Water Polo Tactics by Dave Maynard

Volume 2 Number 10 November 1, 2010
Imagination is more important than knowledge - Albert Einstein.

Tactic Basics – The Restart for the Attack… with a Twist

I’ve talked about it in an earlier article, in the N.O.W. series, but to bring it back to the basics, we are going to take a simpler look at the Restart.

You just got scored on.  Sadly, it happens, and will happen again.  The nice thing about the game of water polo is that it’s a “loser outs” game, where if you get scored on, you get the ball freely to restart the game.  You get a “free pass” to put the ball back in play at half pool.  Typically you will see a Restart tactic as shown below:

It's very linear as everyone takes the direct path of a straight line right up the pool to get to a front court set position as soon as possible. If they press the ball at center pool, then the players in the 2 and 4 positions have to be looking to provide an outlet pass from the 3 position at center pool. It's all good that everyone is in the front court ready to attack, but if you don't have the ball or can't advance the ball, your position is pointless. So don't only look to get into position, but also look to advance the ball up the pool with you.

And there it is, the basic tactic that surrounds a Restart. Plain and simple…. and EVERYONE does it, right? Right. There's only one problem. If you've read my articles, I'm anything but plain and simple, and I always try to do something that everyone else isn't.

Sure this basic tactic gets everyone into position. It even helps conserve energy, which is always nice. But as a coach, I know I have a bench full of players who know that they are there to fill in when the people in the water are tired. So I push the envelope, ever so slightly. So let's try something a little… unconventional. Let's give that Restart a twist.

Line up the same as earlier, except instead of sending my Hole-Set from the middle of the pool (the player who passes back), I'm going to send my Hole-Set in from the outside. Several things can happen against a defense that is only thinking the standard. First, there's the possibility of isolating a defensive player at 2M that isn't entirely comfortable with playing that position, so now we have a player mismatch at the Hole, which just happens to be the player with the best chance of scoring. Second, you set up slight confusion with the defense as the player who was supposed to go in and set Hole, is hanging out on the perimeter. So, Hole-D has to figure out their position in the water, continue to drift back to 2M and wait for someone to come to set, or press the attacker up top. Watch as the play develops…

The play will actually develop from the 1 position, as that winger sprints to the 2M with the mismatch. The top player who passes the ball back swims around the pressing defender to go after the ball and hangs out on the perimeter. The Hole-D hanging out in the middle of the pool has two options, a.) retreat back to 2M and work a switch with the Hole-Set swimming in from the side, or b.) stay on the perimeter to defend the shooter on the strong side who has a good angle and shot on goal, and leave the mismatch at the Hole. In this case, he stays on the perimeter yielding the Hole pass and the isolated turn, shot and goal as a result of the mismatch. If the defender chooses the switch, the WIDE OPEN attacker on the perimeter has enough time to walk the ball close to the cage, inside the strike zone, for a shot on goal, while the switch is occurring.

By being slightly unconventional, the attack has dictated what the defense will do. The more one team can control the actions of the other, the better the odds of their success in the game. Look again… there are no picks, no screens, no smoke and mirrors, just an unconventional method of a Restart. And that's the basics… with a twist.


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