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Defensive Strategy & Tactics: Zones, Poaches, and Switches [Pt. 3]

The softer side of defense.

This is the third post in a subscriber series on defensive strategy, tactics, and countertactics, presented by Flik.

Although zones and other non-matchup defenses have been around ultimate for decades, there has been a recent proliferation of new types of zones, junks, and switching schemes.

Though trying to comprehensively cover every type of zone and its individual nuances is beyond the scope of this series, we will explore their fundamentals and general principles, along with those of poaches and switches.

To conclude, we will take a look at some offensive counters to these defenses. Let’s roll!

Zone Basics

Zones provide a way to restrict field space, reduce the chances of athletic mismatches, and allow you to keep your best deep defenders in places on the field where they can help. Here are some general principles of zones:

  • Dedicated deep cover; your best deep defender (some combination of speed, height, and hops) should be charged with defending the deep space. This helps to even up athletic mismatches as you only need one strong athlete to compete on any deep shots. Against a team that loves to huck, this can result in them playing entirely through “Plan B,” which should be viewed as an immediate win.
  • Overload the defense near the disc; putting lots of defenders near the disc severely restricts throwing lanes and helps to reduce the number (and size) of any big yardage-gaining throws
  • Set “wing” defenders who are responsible for funneling the disc back into the middle of the field (where it will be surrounded by defenders)
  • Seek to reduce effort required from the D-line and/or reduce athletic advantage of opponent
  • Force opponent to play at a pace of your choosing

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  1. Sion "Brummie" Scone
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    Sion "Brummie" Scone coached GB Open from 2010-2012, and also coached the GB World Games team in 2013, and the u24 Men in 2018. He has been running skills clinics in the UK and around the world since 2005. He played GB Open 2007-12, and GB World Games 2009. He lives in Birmingham, UK. You can reach him by email (sionscone@gmail.com) or on Twitter (@sionscone).

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