Monday, February 7, 2011

Why Playing Zone in Middle School is Wrong

Been to a lot of 8th grade games recently in my quest for an AAU team (a quest that has been less than successful thus far). I am astonished by the number of 8th grade teams that play a lot of zone. So in light of that I will lay out why playing zone in middle school is just not right. I am not an anti-zone guy, as a matter of fact the 1-3-1 was my base with our varsity last year. I am just against playing zone at young ages. My case is as follows.

1. Playing zone doesn't develop on ball defensive skills.
There is a certain skill to playing a guy one on one in man to man. Of course you still have the help, but it's your job to stay in front of them. When I watch 8th grade teams play zone, and it's a lot of sagging off, not pressuring, and just kind of watching when the guy drives by.

2. Playing zones doesn't allow the offense to work on driving the ball.
The drive has become a bigger and bigger part of our game, and players need to be able to work on it in a game setting. Against zone however, they spend a lot of time standing, passing hte ball around the perimeter, and then driving into 2-3 guys. Instead of teaching how to stop the drive, coaches at the youth level simply switch to a zone.

3. Playing zone forces a lot of players to jack up three pointers.
I have watched a lot of teams shooting three pointers

4. Zone doesn't teach good help defense and movement.
Help defense is great in the zone, because they are just standing there. They just kind of saunter form place to place. They don't have to defend a cut then jump to the ball to help on the drive. They just kind of let the cutter go through and then wait for the drive still in help. It's not an active defense usually and that gives kids the idea that defense is not an active task.

5. Most high school teams play man.
I can think of 1-2 high school teams in the metro area that play mostly zone. So most of the teams play man the majority of the time. I can see playing zone in middle school if they are only going to play that in high school, but it's not the case usually. So why play a defense at the middle school level they won't be playing when they get older? Again, it goes back to development vs. winning, what do you want?

You can say that any defense taught poorly is a bad defense, and I agree. I just think that zone defense lends it self better to engraining those bad habits in a player. And I know some of my arguments revolve around offense of the opponent, but let's be honest, like Stan Van Gundy said, are you more concered about winning an 8th grade league or developing players? At the middle school level, I feel that all of the emphasis has to be put on player development over winning. As you get older the ratio shifts, but I can say that with this 8th grade team I am taking I would rather lose a bunch of games and have the guys be successful as seniors in high school than win a bunch and watch them ride the pine. But that's just one man's opinion!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

your comment about it resulting in 3 pointers and reduced driving is exactly the point of a zone. if the other team is superior athletically and not very good at shooting, you can exploit that with a zone. finally, middle school teams like to win, too. a coach is not going to force a team of bad on the ball defenders to play man and lose a game for the sake of developing their defense when he can hide their weaknesses in a zone.