Last updated: August 23. 2013 10:06PM - 276 Views

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When watching sports, I never pay much attention if a team’s in man-to-man defense or a zone defense.

When watching our kids, I spend every moment thinking about it. Because of a decision we made five years ago, we’re forced into a zone defense for the rest of our lives.

If you’re not a big sports fan, I’ll try to simplify these defenses. Man-to-man is what it sounds like. One person must follow another person from the other team, no matter what they do or where they go. A zone defense has someone covering a general area, counting on someone else for support if a player from the other team exits that zone and moves into another.

Zone is a highly effective way in sports to direct additional attention somewhere else. That’s because in most sports, each side has the same number of players.

In parenting, the sides just aren’t fair unless you limit yourself to as many kids as there are parents. In our case, we added the third member of the Team Trinko JVs back in 2008. We’ve been outnumbered ever since, and we’ve had to rely on this team approach.

Kids really seem to enjoy one-on-one coverage whenever they can get it. Really, most of us enjoy positive individualized attention. They just don’t realize how hard it is to provide that when there are more of them than there are of us.

I remember a college friend asking me about the biggest difference as she awaited the birth of her third child. I had to explain the whole man-to-man vs. zone defense to her. She walked away baffled, until she and her husband had that third child, and then they understood everything.

I marvel at my parents, who somehow raised seven children. I’ve tried to break down their defense and how they kept up with all of us. They seemed to rely on a prevent defense, as in preventing us from breaking anything important, such as property or bones. They also relied on promoting people from the junior varsity to the varsity when they hit their teen years, evening the odds a little bit.

Nowadays, they’re running a two-on-none scheme in their retirements, and they both seem to think it works great.

As the third-youngest of the seven (or fifth-oldest, as I like to think of it), I didn’t spend much time playing varsity for them, so I’m a rookie in this defensive scheme. I could barely handle it when we had both of us focused on defending our oldest daughter.

My wife was one of two children. In her case, the family usually ran that man-to-man defense on children. Because of that inexperience with the zone defense, she sometimes struggles with keeping more than one child entertained at a time.

We try to be creative in how we break down our children’s offensive plans. Sometimes the best plan is to keep all of us in one contained area, playing together as a family.

Other times, it’s better for one of us to take one child away from the others and devote a little specialized attention on them. Still others, we’re forced into the dreaded one-on-three ratio, as one of us gets called away to deal with work problems.

Our youngest daughter spent a few days at her cousins’ house this week until her day care reopened after the holidays. While we missed her dearly, it reminded us how much easier a man-to-man defense can be. We found a way to play Monopoly and share lots of laughs with our older two daughters.

We anticipate it will get easier in a few years. Our 11-year-old daughter really wants to move up from the JVs to the varsity. We’ve tried her in a few situations for a few minutes at a time with mixed success. We’re hoping with another year or two in her game, she’ll be ready for the top level in our home.

Until she’s ready, we’re trying to perfect this zone defense of ours. It’s a workout, but we’re having the time of our lives playing it.

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