Spectrum of Defence: Zone (Part 2)

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Let’s take a look at the other side of the spectrum- Zone defence. In zones, defenders take up a position relative to the disc and then cover that space. Zones tend to have one of two goals. Either zones pressure shorter options and bait throwers into attempting high risk throws, or, zones leave easier options in the backfield open, and contain downfield options in the hope that over many throws the offence will make an unforced error. Zones thrive in poor weather conditions where the likelihood of routine mistakes and difficulty of expansive throws both dramatically increase.

The key problem that zones face is that it’s almost impossible to take away all the options when players take up positions instead of marking players. Therefore zones tend to rely on the offence’s poor decision making or execution errors to generate turns. Zones also require communication and awareness from defenders – keeping track of the disc position, restricting the space on the field in coordination with your teammates and avoiding double coverage – all complex processes which leave plenty of opportunity for critical errors, even in the very best zones.

Few teams play zone defence as a primary strategy in modern day ultimate. Throwers are so proficient at making precise and patient throws that zones may slow the tempo an offence but rarely cause consistent turns. Of course zone defence in adverse weather situations remains prevalent but transition zones are becoming more and more popular. Teams like Raleigh Ring of Fire and recently New York Pony may play zone for the first few passes or until the disc passes a certain point on the field before snapping to 1-1 matchups.

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