Chalk Talk: Formations and Strategies for the 2-3-1 Offense

Back in April, former Maryland head coach Dave Cottle took you through the 1-4-1 Zone Offense. In this week’s Chalk Talk feature, we’ll focus on the 2-3-1 Offense, an effective system that presents a number of problems for defenses and opens up a lot of possibilities for the offense. Follow along as Coach Cottle breaks down alignments, options, player roles, and demonstrates how to change formations.

Alignment and Ball Movement Within the 2-3-1 Offense

In the 2-3-1, two players will be up top, three wil be out in front of the goal, and one player will be behind the net. In this dodge-oritend offense, the first question we must ask ourselves is, “How will the defense slide to an out top dodge?” Well, if the defense is coming adjacent to an out top dodge, they might have three defenders up top versus our two players up top. That’s a win situation for us. So the key here is to try and dodge inside out and draw the adjacent slide.

Once we draw that slide, we will move the ball, whether it be one or two passes. Then, we are immediately attacking. Now there are two defenders on the left side of the field occupied by just one of our offensive players. Where the defense makes its next slide will determine who will be open on the backside.

When the ball gets moved from 6 to 2 and to 1, and the far side close defender crashes nearside, the far side top defenders might crash down low. We can now have the option for a skip to 5, or a pass to 4 down low. The basic spacing between players in this offense is very important to us. As a coach, it’s also vital to find out what the right relationship between players is.

**Key: Out of the 2-3-1, we will look to dodge from the wing or behind or out top. Essentially, we want to dodge, draw two defenders, and then attack.


Options Within the 2-3-1 Offense

There are a lot of options we can do within this offensive set: Roll off, pop off, carry, or follow to the outside.. For instance, we can roll off or pop off into a different formation (like to a 3-3), or even roll off or pop off into a 1-4. For more on these plays, read our feature from earlier this year breaking down the 1-4-1 offense.

In terms of a follow, this is when you throw the ball from out top to a wing and the player who made the pass will follow for a shot. It’s quite ideal for a great outside shooter, however, it’s not ideal for a player that doesn’t have an accurate outside shot as it disrupts your offense and allows the defense to pack it in tighter.

On a skip pass, it’s either a shot or down. Remember, never skip to a player who can’t shoot. This is why it’s key to get to know your players and what their strengths are.

Meanwhile, the 2-3-1 is a dodge-oriented offense. Therefore, we adjust our positioning as the ball is adjusted. Plus, if you are dangerous inside, it makes the defense collapse down, and this opens up chances on the outside.

**Ideal Scenario for the 2-3-1 Offense: 1 is a great feeder. 2 and 4 are great shooters. 5 and 6 are great dodgers. 3 is a great inside player.

On-Field Simulation: 2-3-1 Offense

We will start in a 1-4 and then change formations to a 2-3-1 and play on. Notice the following maneuver here as the crease pops off, leading into to a 2-3. In the 2-3 Freelance, we will start with a dodge out of this formation with 5 and come down the alley. He will then pass to 4, and on to 1, and back around to the other side. The important thing here is the spacing between the wings and the players up top.


The clips seen in this week’s Chalk Talk feature can be found on Championship Productions’ DVD “1-4-1 and 2-3-1 Adjustable Zone Offense.” To check out our entire offensive lacrosse catalog, click here.

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