Water Polo Tactics by Dave Maynard

Volume 1 Number 6April 1, 2008
Imagination is more important than knowledge - Albert Einstein.

"N.O.W. - Sprint!!!!"

It’s time for the third installment of the “No Opportunity Wasted” (N.O.W.) series, and this time we are focusing on Sprint.

If your team is gifted with speed, the more motion you can impose on your opponent, the more you can be rewarded.  And with the sprint occurring at the beginning of every quarter, it leaves your team great opportunity to capitalize on a part of the game in which the scales likely tip in your favor. 

Typically, unless you are playing at one of the higher end facilities, the sprint lane is actually along the side of the pool, not down the middle (this is another play entirely).  When you do have the sprint on the outside, and you have the speed to win it, be prepared to keep going.

As with all plays, we normally start with running the play without our defensive counterparts.  For discussion, each player is assigned a number in this animation, and we will refer to these players by said number.

You will notice that after the sprinter wins the sprint, they don’t stop, nor do they swim to their traditional position of straight down the pool to the wing.  Rather, the sprinter (2) flips the ball back to the trailer (3) then pivots off their sprint counterpart and heads straight to the strike zone.  All players swim to the front court then go to their positions.  Player 4 goes to the 5 position.  Player 5 goes to the 3 position.  Player 3 eventually goes to the 4 position.  Players 6 and 7 do a pick/screen on their counterparts which will leave one of the other player open.  Player 3 has a couple of passing options.

Option 1: The point of this whole play is Player 2 getting inside water, taking it to the strike zone thus becoming the scoring threat, and Player 3 getting them the ball.  Don’t overthrow the pass as it could be intercepted by the opposing goalie.

Option 2: Player 7, after the screen/pick will likely have room, as defenses will not choose to give up inside water on a play like this.  Getting the ball to Player 7 moves the ball aggressively into the front court.  If Player 7 can get to the posts and around the 5M, we have a pseudo penalty shot, and it may even be pressed futher toward the cage.  If not, you are now ready to run your front court offense.

Option 3: Player 6, after the screen/pick, may have inside water.  If they do, they should drive to the strike zone.  If Player 2 is covered heavy, the should clear the center of the cage for Player 6.  If both Player 2 and Player 6 has inside water the ball SHOULD get to one of those players, and this needs to result in a goal.  Having inside water with two players simultaneously, should end in nothing less.

Option 4: All players could be covered, thus leaving a simple pass to the front court to any open player to move the ball to the front court.

Now that you know what you are looking for, we add the defense.

This play focuses on Player 2 making their pivot on their sprinting counterpart and breaking for the center of the pool.  Player 3 recognizes the inside water and scoring threat and gets the ball there to capitalize on speed and aggressive attacking.  But what else happens here?  On the other side of the pool, Players 6 and 7 do their pick, leaving Player 7 open at the 2 position for a pass from Player 3.

What else COULD happen?  Rarely do defenses like to let people get deep into the strike zone.  It is possible that Defender 5 might a) play deep waiting for a hole set to enter the pit, or b) recognize Player 2 making a break for the strike zone and look to cover up, opting to take the deeper attacker out of the play.  Either way, Player 2 could attract two (2) defenders on this aggressive move to the strike zone.  That being the case, look at Player 5 in the 3 position, get them the ball, and look for a shot on goal.

You don’t have to have monster players on your roster to be effective deep in the strike zone.  A lot of opportunities can develop outside the strike zone the results of which brought in and capitalized on.  And what makes this play effective is there is a primary target, secondary targets, all leading to, at the very least, a full set-up in your front court, so if totally defended, you’re in position to play your set offense.  And just like that, you’ve turned the sprint into a tool to attack aggressively with speed and agility, with a very good possibility of putting points up on the board immediately.  “N.O.W. score!!!!”


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