Water Polo Tactics by Dave Maynard

Volume 1 Number 3 January 1, 2009
Imagination is more important than knowledge - Albert Einstein.

"The Triangle Drill"

We all have those drills that we go to for staple warm-ups.  Back in the day of regular occurrence ordinary fouls at the hole, it used to be RB’s (or Rear Backs) with a driver and a hole set.  As rules and their interpretations shifted over the years, the hole became an area where time was needed and given.  It was imperative that drivers give their hole set more time to work the ball for a shot, a turn, or an exclusion.  Many defenses adjusted as well, pressing less on the perimeter and sloughing more to the hole to steal the entry pass.  The art of the drive slowly went away and outside shooting became more prevalent in the game, especially if an entry pass was covered well.  Perimeter passing became even more important to keep the slough and the goalie adjusting to ball position.

Ideally, when passing, you don’t want to do so to the guy directly next to you if there is another passing lane available two positions away (3-1 pass or 3-5 pass as opposed to the 3-2 pass or the 3-4 pass).  Short passes equal short adjustments by the defense and the goalie, and while risk is low, so too is reward.  Longer passes require more defensive adjustment, but the risk of interception by passing over defenders needs to be accounted for by the passer, with the reward being more defensive adjustment, and likely more shooting lanes being open.  The Triangle Drill does just this.

The drill starts with the ball at the Point.  The ball is passed to one wing, who then passes it to the opposite wing.  The point, during the second pass slides into a slot position off the point.  The third pass is from the wing to the point, slightly further in, for a quick catch and shot.  The goalie should respect the position of the ball and the potential for a shot from all positions.  It is important to NOT get into the habit of pump faking when taking this shot from the point.  Wingers, however, should pump fake, again, to keep the goalie honest.  In the beginning, run the drill.  As the team matures through the drill, wingers should, if available, take the shot if the goalie doesn’t respect it.  Additionally, if we could use our imagination, the Point player is slipping into a high slot position, with a defender collapsing on them from the flat position, which again, emphasizes the need for a quick catch and shot.

From here, we can add a little more dimension to the drill by adding a defender on the Point player.

Before taking the first pass, the Point player should pump fake twice to draw the defender close to them if not bait them to a vertical position, soon to be taken advantage of by the point man.  The first two passes go the same: pass-catch-pump fake-pass.    On the second pass, the Point Player goes for drive.  Likely the Point player will be covered.  That being the case, do an RB, receive the pass from the Wing and fire the ball on net, shooting for the open side of the cage.

If the Point beats their defender, the drill changes slightly.  You now have one of the most coveted things in water polo, INSIDE WATER.  No sense in RB’ing now.  You continue to drive to the cage and now the pass back to the Point player is a cross cage, to a timing shot on the goalies backdoor.  The key to this, however, is the Wing player in their set-up.  The Wing needs to recognize this, move the ball into the 2M to give the Point driver more room to work and bait the goalie more, then do a cross cage pass for a timing shot and goal.

I am sure you are thinking that this is all good and wonderful, but what happens when you are not marked and you don’t have the ball.  Many coaches will tell their players to drive through to draw the sloughing defender out of the hole guarding position.  Several things can happen in this scenario.  The defender can mark the driver, cover them, and no attack is gained, however, an passing lanes for entry to the hole are now open.  If the sloughing defender chooses not to defend the drive, well, now you have a wide open driver, sitting at the backdoor of the goalie wide open.  This option is most unlikely and often does not occur.  What could occur is a delayed reaction to cover the driver by the defender.  This yields inside water to the driver.  With the ball on the Wing, the Wing player has to recognize this and bring the ball inside the 2M and close to the goal to bait the goalie and give the driver a little more room to work.  Then it’s a cross cage pass to the Point man driver, who has inside water, and is sitting on the goalie’s backdoor.  Passing has to be tight and solid with no slop or lobs involved.  The driver has very little time to control the ball, so this will be a timing shot and likely very physical at the time of the shot.

So what we have is a very simply warm-up drill, made slightly more difficult with a defender, which also has game application.  It doesn’t get any better than that, does it?


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