Water Polo Tactics by Dave Maynard

Volume 3 Number 12 May 1, 2012
Imagination is more important than knowledge - Albert Einstein.


You have to be Attack-minded in the game of water polo, so much so that everything you do in the water, while on the Attack, should be geared toward getting a shot on goal.  With every pass around the perimeter should, the player receiving should be thinking to shoot first.  Notice, I didn’t think they should always shoot… no I said they should be “thinking to shoot” once they get the ball.  There’s a big difference.  If an attacker isn’t looking for that shooting opportunity, they have essentially taken themselves, and their potential to score, completely out of the game.

So why do I preface this article so?  Quite simple, really.  It’s part of the game that has been bothering me for quite some time now, and it’s a standard skill and tactic that has been coached for generations.  It’s releasing from your defender to free yourself to give a passing opportunity to your teammate who is being pressed on the perimeter.  You all know it… your defender is right in front of you likely showing press defense against you as well, you drive hard to the “strike zone” for a couple of strokes, pivot back and toward your fellow attacker that needs the assistance and you get the pass.  Right?  OK, sure… but did you really accomplish?

If you really think about it, you’ve really done nothing to help advance your attack.  If you are seeing a press defense, your Hole-Set is likely being fronted, and you’ve done a good job at maintaining possession, but in the end, you are left with the same thing you were before you got the ball.  You’re faced with a pressure defense, you have nobody to pass to safely, and the guy next to you is doing the same release that you just did.  Before you know it, the shot clock is at 5s, the ball hasn’t gotten any closer to the net, your Hole-Set still hasn’t gotten position, and you are still left with the same options you did when this all started, 1. Take a shot against a pressure defense player, or 2. Dump the ball in the corner.

So what do we do to fix this problem, nay this EPIDEMIC that is the scourge of the water polo world?!?!?!  What has been my solution for just about every other problem that we run into?  We pick and we drive to turn something that is so simple and mundane into a legitimate scoring opportunity.  Take a look…

I’ve said it a thousand times, the pick, by it’s very nature, creates inside water.  And running a pick against a pressure defense makes it REALLY easy to have success with this little tool.  So what do we do?  We do a standard release and see if that changes things.  As expected, nothing changes, but we do position the ball in a better place, at the 4 position.  This allows the 3 attacker to pick down to the 2 position, the 2 attacker swings up to the 3 position and gets the pass from the 4 attacker, with the pick creating the separation between him and the 2 defender.  If the switch is called, the 3 defender will have to reverse direction and will still find themselves trailing the 2 attacker as they swing to the 3 position.  The ball’s back at the 3 position, and the 3 attacker who set the pick is now driving and look at that, he has ball side position and inside water on the defender!  The Hole-Set drags the Hole-D away from the drive to open up the water for the driver to work.  Pass comes in and it’s a wet shot and a goal.

It’s an aggressive play, but more importantly, it’s geared toward generating a scoring opportunity rather than just thinking, “Let’s just hold on to the ball.”  Instead, we’re thinking, “Let’s score a goal.”  Don’t wait for the defense to make an error, you force them to make an error, and before you know it, the ball will be in the back of the net.


Athleon is a free, private virtual assistant coach for your team that helps manage all the out of the pool hassles and allows coaches to focus on coaching. Share moving plays privately, easily send text messages and e-mail the team, share game film, and a lot more.

WATER POLO PLANET.COM: the Alternative Voice    www.waterpoloplanet.com