#10 Response to Referee Signals

Introduction to Response to Referee Signals

Drills that teach the players to be alert to situations where the official stops play by blowing his whistle, should be included in early practice sessions. A player must not only learn to respect and obey the whistle and always know where the ball is, but he should anticipate the call and immediately act accordingly. This is known as heads up polo and will enable the player to get a stroke advantage on his opponent or cover up quickly if forced to a defensive situation. This keen sense or reaction can be sharpened with the flag drill.

The opportunity to practice the neutral throw, or face-off between two players should not be neglected.
Penalty shots and sprints for the ball on the initial referee throw-in should be practiced on the whistle as well.
A section on referee Rubies is included under playing hits to point out specific player-referee relationships to help him understand his personal responsibilities.

Drill 10.1: Obey the Hand

To teach players to check the color of the flag each referees whistle.


  1. Coach stands or walks along the side of the pool with all squad members lined up in groups in water at end of pool.
  2. One end of the pool is designated as white goal, the other the blue goal.
  3. On the whistle, players start swimming (with head up), whenever whistle blows, they must immediately check the coach's hand and respond accordingly in the proper direction.
  4. Continue drill for 2-3 minutes.

Bill's Biography

Bill Anttila
Known nationally as one of the foremost authorities on water polo, Bill Anttila was inducted in the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame on January 17, 2004. He was involved in aquatics from 1947-1984. In 1948, Bill was responsible for the inauguration of the first community college water polo program in Northern California at Stockton College. Before that, Bill began the water polo program at the University of the Pacific in 1947. He coached the Pacific Tigers for 18 years with only one losing season and his 1956 team won the league championship with a 12-2 record. Bill was also the swimming coach at Stockton College, where he won 10 NCC championships and never had a losing season.

During his 38 years of coaching water polo, his teams won 10 Northern California Championships. In 1,099 games, Anttila compiled a 759-340 overall record {.691 winning percentage}. At the time of his retirement, Anttila was the winningest water polo coach in the United States. He had the satisfaction of coaching over 50 All-Americans. He has written a book titled Water Polo Drills and Playing Hints. Anttila was inducted into the Stockton Hall of Fame in 1985. He was then inducted into the University of the Pacific Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989. He is currently retired and resides in Stockton with his wife, Sisko, of 50 years.


The medal pictured above is the last solid gold Olympic medal which was given out at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics in Sweden

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