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A Couple Of Thoughts On Zone D

by Ben Wiggins

A couple of quick thoughts. 

Sidelines are great for communication, but the people that need to be able to talk to each other are all on the field already. In a standard three-person cup, the communication streams are simple:

  • Deep talks to wings and short-deep
  • Short-deep talks to points and middle
  • Middle talks to points
  • Wings talk to their side's point

With these streams, each player can adjust the positioning of the players they are covering for. If I am at short-deep, and have two players to cover, I can cover one by letting the middle-cup know which way to move, and I can cover the other player. I'll usually use the middle-cup to cover the player I am farther away from. This isn't just lazyness. They can cover in two steps what it would take me 8-9 full-speed committed steps to stop, and they can do it in less than half the time. 

This player has to trust me, though. If I say "right," I need them to physically move to their right by at least a step and a half. If they just look there, they can be assured that they will often look back at the thrower only to see that the disc is in that hole, flying by. 

I played in college with Josh Greenough, who was a dominating middle cup, and incredibly responsive. I could bait throws for him by waiting just a split-second longer to tell him about the threat. Instead of, "Josh, Right," I would wait..."Josh, Bid Right." He'd hit the air without looking, and the shocked handler might even hit him in the chest with it. Meanwhile, I'm moving to cover for Josh; if the handler pulled it back successfully and tries for that hole, I'm on it. 

One thing about zone D is that unless you run an upfield trap (trying to catch a wing on the sideline, for instance) you are probably keeping the disc in the hands of the best players on the other team. I've seen many teams go zone because the other team is scoring from one star to another, and this just lets those two stars play catch, but now without any pressure. 

I love using the same zone, but with different focuses on different points. Example: I'll use a 2-3-2 zone, with the cup attacking handler-to-handler throws, and the wings guarding the point-middle cup gaps. Here we are trying to give our points opportunities to get handblocks, and force them to go through the cup. Next point, same zone, but now are cup is glued to each other's hips, allowing no throws through, and the wings are very wide and flat. Now we are forcing many throws and tempting an over the top throw. 

If the other team scored once, they might well try to advance with the same tactics, playing right into our 'new' defensive set. Plus, this kind of approach gives individual players a solid grasp of what their defensive goals are. 

What does a good zone point look like? You better know before you run it. Are you trying to force hammers, or yardage-losing swings? How often do you expect the other team to score easily? The original Clam was a fantastic Zone D...and about every third time, they expected it to get roasted for an easy goal. The quick D points that it did generate, especially upwind, made it worthwhile. So, if you run it once and get schooled, does that mean that you should not come back to it? Depends on your expectations. 

Same with blocks; you need to know where you expect to get them. On cross-field hammers? Point-blocks? Drops on the 40th throw? Those players on your team that are not in the designated block-getter spots may play differently if they understand that their role is to generate block-getting oppportunities, and not necessarily take chances themselves. You can start running a 7-v-1 D on every throw, instead of lots of little 1-v-1's and 2-v-2's.


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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