state that at the International level, Canada’s greatest successes have come from teams that were well organized and very strong defensively. How can we better develop players with dynamic offensive skills?

Ian McClurg: I think we have to put our players in tighter spaces early on when they are younger and have them try to solve those problems in terms of less time and less space. We tend to train in big areas over here. We obviously play full 11v11 games and there is a lot of space, so you can have a bad first touch and still retain possession of the ball.

I think the key thing is training kids very early on in small, tight congested spaces. The game is random and things happen in a game, so they have to have the tools to be able to cope with that and to be able to make smart decisions. To be honest, when we train I try to add as much chaos into the training as possible. I have multiple balls for each session and have players dribbling through each other and through grids. I think players have to be able to process a lot of information in order to be able to play the game at the highest levels. I think we have to teach those tools early on. I think that is part of it.

There is also the fact that I think people miss about creative players – you have to be very brave to take somebody on. It’s a hard thing to do to take that responsibility upon yourself. We tend to think of strong players being strong tacklers, but it really does take a brave player to say, “Give me the ball and let me create something.” I think that mentality is something to do with it as well.

And, unfortunately, in our culture we tend to look upon people who dribble the ball and beat people as hogs of the ball. And young players get that information from parents on the sidelines early on. So I actually think we don’t encourage skillful players. I see us actually making it more difficult for players to be skillful.

RNO: You recently visited your partner club, Wolves FC, in England and had a chance to really immerse yourself in their academy operations. What are the main things that you took away from experience that you want to bring back to your initiatives here in Canada?

Ian McClurg: I think it is looking after the total player. Back in 2003, I had a partnership with Crewe Alexandra football club, who are a small club in England, but who are very renowned for player development. And when I was in England back in 2003, I did the same thing that I recently did with Wolves, looking at their full academy structure, which is very much built around football and making sure that players were taken care of on the field.

When I went back to Wolves this time I noticed that they were looking at the entire player as a person and their family as well. And really making sure that they are getting what they need in terms of support structures. Wolves are bringing the kids out of school one day per week and they are spending all Wednesday at the academy. They have a full-time person taking care of their educational welfare as an example. That person will make sure that they are doing well in school and that they are on top of their school work. They will also get them tutors if they have to. The club will in fact pick up players who don’t have a way to get to training and will drive them to training. That helps the families out in that area as well.

They also have a whole team of people looking after them when they are at the club, in terms of their gym work and their physical work. They also have two full-time people doing video analysis. I heard about an example of a young boy that was lacking a bit of confidence, so he went to the video guy and said, “Give me a DVD of my best goals.” The whole entire player is getting catered to.

They also understand that only a small percentage of the boys will actually make it, so the older kids even get coaching courses as a possible career for them if it doesn’t work out for them as a player. I think that looking after the entire player is the biggest difference that I see.

RNO: 1v1 has a very close relationship with Wolves. Can you talk a little bit more about that relationship and how it might benefit your players down the road?

Ian McClurg: It gives the players a direct pathway to Wolves. Basically, they bring their academy staff over to us once a year and they evaluate our players. It gives our players a chance to get quality training from these top guys and it also gives them some feedback in terms of where they rank in terms of how they compare to the players in England.

After that, if they are good enough, Wolves will invite them to go over there for a week’s training. So again, it gives them a taste of what it is like to be an academy football player in England.

From a coaching development point of view, all of our coaches receive benefits from working with these guys. And we also have the opportunity to travel to England any time we want to study at their academy. Those are enormous benefits. They have actually given us their player development plan for their academy teams, so we have that information as well.

Last week I was reviewing the Long Term Development Program with someone and we were sort of chatting about the fact that the philosophy is great, but where is the meat and potatoes in terms of the material that we need to train players. Having chatted about it, I took out the Wolves manual and said, “Here is what we are working off currently.” It’s amazing – we are lacking that in this country in terms of giving coaches the tools they need to develop players properly.

RNO: A lot of times you talk to people in other countries and they don’t really see Canada as a soccer nation. What is the feedback that you have received from the coaching staff at Wolves with respect to the talent and professionalism of your young Canadian players?

Ian McClurg: We had sixteen players chosen by Wolves, so they went to seven camps last summer. There was one camp in Canada, which was our camp, and six others in the United States. And they chose 35 players from all those camps and half of those players were our players. So the feedback was very good. They chose three or four players in our program who they felt would have been signed to their academy teams if they had been living in England right now. So that is the level that some of these boys are at. The difficulty with that is that they don’t live there and they really can’t sign them until they are sixteen. They can go back and forth on school vacations, but obviously the cost of that is difficult. Overall, the feedback was very good.

And when I went over myself, I felt that the age groups from U9 to U12 were at a comparable technical level. I certainly saw a bit of a difference at the U12 to U14 levels, where I think their players in England just understand the game better with things like off the ball runs and communication on the field. So I think a bit of a gap develops at that point. And after that, U14 and above, that’s when you see a big gap in terms of the physical side of things. The games are so competitive over there, so you sort of see another gap developing at the U14 and U15 levels.

I think the players from Canada that have done well overseas have often been the ones who have left early, like Owen Hargreaves and Junior Hoillet. They have been over in that system from a young age. So I think that we are fine up to U12 and then we kind of see the gap widen a bit for the players over here, so it becomes more difficult.

RNO: The profile of Women’s soccer has never been higher than it is right now due to the recent success of the Canadian Women’s National Team. What programs do you have available for young female soccer players and how do they differ, if at all, from your programs for young male players?

Ian McClurg: It’s interesting because I was a provincial coach for female players previously. And when we first started up 1v1 we had a lot of female players in our program. And that has kind of tailed off a little bit, I guess because I was involved with Toronto FC as well. Now our programs are predominantly male. We are trying to get our female programs built up a bit and our challenge has been that we currently play in an academy league, which is against other academy teams. And they currently do not have any female leagues, so it is hard for us to attract players to our program when there is nowhere for them to play. That is a big challenge that SAAC is currently looking at. We have about twenty female players that are currently training with us and they are kind of mixed with the training we are doing with the boys. Some of these players are excellent and our goal is to keep building up our program, as well as working with SAAC to get a new league going. I think the time is right for that now. We can’t just address the male game. We have to look at the female game as well.

In terms of training, I think you have to work with females a little bit differently in terms of how you coach them and interact with them and in terms of making sure that their confidence stays high. I often make an analogy that with boys they always assume they are doing something right and girls always assume they are doing something wrong, as female players very often come up to me during sessions and ask if they are doing okay. I have always found that female players are great to coach because they want to learn and get better. We have boys like that as well, but I think female players definitely want to get better and are very motivated.

RNO: You’ve mentioned your previous work as a TFC Academy Coach. How was that experience and how did it contribute to your development as a coach?

Ian McClurg: I juggled both TFC and 1v1 for about a year and it just ended up being too difficult to do both at the same time. I think that it was good for me to go in and do the work there. It was good for me to see what the level was in terms of what they are requiring of players. And we actually have eight players who have trained with the TFC Academy over the last year and a half. It has certainly helped me to do my job better at 1v1 with respect to understanding what is required with MLS.

It was just too hard to juggle both positions. My position with 1v1 is full-time. We have five teams running, one hundred players training in classes per week and it is very busy. The connection to TFC is now an informal one, to be honest. I think it is important that we have our connection with Wolves and that we have sent players down to TFC. And we will continue to make sure that our players are aware of the different pathways.

RNO: You have an interesting background, including a strong business background, and excellent qualifications as a coach. What have been the most important things you have learned both inside and outside the soccer world that have enabled you to be successful developing young players?

Ian McClurg: I think the biggest thing is that you have to put your time in. The best thing that I have ever done is that I have coached at all levels. I’ve coached three year olds, four year olds and five year olds. I’ve coached the female side and I have coached the male side. I’ve coached at TFC and at the University of Guelph. I think it is important to get as much experience as possible and to really get the experience on the field. I had a very good mentor myself in Stuart Neely at the OSA and I remember early during my development time with him he said to me, “All you are missing is experience.” The biggest advice I would give is to get on the field, work with players, figure them out, try things and be creative. I think that is important.

The biggest thing I have learned myself over the last couple of years has been through putting together my own drills and session plans. I rarely look at coaching books anymore. I just try to figure out what the individual players have to work on and then I try to design my own stuff. That’s something that is new for me and I have actually just started writing a book on what I have learned along the way with that.

RNO: You have a UEFA A licence. How important is it for kids to be learning from coaches with established licences?

Ian McClurg: I think it is very important. I think if you look at places like Germany as an example. They have 55,000 licensed UEFA A or B coaches. So if you are a young player in Germany, then the chances are good that you are going to hit one of those coaches at some point along the way. Over here in Canada – I did a presentation on this a few months ago – right now we are actually passing about 20-30 A or B coaches per year. So it will take a long time to make up the gap to 55,000 licensed coaches.

We have a long way to go with respect to coaching education. Right now there are a lot of initiatives – OPDL (Ontario Player Development League) for example – where teams will have to have at least a B or a pre-B coach. My concern there is that it is good to have standards, but the difficulty is also in making sure these people are qualified, as opposed to just saying that they have to have a license, so let’s give them a license. We are all constantly developing as coaches and I learn every day myself.

One thing that I think is a little bit unfortunate is that there is a little bit of a lack of respect for the coaching profession. To be very honest, I was a little bit disappointed with TFC recently when they hired a coach without any professional qualifications. I think MLS should have certain standards in place with respect to head coaches having to have a certain level of coaching qualifications. MLS must be the only professional league in the world that doesn’t have one. In reality, Ryan Nelsen cannot coach in our SAAC Academy league, but he can coach TFC as a Head Coach. And that’s not meant as a slight to him personally, I just think the system is wrong there. TFC have also brought a lot of ex-players into their academy and I think those players themselves need time to learn to be coaches. I think it is a different mentality, so I think they have to have the tools in place for that. So I think the coaching profession in Ontario has taken a bit of a battering because of that.

RNO: You work with players as young as 3 years old up to age 16 and over. How does your training program change as a child ages?

Ian McClurg: It is all very much centered on the ball. To be very honest at the youngest levels, you need people with the right background. My wife has an Early Childhood Education background, so she is better suited to those players than I am. I think I have learned over the last couple of years that it is more important to put people in spots where they have strengths as coaches. So we are developing our own coaches in house and we are trying to place them in each group that they are better with.

Obviously, at the younger ages it is just about getting them active, getting them touches on the ball and making it fun and enjoyable for them. As they get older, the emphasis for us is on the individual ball work for sure. But as they get older we start to give them more responsibility with respect to thinking for themselves. A good example is a U12 team that I have. Instead of giving them an evaluation this year, I actually sent out a blank one and asked them to fill it in for me. I then met with them and their parents and went over it. I wanted them to take more ownership. So as they get older as players and as people, you want them to take more ownership. That can be things like making decisions on the field, making sure that the equipment is put away, ensuring that you are wearing the correct kit for the session or making sure that you have packed your own bag. I think as they get older we want to see them be more responsible not just as players, but as people as well.

RNO: In your opinion, at what age is it possible to identify whether or not a young player has the required attributes to develop into an elite player?

Ian McClurg: You spot potential between nine and twelve in terms of technique. But I think in terms of being able to say that a player will become an elite player, I think they have to go through puberty first. I think we make decisions on players way too early. I think it is important that we look at players when they are a little bit older (13-15) and that we are making sure that we give them the correct information and opportunities. There are players out there that are missed by professional clubs throughout the world who are very good players and who just develop a bit later. Looking at the Premiership, Ricky Lambert is 31 and is playing his first season for Southhampton in the EPL. Grant Holt is another player who made his way through the ranks and was obviously missed at a young age. I think it is important that we acknowledge that and are aware of it.

RNO: Looking at the big picture of player development in Canada, Tony Fonseca was recently named Technical Director for the Canadian Soccer Association and one of his stated goals is to get all of the parties involved in youth development in our country better integrated and working together towards a unified goal of producing more top tier players. What do we need to do better as a country with respect to long term player development?

Ian McClurg: I think it is a good first step in terms of the philosophical point of view. I think one thing we have to do is get smart people – great coaches who have worked out there for years – in a room and put together the session plans that will go along with that philosophy. If we are working with five year olds, what types of activities are we giving them? If we are working with eight year olds, what type of activities are we giving them? I think that is the part that is missing. We have the shell, but I think must have the technical information put together. And then let’s get working on the same page and let’s share ideas with each other.

One thing that I really like is going over to Europe because I think the coach fraternity over there really shares ideas and they help each other out even though they are competitors from different clubs and so forth. I have also been to the United States for coaching conferences and I think it is the same there. In Canada we can be very insular and we want to have our own little territory and I think that has really hurt the game. We do have positive developments happening now.

For example, we have the SAAC academies now invited into the OSA as non-club members. Those are very positive steps and we have to build upon them.

I think we have to get coaches together more often. We have to have more ongoing education together as a group. I think what Tony has said is a very positive development for us all. I think we also need to get the meat and potatoes down on a paper so we can start moving forward even quicker.

I think we also have to look at things like training a little differently. The FA in England have appointed individual skills coaches based on the German model. Those kinds of things should be done here as well. For example, in Germany they have these development centres where any kid can drop in and get additional help with their skills.

I’m very positive about soccer in this country. The last couple of years there has been a lot of positive change and I think it is a matter of keeping that positive momentum going. We should be working together for sure. Everyone at every level has to be helping out towards getting Canada to where it has to be. The emphasis has to be on the player and we have to make sure we are giving our players what they need.


2013 Summer Camp Programs

2013 SUMMER CAMP PROGRAMS  (Ages 5 -12  Boys/Girls)

Players of ALL Abilities

Do you want your child to have fun while receiving professional soccer instruction to learn the game’s basic skills?


Learn core skills such as dribbling, 1v1 moves, passing, turning and shooting

Enjoy Fun and Positive Coaching Environment

Learn at your own pace- Skills from basic to complex are broken down into easily learnable phases

Develop Confidence in your Play – 2,000 touches in core moves/day (30 mins)Participate in Physical Activity

Participate in fun skills contests and Small-Sided Games

Summer Camp Dates/Times:

Full-Day  Camps :9am-5pm or Half-Day Camps 9am-noon

*Early Drop-Off 8:30, late-pick up 5:30pm can be arranged

  • July 1-5
  • July 8-12
  • July 15 -19
  • July 22-26
  • July 29-Aug 2
  • Aug 5-Aug 9
  • Aug 12-Aug 16

How to Register:

Website: Online using our registration page www.1v1soccer.ca

Telephone: 289-239-9602, email: info@1v1soccer.ca

Cost:  $230 Full-Day’s/ $150 Half-Day’s

( $200 for Full-Days  if register prior to  Feb 28th)

Futsal: Let the Game be the Coach

2-kids-futsalFutsal – the sped-up, compressed indoor version of soccer (football) –has played an important role in my development work with players during the last four years. Futsal has always been lauded for its role in helping to develop many of Brazil’s soccer stars during the last 40 years and the word “futsal” is actually short for “futbal de salao”, a term coined in Brazil which roughly means “football in a gym.”

As well, the recent emergence of Spain as a dominant soccer nation has highlighted this further, as Spanish stars like Xavi have credited the indoor game for their success. Other legends like Messi, Zidane, Zico, Ronaldo and Iniesta all cite futsal as the source of much of their skills and technical development. (And for a real treat, look up the Brazilian Falcao on YouTube – a futsal specialist who most observers consider the world’s best at the game.)

From an individual-player point of view, using the smaller and low-bounce futsal ball in our training classes has greatly accelerated the technical development rate of all our younger players. The ball does not bounce away and makes it easier to learn new skills using all parts of both feet. The heavier weight of the ball also ensures that players have to lock their ankle and use good technique for quick passing and shooting. We have seen a great improvement in the dribbling skills, 1v1 moves, passing skills and shooting of our players during training classes.

It is in tactical areas of the game, however, that I can see the greatest benefits of futsal as a learning tool  for young North American players. My generation grew up playing soccer in the streets where space was tight, competition was fierce and you had to be strong mentally to impose yourself on the game and demand the ball. That was because everyone wanted the ball and would do almost anything to get it. It is fair to say that everyone soon learned to execute quality first touches and quick changes in direction and pace, to avoid being caught by flying tackles from a few players who off the field you considered as mates.

Our younger players in North America today do not play in the streets. Instead, they come to organized soccer practices to learn the game and futsal is a great way for us as coaches to accelerate their soccer learning. Futsal places young players in tight spaces (like the school playground or street) and demands from them good ball control, quick thinking, precise passing and creative solutions to get themselves out of tight spaces to create goal-scoring opportunities.  Like basketball, there are constant transitions between attack and defence. This provides our young players with many opportunities to face these situations, and these repetitions are an important element of the modern game.

This fall and winter, 1v1 Soccer FC is playing in a futsal league in Toronto. This is our first year entering teams in formal futsal leagues and the experience has been very challenging but also very beneficial. Many parents have asked me why I have not provided much coaching direction to the players during games, and why I am not overly concerned with the game scores and competitive results. The reason is simple: The players are learning every minute they are on the field. The speed of the game dictates that the players process information quicker and the feedback is instant: You make an incorrect decision, play a bad pass or cannot control the ball and the opposition now have the ball close to your goal or worse….the ball is in the back of your own net already! Daniel Coyle in The Talent Code speaks of skateboarders being super-quick learners. That’s because if they make a mistake, they typically fall (instantly), and immediately gain feedback on what went wrong. So too the life of a futsal player.

It is on occasions like this that we as coaches can do more by doing less. By challenging  our players and trusting them to discover the right solutions, we are putting the burden on the player  to think for him- or herself. If a player cannot get around a defender, or an opponent is constantly getting around them all the time in a game, we as coaches and parents have to ask ourselves: Are our young players  thinking of solutions? Or are they always looking to you as a coach or their parents in the stands?

In my opinion our young players know the game better than we give them credit for  — or in fact, better than they give themselves credit for. Of course as adults we need to be there for discussion and to help guide young players towards  solutions, but we must be helping our young players think for themselves.

We all want to develop “thinking players.”  That can only be achieved if we provide an environment where they can practice the ability to try things, perhaps fail at them, and then come up with a solution that works – on their own. Players don’t, for example, learn passing by adults drawing diagrams on a white board. They learn the skill by actually doing it. And, as I hope is clear by now, keeping score – and simply “playing to win” in games  like the ones we contest in the Toronto league – is completely irrelevant to the kind of learning we’re trying to foster.

Sorry coaches, but despite all our efforts,  the game remains the greatest teacher.

If you are in any doubt, consider this: After a tough futsal league game last Saturday, where I sat in the stands and other staff coached the players during the U11 and U14 games, I asked the players to complete a simple task at training the following morning. I asked them to write down three things that they had learned from the game they played less than 24 hours previously

The responses were as follows:

  • Move the ball quicker
  • Communicate earlier
  • Make your decision before you get the ball
  • Be faster
  • Get open (move a lot)
  • Take shots when close to net
  • Decide early (pass, shoot, dribble)
  • Talk more, give directions to teammates
  • Look for open space
  • You have to make quick decisions
  • You have to know where and what you are going to do with the ball
  • You can’t be standing still, you have to keep moving
  • Communication
  • Fast pace
  • Lots of touches on ball

Job done. They already had all the answers. And the best part: I didn’t tell them any of it.

The game did!

FOOTBALL (Soccer) continues to be more attacking minded……this last week in the English Premiership League confirms it!

What type of training do young players require to succeed in the modern game?

ian-nov-22This weekend’s series of games in the English Premiership League produced the 2nd highest ever number of goals. Arsenal’s 7-3 defeat of Newcastle United and Manchester City’s 4-3 defeat of Norwich City with 10 men followed Chelsea’s 8-0 defeat of Aston Villa last week and Manchester United’s  4-3 defeat of Newcastle United on boxing day.

What is significant is that the top teams in the league are placing an increased emphasis on their team attacking options than playing with defensive caution. Manchester United has a commanding 7 point lead at the top of the league and are the leading goal scorers in the league – both at home and away. However, there are 8 other teams with better defensive records during home games and 7 teams with better defensive records during away games. Manchester United signalled their intent to outscore other teams in the league in order to regain their Premiership title by purchasing Robin Van Persie from Arsenal for 24 million pounds, instead of investing in the weaker midfield and defensive areas of their squad.

It is not only strikers who play a significant role in a team’s attacking play. The majority of teams in the English Premiership typically play with only 1 striker. Therefore, midfield layers and full-backs have important roles to play in the attacking phases of play. Brazil has long used attacking full-backs arriving late in wide positions to overload defenders in wide areas to generate crosses or create dribbling opportunities into the box to create  goal-scoring opportunities. In Arsenal’s 7-3 win over Newcastle Theo Walcott scored three goals, Giroud two goals yet their right full-back Sagna was involved the most in their attacking play over 90 mins. Similarly, in Chelsea’s 8-0 win over Aston Vila it was their right full-back,  Azpilicueta, who had the most influence in their attacking play.

It is generally acknowledged that at the top levels of the game the team with the most possession controls play and as a result typically wins the game.  However, statistics confirm that it is the quality of a team’s attacking play in the attacking third (rather than quantity of the play) that has a greater influence on results.  For example, during Newcastle United’s 7-3 defeat to Arsenal  they had a greater amount of possession (59 % v 44%), attempted a  higher number of passes (462 v 340) and achieved a higher pass completion rate (89% v 83 %). The difference was that Arsenal completed a greater number of their passes (100 v 68) in the attacking third.  The pace and trickery of players such as Walcott and Ox –Chamberlain and the quality of their finishing (10 out of 16 shots on target) proved the difference.

Similarly, Chelsea enjoyed 57 % of possession versus Aston Villa’s 43 % and only enjoyed a small advantage over Aston Villa in the % completion of their passes ( 87 % v 80%). Again, it was the difference in the number of passes completed within the attacking third and the quality of the finishing that resulted in the 8-0 score.  Chelsea successfully completed 148/191 of their passes in the attacking third versus Aston Villa’s successful completion of 63/107. Fifteen of  Chelsea’s 26 attempted shots were on target, while Aston Vila only had 1 shot on target, out of their 7 attempts .

Some people may conclude from these statistics that it is the team’s  that have more play in the opposition’s attacking half that typically go on to win games. Therefore, a successful tactic would be to get the ball forward quicker. However, this is not supported by game statistics. Arsenal only enjoyed a territory advantage of 54% v 46% versus Newcastle in their 7-3 win and Chelsea only enjoyed a 56% v 46% advantage over Aston Villa in an 8-0 win.  Again, it is the quality of the attacking play in the attacking third that makes the difference. The teams that best control possession in these areas with short 1 and 2 touch passing and penetrating dribbling runs typically create more goal scoring opportunities by pulling well organized defences out of position.

So, what type of youth training can best prepare our young players for success in the modern game?  To be effective in the attacking third of the field requires:

  • Good technique in tight areas
  • Ability to play quick 1 and 2 touch passes
  • Quick thinking to make effective movements off the ball
  • Imagination, skill and courage to take players on in 1v1 situations
  • Early finishing using both feet
  • Ability for quick transition –  from defence to attack and attack to defence

At 1v1 Soccer FC we believe that futsal training and games is the best development model during the winter months to develop these skills.  The play is fast-paced and players are naturally challenged to think quickly, play at a high tempo and to be constantly making effective runs to create space.

The game is changing and we must make the necessary changes within our own youth development training programs to reflect this and successfully prepare our players so that they can excel at the highest levels!

( Source: Stats Zone)

1v1 Soccer FC visit Wolves FC in England

Background: 1v1 Soccer FC’s Partnership with Wolves FC Academy

In March 2012, 1v1 Soccer FC entered a partnership agreement with Wolves FC academy. Wolves FC have successfully attained the highest level of Academy status in the UK (Category 1) and share this distinction with only 19 other professional clubs in England. Their Academy has successfully developed world-class players such as Robbie Keane (transferred for total fees of $150 million) and current Manchester City and England international Joleon Lescott.

A greater percentage of their 1st team players every year are being developed within their own academy system. Currently, 25 % of their young players within their U18 and U21 academy teams have received 1st team opportunities and the goal is to increase this to 40 %.

Wolves Are you Next The Wolves North American Academy partnership program has been established to develop development programs in North America that can share Wolves FC coaching methodology and provides opportunities for our young soccer players in Canada to fully realize their potential. This is achieved by following the “Wolves Way” player development model and providing our players with training experiences similar to the young players in England. This training includes technical, tactical, coordination, speed and physiological training preparation.

Academy staff coaches from Wolves FC travel to Canada on an annual basis to evaluate and provide feedback to the players on their progress towards a possible career in professional soccer. In July, 2012, 16 of our players were identified by Wolves FC academy staff at an ID camp in Ancaster and invited to attend additional training at the Wolves FC academy in England in spring 2013.

1v1 Soccer FC is the first organization in Canada to secure this type of relationship with Wolves FC and this represents a clear pathway for both our male and female players to play soccer at the professional level.

Trip Observations to Wolves FC – November 2012
Training Ground In late November we were invited to visit the Wolves FC academy to observe training, learn more about their development model and view the facilities that the selected 1v1 Soccer FC players will be training at during their academy experience trip in spring 2013.
Our trip confirmed that Wolves FC are operating one of the most successful academies in the UK. The recent changes to the academy system at the professional clubs has dramatically increased the contact time with the players. This training is all supported by comprehensive education, sports science and performance analysis resources so that players achieve optimal performance and achieve a balanced lifestyle.
We were fortunate in being able to observe the training preparation of players from U7 all the way up to the 1st team. Their academy is operated out of one facility which means that the 1st team and academy players use the same facility on a daily basis. This provides the young academy players with direct access to professional players as role models. It also creates a very distinctive and consistent training and development culture at the club based on their philosophy.

Wolves FC – Academy Vision and Strategy

Wolves academy playerYouth development in professional football (soccer) in England is extremely competitive and includes 12,067 players. There are 40 professional club academies and 51 centres of Excellence, which is a scaled down version of a full academy model. Professional clubs typically start to identify and train young players as young as U7 age-group but cannot sign them until they are U9 (aged 8). Between the ages of U7-U9, several players will train at multiple clubs and then make final decisions on which club academy to attend at U9.

The main objective of professional club academies in England is to deliver an environment that promotes excellence, nurtures talent and systematically converts this talent into professional players capable of playing 1st team football.

 Wolves FC consider themselves as a Premiership club, even though they suffered relegation to the second highest league (Football League Championship) at the end of last season. Traditionally, they have been one of the top club’s in England and are a founding member of the football league. They were formed in 1877 and have won the First Division Championship (Forerunner of Premiership) 3 times, the FA Cup 4 times and the League Cup 3 times. Therefore, their aim at the academy level is to develop young players capable of playing at the Premiership Level, rather than the Football League.

 The club opened the Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground, which we attended, in 2005. It cost £4.6 million and features five high-quality under-soil heated training pitches, eleven changing rooms, a fully equipped gymnasium, and a hydrotherapy pool -one of only a handful of English clubs to own such equipment. The training ground’s medical and physiotherapy facilities made it the first (and so far only) British sports club to establish a fully accredited professional sports laboratory, based on AC Milan’s Milanello model

New training centreIn July 2011, plans were announced for a redevelopment of the Compton Park area, situated in the green belt, where the training ground is currently located that will enable Wolves to build a new indoor pitch and improve facilities to create a ‘Category 1’ Premier League football academy.

The £50 million project involves the football club, the University of Wolverhampton , St. Edmund’s Catholi School, the Archdiocese of Birmingham and Redrow. the construction company founded by Wolves owner Steve Morgan. The club is making significant investment in it’s youth academy and the goal is to develop technically excellent players who are tactically astute, independent decision-makers and fully equipped for a successful career as a professional footballer.

They also aim to develop educationally rounded people through a holistic approach. It is commonly acknowledged that to become top professional footballer, young players must be capable of learning quickly and making quick and correct decisions. Clubs such as Wolves FC are placing a great emphasis on the academic education of the player and have a full-time staff member solely responsible for the academy player’s education development. They have also developed close working relationships with two schools directly opposite their training ground.


To achieve success at the academy levels, Wolves FC, like the other category 1 clubs such as Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United seek to implement the following characteristics within their Elite and Multi-Disciplinary Training Environment:

  • An elite environment where players have the necessary time and space to develop
  • An environment where all aspects of the program are challenging, developmental (not based on winning until later ages 16+) and inspirational
  • The program is supported by outstanding coaches at every phase of the performance pathway
  • The coaching program is supported by education, sports science and medicine and a playing games opportunities (30 max/year)
  • A multi-disciplinary approach that successfully develops all four aspects of talent development: Technical/Tactical, Physical, Psychological and Social
  • The development of educationally rounded graduates who are independent thinkers, both on and off the field.
  • An environment that consistently produces professional players at the appropriate levels of the game for each club’s academy status, for Wolves FC this means players that are equipped to be successful at the English Premiership level

Next Issue

  • Technical Development: The Performance Pathway by Age-Group
  • Playing games within the elite development model

What we do differently at 1v1 Soccer FC?

During the last few months I’ve been asked many times what we do differently at 1v1 Soccer FC. I must admit it is something that I think about also as we continue to evolve. It is important to me that we retain the same core values as an organization and that we don’t lose sight of why 1v1 Soccer was started in the first place, back in 2000.

We have entered into what we see as a long and very successful partnership with Wolves FC Academy and we do share their same values of Work, Organization, Loyalty, Values, Education and Success!

The Beginning…Everything Starts Somewhere

1v1 Soccer was started back in 2000, because I felt that there were not enough young players in Ontario receiving quality coaching. A small pool of players were chosen to train in the provincial programs and in reality, the program could only caterer to a small number of players within a convenient drive time of the training centre at Vaughan. We aimed to help change that…and I do think we have contributed to some of the dramatic changes currently underway within Ontario. There are many more training opportunities now available to young Canadian players.

Fast forward to 2012 and I recently wrote down the top 5 things that defines 1v1 Soccer. It was interesting that my wife and I completed the list independently and agreed on 4/5…..I’m normally never always right at home anyways!

The Top 5 Things that define 1v1 Soccer :

  • The player must be placed at the central point of learning! Our focus must always remain on the technical, tactical, physical and mental development of the individual player. Every child that enters our program is expected to leave our program, not only a better player but more importantly a better person. The player’s academic education must work “hand-in-hand” with their learning as a player.
  • We are an individual skills development company that places emphasis on development of the individual. We emphasize individual creativity and game intelligence of our individual players over regimented team structures and team results
  • We aim to provide young Canadian players with similar soccer training experiences to other young players in Europe. Our training model is European academy based and we look to develop our own players “in –house” within our own community-based programs and prepare them for our elite programs at older ages
  • We have a long-term vision with respect to developing young players. It does take 10,000 hours to develop an elite athlete and we try to attract young players and families who recognize and are committed to this long-term approach. Not all our players will strive to play the game at the elite level but we do want to provide them with the skills to enjoy the game more at the level they wish to play at.
  •  We provide multiple pathways! We do not own players in our programs. Our role is to develop and move along our players to higher levels of play and to assist them in their “soccer journey”. We must continue to add additional player pathways such as Wolves FC, US Scholarship, MLS academies, Provincial programs and OPDL play in 2014. We are always there to assist our players that move onwards and upwards along the way………once a 1v1 player…..always a 1v1 player!,

Influences on My Coaching Philosophy

A great deal of my coaching philosophy has been shaped by my early education as a coach at Crewe Alexandra in England, the Futsal-based training at Brazilian Soccer Schools and my observations in Spain at Sevilla FC’s academy. Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code has also played an important role in helping me define my own coaching philosophy.

Some of my practices may seem unconventional but I am a firm believer that young players must “struggle” in training and that they must be out of their comfort zone to improve. (View Talent Code Video)

I do believe that we must attain a certain standard with respect to our training facilities but I do not believe that Facilities do not develop superior players. If that was the case, Canada would not have such a poor ranking in the world and Maradona, Ronaldo, Messi etc would not be the some of the game’s greatest ever players. I like crowded training areas, where players constantly have to “solve problem’s” to keep their ball under control and in play. This philosophy is consistent with the development of elite athletes in other sports. Daniel Coyle refers to this as the “Power of Crumminess” . (Read article on the Power of Crumminess)

At 1v1 Soccer, we are not trying to develop the best players in Canada, that to be honest is not good enough, we are trying to develop players that can compete with the best young players overseas. Futsal is an important component of our winter program. Players such as Ronaldo and Messi have all played this and Xavi has recently confirmed how important the game is to development. (Watch Xavi Video)

Long-Term Development for the Individual Player 

It remains our philosophy at 1v1 Soccer FC to place “individual long-term player development” for all our players ahead of “short-term team development” for a select few. This is a philosophy consistent with professional club academies in Europe, where the objective is to educate and develop as many players as possible for higher levels of play. Academy coaches at Wolves , Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, PSG and Santos do not concern themselves with winning games and nor do we. What we do concern ourselves with is ensuring that as many of our young players as possible have the skills required to succeed at Wolves FC, MLS academies, the new OPDL league and within our regional and provincial programs.

It would be easy for 1v1 Soccer FC to keep most of our current SAAC team in a U11 division next year and win most of the games. We will not be doing that as we are committed to “individual player development” and not winning games. Players who grow up playing in successful teams frequently do not reach the higher levels because as they develop they become more and more dependent on talented players around them. This changes when they go on trial at professional clubs overseas. Many top European coaches make this comment to me on a regular basis. If young players do not develop the ability to overcome adversity during game situations, embrace it and channel it into becoming better…they simply will not be able to play at the highest levels!

Where we are going to……

As Dario Gradi at Crewe Alexandra famously said “…..our job is to develop better and better players……and more and more of them”! Our goal remains to have someone in the very near future ask the question “….how come there is a little “soccer hotbed” called 1v1 Soccer in south western Ontario developing some of the game’s greatest players?”

1v1 Soccer FC Expands Elite Female Academy to Burlington

1v1 Soccer FC is delighted to announce that, effective immediately, we are expanding our Elite Female Academy training program to Burlington on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The program will be for U12-U14 players. The Burlington training location will be Norton Community Park from 6:00-7:30pm.

1v1 Soccer FC have a direct link to English Professional club,Wolves FC’s academy in England. Wolves FC have a women’s team that plays in the FA  Northern Premier League after last season’s promotion and League Cup double. Two 1v1 Soccer FC players will be travelling over to England in spring 2013 to be further evlauated by the Wolves FC academy staff.


The recent Olympic success of our Female National team and the hosting of the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada have elevated the profile of our female soccer programs. To fully prepare a greater number of young female players to play at the top levels of the game, 1v1 Soccer FC is delighted to announce our expanded program for female athletes.

1v1 Soccer FC Director of Coaching, Ian McClurg, coached 6 of the players from this year’s Olympic team, during his time as an Ontario Provincial Coach, and is excited about the current opportunities available to our young female players in Canada.

“The success of our female national team at this year’s Olympics confirms our philosophy that player development is a long-term process. The Ontario based players that I had the privilege to work with were very dedicated in their training and have trained at a very high level for over 12 years. These same opportunities are available for any young players who can demonstrate, over a long time, a high level of commitment and dedication to the sport. The launch of our new female development centres will provide training opportunities and pathways for young female players so that we can help
them play at the higher levels of the game”

1v1 Soccer FC are now seeking dedicated female players, from U12-U14 to train at Norton Community Centre (Burlington) on Tuesday and/or Thursday evenings. Interested players should contact Ian McClurg ian@1v1soccer.ca to inquire about participating.

Our New Female Training Development Program will include

· Full -Year Academy Training – Options for 3-4 times/week

· Soccer Tour Option to England

1v1 Soccer FC will be following Wolves FC academy training curriculum to develop soccer players with the following qualities:

(1) Take Responsibility for their own attitude at all times. Ensuring they set high standards both on and off the field of play

(2) Ability to handle the ball under pressure. They are preparing to play at the highest level where a high level of proficiency will be

(3) Ability to Learn. The academy represents a school of football (soccer), on this basis players must be able to take on board information and apply it in training and in games.

(4) Players must have their own vision of the game. The very best players see “pictures” before anyone else. Our players have to display a certain level of game intelligence.

About Us

1v1 Soccer was established in 2000 and quickly established itself as one of Canada’s leading soccer development companies. We provide specialist
soccer coaching to boys and girls of all abilities aged from 3-16+. We have a direct link with English club Wolves FC’s youth academy

Our Mission/Values

Our aim is to provide young Canadian players with soccer training experiences comparable with leading soccer nations. We achieve this by providing a positive educational and training environment where young players follow a proven and progressive coaching curriculum delivered by qualified coaching

‘We believe that the game soccer can positively impact the lives of young people and we seek to develop life skills that can be transferred to education and other areas of our player’s lives…n addition to improving soccer performance”

Player Development is a Long-Term Commitment

We take a long-term view of player development. Research confirms that it requires 10,000 training hours for athletes to reach elite levels. 1v1 Soccer provides coaching instruction and pathways for development that enables our players to have realistic opportunities to ultimately join professional academies in North America and Europe , pursue US scholarship opportunities and derive greater enjoyment from the game, due to their enhanced
level of skills development.

Director of Coaching – Ian McClurg

Ian is a UEFA “A” licensed certified coach – which is Europe’s top coaching qualification. He also holds US and Canadian B license qualifications and is a former provincial team coach for Ontario and Toronto FC Academy coach. During his career, Ian has worked with 6 players from the current
Men’s U20 Canadian National team’s pool of players and 7 players from the current Canadian Women’s National Team