Zone defense

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Zone defense is a type of defense, used in team sports, which is the alternative to man-to-man defense; instead of each player guarding a corresponding player on the other team, each defensive player is given an area known as a "zone" to cover.

A zone defense can be used in virtually all sports where defensive players guard players on the other team.


Zone defense in basketball

A description of a zone defense corresponds to the number of players on the front of the zone (farthest from the goal) and works its way to the back of the zone. For example, a 2–3 zone is a zone defense in which two defenders are covering areas in the top of the zone (near the top of the key) while three defenders are covering areas near the baseline.

Other types of zone defense include:

When a team plays a zone, the defenders must keep their hands up and in passing lanes and quickly adjust their positions as the ball and the offensive players move around. Teams that successfully play zone defenses are very vocal and effectively communicate where they, the ball, and their opponents are or will be.

Teams playing a zone occasionally try to "trap" the ball handler, an aggressive strategy designed to "double-team" the player with the ball. While this tactic may cause a turnover, it leaves one or more players on the offense undefended. The undefended player(s) are generally schemed to be on the opposite side of the court, away from the ball, so any attempt to pass the ball to them would result in the ball either traveling a long distance through the air or being relayed by a third offensive player, allowing the defense to recover. Good ball handlers can also try to "split" the trap by bringing the ball through the space in the middle of the two trapping defenders, creating an instant advantage for the offense.

Zone defenses were prohibited in the National Basketball Association prior to the 2001–2002 season. The NBA currently permits the use of zones; however, teams generally do not use them as a primary defensive strategy and no zone defense may feature an unguarded defender inside the free-throw lane (a violation of that results in a defensive three-second violation, which is a technical foul). The Dallas Mavericks are an example of an NBA team that regularly uses zone defenses; during the 2011 Playoffs, their zone defense was credited with slowing down offenses, forcing opposing players to recognize which defense they were playing.[1] Zone defenses are more common in international, college, and youth competition.

Advantages of playing a zone defense

There are several reasons for a team to use a zone defense. Some are listed below.

Disadvantages of playing a zone defense

Playing a zone entails some risks. Some are listed below.

Attacking a zone defense

While strategies for countering zone defenses vary and often depend on the strengths and weaknesses of both the offensive and defensive teams, there are some general principles that are typically used by offensive teams when facing a zone.

History of basketball zone defense

See: "External links" (below)

Frank Lindley, Newton, KS High School basketball coach from 1914 to 1945, was among the first to use the zone defense and other innovations in the game and authored numerous books about basketball. He finished his career with a record of 594–118 and guided the Railroaders to ten state titles and seven second-place finishes.

External links

Zone defense in American football

Zone defense in American football refers to a type of "pass coverage". See American football defensive strategy and zone blocking.

Zone defence in Australian rules football

The zone defence tactic, borrowed from basketball, was introduced into Australian football in the late 1980s by Robert Walls and revolutionized the game. It was used most effectively by Essendon Football Club coach Kevin Sheedy.

The tactic is used from the fullback kick in after a behind is scored. The side in opposition to the player kicking in places their forward players, including their full-forward and center half forward, in evenly spaced zones in the back 50-meter arc. This makes it easier for them to block leading players and forces the kick in to be more precise, in effect increasing the margin for error which can cause a turnover and another shot at goal. As a result, the best ways to break the zone are for the full-back to bomb it long (over 50 meters), often requiring a low percentage torpedo punt, or to play a short chipping game out of defense and then to switch play as opposition players break the zone. The latter has negated the effectiveness of the tactic since the 1990s.

Another kick-in technique is the huddle, often used before the zone, which involves all of the players from the opposition team to the player is kicking in huddling together and then breaking in different directions. The kicker typically aims in whichever direction that the designated target (typically the ruckman) runs in.

See also