Repetition without repetition: 2v1s

Decision-making scenarios need to be slightly different every single time. Otherwise, players are not making decisions, they are simply repeating a technique. Here’s how to set up challenges that also create good habits.

To beat one defender with two attackers, the ball carrier must draw the defender and then release a pass so the defender can’t catch the receiver.

In a match, the situation depends much on the relative speeds of the players and the distances involved. Yet, so often, we run these exercises in a small box, with the players coming from fixed points.

To a certain extent, we can forgive this. You need lots of repetitions so the players can try out their skills. The small boxes won’t tire out the players so that they can maintain some quality. You can keep control of the players, and observe them more effectively.

From here, you can help them discover or even tell them what techniques work most effectively. For example, how to fix a defender, when to accelerate onto the pass, how to pass so the support player can run onto the ball and when to call for the ball.

Better players will soon be able to run through these exercises, executing the right pass and “winning” most of the time. Yet, put them into a match, and these skills don’t seem to transfer as effectively. It’s not because of the pressure or the techniques.

There are two reasons for a lack of transfer in terms of finishing off overlaps:

  1. We don’t get that many 2v1s in a game.
  2. And when we do, they are very often at full pace after a ball carrier has run some distance. The support player won’t have connected to the ball carrier in the sense that they may have just got themselves into position early to receive the pass. In a drill, the ball carrier and support player will know who’s who straight away.

Therefore, while the skills should be highlighted in the 2v1 boxes, they should be quickly moved into more realistic circumstances.

In Game context 2v1s, we start this process by making it into a 2v1 from a dummy ruck. That’s a far more likely scenario. Then, the players don’t face the same defensive picture. The defenders are coming from different angles.

The way the attackers line up is also more realistic. They have to “reload” ready to come forward. This process of getting into a position to attack means they are looking ahead, or they should be anyway. This is when the attackers seek spaces to attack or mismatches.

In the end, 2v1s, or indeed any overlap, happen either because of a break or because a team creates fast ball and the defence doesn’t reposition themselves quickly enough. The most realistic scenarios repeat these situations but make them different enough that the players must react quickly.


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