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Adjustments To The 2-3-2

by Adam Goff

Choosing a favorite zone depends on a few factors, including the personnel on my team, the personnel on the other team, the direction and strength of the wind, and the things the other team are doing that are working. Every team should have two different zone looks in their arsenal, ideally with a well practiced ability to transition out of the zone into a person defense. Choosing a zone is another question though, so I'll go with the classic—the 2-3-2. To make sure we're all thinking the same, the 2-3-2 is the name for what is usually thought of as the 'standard zone'—a three person cup made up of 2 points or markers and a top-of-the-cup or middle-middle, two wings and two deeps, usually deployed as a deep and a short-deep. I like this zone for a few reasons: 

1. The zone can be played very simply.
It is easy to reduce the positions in the zone to very specific responsibilities. The cup can't let the disc through and up the middle; the wings have to prevent the disc from going up the sidelines after a swing; the deep has to protect from the long throws. The short-deep is a bit less specific, but has a very defined area of responsibility. Of course, there are more complexities than this when choosing when to take chances, how to trap or how to transition, but it is still easy to define responsibilities. 

2. It is easy to communicate.
Because positions are well defined, it is easy for people both on and off the field to help the players in this zone with good directions. A well practiced team is able to do this with whatever zone that they are using, but the 2-3-2 has some very obvious, basic responsibilities that make this easy to do. With any zone (any D, really), communication is the key to success and this zone makes that easy. 

The 2-3-2 is really designed to force the other team to complete a lot of passes and get opportunistic blocks. At the top levels, teams aren't going to give the disc back a lot just because they have to throw a lot of passes. A very strong wind will help, but it still takes a bit more work. Many of the turns that I'm hoping to see will be due to impatience—trying something a bit tougher that gets blocked after a lot of throws that didn't get a lot. The other D's will be due to a change—someone on the defense doing something opportunistic that is a little different. For example, when everyone on the D does exactly what they are supposed to for 5-8 swings in a row, the offense may get a touch complacent. The wing then cheats in and swipes that next swing when the handler didn't quite look him or her off. This can be done all over the field, but it relies on the rest of the team being ready to cover up when the player takes a chance. 

Two weaknesses of the 2-3-2: First, if the disc gets downfield of the cup (either over the top or through the middle), the offense often has more players available than there are defenders. With three defenders in the cup behind the disc and likely one or both of the wings off toward the sidelines, it is common that the two deeps are contending with three offensive players. Adjustments for this can include the short-deep being very aggressive, almost joining the cup to make going through even that much harder or ensuring that the wings push towards the middle whenever possible. This forces the wings to recover very quickly if the disc swings. This is because the second key weakness is that on a swung disc, there aren't a lot of defenders over there until the cup catches up. Fortunately, there usually are enough defenders, as long as the wing and short deep shift with the swing. This article isn't really about how to play all of the positions, but as the throw up the sideline is the most dangerous throw against this zone, it is critical that the wing move to the sideline as the throw goes up. If the wing is in position, and the short-deep has moved over as well, the cup doesn't have to sprint with every throw. This enables the cup stay together as a unit longer and keeps them from tiring. 

Often, if a team is beating the zone, I encourage the team to get back to the basics of the zone—focus on the responsibilities listed above, as it is often a breakdown in the simple responsibilities that is creating the problem. Outside of that, I consider using a transition (zone-for-five), switching zones or alternating D's. 

If you had only enough time in one time-out to talk to a single player in your zone D, which position would that be? What might you tell them to adjust? It's hypothetical—so here are two answers: If the disc is going up the sideline for yards, I talk to the wing. This typically means that the wing isn't recovering to cover an offensive player on the sideline fast enough on a swing. I usually tell the wing to 'look for that person with your whole body' when the swing goes up. This means that, when the throw goes, the wing turns and runs while looking. If there is no one over there, there will be plenty of time to get back to where s/he was. If they are going through the middle (or over the top) of the cup, I talk to the short deep. Usually it involves telling this person to get more vocal (it's hypothetical, so I'm guessing here). If the short deep gets too quiet, not helping the cup adjust, then the disc can get through the middle more easily. 

As a final aside: I've tried to answer this question without getting into too many details about the difference between Women's, Open, and Mixed. I touched on Mixed specifics in Feature No. 1. I wouldn't change a lot of the basics of the 2-3-2 from Open to Women's. I might lean a bit more towards a 1-3-3 or a transition in Open though.

huddle Issue 7 Zone Defense

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

The Wham!
by Jaime Arambula

Addressing Zone Questions
by Chris Ashbrook

Zone Observations From The NYNY Days
by Tully Beatty

A Tweak To The 1-3-3
by Matt Dufort

What Should We Contain?
by Jeff Eastham-Anderson

Adjustments To The 2-3-2
by Adam Goff

Redistribute Their Resources
by Greg Husak

Trap Hard & Smart
by Kris Kelly

The Four-Person Cup
by Miranda Roth

A Couple Of Thoughts On Zone D
by Ben Wiggins




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