Defend court with 2 players a side

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1 ball for 4 players
2 courts of about 4 m by 4, separated by a neutral area

Aim of the task:

  • Drop the ball into the opposite target.
  • Stop the ball from falling into your own court

In this situation some children chose by themselves to throw (rather than hit) and catch the ball focusing on court defence. This is not a compulsory stage of the learning. According to age and dexterity level, we can go straight to a game of hit backs or control after hit (hit then catch).

Whatever form is adopted at the start, we are looking for a focus on the first problems:

  • Sharing of the areas to defend amongst the players.
  • Decision making and communication.

The sharing of areas takes into account where the ball is placed in the opposite camp:

  • In the case of a serve coming from the back of the opponents court the players share the court lengthways because they have the time to move towards the front. This way they are easily aware of each-other and they can play moving forward. In this longitudinal organisation the line between the players constitutes the uncertainty zone (who takes the ball?) in which early communication is essential.
  • In the case of a attack coming from a point close to the net the sharing is done between the forward zone where a player is blocking or on the short trajectories and the back zone where the other player intervenes on long trajectories. In this case the uncertainty zone is a line across the court, which passes behind the back of the forward player. It generally belongs to the back player to communicate ("leave it!" or "got it") when he judged the ball to be favourable to him.

Essential landmarks:

  • The first landmark is one of time. It's the moment of the decision and of the communication. Beginner players "talk to the ball" telling him "got it" when it is close. This communication is pure form. Communication is useful when it enables an early repartition of roles and the organisation of an intervention on the ball.. That is when it occurs in the first metres of the trajectory, as soon as the direction and the length can be anticipated. This point is extremely precise in time. It is not enough to talk to answer the problem.
  • The second landmark is in space. The player must see their intervention space in front of them. The organisation in space is functional when it enables to intervene on the ball by moving forward and when it is organised from the angle of possible trajectories (the top of which is the ball) and according to the movement times of the ball and of the players. This representation must be built in the players.

More precision on the areas to defend?

See the resource on
representations of the target to defend

Two characteristic events must disappear:

  • Both players move towards the ball and are in each-other's way.
  • Both players hesitate and neither plays the ball.
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It is crucial to encourage the analysis of successes and failures in order to build accurate technical and tactical skills. Decision time is at the core of the work.

In case of failure for example:

  • nobody said 'got it!" and we missed the ball
  • the ball is very close but we didn't make the decision in time
  • we didn't decide on zone sharing and we don't know who should be playing the ball
  • I am too far forward on the court and I am beaten by a ball going to the back of the court

But also for successes:

  • my partner is ready to help me and he can catch my ball
  • he talked very early therefore I let him play

More details on teacher intervention?

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