Back to Basics: Mastering the 2v1

Positional hockey is based on the idea of constantly looking for numerical superiority, always looking to create 2v1s. This is the reason why, this situation, although it looks really basic, is the core of our game and we need to master.

First thing first: Before analyzing how to play (and win) a 2v1 situation, we should understand that, more important than executing a 2v1, is identifying it.

When we say 2v1, everyone imagines a small, clear space, where two attackers have the ball against one defender. Yes, of course, this is a 2v1, but this is not what we most often find in the game. We need to develop in our players the ability, not only to identify a 2v1 situation, but also to create it.

2v1 Expectation
2v1 in reality

In general, the 2v1s won’t be so easy to recognize: They will be “hidden” in situations with more players, where we need to recognize that, in order to actually execute a 2v1, we need to “attack” a defender, looking to draw him and free a teammate.

The basic 2v1

We always like to start from simple to complex, so let’s begin analyzing how to win a basic 2v1 situation. In order to achieve this, the first thing we need to understand is what we mean when we say winning the 2v1.

To win a 2v1 is to eliminate the defender. Although most of the time it will be by a winning pass, sometimes we can also eliminate without even passing. But first things first:

What’s a winning pass?

In order to make a winning pass, the position of the receiver will be key:

  • If he isn’t high enough the pass won’t eliminate the defender and so it can be defendable
  • If he is too high the pass would be risky and the defender could intercept it.
  • He should be as high as possible, without giving the defender any chance of touching the ball, outside his reach.
The correct positioning in order to create a winning pass

Draw and Pass

One common mistake when trying to win a 2v1 is making the pass from too far away from the defender, giving him time to react and be able to defend. The player on the ball has to “attack” the defender until we are in a position where if we pass he will be eliminated for sure. Again, not getting into his reach.


By standard in a basic 2v1 we will ask our players to make it as wide as possible, since the space to defend will be bigger and harder, as we know the ball can be much faster than a player running.

Having said this, in reality, sometimes we won’t be able to go as wide as we would like because there might be other players and the 2v1 would disappear.

In those cases, the position of the receiver will be modified by other factors, since he has not only to consider where he can get a winning pass, but also what he can do afterwards he gets the ball.

A wide 2v1 situation

Technique: Postures, Passing and Receiving

Of course, the technical part will be as usual very important in order to succeed in winning a 2v1. If any detail is not perfect, we will lose seconds that might change the whole situation.

Player on the ball: His posture will be really important, where he is carrying the ball. He must have it in a position from where he could pass it at any moment, to any place. A common mistake is putting the ball in front of the body, only allowing to pass to our right with a backhand pass.

The pass must be fast, strong and accurate so that our teammate can receive already moving forward.

The posture when running with the ball, always ready to pass

As we said before, winning a 2v1 doesn’t necessarily mean passing the ball: We can use our teammate to move the defender away and then keep running with the ball. The only objective is eliminating the defender.

An example that we don’t need to pass the ball to play a 2v1.

Receiver: His posture and receiving come all together, he must be ready to receive on the run in order to leave the defender behind.

Great example of an excellent receiving posture, ready to go forward.
An example that a small technical mistake can ruin a perfect 2v1

2v1 Direction

Another important tip is always understanding the “direction” of the 2v1: It’s not the same a 2v1 between our center defenders than a 2v1 on the baseline of the rival team. We must know that all these concepts are always in the direction where we want to go, and that should be, 99% of the time, towards the goal.

An example of how the Winning Pass angle varies with the direction of the 2v1

Complex 2v1: The Box Game

When we talk about “more complex” 2v1 we can even consider the case of The Box Game, as we can look at a player receiving inside the box as a 2v1 situation, but, as we said before, in order to choose his position, there are too many other factors interfering than the 2v1 itself.

Same situation analyzed from a Box perspective and from a 2v1 perspective

In this example, we can easily see how a same situation can be analyzed as Box Game or as a 2v1, it all depends “the lens” you want to use. If we look at it as a 2v1 situation, it’s a complex one, since, although is clear which players are involved in it, the receiver also needs to take into consideration other players that could interfere and prepare his next action. This is what we mean when we say “creating a 2v1”.

When analyzing Box Game, the 2v1 concepts will be useful to create superiority. When focusing on 2v1, the Box Game will be useful to consider other players involved and where is the ideal receiver’s position.


I really like this kind of subject since I feel that sometimes as coaches we like to make things look complex and that’s just to show ourselves. Our best skill as coaches should be to analyze in depth the complexity of the game, but make it look as simple as possible to our players.

To finish the post, I will share a video from Australia playing 2v1 all over the field, playing simple, yet effective, hockey.

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