Water Polo Tactics by Dave Maynard

Volume 1 Number 10August 1, 2009
Imagination is more important than knowledge - Albert Einstein.

6-5 Attack – Simple Shifting

Let’s take some time to talk about the Man Advantage (a.k.a. “Man-Up”, 6-5, or Power Play).  The game is geared toward getting the ball to the Hole-Set and either getting the 5M, shooting, or drawing an exclusion.  More often than not, the exclusion is what will come of standard play, and now the attack has to work their 6-5 attack.

The standard set-up for the attack is the 4-2, where four (4) players line up along 2 to 3 meter markers, while the other two are aligned with the posts at around the 5M mark.  Positions are numbered starting with the strong side wing being position 1, followed by the strong side post as 2, and the weak side post is 3.  Numbering then moves to the strong side high post, position 4, then the weak side high post 5, and finally the weak side wing is position 6.  Defenders are will be referred to as 1, 2, and 3 along the low defensive positions, and 4 and 5 for the strong and weak high post defenders respectively.

Attacks normally being with this standard set, everyone set to their positions.  Typically, the ball is passed around the perimeter, between positions 1, 4, 5, and 6.  The primary objective is to get the defense moving to the point they find themselves out of position, then exploit the open holes.  Taking a closer look, you will see that shooting angles are very defined and don’t offer the shooter many alternatives, especially if the shot is to the far side of the net.  So, how can the attack increase their chances of scoring?  SHIFT!!!

No, not the button on your keyboard, but rather, your attack player’s position in the water.  Shifting the attacking players can alter defensive shifts required to cover the play.  This results in more shot opportunities with better angles.

Let’s examine the following play:

It starts with standard play from the set positions.  The defense shifts with the placement of the ball.  Notice as attacker 5 gets the ball, and slowly drifts away from the play, they also drag their defender with them.  This also allows room for attacker 4 to shift more toward the centerline of the pool, thus giving them a better shot angle.  Also notice the low post player, attacker 2, pulling out of the low post showing the “sucker play” (more on this next month).  This pulls that low post defender with him, but also leaves defender 4 having to play for a pass interception, should the ball go to attacker 2 from attacker 5.  Additionally, due to the attention that attacker 2 has drawn already, when the ball gets down to attacker 6, the “sucker play” becomes even more apparent, and now attention, and eyes of the defense, is focused even further away from the attacker 4.  Attacker 4 is now more open, and with better shooting angles.  Attacker 6 walks the ball in, pump faking hard, before finally sending the ball back to the attacker 4 for a catch and shot on a wide open side of the net.  Defender 4 is pulled toward the post attacker 2, thus leaving a clear shooting lane.

Simple shifting forces the defense to make choices on what they want to defend, and it also opens up more shooting lanes for attackers on the high post.  Don’t forget, in order to set-up another attacker in the water, you have to show the goalie that you want to shoot as well.  The goalie, and the entire defense, has to respect everyone as a shooter.  Once the defense, as a whole, doesn’t buy that you’re going to shoot, that’s when you let it fly, leaving the goalie shaking his head, and the opposing coach screaming at his team for not defending the shot.  If you only look to pass and don’t sell the shot, the defense will be able to anticipate your plays, and you’ve just showed them your hand.  Make the passes clean and crisp, and you’ll be a successful 6-5 attack worthy of respect around your league.


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