Learn it. Play it. Love it.
Why play a Zone Defense?
- “If they don’t score, we cannot loose!”
- Teamwork. Everyone is responsible and accountable.
- It’s a system strong in layers
- Keeps the field balance and organized for transition to attack
- Allows for easier positional changes
Zone Defense – What is it?
- Moving together as a unit or entire team to cover and protect
dangerous space while denying opponents access to the ball
within this protected space.
- In other words, it’s like zone defense in basketball. Each girl
covers the ball when it is passed in her area, and passes off
this coverage when the ball goes to another area. Each girl
marks the passing zone of the opponents in front. If one girl
is on the ball, the other girls are defending their space in the
zone. Goalkeepers always focus on the BALL.
Characteristics of Zone Defense:
- Noticeable and structured formation
- Intentful pressure on the Ball Carrier (patient or aggressive)
to force the mistake
- Dangerous Space and Passing Lanes are denied
- Intense Communication
- Opponents play is slowed, delayed or destroyed
- Everyone forces up and out of the defense
- Key Focus on Covering Spaces Offensively and Defensively
- A small disciplined and unified group can hold off anything
- Defenders are less likely to dribble out of the defense, as
there are more passing options waiting for them outside.
- 5 Finger Rule: In transition, when we loose the ball, 1 girl
takes ball and 4 others fall into immediate zone alignment to
regain possession in the most effective way
For Zone Defense to Work, Each Player Must:
- Have solid defensive skills
- Have a good “sense” of defense (passive vs. aggressive)
- Understand the team language, goal and philosophy
- Be a good decision maker. Multi-task and know where do we
want the ball to go
- Move! – No room for ball watchers here!
Communication in Zone Defense:
- Information vs. Action Statements
- Everyone knows and uses it!!!
- Sample Communication Statements for a Zone Defense:
o MARK = deny your girl and be tight on her
o DROP = move deeper in a called direction
o STEP UP = close the space between you and the ball
o PRESSURE = get on the ball (girl with it)
o FORCE L/R/O = pressure the ball in the called
o HOLD = hold the space your in, or delay the ball
o STEP L/R = Move in that direction to deny passing
o BRING HER = pressure the ball to a double team
o MINE = I have ball
o GET IN A HOLE = Get into the zone!
o PATIENCE = channel or stay with the girl with the ball
and do not commit
o PRESS UP – Pressure the girl in your area with your
Things to Think About in a Zone:
- Is there pressure on the ball? Should that pressure be me?
Which direction do I force?
- Where can the ball go? What are her passing options? Can I
take away that option by dropping back or stepping up?
- If the dangerous passing options are covered, what space
can I cover or protect?
- What helpful instructions or information can I share with my
teammates in front of me?
- What instructions or information am I hearing from behind
- When I come up with the ball, where should I first attack?
What is open? How can I support my teammate if she comes
up with the ball? Who is my first passing option? Where on
the field can I become the best option?
- Breathing Time = Recalculating Time
How a Zone Can Fail (Things NOT to do):
- Ball Watching – if you watch the ball, you loose awareness
of other dangers (players).
- Play Watching – Don’t watch everyone else do the work –
get someplace to help!
- Not Communicating – 1 non-talker can ruin a play. Don’t let
that be you.
- Droppers or Supreme Shadowers – They just keep giving
space to attackers or watchers who retreat. You must play
defense aggressively with your head in control. Avoid death
by dropping …. A goal.
- Full-on Marking – Don’t be focused on one girl. Usually if
your focused on one girl you loose focus on the ball, passing
options and who is most dangerous. Focus on the space you
are covering. If attackers switch, switch with another
defender to avoid a hole in your zone.
How to Carry Out Zone Defense on the Field:
- Keep 10-12 Yards between you and the next “layer”
- Always be in a hole
- Depending on where you are on the field, not all 11 players
have to be in full defensive formation. Sometimes your
formation is to prepare for transition. Here are some
o If it’s deep on our attacking side of the field, forwards
can be the first layer of the zone.
o As the ball moves towards our defense, not all
forwards have to be in the first layer of the zone. Some
may sit back (in good position for a counter attack) as
outlets for an interception.
o Hits coming into our defensive circle (Our “House”), we
cannot have all 11 of our girls inside…that’s 22 feet
that can potentially cause a corner, something we don’t
want. Let the mids and backs cover this situation. With
a systemic and purposeful zone, all areas can be
covered and the defenders have definite outlets when
they come up with the ball.
- Always communicate. Don’t stand Silent!
- Be aware of space at all times!
- Goalkeepers always take and watch Ball.
- Never stop thinking!