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PostPosted: 15 Dec 2021, 11:48 

Posts: 6
This will be my 7th year coaching youth basketball. I coached each of my older kids 4-6th grade. I've got a lot of my beginning philosophy from BTB, so thanks for that. This year I'm starting over with 3rd grade girls and planning on doing all of the same things, basically. That will include running a beginner motion offense (I base things for the older kids off of R&R, but we probably won't get much past pass and cut and when to back cut) and P2P defense.

However, I know from experience that most of the teams in this league will run a zone, which leads me to two problems. One, trying to teach the girls to drive hard and find gaps, when the zone is packed down low and making us shoot over. That issue is ongoing and we're just going to have to try to score in transition and live with the fact that most of our other points will come off offensive rebounds. The second issue is with practice time. We practice 2x per week, an hour each, and have roughly 8 practices prior to our first game. That's tough enough when none of them have played organized basketball and so all rules and situations (jump ball, free throws) have to be taught. But one thing I've always struggled with is how to coach the offense to operate against a zone when I don't want to spend the time teaching our girls how a zone operates? We have 10 girls which would allow us to scrimmage against a zone, but I have a hard time telling them to set up in a zone while also saying "we'll never actually do this".

So that's my issue, how to teach them the basics of attacking zone (more pass, attack gaps, ball reversal) without wasting practice time explaining zone concepts? I get that most of the basics apply to any defense but there are generally different approaches to attacking each.

PostPosted: 16 Dec 2021, 08:01 
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Posts: 1280
Hey Scott,

This is a great question. I ran into similar issue but not as severe.

The first suggestion, which you might not like and might not be feasible is to find a different league that requires man to man defense for all or at least a portion of the game. Fortunately, some tournaments and leagues in my immediate area enforced no pressing and man defense only rules. And when they didn't, the coaches had enough sense not to run all zone. It just depends on your location and the basketball culture in that area.

All in all, we probably faced zone defense 25% of the time.

Second, play lots of 3v3 during 3rd and 4th grade. Have your own scrimmages with other teams... maybe even actual games with officials. You control the rules. We avoided 5v5 as much as possible in 3rd and 4th grade. But eventually gave in to 5v5 because it was getting too time consuming to find other opponents to play.

Next, I can share how I dealt other teams playing zone defense...

I just focused on universal offensive concepts in context of motion (spacing, cutting, ball security, decision making etc). Those concepts applied to man and zone.

Then when we faced zone defense, I emphasized the following before the game or at timeouts:

- Make sure you FILL to the ball and create a good angle so we can keep the ball moving and get reversals.
- Cutters should stop in the middle of zone.
- Create good passing angles!
- Use pass fakes to get the defense shifting and out of position.

I probably spent 10-5 minutes going over the concepts in practice. Otherwise, we never practiced against zone defense until around 8th grade.

The biggest thing I found is that I needed to show them in practice exactly what I meant regarding creating passing angles. I'd show them where to cut so they can open passing windows on the perimeter and/or in the middle of the zone. Once they understood that concept, we were fairly effective.

Just like in motion against man, we mostly emphasized spacing, ball movement, and decision making (universal offensive concepts). We didn't see as much zone defense as you, but it worked well enough for us.

Hope this helps.

Jeff Haefner

PostPosted: 17 Dec 2021, 23:12 

Posts: 6
Thanks for the response. As far as changing leagues, this isn't a club team but one sponsored by an optimist club in a rural area, associated with the local elementary school. So there really isn't another option. I'd like a "no zone" rule to be implemented in the league, but that's not very likely. We'll be playing 5v5 for all of our games, but will try to stick to small-sided games in practice as much as possible. I've warned the parents that being 3rd graders our focus will be on skills and we may not be very game-ready compared to other teams this year. I think the track record in the past will help with that, we tend to be fairly successful in , say, 6th grade.

Otherwise you're pretty much in line with what I was thinking and have tried in the past. I'll try to incorporate more work on passing angles. The two biggest things in the past that I've struggled to emphasize vs zone are ball reversals and playing in gaps instead of generic spacing. I've taught spacing against air using hula hoops to signify the zones, I'll probably try that out again prior to going live, I can see where that would be helpful to teach how to stop within the zone on basket cuts (what R&R calls "hook and look").

Thanks again. I think I know what to do, but struggle with resigning to a relatively unsuccessful season with respect to wins and losses. I've had good luck with parents so far, but I'm waiting for the group or loud individual parent that doesn't see the process playing out. And of course the kids don't like to lose.

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