Coordination Dynamics Practice Design

Interpersonal coordination in 1 vs 1 soccer situations

Interpersonal coordination refers to the coordination between two people. For instance, have you ever noticed that people often coordinate their legs with a person close to them as they walk (e.g., both right legs move together at the same time)?

In a 1 vs 1 soccer play, interpersonal coordination refers to the interaction between two players with regards to where they move. If the attacker and defender move in sync with one another, then their movements are coordinated. This is obviously the goal for the defender who is trying to move where the attacker moves.

If coordination between the two players breaks down, this might represent an opportunity for the attacker to take a shot on goal (as the attacker can break free from the defender).

Understanding the factors that influence interpersonal coordination in a 1 vs 1 situation can therefore provide valuable information to guide training.

The study (Laakso et al., 2017)

Fifteen male under 15 soccer players participated in the study. Among the players were 5 defenders, 7 midfielders and 3 attackers (according to their team role in their club competition).

Participants competed against each other in 1 vs 1 situations. Participants were matched with other participants and were required to switch between being the attacker and the defender. Given that the players were a mixture of attackers, defenders and midfielders, this led to 6 combinations:

  1. AADD – attacker attacks, defender defends
  2. AAMD – attacker attacks, midfielder defends
  3. DAAD – defender attacks, attacker defends
  4. DAMD – defender attacks, midfielder defends
  5. MAAD – midfielder attacks, attacker defends
  6. MADD – midfielder attacks, defender defends

In addition to this, the situations started from one of three locations adjacent with the penalty box: Left, middle or right.

Coordination between the 2 players was assessed by measuring two variables: (a) the distance between the attacker and the defender relative to the centre of the goal, and (b) the angle between the attacker and the defender relative to the centre of the goal. These variables were continuously recorded throughout each situation.

The results

The key results were:

Field location influenced the coordination between the attacker and the defender.

  • The distance and angle between the attacker and the defender (relative to the goal) was larger when the situation started in the middle. This is probably a reflection of the increased shooting opportunities for the attacker to explore when located in the middle.

Player roles also influenced the coordination between the attacker and the defender.

  • When a defender attacked and an attacker defended (i.e., the opposite to their typical roles; DAAD), the distance between the attacker and defender (relative to the goal) was smaller. This was thought to be because the defender perceived the attacker to be less skilled during these situations; hence, the defender was presumably more comfortable standing closer the attacker.


There are at least 2 implications for training from this research:

  • It is important to expose attackers and defenders to a variety of situations from a range of field locations. This will encourage attackers to explore greater possibilities for shooting at goal, while defenders will learn to improve their defensive positioning.
  • Young players should be provided with diverse experiences (e.g., defenders play as attackers) rather than asking players to specialize in a specific role from a young age. This should improve the ability to adapt to different situations that might occur in a match.


Laakso, T., Travassos, B., Liukkonen, J., & Davids, K. (2017). Field location and player roles as constraints on emergent 1-vs-1 interpersonal patterns of play in football. Human Movement Science54, 347-353.

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