Water Polo Tactics by Dave Maynard

Volume 1 Number 1 November 1, 2008
Imagination is more important than knowledge - Albert Einstein.

"Up and Overs"

When the administrators of Water Polo Planet approached me about doing this column, I was reluctant.  Showing X’s and O’s can take up a lot of space, and with some drills and plays, well, sometimes it can be hard to follow.  And with USA Water Polo’s latest addition of US Leagues, our sport is seeing more and more people hang the whistle around their neck taking on coaching positions who may not have played before, or who may have been away for far too long, much less ran a drill.  Then they said I would be using Athleon’s latest play animation software to bring these X’s and O’s to life, and I was instantly sold.  NOW, we’re not just describing a drill, and showing progressive drawings, we’ve got it animated to show you, the user, how the play looks, “blimp view.”

As this is my first column, it’s, for lack of better terms, a “warm up,” for me and for you.  And in the spirit of the “warm up” theme, I’m going to take you through one of my very typical warm up drills that takes the fundamentals of dynamic swimming, catching, passing, and shooting, and making it game applicable with respect to the transition game.  Additionally, there are several variations that you can take on this drill.  So I give you what I call, “Up and Overs.”


  1. Initial setup is goalies in each goal, team split to either side of the goal.  Ball starts at goalie’s left.

  2. Player to goalie’s right swims up the pool, and rolls over to their back at about the 4-5M mark as goalie swims to the right post of the cage.

  3. Player to the goalie’s left passes the ball (dry pass) to the player up the pool, who catches the ball “in stride” and passes the ball back to the goalie.

  4. Said player now breaks up the pool hard.  When the player reaches the half pool mark, the goalie gives a wet pass over the shoulder of the player swimming up the pool.  Player should have their head up by now looking for the ball.  Goalie should not overthrow the player up the pool.

  5. Player breaking up the pool now swims with the ball to the other cage and takes a wet shot (take your pick, but I like the cross over/ layout) against the goalie.

Note – After the goalies give the long pass down the pool, the drill starts up again from the opposite side of the cage.  The player to the goalie’s left is now the attacker.  The player to the goalie’s right is now the initial passer.  Goalie has to adjust their position with reference to the cage.

This is a great drill to work goalie positioning on the turnover, goalie outlet passing, on-the-fly dry passing, dynamic swimming (not just freestyle, but rolling over, backstroke, head-up freestyle), ball awareness, swimming with the ball, wet shots and wet shot blocks.  It’s good swimming to get players moving at the beginning of a practice.  And it gets the player trained in attacking on the transition, not just swimming down to set up the front court offense.


Athleon is a free, private virtual assistant coach for your team that helps manage all the out of the pool hassles and allows coaches to focus on coaching. Share moving plays privately, easily send text messages and e-mail the team, share game film, and a lot more.

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