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Table of Contents


  The Manual for Coach and Player  

Chapter II


Pete Cutino

Dennis Bledsoe


Passing is a very important phase of the game and should be emphasized in all practices. The ability to execute good passes, both short and long, is often the difference between winning and losing. One characteristic that outstanding teams possess over other teams is that of pinpoint passing.

We feel it is imperative that each player be able to execute good passes under varying conditions. The individual coach can structure passing drills that are most beneficial to the particular team involved.

We feel that approximately twenty percent of practice time should involve passing. Passing and shooting are easily combined.



Place the hand under the ball, lift to clear, bring it back behind the head, and pass.

fig 2-8

Pressure and Give

Place the hand on top of the ball. Depress it slightly so that when hand pressure is released the buoyancy of the ball will pop it clear of the water and into the hand. Be careful not to use too much pressure. This skill is a lead-up to the pop and push shots.

fig 8-9


Place hand on top of the ball, roll the hand left or right and the ball will roll clear and into the hand.

fig. 2-10

ROLL fig. 2-10

Pressure Roll

Place hand on top of the ball. Apply pressure, as in pressure and give, and at the same time roll the
hand to the side. This is a quick, positive and efficient way to pick the ball up.
Grasp and Pick Up

Grab the ball as though picking up a baseball and throw it. (Only for giants.)

fig. 2-11


Beginning with the ball behind the head, the right-handed thrower should:

  1. Point the left shoulder at the target; the left hand can be used for support.

  2. Begin the throwing motion by moving the left arm and shoulder to the left. The right shoulder and arm then act as the end of a whip and have momentum.

  3. Lead with the right elbow. Arm should be in approximately a 90-degree angle. As the elbow passes the right ear the hand should be flat enough to support the ball without grasping it.

  4. fig. 2-12

    fig. 2-13

    fig. 2-14

  5. Follow through with a hard and forceful throwing movement of the forearm and hand.

  6. Follow through. The arm should end up straight and pointing at the target, fingers relaxed.

It is very important not to eliminate this last phase of the throw. The wrist should snap hard as the ball is released. It is a good practice to follow through until the arm slaps the water.


An individual who has the correct throwing motion and a very weak shot probably collapses the wrist and does not have the fingers over the top of the ball. The back of the hand should be close to parallel with the arm as the ball is being thrown (just prior to release).

Having the weak shooter throw against a wall is very good. Ask him to rotate his finger tips over the top of the ball as he releases, do not allow the fingers to be placed under it. This should help cure most weak passers and shooters.

fig. 2-15


The key to catching the ball is relaxation. The individual must accept the ball, and give with it. A good method of learning to catch is to:

  1. Point the arm and fingers at the oncoming ball (stretch toward it) as the ball reaches the hand.

  2. Begin moving the hand and arm back with the ball.

  3. Contact the ball as soon as possible (touch it) but do not attempt to control it until it passes behind the head.

  4. Fingers and arm must be relaxed and not stiff.

Most individuals who have trouble catching the ball usually hold their arm and hand too rigid as the ball approaches and attempt to control the ball immediately.

As skill improves the individual may begin controlling the ball sooner.

fig. 2-16


Passes should be solid and authoritative. The lob pass, or weak slow pass, has little use in water polo. Most passing should be quick and solid. Dry passes should be thrown in a low trajectory and be received just above head level. Wet passes are those hitting the water, out of reach of the opponent. Most passing should be dry, with wet passes thrown to a breaking or sprinting man.



Any movement to the left, usually with the ball (right-handed player). Wheel or Draw

Any movement to the right, e.g., receive a cross face pass, wheel right and shoot.

As the pass comes, usually approaching from the left side of a right-handed shooter, the arm should be slightly bent. As the ball contacts the hand the momentum of the ball should be continued by pulling the right arm around and back and, at the same time, the body should turn to the right. ALWAYS keep the legs under the body for support, DO NOT lay out on the back. The left arm and hand are used for support. We refer to this particular move as a wheel. Wheel right is receiving a pass in the right hand, wheeling and passing or shooting.

A circle drill may be used to practice this skill as well as many other drills, both shooting and passing.

fig. 2-17


Drills for ball handling, conditioning, and specific situations (two yard plays, etc.) are extremely valuable to all teams. Usually the more inexperienced teams devote more practice time to drills and basic skills than do the more experienced. The more experienced teams usually concentrate more on control scrimmages and specific situations because they already possess the needed ball handling abilities.

In this section many drills will be presented. The most adequate to use may be ascertained only by the coach, based upon the needs of the team. Select those best suited to your team's needs and abilities.

Short Passes

Generally, passes should be short. Often long passes either go astray, or give the defense time to maneuver for an interception. Short, quick and accurate passes will provide much better results over the course of a game.

Cross Court

Cross court passing should also be a general rule. Throwing down the middle of the tank, or in a straight line downcourt (parallel to the pool), requires much more accuracy and perception. Cross court passing helps to utilize the total pool area, spread the players, and relieve pressure or the danger of stacking up in the middle. Cross court passing aids in executing ball side drives which are very important. The team that is used to this type of passing will be much more successful at moving the ball into drivers than the team that does not concentrate on the skill.

Pool Balance

Pool balance, or maintaining the same number of men on both sides of the tank, is very important in water polo. This helps to eliminate bunching, or stacking up on offense. It also keeps the defense from taking an extra lead in anticipation of going on offense. If the defense does not know where a pass will be next, they cannot chance leaving their man. fig. 2-18

fig. 2-18


Eye-to-eye contact is very important. Only the team that has been together for a period of years, so that each man knows what his teammates' moves will be, should deviate from this principle. Do not pass to a teammate unless you see his eyes and he sees yours. Adhering to this principle will eliminate many lost and stolen passes.

fig. 2-19


Pass Under Pressure

This is a very important skill to possess. The objectives of the drill are to:

  1. Provide competition in reaching the ball.

  2. Defend without fouling.

  3. Get off a good accurate pass to a driving teammate while under pressure.

The ball is put in play by a face-off or it is thrown into an area of the pool where two men will have to swim for it. The individual gaining control first, becomes the offensive man. The remaining man is on defense and should press hard, allowing no good passes.

In another area of the pool are two more players. One is designated, before play, as the offensive man. He and his defensive man do not fight for position, but do move around in order to force the
passer to know where and to whom he is throwing. Continue passing back and forth, alternating offensive and defensive men.

Circle Drills

  1. Three balls—A circle of five to eight players is formed. Fewer the better, depending upon facilities. Using one ball they pass it in one direction, changing direction on the whistle. Players should use both hands and try to move the ball as quickly as possible. After a short while another ball is added, and finally a third is added. This drill forces the individual to pass accurately and quickly, for if one individual is slow or makes a mistake, the entire drill must wait for him.

  2. Wheel right and spin left—(right-handers)—First the ball will be passed in a clockwise direction. Upon receiving the cross face pass the right-handed individual should wheel to his right and pass the ball to the next man. At all times keep the legs under the body; do not lay out on the back. On the whistle the direction of passing changes to counterclockwise. Upon receiving the pass the individual should spin to his left and pass.

  3. Two men in the middle—Two men should he back to back in the middle of a circle. Two balls are used and the middle men keep both hands out of the water to receive passes. The circle should move in a clockwise direction. The middle men continue passing to new individuals. On the whistle the middle men pass to outside men in the circle and trade positions with them. The circle may move in either direction. It is an excellent drill for the eggbeater kick.

  4. fig. 2-20

  5. Spin and bounce—Begin the drill with a ball in the right hand and on the water. Keeping the body vertical and high, spin in place and bounce the ball about six times as a full circle is turned. Use the left hand for support as the legs execute an eggbeater kick. Switch the ball to the left hand and repeat in the opposite direction. This is an excellent ball handling drill for players of all levels. Use of this skill is very often needed in games.

Pop and Tip

When converged upon by more than one opposing player, loss of the ball can often be avoided by flipping it up in the air and then tapping it back up until a pass can be made, or the ball can be controlled. The skill of bouncing the ball on finger tips is a good one to possess.

Drill — Swim half of the length of the pool bouncing the ball on the finger tips of one hand. At midpool sprint the remainder of the length.

Converge and Tip

Use five players per group. Two men close in on the man with the ball. He flips the ball up and tips it at least three times, then tips it to the fifth man. The defensive men should reach for the ball but not 100-percent because they know where it will be going. fig. 2-24

fig. 2-21

fig 2-22 & 2-23

fig. 2-24

Two Hand Passing — Especially Goalies

Divide the team into pairs facing each other about five yards apart with one ball for each set of two, and pass continuously for one minute. The hands should not touch the water. Repeat the drill as many times as feasible. This is also a very good leg developing exercise. (See "Catching the Ball", this chapter.)

Eggbeater Passing

Arrange the team in pairs. Each set of partners facing each other will start at the end of the pool. Using the eggbeater kick and keeping both hands out of the water, use short passes back and forth and "walk" the length of the pool. The next set may start as soon as the way is clear or on the coach's command. Distance between the passing players can vary; however, it is usually best to maintain a short distance. fig 2-25

fig. 2-25

Layout Pass and Roll

When attempting to pass under pressure, the offensive man often must roll to his back and pass over the defensive man. This is accomplished by placing the throwing hand under or on top of the ball, rolling to the back, and turning toward the passing arm. Vigorous kicking must be used while passing. Often the offensive man has no open man to pass to, and he must roll back over and continue swimming with the ball. It is essential that good control of the ball be maintained at all times.

Use as many lines as the pool will allow. The first men in line dribble toward the opposite end of the tank; the second line of men are guards and should follow at the hip. The offensive men should roll as though to pass, then roll back to the front position and continue. The guards should attempt to contact or block the ball whenever possible. As the end of the pool is reached, the men trade positions and repeat the drill back to the beginning point.


1. The ball may be thrown to the line and continue until the entire team has reached the opposite end of the pool.
2. The third man in line trails the first two by one to two yards. The offensive man rolls and passes over number 2 to the third man. The ball is passed back to the first man immediately upon reception.
The first man then rolls back to the front position and continues to the end of the pool.

Three Man Pass and Swim

This is a drill of continual motion and involves layout passing. Three men are used. Each man swims back and forth in his own area. The drill is done within a ten to twelve yard distance.
Number 1 begins dribbling the ball; as he dribbles, number 2 begins moving in the other direction.

After they pass each other, number 1 rolls and does a layout pass to number 2. Number 3 started swimming just after number 2 did, and should go between numbers 1 and 2. As number 3 passes number 2, 2 rolls and passes to him. Number 1 has turned and is coming back in the opposite direction. After he and number 3 pass, 3 rolls and passes to him. Number 2 has turned and — continue for as long as desired. fig. 2-26

fig. 2-26

Close and Spread

Two players begin passing about six feet apart and gradually spread out to a distance of twenty yards. Use both hands. After they have -reached a distance of fifteen or twenty yards, a goal of 30 to 40 passes without a miss can be set.

Middle Man

This is done with three players a distance of five yards apart, total s ten yards. The ball travels from one of the outside men to the middle man to the outside man and back to the middle man, and so on. One must use right and left hands and take the ball directly from the side and across the front. Each man should be in the middle from three to five minutes.
Four Man Square

Four players form a square.

With one ball they pass it first in one direction, then on the whistle change directions. Players should use both hands and try to move the ball as quickly as possible.

Variation — Clockwise one whistle, counterclockwise on the next
and free choice, diagonal, etc., on the next.

fig. 2-27

fig. 2-28

Six Feet Apart and Two Hands

Position players about six feet apart using both hands to pass. Both of the players' hands should be out of the water at all times. Players should try to ride as high in the water as possible. A goal of 80 to 100 passes without a miss can be set.

Pass and Go Drill

Number 1 passes to number 2 and immediately (while passing) breaks for a short distance. Number 2 holds, then returns the pass and sprints. Continue for one minute.