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Dante Dettamanti BS, MS
Coached Stanford University to Eight NCAA Championships

Volume 2 Number 4 November 1, 2011
Water Polo Doesn't Come with an Instruction Book - That's Why We Have Coaches.

The term “posting-up” as well as the concept of posting-up comes from basketball; where an offensive player takes a position in front of the basket near the low post, trying to create a mismatch against a smaller opponent. He then takes his smaller opponent “to the hoop” to score a basket; or the defender must foul to stop the bigger opponent, who is then rewarded with two free throws. Some teams utilize the same concept in water polo. They drive an offensive player into a position in front of one of the two goal posts, also to try and create a mismatch against a smaller or weaker opponent.

The offensive player can then attempt to shoot the ball and score a goal. The defender must let him shoot a very high percentage shot right in front of the goal; or foul to prevent a goal. This is where water polo differs from basketball. Because of his position directly in front of the goal, and the opportunity to score a goal, this foul has to be called an exclusion; similar to the exclusion called when the holeman is fouled.

Because there is also another player (usually the holeman) on the opposite post, this offense is often called a “double-post” offense. This article will evaluate the pros and cons of the double-post offense; in what situations it can be effective and what it creates and what it takes away.

Let’s start by talking about what double-post does and what it doesn’t do. As mentioned above, it takes advantage of a weaker or smaller defender and creates an opportunity to score a quick goal, or draw an exclusion. Posting-up can be run all of the time as part of your offense; or it can be a “set” play after a time-out, an “after-goal” play, or a situation at the end of the game where your team needs a goal or an exclusion to tie or win the game. One of the keys to the double post offense is that the play must be designed to immediately get the ball into the post player; before an outside defender can drop back and take this pass away.

This leads to what the double post doesn’t do. Once you have posted up a player, I believe that it greatly reduces your chances of scoring on an outside shot. The double post adds two more players in front of the goal, creating a crowded condition where there are five players (two post-players, two defenders with their arms up, and a goalie) that the ball must get through to score. The post-defenders can effectively channel the shot towards the middle of the goal, where the goalie has an excellent chance of blocking the shot.

This situation creates a priority for my team when we run a double-post offense. Our first priority is to get the ball into the post as quickly as possible. If that doesn’t work, pass the ball around and try to open up a space and get it into one of the post players, and then only take the outside shot as a last resort.

The next consideration is what player(s) should you have posting-up, and what skills should they possess to play this position. You can use a second 2-meter player, your best post-up driver, or any player that has a “weaker” or smaller defender guarding them. At Stanford it was a “no-brainer”; we posted up Tony Azevedo. If you don’t have a Tony on your team, then post up your biggest player besides your 2-meter player; or simply instruct your team to take the smallest player from the other team and “post him up”.

Whoever you decide to post up must have the ability to shoot from the “set” position in front of the goal. Not only must he have the ability to turn the defender and face the goal (drawing the 5-meter penalty), but he must also be able to “step-out” and away from the defender to take the shot. In other words, he must posses many of the skills of a 2-meter player.

From where in the pool should your post-up player drive from? Since most teams have a preponderance of right-handed players, the post-up player can drive into the 2-post position from just about anywhere on the right-handers side of the pool. I have found that the most effective position to drive is from the 01-wing position. This is especially effective if the wing defender is playing back to guard the “back-door” drive, thus giving the post-player an open driving lane to the post; and a great position with the defender ending up in a weaker position behind the post player. The driver can perform a one on one ball-side drive, or the team can run a screen or pick to get him into position. A 21 loop-around screen can be very effective to get the 01-wing player into ball-side position on the post.

I have found the double post to be effective against just about all kinds of defenses, although it helps when there is player available that is in position to make the quick pass into the post player as soon as he arrives at that position. Against a press, posting-up is a great way to get a second 2-meter player into the post when your primary setter is being fronted. Timing is critical against the press, as the player with the ball must first draw a foul and free pass before the post-up player can drive to the post. The double-post is also effective against the press because the pressing defenders are too far away to be able to drop in and double the post player.

This is an excellent offense against a 4-5  drop defense, because either the 04 or 05 player always has a free pass into the post, and the X2 and X3 players are pressing and not in position to drop back on the post player. An 01-wing drive into the post is the most effective against a 4-5 drop, and for the same reasons the 01 drive is the most effective as well against an M-zone defense.

Any one of the outside players against the M-zone can pass the ball, and there is no one to drop back on 01 when he drives into the post. Against the M-zone, the only option for my team is to get the ball into one of the double post players. This solves the problem of one of my players taking the unwarranted outside shot against the “M” and getting countered in the other direction.

Against all of the above defenses, it is imperative that the 2-meter player already in position in front of the goal, move all the way over to the opposite post. Two post players that are too close to each other make it easier for the defense to double team and steal the ball.

The only defense against which I would not use the double post offense is against a standard 2-3-4 zone defense. This is for the same reasons mentioned above: the defense is already back in a zone and can easily drop on either post from the outside, and five people in front of the goal make it much more difficult to make the outside shot. I prefer other ways to break a zone than a double-post.

Whether your team uses the double post as part of your every day offense, or uses it only for special occasions, posting-up can be an effective way to create more scoring for your offense. Give it a try and see how it works for you!

[Click Dante's photo to learn more about his water polo experiences
and Click the water polo ball to learn more about Dante's books.]

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