Explaining To Your Kids: Zone Defense

You can’t shield them from the evil in the world, but you can help them understand it.
As parents, we often have trouble explaining life’s more complicated issues to our kids. Sometimes it’s gruesome tibia fractures. Other times it’s the 25th Amendment or indirect objects or the “Michigan left” at 96th and Allisonville.

Today it’s “zone defense in youth basketball.” The Dadball Era is here to help when the kids come a’questionin’. Because they certainly will.

What’s a zone defense?


[blank stare]

Ugh. Fine. It’s the type of defense where you’re guarding an area. It’s defending a spot on the floor as opposed to a person. It’s how ISIS teaches kids to play defense in their propaganda videos.

Why do teams play zone?

Because it’s easy. Because coaching man-to-man defensive principles is hugely time-consuming and awful, especially when little kids are involved. Because as players, it’s super hard to run around chasing whoever it is you’re guarding while also knowing where the basketball is! That takes a lot of energy and concentration!

But mainly youth teams play zone because it helps them win.

How does it help them win?

Because scoring on a zone defense requires a lot of spacing and ball movement and players who can make jump-shots from the perimeter. Kids your age can’t really do that stuff because—and don’t take this the wrong way—your fine motor skills are trash. You’re not real great at passing to each other. Or catching passes. Or not falling down when trying to catch passes. Or shooting from anywhere beyond five feet. I guess if your team practiced 20 hours a day for the rest of the year and started doing TONS of performance-enhancing drugs you could maybe beat a zone. (Just kidding! You still couldn’t beat a zone!)

Is it legal?

In a not-crazy world? No, it’s highly illegal. Sane youth basketball programs tend to err on the side of sanity.

In 4th grade girls CYO basketball in Indianapolis? Oh yes. Very legal. Beloved, really. As Jesus said so many times, I guess: “Win at any cost, my children. Losers suck ass.”

Is that why we lost last night?


Why didn’t you have US play a zone?

Because I’m a normal human being.

Basketball is weird.

You’re weird. Go away.