Start of the NSCAA webinar series


The NCAA launched their winter webinar series last Wednesday with “The art of duel 1 vs. 1” presented by Tony Englund. (If you came home late form training that night and you have missed it (like me) – You can see the video below.


Generally, I liked the presentation. It was not too long, however 10 exercises were presented with a progression from 1 vs. 1 with only a direction given towards more position-specific duels including multiple players (Exercise #4), involving a goal-keeper (#6) and also possible offside situations. Tony mentioned the term “functional” several times, however to me that was not really defined. I am speculating that he meant “game-like situations” (meaning closer to real game-situations or possibly more “position-specific” (how I named it earlier) where in this sense different positions have a specific task/responsibility/outcome of the duel. For example a shot on goal is not always the one and only possible outcome of a duel (however that makes it more fun for everyone), but a cross is more likely the final outcome for a winger or even full-back.

Obviously, I don’t want to comment on the coaching style or technical aspects, as this is totally up to every viewer to take some ideas/exercise or leave it.

However, I think I can add some details that will influence the physical aspects of these exercise and/or also slightly add a small physical aspect to it.


Physical aspect speed

In a 1 vs. 1, (generally) ball-dribbling skills are very important, which gets more and more difficult with running speed. So obviously having a superb acceleration and a high-speed will most-likely effect the outcome of a duel……IF the situation allows high speed running (and allows “bigger” touches). Sprinting with and without the ball are therefore two different thing.

One example is Messi vs. Ronaldo. Without knowing how fast they can run, I would expect Ronaldo to be quicker (without the ball over 40 meters), but due to his superior speed it is harder to control the ball at the same speed, which then leads me to the assumption that Messi might have a better skill of dribbling the ball at a velocity relative to his maximum speed. That is probably why Messi can play/dribble in central positions better with Ronaldo dominantly come over the wings (with more space) which suits his speed – but that is only my opinion.


Area on the pitch

One situation in which small/many/controlled touches are crucial is in condensed areas including other players and/or close to sidelines. Tony mentioned these briefly creating scenarios more game-like after exercise #4. So not necessary (running) speed is THE most crucial attribute here, but maybe others like the ability to fake a move or shielding using your body.


Pitch size

Having a relatively big pitch size (like in SSG - see HERE) and depending on the situation (striker comes from the side/front, or even receives the ball with the back towards the defender like Tony suggested in Exercise #6) will influence the stress placed on athletes and the taxing of different systems as well as result in possible changes in technical aspects. If the pitch size is too big, players don’t need to dribble but just sprint. If its too small there will “only” be shielding of the ball, fake movements and control of the ball.

In this sense, the pitch-size might also influence the duration (for example in #7). If it’s a counterattack setting then the exercise might even start 20 meters in front of the own penalty box and will include a sprint up to 50 meter before the striker can finish.


Duration of exercise

As mentioned, the duration might be determined by the pitch-size, however also from the situation and/or might even depend on the training goal of the coach as well (and even a 1 vs. 1 under fatigue might be a desired goal as some teams play (double) overtime on a regular base during competition). Just a small anecdote from Ted Lasso: “No ties and no play-offs, my job just got a lot easier!”.

Which duration to choose? Tony suggested 30-40 seconds. For most of the exercises I would agree (#1-4), but tend to choose a shorter duration as most of the exercises might conclude in a sprint over a certain distance and therefore might end earlier anyway (from my experience). For example, if you have a counterattack or a delivery and there is not an interruptionnof the play (ball out of play, goal etc.) after 15 seconds, one or both of the two players (usually) did a poor job.

However, if 30 seconds is desired, the players would predominantly use their anaerobic system (most likely including) a build up of lactate (if the intensity is maximal, which will then have some links to recovery).  However, as I mentioned before, if the exercise is “done” within 15 seconds, the players will not accumulated lactate (see some information about the  physiology of the anaerobic system HERE).

In order to accumulate fatigue and possible involve the aerobic system (more), exercises need to be longer than 45 seconds (maybe 1 minute) and/or the recovery time between exercises are (very) short(er) (30 – 1 minute). For example for the last exercise (#10), it would be nice to see who can still perform under fatigue in the 6th match.

So coaches should adjust the training load according to season phase and it is likely that they experience differences in explosiveness, feints and sprints during these duels according to the physical state of the athletes.



Recovery also plays a huge part.  (Depending on the training goal) Coaches need to choose the recovery duration. Here it is hard to give “exact” guidelines. However, if the set-up of a duel is a repeated sprint-like situation which would also try to train intense situations in a match resulting, a work-to-rest ratio of 1:5 can be chosen.  As a result the recovery would be at least 1.5 minute for an activity that is 15 seconds in duration. (More about repeated sprint ability can be read HERE.)



Adding a possibly physical stimulus to the exercises

Besides manipulating the pitch, the rules, the exercise and recovery time, speed is crucial in duels and therefore players might benefit from adding/amending the exercise a little bit.

For example players coming from offside (which can easily be added to exercise #6). In this scenario the striker starts in an offside position (5-10 meters behind the defender) and receives then the ball on-side (as a result he has to sprint back for the desired distance).

A possible scenario for a defender might be cutting of a possible passing direction or coming back from covering for another defender – exercise #4 (however I would then suggest that the coach plays the ball to the striker in order to coordinate the runs better).

As a result the players might receive a neuromuscular stimulus improving acceleration.


The Training Manager -