How to move within a zone offense
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Author:  cgott42 [ 22 Sep 2019, 10:50 ]
Post subject:  How to move within a zone offense

My son plays for his middle school team (12-13 yo). Mostly teams run zone defenses, so their zone offense is run pretty much all of the time. He's currently the ~-4th option on offense. He says that his coach insists that he basically stand in one spot while the offense is being run. I understand that him moving without the ball will disrupt the offense. However, on the other hand moving within a ~5ft radius offers no chance of getting open other than if the first 3 options fail (which is rare). Thus he's frustrated as most of the movement in the offense is on the strong side and thus he's basically twiddling his thumbs on the weak side, and thus in the very limited time that he gets to play he doesn't get the opportunity to score. This produces a spiral where the coach then sees even less reason to play him.
Any suggestions?

Author:  jhaefner [ 22 Sep 2019, 14:21 ]
Post subject:  Re: How to move within a zone offense

I could see where that would be frustrating. I'll start by saying that a couple things I'm reading are not "ideal"...

This is fairly common thing we see all over the place. But I don't think it's an ideal situation for development to have most teams run zone defense. I think that is determent to the teams running zone and the teams playing against it. A little zone here and there is fine... but I think teams that age should be playing 80% man to man or more. Here are some reasons why:

It's also my opinion that all players on young teams should be touching the ball and it should be an equal opportunity offense. Now when they get older, maybe varsity level, the primary goal is to win. And if that's the primary goal... you might play where there are 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th scoring options. And your child should embrace their role and do what is best for the team. Many good life lessons to be learned from that. But at younger levels... I believe it should be a dual goal: develop all the players and try to win without hindering player development. That is just my opinion.

With all that said, even though maybe this isn't the ideal situation, there are not perfect teams or situations. There are many more important things. Is your son learning good life lessons? Does that coach set a good example? Is it a positive environment? Are they learning about teamwork, perseverance, and other lessons that can be learned from sports? Are they working on skills like shooting, dribbling, footwork, and other things that will help them develop for future successes? These are things that are probably more important and I could easily put up with less than ideal zone offenses/defenses if there are many other good things counteracting it. There is NO perfect team, coaching, or club. So you have to consider the good and bad. And be supportive of team/coach... whether you agree with their philosophy or not. That is very important.

So with all that said, my suggestion is for him to keep working on skills outside of practices. Work on athleticism. He can't control the coach or the offense being run. He can only control his attitude, effort, and how much he works outside of practice. Work on those shooting skills, ballhandling skills, and so on.

Hope this helps.

Author:  cgott42 [ 22 Sep 2019, 19:48 ]
Post subject:  Re: How to move within a zone offense

Thanks good advice. The coach is very nice, however IMHO there does seem to be more emphasis on winning than I'd like.
I agree with you that there is things to be gained learning to be the supportive member of the team instead of the star. I was always the 6th/7th man on the team and had no problem with that.

Though for my son's own personal situation he needs the confidence boost. The coach has told us that my son is the most talented player on the team (if not #1 then #2) however his confidence took a big blow before this past season (his first playing organized ball. As he lost his brother (my other son) to cancer right before the season started. He was obviously emotional for the first game. He played and scored well during that game, however on defense he was in a daze, and out of position. The coach (thinking he was doing him a favor) benched him for the rest of the game (thinking that it was first game stage fright). This was the worst thing that he could do, as now he was SO embarrassed by the benching. Next game too, the coach was quick with the hook - and voila! a confidence issue and he starting losing his shot during the games. He went from being the star to a bench player getting 2-5min/game
I don't know how to help him gain his confidence back. I want him to get back in the groove, and shoot his way through it, but the coach was very quick to take the shots and playing time away (focus on winning).
I spoke with the coach, explaining that aside from the obvious reasons of helping a boy who lost his brother, it would benefit the team greatly to get back their #1/#2 scorer - however he needed to win/ make the playoffs and although gave a little more time, nothing that would be significant enough to let him play through it.
So even if he could get past the mental side of things (HUGE challenge), he's not getting the opportunities during the game - hence the Q of how to get your shots when the offense isn't designed for you to shoot.
I've spent the entire summer shooting with him, and improving his shot hoping that it could translate and overcome this mental block
but other than that don't know what to do.


Author:  JeffHaefner [ 23 Sep 2019, 06:01 ]
Post subject:  Re: How to move within a zone offense

That's a tough situation. Confidence is a tricky thing, especially with young players. It will likely take time to get the confidence back.

Regarding how to get more shots in the zone offense, that's hard for me to say. It depends on the offense. If you're son moves too much, it could disrupt the spacing and maybe get him more bench time if he's not doing what the coach wants. There are ways to get open in a zone... simply by just going in the gaps... "where the defense ain't" as some of my coaching friends would say.
there's usually space in the zone, if you get in gaps where the defense has to make a decision that can help. For example, if you stand between the wing and corner at 3pt line... which player in a 2-3 zone should guard him? Should the right wing defender or the right forward defender? I don't know and defenders have to communicate. By getting in this gap, the defense can get confused as the ball moves.

There are so many ways to get open against zone. It just depends on the offense. I guess the simplest way to put it is players get open by distorting the zone or disrupting coverage. If the right wing is reposible for defending the right wing spot, but they can't get there because the were' pinned by a screen, or had to cover someone at high post, or there was a quick ball reversal after they had to help, etc... then their coverage responsibility was disrupted and they can't get the wing to defend it. Each position in a zone has different responsibility and there are different types of zones... 2-3, 1-2-2, 1-3-1. Understanding how those zones work helps coaches get players open and distort their coverage responsibilities.

Regarding confidence, small sided games, club teams, and charting shots can help. If you track shots for a few weeks or months... then show on paper in black and white... your son can see his percentage is good and he's a great shooter. It's just a numbers game. You'll make some and miss some. Just like Steph Curry can go on a streak missing 8 shots in a row. You just keep shooting. When you are open, you shoot. Some will go in, some won't. But if you take shots when you are open, the percentages will work out.

I would recommend charting shots when practicing and then try to find some small sided games or just some type of games to get some shots and build confidence. Again, it might take time.

With really really bad shooting slumps I have tried this (tip #3) here and it worked really well. But this was only in really bad cases where it was in their heads.

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