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Coaching the next generation of Canadians - one on one style

UEFA A licence coach Ian McClurg had a simple concept - and has turned it into a successful business.

Although football is a team sport, it is what individual players do that decides the outcome of a game. A brilliant piece of individual skill, being in the right place at the right time and even individual errors can be the difference between winning and losing.

McClurg is a firm believer that by focusing on coaching on a one to one basis, this will have a major impact on improving individual skill levels and in turn will have a positive impact in match situations.

McClurg grew up in Northern Ireland but emigrated to Canada in 1981. In 2000, he founded 1v1 Soccer, motivated by the desire to provide young Canadian players with the same playing experiences provided by leading soccer nations.

The company established itself as a leading private academy in Canada - and established a successful working relationship with Crewe Alexandra.

McClurg's ultimate goal remains the same as it was at the outset - to have a positive impact on the personal development and playing abilities of every player and coach he works with.

The Canadian national team is currently ranked 74th in the FIFA world rankings - the national side is pictured celebrating a goal during their recent 4-0 win against St Kitts & Nevis in a World Cup qualifier - and McClurg hopes he can play a role in the development of players in Canada and contribute to the future success of the national team.  

Total Football editor Mark Roach was keen to know more...

How did 1v1 Soccer get started?

1v1 Soccer was launched in 2000. I had just joined the Ontario Provincial Team programme as a head coach. At the time, I felt that elite development programs like our provincial team programmes should be available to a greater number of young players, if Canada was to improve as a soccer nation.

My vision was to provide young players in Canada with the same level of training experiences as young players in leading soccer nations in Europe.

Our training is individual based. We focus on a technical skills base and even though our players train in training squads, the majority of our work involves one player with one ball. We are committed to developing each player and providing them with pathways for higher levels of play.

What have been some of your key achievements?

In 2011, we had one player, aged 15, on trial with Seville FC's youth academy in Spain and within the last 12 months, three of our players have trialed with Toronto FC's youth academy.

We are very proud of this accomplishment as we train just over 250 players a week while local youth clubs with 8,000 registered players have not been able to match these accomplishments. We do believe, however, that our latest generation of players will lead to greater success in the coming years.

The bigger picture was our aim to establish a true playing pyramid from young to senior players. This was very different than the structure of other organisations in Canada at the time. In leading soccer nations, professional clubs and professional coaches develop elite players.

Until MLS teams like Toronto FC came along, elite players in Canada were typically developed by parent-volunteers in amateur youth club environments.

Where did the 1v1 Soccer concept come from?

I have always believed that football is a simple game. At its core are the individual technical skills of each player. Players must first master the ball individually, before they can excel in small-sided or larger game situations.

In Canada, we have tended to enroll young players as young as three in programmes, without teaching them how to play. We give them a shirt and tell them to go out there and play.

This philosophy and our emphasis on winning versus development has cost Canada at an international level. Many play the game in this country - there are 700,000 regsitered players - yet we are only ranked 74th in the FIFA world rankings.

Our players play at different clubs in various leagues. Our role is to provide our players with additional training and more individual based skills training than they receive during team training sessions.

Our type of training works in conjunction with team training and can best be described as individual skills coach training, quite similiar to the English FA's skills coaches and the work of individual skills coaches in youth academies in Europe.

Where are you based?

We are based in a small place called Ancaster, Ontario which is located between Toronto and Niagara Falls.

We operate out of four main training centres in Ancaster, Burlington, Oakville and Waterdown.

How has the business developed since it started?

1v1 Soccer FC was an opportunity for me to merge my soccer coaching experiences - I am a UEFA A licenced coach, an Ontario Provincial Team coach and a Toronto FC Academy coach - with my business qualifications and experiences. I have an MBA and work as a Customer Relationship Management Consultant for companies such as IBM and Netsuite.

We now coach over 250 players a week in our advanced class programmes, with regular classes and team coaching programmes for clubs, individual one to one training sessions and academy programmes in schools.

Our programmes can be individual, in small groups, or team based.

What age groups do you work with?

All the way from three-year-olds to players aged 16 and over.

What makes 1v1 Soccer unique?

I believe that we foster a true passion for the game and a true commitment for continuous performance improvement.

What feedback do you get as to how 1v1 Soccer has improved a player’s game?

People are excited about what we are doing and how this type of coaching could have an impact on the future of the game in Canada, especially with the very young players.

Parents tell us that their children have grown in confidence and have developed, not only in the way they play the game but in general. Parents say that they have seen improvements not only in their child's technique and ability but also with their passion for the game.

We hear a lot that children are really enjoying the style of coaching and that it is helping them to enjoy the game more as their individual skills improve.

What have been the most significant changes to 1v1 Soccer as a business?

The programme and company have evolved over time. Our main focus has been on developing young players in Canada who are prepared properly to succeed at the highest levels of the game in Europe. That remains our ultimate goal - and we are getting closer to that vision.

You have recently signed a deal with Leicester City, how did that come about?

One of our young players was invited to participate in an identification development camp in the US which was being hosted by Global Image Sports. We made contact with the company and they had just partnerned with Leicester City FC.

We became the first partner club in North America for Leicester City and although we are still in the early stages of the relationship, we are very excited by the possibilities of providing our young players with a direct and progressive pathway to a professional career in the game.

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