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Don't Screw The Team

by VY Chow

Team defense begins with an understanding and analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of your team's defensive talents, followed by the development of defensive philosophies that are executed by specific team-oriented strategy. Too often, "team defense" is taught in terms of situational defensive sets such as zone, clam, poaching, and whatnot with an over-reliance on individual athleticism to play man-D. While high-flying layout blocks are at times warranted and necessary, it appears the spectacular has come to define a team's defensive prowess along with foot-races and gravity-defying leaps. Rather than focusing on improving individual D (with a run harder, jump higher, and spit further mentality), teaching broader defensive concepts can help a player step up both their own and their team's D by seeing the field better. 

One way to think about it, is to have players answer the questions "where and how is the team going to get a turn?" This team defense philosophy shifts the onus from the individual player creating and getting a block to the team generating opportunities for everyone to get turnovers and, in theory, increasing the chances of any player on the field to earn a D. Obviously when the opportunity arises, the individual(s) must still make the defensive play but the overall strategy relies on the entire team creating specific outcomes. Instead of the "play hard man D" or "run harder and faster than the O and get a block" motto, the underlying tenet is that turnovers are created when the D forces the O to do what the D expects, which allows any player on your team to earn/get the turn. 

In addition to forcing the O to do what the D expects, force the O to choose their second or third or fourth options. The O clearly has an advantage if allowed to play to their strengths, so structure your team's D to expose and exacerbate their weaknesses. Dictate how the O will have to beat you through team D strategies and your team will likely have a better chance of winning—i.e. if you get beat by Rondo hitting pull-up jumpers all night, then tip your hat off to the other team. But if you let The Truth take you down the river then shame on your team D. 

How does this translate onto the field? Something simple such as forcing one-way (forehand/home) for a point needs to be translated into a systematic team-wide approach. Pit the strengths of your team against your opponent's weaknesses. Evaluate what types of D-players you have on the team and how the O likes to score. One scenario can be if your team is full of short(er) speedy players and you know the O prefers to bomb the disc down the field to score in minimal throws. Thus forcing the O to repeatedly cut under to make them throw more passes is a good start to a team D strategy. But it doesn't stop there as the D can systematically further reduce the offensive options. 

The team will make sure to disrupt any sort of big throw, so when a marker sees the thrower wind up for huck, she will step-off and be bigger and more straight-up, forcing a less than perfect shot. The marker is also responsible for holding the force but given the throwing talent around today, that isn't always possible. However, this too can be turned into a D-earning opportunity. If the O is going to break your mark, how does that fit into your D-strategy? In the case of forcing a team under repeatedly, the O will be running full steam to the disc on the in-cut so where do you want to generate a block? Do you want the O to try throwing floaty IO's or do you want the O to throw zippy IO's or do you want flat wide step-around backhand break throws and will those be fluffers or zippy? Does the wind affect any of those choices? Does the O run mainly through their handlers? If the lane cutters rarely look up-field, do you want to force the disc into the hands of the lane cutters more often and take it away from the handlers? How does each of these things change the mark? The important thing to note is that the mark isn't "giving" anything but making sure that if they are broken, it will be by a certain type of throw that the entire team will expect and can either deny and/or contain. At this juncture, the team D strategy has now defined which lanes and spaces the downfield D will control and clog, what throws are expected, and as a result, when and how a turnover can be achieved. 

Obviously, this is just one over-simplified scenario of forcing one way, but it demonstrates the types of questions that the entire team needs to be able to answer and that team defense is a general philosophy and not only applicable to fancy defensive sets. 

As a final note, team D is firmly ensconced in the concept of deny and contain D. First deny the disc to the O-player but if the disc goes up and the D isn't 150% sure about getting the block, then he switches immediately to containment mode. This means the D-player no longer goes for the block but now works hard to get into position to ensure the designated force is put on the early on the imminent thrower. How many times have we seen a team break the force and the disc move quickly up the broken side for an uncontested score? Or how many times have we seen someone whiff a diving block or lunge past the disc thus giving the thrower an uncontested look downfield? 

The beauty of team D is that it doesn't rely on just a few individuals on your team to either get blocks or shut down specific people on the O. You don't want to rely on individuals to win you games since you just don't know who will get injured or who will simply have a bad day. As one of the smartest and most successful players once said—someone always blows a knee at Nationals but if you have a team philosophy and strategy, that won't kill your chances of winning. Don't screw your teammates, follow the plan of attack, and more often than not, you'll get the turnover you want. 

huddle Issue 13 Teaching Team Defense

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Real Time Space For Real Time Results
by Jaime Arambula

Don't Screw The Team
by VY Chow

Give Specific Calls To Your D
by Adam Goff

A Little Theory & A Lot Of Practice
by Kris Kelly

Step-By-Step Approach At Practice
by Brett Matzuka

Limit Handler Play, & The Caterpillar Drill
by Pat McCarthy

Communication & Vision
by Miranda Roth

A Quick Example: Defending The Dump
by Ben Wiggins




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