Five Player Defense: Part 2

5onte Nitzkowski
US Men's Olympic Coach '72, '80, and '84

Individual Player Responsibilities with the Three-Two Zone

  Defending The Four-Two With The Three-Two Zone  

Defender  A  and defender  C  , as players, need to have cer­tain physical characteristics to play their positions well. Their responsibilities are identical and their ability to handle these posi­tions is critical to successful five-player defense. Physically, these players should have good size and great leg support. Being thick in the upper body and having relatively long arms also are key attrib­utes. Most teams play the 2-M DEFENDER and the 2-M PLAYER in the  A  and  C  positions, as their size and leg support best meet the requirements for this position. Let's look at the defender as he/she plays against the1 and 2 offensive players in the Four–Two structure. See Figure 6

Figure 6

Remember, all defensive players are mon­ itoring the eyes of the passer. The  A  defender must perfect three major moves to play his/her position well. The first of these major moves is, when the ball is cross passed to the1 offensive player, move out and "put the player down" as he/she receives the ball and before a shot can be taken. Putting the player down means to move out and foul-tackle the player with the ball. See Figure 7.

Figure 7

When putting the player down, the defender should anticipate the cross pass, arrive on the offensive player almost simultaneously with the passed ball, and prevent the shot from being taken. This maneuver is executed depending on the position of the 1 offensive player. If he/she is too wide, the defender should not chase out (the defender should not go too wide and be unable to get back to defend the post). At this point, the defender should go to the second of his/her major moves, which consists of faking one or two strokes in the direction of the 1 offensive player, then coming to the vertical and helping the Goalie guard the near side of the goal. This is accomplished by raising the outside arm and keeping it raised (in this case, the right arm) in a manner to cut off the near side of the goal. In this maneuver, the  A  defender actually is playing the role of Goalie. See Figures 8 and 9.

Figure 8

Figure 9

Looking at Figure 9, one can see that it is critical for the defender to keep the arm in position to deflect any shot directed toward that corner of the goal. Players must be trained to know this position and be sure they are not waving that arm back and forth. They must also be sure their bodies are properly aligned so the extended arm will take away the corner of the goal. Generally, outstanding shooters are played in the 1 and 6 offensive posi­ tions. Many six–on–five goals come from these two shooting positions. Numerous goals occur when the  A  or  C  defensive player has an arm up but actually is out of position to defend the corner of the cage. The best thing a coach can do to improve the team's five player defense is to make sure the  A  and  C  defenders are experts in their positions .

The third critical move for  A  and  C  is getting to a position to help defend the 2 and 3 posts. As each has a major responsibility here, it is easy to see why intelligent defense by the  A  and  C  defenders calls for good judgment in the application of each of the three major moves. As an example, it would be very difficult to cover the 2 or 3 posts if  A  or  C  chases out too far on the 1 and 6 positions. As the offense constantly is looking for the post positions to "free up," getting back to guard either post is a must. As previously mentioned, getting on the eyes of the passer is critical to judge where the next pass may be going.

The "eye" theory is of utmost importance to the players locat­ ed at the  A  and  C  positions. When moving to guard the post players, the  A  and  C  defenders must get inside the inside shoul­der (left shoulder for the 2 post and right shoulder for the 3 post) and take away the inside pass. The pass for a shot to the inside will come to the 2 post from the 6 or 5 offensive players. The 3 post will receive the inside pass from the 1 and 4 offensive positions.

Since post players in the Four–Two structure are shooters, 95% of the passes coming! to them will be immediately shot. Therefore, the  A  and  C  players must take away the inside pass to the post. They must be right on the post player but also extremely careful to use their legs, "sky," and reach for the ball, "never playing the person." If they get on the back of the post player and make any type of restrictive contact, it will almost always result in a four-meter call. Positioning so they are going for the ball, not the player, is of great importance to  A  and  C  players when defend­ ing the post. Their efforts always should be to deflect the ball away from the post shooter and attempt to get the ball to their Goalkeeper. See Figures 10 an11.

Figure 10 Defender  A  positioning to take away inside

Figure 11 Defender  C  positioning to take away inside.

Defender  A  and Defender  C  must be drilled in their moves, working hard to practice "storming out" on the 1 and 6 players, faking the "storm," popping to the vertical and arm defending the corner of the goal and dropping from these two positions and guarding the 2 and 3 post positions. Quickness drills incorporating these three defensive maneuvers will bring great improvement to this critical area of five-person defense.

Defender  C  always must be aware of the pop out, near-side triangle shot by the 3 post player. The pop out shot usually comes from a pass by the 6 or 5 offensive players. Although the main defensive responsibility for the 3 post pop out is with the  E  defender, the  C  defender needs to be aware and help with the defense. When offenses resort to the near-side triangle for a lot of scores, the defense may want to consider a Four–One alignment or a Three–Two, with defender  E  playing farther to the inside. Either will discourage this particular offensive tactic. Occasionally the offense will play a lefthander at the 2 post. In this case, defender  A  must be aware of the near-side triangle and adjust accordingly. Again, scouting should help the defenders to set up an intelligent five-player defensive plan.

Figure 12

In the five-player defense, the WING DEFENDER has three main defensive choices. In the first option, the WING DEFENDER (white hat) attacks the offensive player, 1, in an attempt to disrupt the shot.

Figure 13

In the five-player defense, the WING DEFENDER has three main defensive choices. In the second option, the WING DEFENDER (white hat) falls off the offensive player who is ready to shoot. Then the WING DEFENDER raises the right arm to defend the near side or strong side of the goal.

Figure 14

In the five-player defense, the WINGER DEFENDER has three main defensive choices. In the third option, the WING DEFENDER (white hat) moves back to guard the 2 offensive player at the post position. This happens when the ball is with the offensive players at the 5 and 6 positions. The WING DEFENDER should movie slightly to the inside of the left shoulder of the offensive player.

To be continued ...

(Monte began coaching water polo internationally with the Pan American Games in 1967 and retired following the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles . He served as Assistant Pan American Coach in 1967 (Gold Medal) and 1975 (Silver Medal), and as Head Pan American Coach in 1979 (Gold Medal) and 1983 (Gold Medal). Monte was the Assistant United States Olympic Water Polo coach in Mexico City (5th place) and Head Olympic Coach for the 1972 Munich Olympics (Bronze Medal), the 1980 Moscow Olympics (boycott) and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics (Silver Medal). The 1980 Olympic Water Polo Team was one of the finest teams ever to represent the United States and was con­sidered a strong contender for the Gold Medal. During his career, exclusive of the boycott, every Olympic Team which Monte head ­coached won an Olympic Medal. Monte was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale , Florida in 1991.