Coaching the next generation of Canadians – one on one style

Published in Total Football Magazine – January 2012


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.

Young soccer stars receive advanced placements

brian-will-and-liam1v1 Soccer FC Academy has placed 5 Hamilton players in advanced training as a result of their 2011 development program.

Leading the five local players, Daniel Mun was selected for the South Ontario Region (SRSL) development program – the highest level available for his age group – even though he is a year younger than other players participating.

Ancaster’s Brian Botorce, Liam Outlaw and Will Cseresnyes have been selected for the Hamilton and District development program.  The district program develops players for the regional and, ultimately, the Ontario provincial teams.

Ryan Robinson, 10, has been selected to participate in Mt. Hamilton’s Elite U13 Toronto FC Academy program for 12 year-olds. Ryan took one of only 12 positions available in a competition with over 200 players.

All five players have trained with 1v1 Soccer FC, in addition to their club teams, since 2009, and have impressed 1v1 Soccer FC Director of Coaching, Ian McClurg, with their dedication to continuously improve their skills.

“We are pleased that these boys have received this recognition. They are five of the most talented players in the area and have impressed me with their training mentality. All have different strengths as players, but they all have a tremendous desire to improve themselves as players and as young people. They work extremely hard in training, week in and week out, and we are expecting them to progress further in the sport and play at higher levels during the next few years”.

1v1 Soccer FC is a unique, individual-skill-based training company which has no teams of its own. It was launched in 2000 by McClurg, one of only a handful of UEFA ‘A’ licensed coaches in Ontario. McClurg is a former Toronto FC Academy and Ontario Provincial team staff coach. He 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.

In recognition of this and other national team achievements, the Academy was recently chosen by England’s Leicester City FC as its first International Academy partner. Leicester City FC will partner with 1v1 Soccer to identify and develop standout players for collegiate and professional careers in the Golden Horseshoe.

To focus on this new advanced development partnership, 1v1 Soccer has launched its first Advanced Training program for 14 to 16-year-olds. The program is by invitation only and launches in Ancaster, Burlington, Oakville and Waterdown (girls only) in January.

To apply for a position in the program, contact 1v1 Soccer at 905-906-1178 or online at

Two more 1v1 Soccer FC players receive recognition

Two more young players from 1v1 Soccer FC, Daniel Mun and Ryan Robinson have been selected for more advanced playing opportunities.


Daniel Mun

Daniel Mun has been selected for the next stage of Regional development program – even though he is a year younger than other players participating. The Regional development programs are the “feeder” programs for the Ontario provincial team and identify and develop players 12-13 Years of Age

Ryan Robinson (who’s 10 years old) has been selected to participate in Mt. Hamilton’s Elite U13 Toronto FC Academy program.

Over 200 players participated in the identification process and only 12 players were selected.


Ryan Robinson

Both players have trained with 1v1 Soccer FC since 2009 and have impressed 1v1 Soccer FC Director of Coaching, Ian McClurg, with their dedication to learning and continuously improving their skills. Both have regularly attended 1v1 Soccer FC training 3 times/week.

” We are pleased that two more of our young players, Daniel and Ryan, have received this recognition. This follows our recent announcement about Brian Botorce, Liam Outlaw and Will Cseresnyes. Daniel has been recognized during the last few years for his dribbling ability and creativity with the ball while Ryan is a very direct player with a good change of pace. Both players regularly attend training early and stay afterwards in order to practice more on their own or with other players. This provides a great example to our next generation of young players coming through. We fully expect both Daniel and Ryan to keep progressing to higher levels of the game-providing they maintain their current commitment to training.”

Three 1v1 Soccer FC players Selected for District Program

brian-will-and-liamThree 1v1 Soccer FC players, Brian Botorce, Liam Outlaw and Will Cseresnyes have been selected for the Hamilton and District development program. Players born in 1999 (U12 – 2011) are identified and selected to participate in the district program. The district coaches initially rely on written recommendations from Rep Coaches and Club Head Coaches regarding the better players at this age group. All three players were invited into a try-out process and demonstrated good technical skills and abilities to gain selection to the program. The district program develops players for the elite regional and ultimately the provincial programs.

All three players have trained with 1v1 Soccer FC since 2009 and have impressed 1v1 Soccer FC Director of Coaching, Ian McClurg, with their dedication to continuously improve their skills.

” We are pleased that Brian, Liam and Will have received this recognition. They are three of the most talented players in the area and have impressed me with their training mentality. All three have different strengths as players but they all have a tremendous desire to improve themselves as players and as young people. They work extremely hard in training, week in and week out and we are expecting all three to progress further in the sport and play at higher levels during the next few years”.

1v1 Soccer FC Launches New JNR Program for Ages 3-5


1v1 Soccer FC Junior’s is an ECE inspired soccer program for young children, of all abilities, ages 3-5. The program is overseen by UEFA “A” Licensed Coach, Ian McClurg.

1v1 Soccer FC Junior’s is staffed with high coach to child ratios to allow for the needs of all players to be met with a patient (ECE) approach.

We encourage young minds to pick up new skills in their own time and try them in small-sided games. The program begins early October at Ancaster and Burlington locations!

Registration can be completed online at or call us at 289-239-9602

Program Benefits • Early teaching of soccer specic themes and techniques • Develops core movements of agility, balance and co-ordination • Encourages positive social interaction • Promotes an early understanding of rules and boundaries, respect, teamwork and fair play • Inspiring an early passion and love of the game

Observations from Spain -Part 2

sevilla-fc-coaching-staffThis is the second article about my recent trip to Spain and observing training at the Sevilla FC academy. During a week long visit in May I was able to observe training sessions for players aged four, right up to the 1st team.

Spain are the current world champions and Sevilla FC are recognized as having one of the most successful youth academies in the world. After yet another disappointing performance by Canada in an international tournament-Canadian female’s failure to win any games at the 2011 World Cup-surely it it time to change our philosophy and current player development structures.

The information I am presenting is freely available yet in Canada we fail to do the following:

  • Adopt a training to playing game ration of 3 or 4 training sessions per game
  • Spend sufficient time on developing and maintaining technical skills during the peak season (we spend less time in summer months working on skills)
  • Place greater emphasis on long term development versus winning meaningless tournaments or games
  • Embrace the work of private academies with highly qualified instructors within our system

To produce top player’s who can succeed in the modern game there are 5 main components. The 5 main components are detailed below and this issue will focus on how Spain develops players with great technique. I have included some video footage from Sevilla Fc training sessions.


Well-developed ball-skills so players are very comfortable in possession

  • 1v1 situations and in tight spaces under pressure.
  • Ability to execute with precision in all match situations


Good coordination is achieved when players have the ability to merge fluid, efficient and effective movement with technical and tactical aspects of the game

  • Coordinated movements between the ball and body
  • Quick changes in speed and direction

Tactical Knowledge

Develop broad tactical understanding of the game to quickly assess situations on the field

  • Make the correct choices for their team
  • Rigid team roles and positions will not succeed in the future; therefore players will be required to be flexible in where and how they play

Speed of Reaction

The pace of the game has reduced the time that players have to react under intense pressure from opponents. Increases the value of skills repetition, which helps to develop ‘automatic’ responses on the field.

  • Rapid execution of movement based on what they see/hear
  • Quick transitions between attack and defense

Mental Skills

  • Optimism
  • Focus
  • Pride
  • Competitive anger
  • Relentlessness
  • Courage
  • Passion

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Coaching Observations from Spain

Ian McClurg at Sevilla FC's Stadium

Ian McClurg at Sevilla FC’s Stadium

Coaching Observations from Spain   sevilla-fc1

I would like to  take  this  opportunity to share some observations from my recent trip to Spain. During a week long visit I was able to observe training sessions at Sevilla FC for players aged four, right up to the 1st team. The trip provided me with great insight on how professional football players are developed and the various stages that players must go through during their 10,000 hours of training.
Spain are the current world champions and Sevilla FC are recognized as having one of the most successful youth academies in the world, so I felt very privledged to be able to observe their training methods and share ideas with their coaching staff. Adam’s success and the recent signing of a
10 year old American player by FC Barcelona (see story in newsletter) demonstrates that there are young players in North America who can play at the highest levels of the game. Sevilla has asked me to assist them in identifying more players and it is my feeling that the work that we are currently doing at 1v1 Soccer FC can develop more talented players…..and more and more of them!
Email us at to receive a FREE copy of our latest Newsletter highlighting my coaching observations.

1v1 Soccer FC Player Adam Bouchard Completes Successful Trial with Sevilla FC

Successful Trial with Sevilla FC

Ian McClurg and Adam Bouchard with Sevilla FC Coach Sergio Dominguez Cobo

1v1 Soccer FC player Adam Bouchard has completed a successful week long trial with Spanish La Liga club Sevilla FC. Adam trained with the U16 academy team and was praised for his technical ability during his stay. This is a major accomplishment, given that Spain are the current world champions and are noted for their high technical ability.

Adam’s performances earned him an invite to return to Sevilla FC in August 2012 for another trial. 1v1 Soccer FC Director of Coaching, Ian McClurg, has also been asked to identify and bring other players to Sevilla FC for assessment, as early as August of this year.

To progress to the next level, the Sevilla FC coaching staff has advised Adam to improve his upper body strength and be more aggressive during game situations. Sevilla FC coaches believe that to become a top professional player it is important for players to have a “warrior-type” winning mentality and impose themselves consistently during training and game situations.

1v1 Director of Coaching Ian McClurg believes that it is now up to Adam if he is to progress to the next level “ Adam has performed technically well in training at Sevilla FC.  To successfully earn a place in one of their academy teams he must be accepting of all the feedback he has received and commit immediately to the necessary physical and psychological work. The next step for him will be to “take a place away” from another player and to do that, he will have to prove to Sevilla FC that he is capable of controlling and dominating the central midfield area on a consistant basis during training and game situations”

Measure, track and improve your technical skills with 1v1 Soccer FC

isoccer1v1 Soccer FC in Ancaster, ON, Canada is partnering with iSoccer to drive technical development to higher standards in Canada. isoccer’s unique measurement system will be paired with our “proven and progressive coaching curriculum” accurately measure, track and improve our players technical abilities. These results will be shared with players on a regular basis and compared to the scores of other players worldwide. How Does iSoccer Work?

Measure: Assessing a player’s technical ability is the cornerstone of the iSoccer Method of individual player development. To empower the player and team so that they know how good they are technically and know their base level, iSoccer developed an assessment test.

Track: The assessment results provide insights into a player’s technical ability helping to identify specific strengths and weaknesses towards which training can be targeted. Over time, historical data highlights the efficacy of training efforts and provides a roadmap for ongoing development.

Improve: A player’s iSoccer Level is the basis for setting goals and designing an efficient and effective training program. Deliberately focus your training on the areas where you need improvement while continuing to develop your strengths. This is when a player needs to get outside and make it happen. iSoccer doesn’t replace training, it enhances training. Armed with the knowledge of his or her unique strengths and weaknesses, each player can maximize the efficiency of their training to see the greatest possible improvement in their game.


The iSoccer Assessment is a test that measures an individual player’s overall technical ability. The assessment is comprised of 16 skills across a range of 7 topics (Comfort, Juggling, Dribbling, First Touch and Passing, Aerial Control, Ball Striking, and Speed-Strength-Flexibility). Each skill represents the most basic and fundamental ability required for a player to have a strong technical foundation

Local coach builds ‘pathway to the pros’

Hamilton Spectator – March 02, 2011


You’ve probably never heard of the Cape Verde Islands. No surprise. It’s a largely unknown tiny cluster of islands just off the west coast of Africa which is home to barely half a million people.

Canada’s soccer-playing population is five times that. Yet with all those players and all our resources, we remain buried on FIFA’s world rankings, 80th overall, just ahead of places like Mali, Benin and Jordan. And yes, behind Cape Verde.

Ian McClurg would love see this change. All of it.

The new assistant coach with the junior team for Toronto FC’s elite soccer academy says there’s no reason Canada has to continue languishing in mediocrity or worse. Which is why he thinks some recent changes in the way the game is overseen will pay big dividends down the road. Maybe rather quickly.

If you are a young soccer star in this country, getting spotted at a young age has long been a crapshoot at best. You’ll need luck and probably some connections to be discovered. By the time a talented kid is identified as such, he may have lost a number of years of prime instructional and development time which puts him way behind players from other countries that are finding their top prospects early – age seven or eight in some European countries – and giving them the resources to become elite.

Further, few Canadian kids dream of a career in the pro game because they have no idea how to achieve such a thing. Hockey has a clearly defined hierarchy and path unlike soccer whose ladder remains a mystery to most.

“I believe firmly Canada hasn’t maximized (its talent),” the Ancaster resident says.

Hence our terrible international record in men’s competition over the past few decades. Throwing young men into games against opponents who have had top training since they were boys usually isn’t a fair fight.

McClurg knows a little about being on the other side. Growing up in Belfast until his family came to Canada in 1981, he was raised in a soccer culture. He later earned a tryout with a British team but he says he always felt he had a coach’s mindset more than that of a player.

“I definitely challenged coaches when I played,” he chuckles. “I would ask questions about why we would play in a certain way.”

He simply couldn’t figure out why some things were done the way they were. Still doesn’t. When he drives around town and sees practices going on, he occasionally finds his blood pressure rising as he watches drills he believes are rather unhelpful.

Coaching allowed him to fix that. With the kids he instructs, anyway. He ran a provincial team for a few years and for the past decade has run a soccer school that stresses building technique and skills ahead of winning games. Last fall, he was asked to help with TFC’s academy.

The idea behind the program is to scour the country for top kids, bring them to Toronto and train them effectively. Get kids as young as 14 and start getting them ready not only for a career in the pros but also to take on the rest of the world. McClurg, who recently got his top-level coaching licence in Europe, explains the kids don’t pay to come, so economics don’t weed out some of the best talent.

“This is the first time in my lifetime a young player in Canada can see a pathway to the pros,” he says.

Already it’s bringing some results. Canada’s Under-17 men’s team just qualified for that age group’s World Cup with 14 of the players on the roster coming from Toronto FC or the Vancouver Whitecaps’ academies. Last year, the Montreal Impact started its own academy, suggesting the number of elite players could continue to grow.

Further, McClurg says with Vancouver joining the MLS – the top level of professional soccer in the country – this year and Montreal in 2012, there will be more pro jobs for Canadians which will also help develop talent.

So, with all this effort being made to shore up the foundation of the sport here, is there really a possibility Canada could get back to the World Cup one of these years for the first time since 1986? McClurg doesn’t hesitate.

“Oh definitely,” he says. “Maybe not this time, but the one after.”

Maybe climb the FIFA rankings past the Verde Islands, too