Zone defense in youth basketball

The 2–3 zone defense is a plague on youth basketball. It’s not even a proper zone — teams just pack the paint and force their opponent to shoot outside. Why is it a plague? These kids aren’t learning basic defensive principles — they’re just standing in a spot and shuffling their feet, then reaching in and slapping at the ball. They don’t learn on-ball defense, help defense, deny defense. They aren’t forced to roll off screens or switch. They just stand there. And it’s effective at the youth level because kids aren’t strong enough to shoot consistently from the outside. Trust me, I get the temptation. Teaching man defense is hard. There’s thinking involved. There’s athleticism involved. Teaching a “pack-the-paint” 2–3 zone takes about 2 minutes. Who are you serving though? It’s hard to break these habits after a couple of years… I can’t imagine being a high school coach and getting some of these kids that have only played a zone for 4–6 years. It’s been hard breaking these habits in 5th graders that have only seen it for a year or two.

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