1-2-1 or small group?

In an industry where private training is becoming the norm, there are lots of questions about what is the right training for me or my child. Is 1-2-1 the right route to go down or would it be better to participate in small group training? This post aims to help answer these questions, weighing up both sides of the picture.

The Rise of Private Training

If we look back a few years back, 1-2-1 training or private sessions were virtually non-existent with a minority of coaches offering the opportunity for players to experience this kind of coaching. I know for myself personally when I was at junior football, there was nothing of the sort and we wouldn’t have even given a consideration to it.

However fast forward to 2020 and the term 1-2-1 coach is the new fashion, with people wanting to break into the 1-2-1 market popping up all over the place, especially in the UK. It is the new “in thing,” and is possibly seen as the greatest way to develop players at the fastest rate.

When looking further afield into the US and Australian market, this kind of coaching has been around for years with Joner Football currently being the leaders within the market, and companies like Beestera making moves out in the USA. However a lot of these major companies do not just offer 1-2-1 training, rather a combination of this and small group work.

The question now becomes why is this the case and is one better than the other? We will delve deeper into this below, helping to supply arguments for both sides.

1-2-1 Coaching

 1-2-1 coaching is where one coach delivers a session to one individual player, working on elements which are extremely specific to the player they are working with. There are a range of things which they could work on within the session, such as fitness, position specific work or looking deep at one technical skill i.e. passing.

Benefits of 1-2-1 Coaching

  • Sessions extremely specific to the one player
  • Un-pressurised environment
  • Adapted to the players learning style
  • Individual mistakes can be corrected instantly 

Drawbacks of 1-2-1 Coaching

  • Heavily reliant on individual player motivation
  • Limited scope for competitive plays
  • May lack game realism at times due to no opponents

Small Group Sessions

The way these are set-up differs only slightly via the fact there are more players. The actual sessions which are done are extremely similar to the 1-2-1 set up. Naturally most coaches limit the numbers of players in these types of sessions to around about 5 players, as this still allows for great personaliation of the session without the coach getting too overrun. However these types of session can range anywhere from 2-5 players with the session, depending on the needs and wants of individuals.

 Benefits of Small Group Sessions

  • Able to put the technical coaching into match situations
  • Players can bounce off each other and motivate each other
  • Wider variety of sessions and combinations which can be done
  • Players can learn from each other, provide feedback
  • Much more competitive element to the session
  • Much more game realistic

Drawbacks of Small Group Coaching

  • Less coach to player time per player
  • Less specific to one individual player
  • Players sometimes could become less focused, i.e. distractions

Which one do I choose?

As stated above neither of the type of sessions are perfect, with drawbacks for both sessions, and a lot in the end comes down to personal preference.

For example 1-2-1 is a great way for acceleration of personal development within the technical corner of the four corner model, as an abundance of time can be spent working on extremely specific aspects. It is also great for building coach to player relationships because the nature of the sessions is one player one coach, so they get to learn a lot about each other. Lastly, they are great for someone who may get easily distracted with others around, as this environment does not allow for too many distractions.

When looking at the small group sessions, these can be made much more game realistic with opponents and game based scenarios for example. If we look at the four corner model, these sessions offer a lot more scope to work in the social corner which is all about communicating with teammates or offering encouragement. In addition to this, small group sessions often naturally have competitiveness between the players within the session, driving the intensity of the session even higher.

As you can see this debate could go on for days, with elements of both being superior to the other, causing a real dilemma of how to best aid development.

From a Coaches Perspective

From a coaching perspective, within a small group session there are a lot more ideas which can come to light. This is due to the fact there are more players available, allowing for more game-play type scenarios. I also believe this leads to a much higher intensity, especially when the energy starts bouncing from player to player. 

However, in the 1-2-1 environment I love the personal aspect you have with the player, learning more and more about them not just as a footballer but as a person. Now don’t get me wrong this still happens in the small groups, but it is natural when your working so closely with a player week in week out to build such a bond. Also within these sessions, sometimes there is heavy reliance on the coach to motivate due to the fact the player may sometimes not feeling it etc, whereas in the small group some of the motivation comes from other players.


Even writing this post the whole way through I am baffled trying to figure out if one is better than the other, and in all honesty I don’t think these sessions should be compared. They should be viewed as separate entities,  due to the fact they work on different aspects.

In your are looking for accelerated technical development then for sure 1-2-1’s sessions are your route to head down, as this is exactly what you get. However as mentioned the issue is it then becomes difficult to put into game scenarios because you do not play football 1-2-1.

This is where the small group sessions is king as it allows the individual to then practice the technical skills, whilst in a competitive environment. Bringing what they have learnt into a game situation, which can then be replicated on a match day.

Therefore after looking and thinking intently about this subject matter, my opinion is a combination of the 2 will achieve the most desired results. My reasoning for this is because the 1-2-1 will provide the platform of learning for the skills and techniques, then the small group will provide the opportunity to enhance these by recreating them as they would in a game. I believe a combination of these will allow for the player to fully thrive in all four corners: technically, physically, psychologically and socially.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you have enjoyed reading it, and it has given some insight into the different value these sessions could have.


James Redford 

JCR Sports Coaching

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