What’s more important, 1v1 or 2v2?
Offensive Development Through The Ages - 1v1 to 2v2 tactics
Let’s break down two important stages in player development.
One-on-one is the type of hockey you see at younger ages. Generally speaking, the players that are stronger early prey on the weaker competition.
As the pyramid quickly forms and these players are grouped together, it becomes harder and harder to beat players 1v1. This competitive advantage starts to disappear, which is intuitive. After all, it’s rare to see 1v1s work in the offensive player’s advantage at the NHL level.
Yet, you’ll see plenty of youth coaches working on 1v1s at practice.
Then, as puberty starts to take hold of the players’ bodies, the differences in power allow another window where players can have great advantages and successes with 1v1 hockey.
Again, as everyone catches up… success rates decrease again.
Many players continue to play this way due to early success with 1v1s but ultimately stall in their development.
As players move up, playmaking and working with teammates become essential. It’s a separating factor and allows players to translate their talent to the next level of play.
When he was the head coach of the USNTDP, Don Granato said that the thing they have to teach in the first year at the program is for all of these great players to work together. This era’s Chicago Steel (USHL) preach the same concept. Teaching and helping players find ways that they can work together is a massive step in player development.
Erik Willander is one of my favorite follows on Twitter. He is diving headfirst into teaching his players 2v2s. It’s a noble and important undertaking that will fast forward his player’s development. We went back and forth in some illuminating tweets:
With 2v2s, players are exposed to elements of understanding speed differentials, how to play within small areas, and creating space for their teammates.
A classic example would be finding ways to create mini-2v1s inside of the 2v2 situations. “Divide and conquer.”
Or the more advanced player may look to create a 1v2 to free up a teammate.
Benefits of Training 1v1s
Let’s circle back to 1v1s. We’ve established that team play is critical and 1v1 odds are low. So why should we focus on 1v1s?
The most important reason is that elements of 1v1 sink into every game situation. While most 1v1s are terrible ideas, the thought process to finding ways to put 1v1s into your favor is enormous.
I was chatting with one of the premier skills coaches in the world who was reflecting on their kid’s development. He mentioned that he moved away from 1v1s too early and that if he were to do it again, he’d ensure there was more focus on the elements of a 1v1 and spend more time with that.
While working 2v2s and team play should be a massive focus, continuing to work 1v1s is a major piece that shouldn’t be forgotten. Players being able to set up advantageous conditions and being able to navigate these battles are massive assets for any player at any level.
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