Water Polo Tactics by Dave Maynard

Volume 1 Number 9 July 1, 2009
Imagination is more important than knowledge - Albert Einstein.

N.O.W. – Who needs the Hole?

After taking a month off, we are going to come back to the “No Opportunity Wasted” series.  Just about every situation in a game yields an opportunity to score a goal, even when things look their worst.

Sooner or later in everyone’s water polo career, you will come across an opponent that will completely shut down your front court offense.  Whether it be your primary Hole-Set is out with an injury (or has been excluded from the game), or your opponent’s Hole-Defender is just on top of their game and is completely shutting down your action in the pit.  Whatever the case, you are just not getting production from your Hole-Set.  They can’t get position, so your team can’t get the ball in to them, and just like that, you have become a one-dimensional team, working perimeter passing looking for the best outside shot possible.  Is this your only option?

OF COURSE NOT!  But it’s not going to be easy.  Remember all the training and conditioning you did leading up to this, because it’s going to pay off.  And because it’s a motion based attack, you don’t have to be a monster sized player in order to achieve success.  In fact, now it’s time for speed, agility, and sound fundamentals.  This is the basis for Coach Dave’s “Enigma Attack.”

The “Enigma Attack” is mysterious on a couple of levels.  First, the front court set-up is the standard umbrella offensive set with a Hole-Set position.  By the time it plays itself out, the Hole-Set is gone, and there are two (2) drivers right in the goalie’s kitchen.  Additionally, it all started with no input from the Hole-Set.

Watch the play unfold below without a defense:

The trigger man for the play is actually the weak side wing, or the 5 position.  The attack comes from the 3 and 4 positions, where 3 sets a pick for 4.  Following the pick, both players drive to the “strike zone, 4 going to the far side post and 3 going to the near side post.  And, like the Karate Kid Crane Kick, there is no defense for against a properly performed pick.  Inside water will be gained by either the 3 or the 4 position.  And with the pass coming to either of these drivers from the weak side flat, it’s a catch and shot for the right handed shooter, so look for a timing pass to either player.  A wet shot is also a viable alternative, but the shooter has to be strong with the ball during their finish.  We want to give our drivers room to work, so we have to get rid of that pesky Hole-Defender.  The Hole-Set abandons their position in the pit and moves toward the one position, bringing the hole defender with them, and everyone shifts up and around the perimeter.  The perimeter continues to shift after the play runs it’s course, as the 5 driver needs a place to go (the 1 position at the strong wing), and the 3 player sets up in the hole.  And you are right back into your front court offense.  And, with some good planning and maybe even some luck, you might just have a better match-up in the Hole with this new set-up.

Now look at the play with the defense in the water too:

And as I always say, if you have inside water, with the ball, that’s is nothing but good things for the attack as you should get a goal, penalty shot, or at the very least, defensive exclusion.

You’re probably thinking I’m forgetting the intelligence factor of the Hole-Defender.  The Hole-D could choose to not stick with their Hole-Set mark and try to clog the strike zone and break up any one-timer shot from either of the two drivers.  The play is designed to focus all attention on one-half of the pool.  With the ball coming from the weak wing, the goalie is already pulled to that side of the pool.  If the Hole-D stays home, and let’s the Hole-Set away un-marked, the Hole-Set is now sitting on the backdoor of the goal looking at nothing but netting.  So, you have your two primary drivers, which is more than a handful for most defenses.  Plus you have your contingency plan with your Hole-Set on the backdoor.  And if more defenders crash down to help protect, you now have wide open perimeter shooters.  And mysteriously, you now have scoring options while playing against a defense that, up until now, has shut you down.

You don’t need the Hole-Set to be successful.  What you need is some training on fundamentals, speed, conditioning, a nasty pick, and sharp passing and just like that, a team has just made themselves an offensive force.  Coaches should be prepared to dip into their bench early and often to keep fresh arms and bodies out in the water, as this attack scheme greatly increases the amount of swimming for your team in the water.

So, you’re opponent has shut down your Hole-Set?  Hopefully now, you see less adversity and more opportunity.  NOW SCORE!!!


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