Soccer in Ontario: Everything starts with a vision

1v1_pic1_mar19_13Over the next few months, RedNation Online will have the privilege to post excerpts from Ian McClurg’s upcoming book on soccer development in Ontario and Canada. Ian is the technical director of 1v1 Soccer FC, a training academy in Ancaster, Ontario who has a relationship with Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. in England. Below is the first installment that serves as the introduction of what is to come. Please watch out for Ian’s upcoming columns.

I started 1v1 Soccer back in 2000, because I felt that there were not enough young players in Ontario receiving quality coaching. The provincial association would choose a small pool of players to train in the provincial programs and, in reality; the programs could only cater to a small number of players within a convenient drive time of the training centre at Vaughan. We aimed to help change that by offering additional training programs to many other young players who were keen to improve but, for one reason or another, found themselves outside the Ontario Provincial teams programs.

See Also: From the Touchline: Ian McClurg

To be honest, though, simply providing additional training programs was not enough for me. My ultimate goal was to be able to develop young players within Canada who could then go on to play soccer at the very highest levels of the game. This could include playing overseas for a professional club, playing for a professional club in North America, playing at a US college on a soccer scholarship or playing for our national or provincial teams.

I wanted to develop a training system that could be compared favorably with any other throughout the world. Lofty ambitions, when you’re thinking of taking on large, well-established professional soccer institutions like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester United, AC Milan and Juventus. However, you have to start somewhere, and it certainly helps to have many traits of the typical male from Northern Ireland: stubborn, and not in a mood to surrender any time soon!

It also helps to have a clear vision. Many times I have read that it is important to write your goals down as a compass towards your ultimate destination. I would agree with that and have followed this process religiously. Based on my experiences, however, I can hold my hands up and admit that life does get in the way, while the politics of youth sports in Canada can drain you, making it very tough to stick to a pre-set plan.

And if truth be told, I suppose I have to admit that perhaps I don’t really want to find a final destination! To me, a lot of the fun – and most of the challenge – is in the journey. But if I did have to sum up our overall goal at 1 v1, I would borrow the words of the great developer of young players, Dario Gradi at the English club Crewe Alexandra: our goal is to develop better and better players — and more and more of them.

The ideas I set forward within these pages reflect my experiences as a youth soccer coach in Canada, trying to teach young players technical skills and how to understand the game better. Along the way, I have also always wanted to develop young players as better people. Learning step-overs and juggling isn’t enough. You have to also learn to respect the world’s greatest game, treat your time playing it like a gift, always strive to be better and always understand that your own conduct is a reflection of yourself and your family. My grandfather, father and uncle all provided me with a great passion for the game and in my own way, I have tried to pass this along to the young players I’ve come across.

This path has taken a fair amount of time out of my life, and driven those around me a little crazy.  But I am hoping that you as a coach or parent can benefit from some of the lessons that I have learned, and still continue to learn along the way!  In his book The Talent Code, author Daniel Coyle – a major influence on my thinking about development – talks about the idea of the “hotbed”; that is, a small geographical area that produces a disproportionate number of very successful people in a given field like sports, music or the arts.

With that in mind, our goal is to have people in the very near future asking why there is a little “soccer hotbed” in southwestern Ontario developing some of the game’s greatest players?

And of course we’d like the answer to be “because there’s this great program called 1 v1 Soccer at the heart of it all.”

In my upcoming book and in future excerpts on RedNation, I’d like to share with you some of the ways and methods we’re going to use to try to get to that answer.

Ian McClurg is technical director of 1 v 1 FC, a soccer training academy based in Ancaster Ontario. This article will appear in his upcoming book, The 1v1Way: Soccer Tips from an Emerging Talent Centre. For more info, contact Ian at or visit