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PostPosted: 13 Mar 2018, 14:51 

Posts: 7
I have spent quite a bit of time on this website and have read numerous articles and posts regarding teaching man defense vs. zone at the youth level. I tend to agree for the most part with the logic of teaching man vs. zone and not doing things just to win at the youth level. It is often suggested in posts that youth teams should play in leagues that don't allow zones at the youth level.

Just to give some background, I have coached 4th through 6th grade boys basketball in northern Minnesota. The league we play most of our games in does not allow zones through 6th grade and pressing is only allowed the last 2 minutes of a half or second half only depending on the grade level. Starting in 7th grade defense is unrestricted.

My 6th grade team recently played in the Minnesota Grade State Champions. This tournament is put on by the MYAS and this association allows unrestricted defenses starting in 5th grade. These defensive rules are followed not only in the end-of-year state tournament, but also in other MYAS tournaments held throughout the year. Most of these tournaments are in the twin cities metro area.

I knew all of this going into the tournament that there was the chance we would run into zones and trapping presses. We saw 1-3-1 traps in just about every game we played. We also saw 2-3 zones in every game we played. We handled them about as well as you would expect for a team that doesn't typically face them... lots of turnovers and slow lob passes over the zone.. It got me to thinking....if the largest basketball association in the state is allowing unrestricted defenses at such a young age are the man-to-man restrictions of our current league really helping us make better basketball players? It is almost as if a different brand of basketball is being played in the metro area compared to our part of the state. I can't speak as to what other leagues are allowing.

The zones make the players think a few steps ahead, move the ball quickly, handle double teams, etc. Not that you don't get those things from facing a man-to-man defense, but I don't think it requires the same level of intensity and court awareness to play against a man defense vs zone (at least at the youth level). Perhaps the players are not being taught good defensive techniques when playing zone, but I feel like the offensive development of the teams that faces zones is beyond those that face man only. Just my observations from my team's play and watching other teams play in the state tournament that are used to this style of play.


PostPosted: 13 Mar 2018, 16:00 
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My two or three cents...

I live in Marion Iowa. With my youth teams, around here we see mostly man to man defense. But when we travel we see quite a bit of zone (2-3, 1-3-1, 1-2-2, traps, no traps, half court, 3/4, full, full court denial and everything you can imagine) when we face club teams in bigger cities.

The reason for this is simple. Money.

The clubs are for-profit businesses. They have to make a profit. How do you do that? You win games! As many as possible. Most parents think the best teams are the ones that win the most. That's how you draw in players and parents. You win games.

So club coaches feel they need to take shortcuts to win games. Or they need to play a certain way -- trap, press, and do what ever works at a young age to win games.

It's a shortcut. It's that simple. If long term development was their priority, most would not take those shortcuts.

Facing the zone does not bother me. I think it's actually good for our players. I like that they face a lot of different situations and defenses. And have to adapt. But we have pretty good teams -- they are skilled, motivated, and talented. Other teams I do not think are ready for zone and it is counter productive to their development.

I do not get paid to coach my kids youth teams. Our sole purpose is to develop our players for the long term and teach life skills. So we do not have money and profit to get in the way of making the right decision for our players long term development.

Here's what I do with my teams (they are fairly advanced teams):

3rd-5th grade - all man to man defense
6th-8th grade - play roughly 80% half court man and mix in zone or press around 20% of time.

The order of introducing the new defenses are:

1) Press (with our girls we run man to man with traps and our boys we're doing a 1-2-2 press and also straight up man to man full court)
2) 2-3 zone
3) 1-3-1 zone (probably not until 7th or 8th grade)

Some teams will not get this far by 8th grade. Again our kids have pretty good IQ and strong foundation of man to man defense principles.

Our bread and butter is and will be half court man to man. I do not bail them out and let them rely on the zone defenses. But I do want our players to learn how zones work, get good at running them, and also understand them so they get better at zone offense. To me it's all about developing a high IQ and preparing them for high school basketball.

Jeff Haefner

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