ZONE DEFENCE: CENTRE THIRD ZONE

Summary
Elite coach Gerard Murphy shows you how to set up a zone in the centre third of the court, including where your players should position, how they should move in order to create turnover opportunities, and how to avoid the opposition breaking the zone.

Level
Advanced

Players
Full team

Equipment
1 ball
2 sets of bibs

Coaching points
Before attempting to set up a zone, it’s important to build the skills your players will need in order to implement that zone effectively. Check out our zone defence drills in our defensive drills section, and ensure your players have mastered these skills before trying to set up a zone.
– This ‘centre third zone’ is primarily to be set up in the centre third of the court, or sometimes just over your team’s attacking transverse line.
– Think of it a little like your front players creating a triangle with their positioning. GS is at the top of the triangle in the middle, with WA and GA creating the back two points of the triangle. This creates angles that make it more difficult for the opposition to move the ball through the zone, compared to if your players are flat alongside each other.
– C also sets up in the middle, but behind where the GA and WA are positioned. GD and WD form the back two corners of the zone.
– The zone must ‘shift’ and adjust to wherever the ball moves. Essentially, that front “triangle” should point at wherever the ball is in the goal third, and the C/WD/GD will adjust their position behind accordingly.
– The role of the GS/WA/GAs is to shut down any opposition front cuts and passes at the front of the zone. Remember, you’re trying to force the opposition into having no other option but to make a long pass that gives WD/GD/C a chance to read the pass and attempt an intercept. That means GS/GA/WA will need to step up and shut down opposition players when they attempt to drive in front of them. One of the hardest things for your GS/WA/GAs to get their heads around will be that it’s their role to do the grunt work at the front of the zone, and not lose their formation because they’re overcommitting and trying to intercept every pass. Most of the time they’ll be working their tails off out front so that WD/GD/C can take the glory at the back.
– If the opposition receives the ball at the front of the zone, your team needs to adjust quickly and simply move the zone back a few metres to continue it.
– Remember, the things that will break a zone fastest are quick swings of the ball (which open up passing lanes on the other side of the court if your players aren’t quick to move the zone across), and passes into the front of your zone. If your team can move and adjust quickly to each ball movement, they’ll be well on the way to successfully forcing a turnover.
– Encourage your GD/WD/C to be instinctive and have a go at any long, high passes. You’d much rather  see them trying to read the play and have a go than sitting back and watching high balls go uncontested.
– TALK IS CRITICAL. Encourage your players to communication constantly, letting each other know where to move, and when opposition players are driving into their space. Not only does loud communication allow the team to work together as a unit, it also puts more pressure on the opposition.