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I’ve become obsessed with the two-man game in the sport of lacrosse and I stumbled upon a video below from the 2014 NCAA Championship game where Duke ran a mix of 1-3-2, 3-1-2 and 2-3-1 sets all working out three “pairs”. My obsession became complete, and that started this post, which will grow over time as I add in more and more useful information. So here goes…

What Is The Two-Man Game?

On-ball picks started this trend many moons ago. Hopkins was one of the first ones I remember really running hard with picking for the ball carrier over and over again on ever possession, although I know many others employed this strategy long before.

Slowly but surely math one out.  In a 6v6 set, if someone wins their 1v1 matchup, you’re left with a 5v4 situation. If you win a 2v2 matchup, you often end up with a 4v3 numbers advantage once the ball carrier draws the hot defender. So more and more teams started working a lot more 2v2 matchups into their schemes. What’s not to like? You can even go big/little and dodge an attacker or mid with a pole guarding them off a pick set by a player with a short-stick defender trying to get the switch allowing a second dodge with a better match up.

One of the best demonstrations of a basic two-man game you’ll ever see by Ryan Boyle…

Enter The “Pairs” Set

As mentioned above, I stumbled upon the video below of Duke running their “pairs” set in the 2014 National Championship game. The idea is, you break your six offensive players up into three “pairs”. The paired up players work almost exclusively together picking, dodging, slipping and attempting to draw a slide. One pair attacks from out top down to GLE on the right, the other on the left with the 3rd pair operating between X and GLE.  So we are breaking the field up into three sections, and allowing each pair to operate almost exclusively within that area.

What I love most about a set like this is it lends itself well to players of any level.  You can teach this concept to youth kids with great success, summer travel teams where you have limited time to teach offensive schemes, all the way up to elite D1 colleges as you’ll see below with Duke.

Duke Owning the “Pairs” Philosophy

This video below is a great demonstration of how to execute a true “pairs” set, allowing each group to attack the field over and over from the areas they are most comfortable and effective.

They are great to run for summer and travel teams. You have limited practice time for summer, fall and winter travel teams, and pairing players up, and allowing them to work on their “2-man game” as the travel season plays out is both simple and effective.  There are a never ending supply of drills that can be used in practice to constantly work and on and improve the 2-man game, so as the summer wears on, sometimes into fall, the kids slowly but surely begin to perfect the scheme, and suddenly the 2-man game looks like a 6-man game.

Drills in practice that you can do to work the two-man game….

Two-Man/Pairs Shooting Drill

Great drill to practice the mechanics of the pick, slip and bail.  I actually like going from this drill right into quick one-v-one’s and then right into two-v-two’s and continue putting to practice the things they work on with this shooting drill.

2-On-2 Drills

Next up, you work in 2v2 drills, attacking from the same areas shown in the video above and just like Duke does in the first video. The key here is everyone rotates around and attacks from all angles, left, right and from X (diagram or video coming).

6-on-6 Drills

One of the main goals of the two-man game is to get the defenders to slip up and get a step for either yourself or your partner. This sometimes results in quick goals. However, when the slide comes from elsewhere, the two-man game becomes a three-man game. So out of your 6-on-6 set, have each pair practice dodging and working their area until they draw a slide and then immediately pass the ball on to one of the other two pairs, either through an adjacent pass, or preferably through reversing the ball back to your partner that just slipped under so he can pass the ball on to the weak side (diagram or video coming).