Are You Playing Zone Defense with Your Youth Team? Would You Like to Improve Your Man or Zone Defense? Are You Frustrated with Your Youth Defense?

Here's an Inspiring Story and Lesson About Developing a Smothering Youth Defense

This is an email from one of our subscribers. I urge you to read it and learn from it. It will help you stay on track, improve your defense, and eventually win more games!!

"I started coaching a middle school team 3 years ago (all 6th graders). Like many coaches at this level, I was a parent volunteer and had little experience in coaching basketball. I got involved with the high school coach and got her involved with our program. She told me the players coming to her program cannot play M2M and their zone defense is even worse because they do not have the fundamentals.

I set clear goals (SMART goals) for the team and each girl. I scheduled and planned practices. We finished the year 0-12 only scoring 14 points a game and giving up almost 40. I reinforced with our team and parents that we are giving up the short term gratification of using "zone defense" for a long term foundation that will benefit the girls long after they are finished with their middle school careers.

The following year, we went 5-11 and only lost by an average of 8 points (26 ppg on defense). The last year they were in middle school, we won the championship. We went 15-3 with the best defense in the league (16 ppg) and the second best offense in the league (29 ppg). These were the same girls that went 0-12 just two years before.

We did it against mostly "zone" defenses. We didn't do it with more talent or different players. We did it through hard work and determination and learning how to play defense (footwork, positioning, deny, help and recover, rebounding, transitioning) while everyone else was fixated on winning now. Because our defense became so good, our offense improved dramatically. Our offense had to play and learn how to score against the best defense in the league every practice.

Coaches would ask me after games, "your team is tenacious; how did you get them to play M2M defense like that?" I would tell them," it started two years ago while you guys were beating us up with zone defenses."

I tell you this as a testimonial to working on building a solid foundation. That formula works for everything you will do in sports and, more importantly, in life. There are no short cuts to long term success."

- JoeDubb

We believe this is a VERY important lesson for youth coaches... As you probably know, we highly recommend and preach man to man defense to youth coaches. There are countless reasons to play man to man defense with youth teams (which we won't go into all the reasons in this particular article). But suffice to say, man to man defense is better for your team and their development of players.

The biggest objection we hear is that man to man defense takes too long to teach and the coaches/players want to win now. It's the old "instant gratification" problem.

Well if you could just show a little bit of patience and emphasize the right things with your players, YOU could have the same success that this subscriber had above. Not only is he teaching fundamentals and preparing his players for the future. But he's also winning a lot of games and having fun!

We hope this story inspires you to stick to what you know is right and overcome your urge for instant gratification. Play man to man defense. Teach the fundamentals. Set small goals that are not based on winning, instead base them on learning and development. Be patient. And eventually success will follow.

If you have any questions, let us know. We want to see you succeed.

What do you think? What are your experiences? Do you have any thoughts, ideas, and suggestions?


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Michel Godbout says:
2/25/2011 at 10:38:06 PM

In our school leagues, teams are not allowed to play zone defense until juvenile level which is 15 to 17 years of age (grade 10 & 11). This is happenning in Québec, Canada. Man to man defense is the foundation of every defense in basketball.


mr loser says:
2/23/2011 at 12:35:25 PM

Awesome story! We always play M2M, even in under the hoop out of bounds situations. Other coaches play zones against us, but we don't care. Our job is teaching our players fundamental skills, making sure they ALL have fun, build a love for the game and get better. And, imho -- while a zone will definitely help you "win" at the youth level -- you don't get better/learn fundamental defensive skills playing one.


Brandon B says:
2/12/2011 at 5:57:17 PM

I think overall man is the best defense period. It doesn't take coaching skill to stick a 6'6 kid in the middle of a 2-3 when hes an 8th Grader. He's not improving his footwork and his foot speed, which will hurt him when it comes down to playing High School. I am a JV Basketball Coach and the fundamentals are the most important. I love this website because it try's to help teach these basics. Kids can have natural talent. My varsity coach has an excellent M2M system which we both use for AAU as well as during the high school season. He forces me to use this man and play only that. People ask me all the time if we don't win, why don't you ever play zone. I tell them because I wanna make these kids better. We also finished the season 12-2 and I am also 30-8 in three seasons as a freshman/JV boys basketball coach playing only a man.


Dale says:
1/31/2011 at 11:05:10 AM

I coach JV boys and play only M2M defense. Sometimes I'll have people tell me that we should play a zone, but I say that whatever defense you play, the guys still have to stop a man. Footwork, position, help and rotation. Get those right and it won't matter who you come up against, you will be OK. If you want the shortcut, get the man defense E book from breakthrough basketball, and you are well on your way.


Joe Haefner says:
1/30/2011 at 10:33:14 AM

Hi Michael,

I would make sure to have a pre-season meeting with the parents. I would explain your philosophy and how it will help their kids in the long run.

Here are some more tips on handling parents:


Michael says:
1/27/2011 at 8:35:51 PM

I agree 100%. I coach 8u and 10u boys and we use m2m defense and always play against zone defenses. My frustration is that I coach a different group of boys every year because of the draft. So, sticking to the fundamentals of m2m makes it hard to ever have a championship caliber team, because it's usually the end of the 10 game season before you start to see real improvement and wins. And yes, the pressure from the parents to win is sometimes tough to handle, but I stick to it anyway. Any thoughts on my situation?


psylox says:
1/27/2011 at 8:01:08 PM

hi to all coaches out there can you send me a copy or sample of your training program and drills to help my team and improved my skills.. tnx a lot and god bless... my email is cp no 0918-594-4399..


psylox says:
1/27/2011 at 7:54:50 PM

hi to all coaches out there can you send me a copy or sample of your training program and drills to help my team improve my skills.. tnx a lot and god bless... my email is cp no 0918-594-4399..


Joey cook says:
1/27/2011 at 5:17:17 PM

I've been coaching a rec team for the past three years. I have different girls every year. My first year I did not know what I was doing. I found your website employed alot of your drills. Had a lot of success. This year I went all out and I bought the motion offense e-book from you guys and employed a girl-to-girl defense. It took a while for the girls to get used to it. But they learned more this year then they have any year. Every parent was astounded but everything they learned. I thank you guys for your help. Next year will be my last year coaching my oldest daughter at the rec league she will be going into jr high. But I'm thinking of letting my youngest daughter do the re. League for one or two years then getting enough numbers and going to aau that will be a big step up.


Ido Singer says:
1/27/2011 at 4:05:07 PM

I fully agree.
I grew up playing mostly M2M on a professional level in Europe and as a young coach I stress the fundamentals and a solid M2M defense is the basis to any successful defense.
I upsets me every time I see a team that we face (Either my Girls Middle school or my Girls JV) THAT PLAYS NOTHING BUT ZONE!
How do coaches expect kids to learn anything by telling them they are only responsible for a small portion of the floor and that's it? It upsets me and I'm sure other coaches that care as much as I do and put in as much effort and work as I do that some coaches only care about winning and not teaching.
But I urge you all to stick to your guns and keep teaching fundamentals even at the expense of winning. Rest assured - the results will come.


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