Water Polo Tactics by Dave Maynard

Volume 4 Number 3 October, 2012
Imagination is more important than knowledge - Albert Einstein.

Taking Control Back

There are several goalies out there that work very well with their team defense and have a knack for controlling where the attack is going to try and take their scoring opportunities.  Often times, the goalie will play to their own as well as their team’s strengths, while exploiting the possible weaknesses of the attacking team.

One of the most common schemes that goalies will look to do is to use their defense to force the attack’s shots from certain positions in the field.  You will commonly find this when the attack doesn’t have a lefty on their roster.  The presence of a lefty on the attack leaves the attack with the most shooting options as this opens quick shooting lanes from the 4 and 5 position, commonly referred to as the weak side of the goal.  For right handed shooters, control of the ball is more difficult on cross-body catches, the shooting angles are diminished, and therefore goalies will look to funnel shots from this position.  This is also beneficial to the goalie because the lateral movement to cover the weak side from the strong side of the net is off of their, typically dominant, right leg.  Simply put, the goalie and the defense are going to allow the attack to shoot from this position, and will typically drop their defender from the 5 position to double team the Hole-Set, and allow the shot to come from the 5 attacker.  This makes the attack predictable and the defense is ready for what is coming.  Any time the defense can dictate where and how the attack will operate, it puts the defense in control.

So how does the attack take control back?  YOU DRIVE!!!  It’s a common method to turn the tables in your favor.  A couple of things happen when you drive.  First, the defense has to respect the drive.  If they let it go, they are giving up a scoring opportunity and likely inside water.  So the defense has to respect and engage the drive.  If they engage “physically,” the defense may be faced with a potential exclusion and a resulting man-down defensive play.  Also with the drive, the goalie has to respect it as well.  Again, the drive puts the attacker in a legitimate shooting position, thus forcing the goalie to play them honestly.  And just like that, the drive has pulled the focus of the entire defense.  Now let’s watch how we use it.

In this case, the drive doesn’t go all the way through.  The defender sees the drive and does not yield inside water, so the driver from the 2 position releases from the drive and pops back toward the perimeter.  The point attacker from the 3 position sees the release and passes to the driver on the release.  The point defender is engaging on the point attacker because they don’t want to give up the shot from that position in the pool, so they are out away from the play.  Meanwhile, with the 4 defender sloughing off to cover the Hole-Set, the 4 attacker slides in closer to the net, and opens up for what is about to come.  The diver, now with the ball, sees the entire defense respecting their position in the water, passes the ball to the attacker at the 4 position for a cross-body catch and follow-up shot.  No pump fakes… no walking in closer… this is a simple catch and shot, looking to catch the defense committed to the driver and off balance to make the shift to block the ball.  The entire “backdoor” of the cage is open for a solid shot to hit the back of the net.

OK, in the end, you still took the shot from where the defense wanted you to, but you did it on your own terms.  And that, kids, is how you take back control.


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