Water Polo Tactics by Dave Maynard

Volume 2 Number 1 November 1, 2009
Imagination is more important than knowledge - Albert Einstein.

Counter-Attack – Wing Go!

“Anticipation, anticipation, anticipation.”  Coaches from all over drill this into their players from day one of practice.  Anticipate the whistle.  Anticipate the foul.  Anticipate the shot.  And the better a player is at reading what is going to happen before it does, the better positioned this player will find themselves in being a contributor to the team’s success.  Anticipation…

Counter-attacks up the pool that become breakaways are a result of just that, anticipation.  Many times, this comes from the 2, 3, and 4 positions where the defenders are gapping on defense or even in a press.  Let’s look elsewhere in the pool, to the one position that inside water is essentially given the defender for a counter attack, the wing positions 1 and 5.  Anticipation…

When the attacking 1 and 5 slide into position, the defender always positions themselves between the attacker and the goal.  This practically lines them up side-by-side to the width of the pool.  Now, if you get rid of everyone else in the water, and start the wing attacker and defender swimming toward the opposite goal, which player will, by nature of initial position, likely attain inside water?  The defender.  Just by position in the water they are GIVEN inside water on the counter-attack.  Now, put them into a game, and the only thing that the defender needs to do is “get rid of the rest of the field.”  Anticipation…

Watch an attacking team as they get deep into their shot clock.  In the last 5 seconds, they may be looking to take a shot or dump the ball.  The 5 wing defender needs to be ready to go, hips up and watching, because as soon as the player with the ball makes action on the shot or the dump, it’s time to go, and it’s time to go all out.  Notice, I didn’t say wait for the shot to happen, but anticipate it happening.  (There’s that word again!)  Look for all the body movements and player positioning that set up the final action.  By the time the shot takes place, the 5 wing defender should already be moving and close to full speed.  Additionally, you have to trust that your goalie is going to make these saves on shots taken this far out.  And with poor reaction by everyone else, they are just trying to get up to speed when 5 defender is at full throttle.  Additionally, wing defenders are typically an outlet pass for the goalie, so with a quick reaction, you can get ahead of everyone else in transition and likely go unnoticed.  A speedy wing defender is very dangerous in this situation.  The end result, outlet pass from the goalie up to mid-pool, lead pass up to breakaway 5 defender, shot score.  And it all started with what?  Anticipation.

It’s been said for some time that the counter-attack is the one area that very few teams take advantage of these days.  But with the right tools, good anticipation, and a little bit of speed, counter-attack opportunities can come, even from the least likely of positions, like the wing.  Anticipation… it will earn you goals.


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