Get in the Zone: 4 Guidelines for Successful Zone Defense
When you think about offense, you think about scoring goals. But you should focus more on the process than the end result.
Attacking the defense should be the your primary objective. Goals are the byproduct of doing it well.
Think of it from the defense’s perspective. Level 2 of the US Lacrosse Coaching Education Program instructs coaches to operate their defense on three principles:
- Protect on-ball
- Protect off-ball
- Protect the crease
Our defensive schemes for man-to-man, zone or a hybrid are all based on these three concepts.
As an offensive coach, you need to break our system. We’re opening up our playbook. Use these methods to attack our defense.
On-Ball Attack: Target the Front Hip or Shoulder
Most defenders working on ball will try to drop step with you as you dodge them, direct you down the alley or take away your strong hand. The key to attacking these defenders is to target their front hip or shoulder.
If you make a strong move to that front hip or shoulder, he or she will have to switch positions and end up on your backside as you shoot.
If the defender extends to make contact, emphasize driving through the check and forcing the defender to turn and run. The player on the offensive always has the momentum.
Off-Ball Attack: Get Close to the Defender
Most defenders have to help to the center or adjacent to anticipate a slide. Your goal when attacking these off-ball defenders is to get close to them.
Too many offensive players are content to stay wide of the play to spread the offense out that they take themselves out of shooting and scoring range. Get up close to the defender and force him or her to play you. It will create a longer slide and you will have a better chance of cutting behind for a back-door opportunity when the defender looks away.
Your players should be taught to use a v-cut from center to pop out and get a pass as your team moves the ball around. This move will just get them closer.
On the Crease: Move to Confuse
Crease play works best when feeds are coming from behind or adjacent to the goal. Feeds from up top force the recipient to turn away from the goal and then back to it, wasting valuable time. Plus, it leaves your player vulnerable to trail checks and defenders closing in on the crease.
When the ball is up top or behind the cage, crease players should move laterally (east and west) when looking to catch and shoot. When the ball is on a wing, crease players should move perpendicularly (north and south).
Our defenders position their feet towards the ball when in the middle to slide outside and support the on-ball situation. It makes the first and second slides more difficult when your players move this way. They have to pick a focus – ball or man. Don’t make it easy for us inside. Move to get open or to confuse the help defense.
An edited version of this story appeared in the June 2012 edition of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. To start your subscription, become a member of US Lacrosse today.
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