Time to introduce a box! In this drill, your players will learn how to adjust their positioning in a common zone formation as the ball is moved around them, and then look for opportunities to intercept the ball.
– The overarching coaching points from other zone defence drills remain the same: players should think about having their imaginary “bubbles” touching, but not overlapping, in order to keep a strong formation; players at the back of the zone need to ensure they’re keeping their potential intercept lines open; and players at the front should be slightly offset, avoiding sitting flat alongside each other.
– Set up with five players (or four if you have less numbers) in a rough “box” formation in the middle of 6-8 cones, which are dispersed in a large ring. The remaining players should stand on one of the cones, leaving a couple of cones vacant, to be used in more advanced progressions.
– The players on the cones are to pass the ball slowly between themselves, but without passing to the player directly next to them (i.e. only longer passes).
– The zone players must shift and adjust their formation based on where the ball is, i.e. a pass from one side of the circle to the other means the front players will then become the back players, and vice versa.
– Players should look for opportunities to cover each other’s space. For example, if the ball is swung and the defender in the middle of the zone is now closer to the front than one of the other defenders, those players can quickly switch positions to ensure they recover the box formation as fast as possible.
– Voice is critical! If players aren’t communicating, they’ll be very unlikely to be able to move as a unit and cover each other’s space when required.
– Complete a nominal number of passes without intercepting (say 10-15 passes), and then add intercepting once the players are maintaining their box structure as the ball is moved around. Initially, ensure the passing players slow it right down, to allow the defenders to get their positioning right each time.
– Although the passing players can’t pass to the players directly next to them, the front defenders should still position as if they can, as it’s those short little passes/throw and goes that can break a zone in a match situation.