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  The Manual for Coach and Player  

Chapter VI

Individual Offense

Pete Cutino

Dennis Bledsoe

The ability to react correctly to each situation is one that involves many skills and most often takes a number of years to learn. A beginning player who attempts to learn and master all offensive, as well as all defensive, skills will only meet with frustration. It is most advisable to learn and be able to do a number of skills; however, the player should concentrate on only one or two at a time. After he becomes proficient in a skill, such as one particular shot or driving move, then is the time to begin concentration on mastering others. (One step at a time.)


Dribbling is most effective when the stroke is short and quick with a rapid turnover. The elbows should be held high during the recovery phase and the hand carried low and close to the water. The purpose of high elbows is for protection of the ball. A straight arm recovery often slices under the ball and results in a loss of advantage or of the ball itself. A good leg drive should be maintained at all times.

Fif 6-109

Fig 6-110


When a player changes direction, a strong scissor kick is needed. A swimmer turning left while dribbling the ball should pick it up with the right hand and, using a swinging motion with the right arm, place it in front of his left shoulder. At the same time, the upper body turns in the new direction. At the time the ball is picked up, a strong scissor kick should be used. The ball will seldom be thrown in a new direction and approached, but should be kept by the player as he changes direction.

Fig 6-111-113


Situate the team in equal lines. The first man begins swimming full speed while dribbling the ball. On the sound of the whistle, pick the ball up in the right hand and place it in front of the left shoulder in the new direction. At the same time the legs have executed a strong scissor kick. Continue left to right and right to left. fig. 6-114

Fig 114

Do not throw the ball in front and swim to it (cradle it around).

Variation — Use the same drill with a trailer or guard swimming at the offensive man's hip. Remember to dribble with a high kick; this keeps the defensive man back and gives the offensive man better speed, body position, and protection. When the end of the pool is reached, either repeat the drill back to the starting point, or pass the ball the length of the pool to the next man in line.

Spin and Bounce

Another good drill in learning to change direction quickly is the spin and bounce drill which is covered in Chapter II. This skill is important to possess and is needed most often when a player is converged upon and he must move the ball out of the way quickly.


An important skill to possess, both offensively and defensively, is that of slicing under a swimming opponent in order to stop his progress or to gain a position of advantage. This skill is most often used when two opposing players are sprinting for a loose ball, working for good position, or in face-off situations. To cut under and in front of a man, the player swims as close to his opponent as possible, submerges his head and upper body just enough to get under the arms and upper body of the opponent, and then moves under and in front. The opponent will then be forced to pull back or risk being called for a foul. This move should be made when the opponent's near arm is beginning its recovery phase. (See Chapter IV.)


  1. Partners swim length of the pool and alternate cutting in front of each other.
  2. Practice face-off situations, concentrating on cutting under the opponent and blocking him from the ball.

    Note: Cutting under can easily be a foul.


A method of turning other players is first to be aware of the defensive player and his position. When he least expects it, dip the shoulder and turn quickly. Use a sculling motion with the hands and a strong eggbeater kick. Continue pressure until the desired objective is accomplished.

Fig 6-115, 116, and 117

Turn Man Inside (for four yard line)

If the guard positions himself in front of the forward at the four yard line, the forward could turn and move to the side approximately two strokes, roll to a back position and move toward the goal. Get a high shot. fig. 6-118 fig. 6-119

Fig 6-118 and 6-119

SWEEP SHOT — Right Hand

Use a strong eggbeater kick in order to maintain a high position in the water. The shoulders must be clear and free to move. The shot is executed by picking up the ball and using a straight arm. The upper body begins the slinging motion by vigorously twisting to the left; the arm and hand follow. (Much like crack the whip.)

Fig 6-120 and 6-121

TURN AND LOB — From a Two Yard Position Almost a Blind Shot

Turn the guard to the right and move him toward the goalward. If the goalie follows, two shots may be taken:

  1. Wrist flicks backhand lob to the far corner (hard to learn). (See Chapter III.)
  2. Roll to a layout position and lob to the far corner.

A power shot would be ineffectual at this point because of the guard and goalie positioning.


As though attempting to execute a sweep shot to the left, turn the defensive man in that direction, control the ball with the right hand. If the guard, in his efforts to stop a sweep shot, moves out of position, shoot a backhand. fig. 6-122
Normally the backhand is not a good shot to use because it is easy for the guard to block. fig. 6-122

Fig 6-122 and 6-123


An offensive man is in control of the ball and a defensive man is between him and his objective. The offensive man should pick up the ball and bait the defensive man, draw him toward the ball (hold it out a little). As the defensive man moves toward the ball, the offensive man (if right-handed) keeps the ball just out of reach of the defense. Using a semi-straight arm, draw it back, use a sweeping motion. The less experienced defensive man will tend to go after the ball with his right hand. As he follows the ball back, the forward should place his left hand on the defensive man's side and help him by. At this point the ball should be flipped in the direction the individual desires. The right arm and hand continue the flipping motion and move in an overarm motion as the freestyle stroke begins. Move past the defensive man and go (draw him out of position and go).

Fig 6-124, 125, and 126

Draw and Go Defense

The guard should not go after the ball. He should stay squarely in front of the offensive man. If he reaches for the ball at all, it should be with the left hand (when guarding a right-handed passer).


Often defensive men will stop the offense from driving down the center of the pool toward the goal. The guard will attempt to move the driver out of the center. In this situation there are several methods of maneuvering around a guard.

Side and Rotate

Swim into the shoulder of the defensive man, applying pressure into him. If he does not return pressure then swim by and drive. If the defense applies pressure into the driver, the driver should spin or rotate in the opposite direction and around (get ball side). If rotating from the defensive man's left to right side, the offensive man should lead with the right arm, moving clear of the water. The left hand should enter the water close to the defensive man as he moves by.

Driving Corkscrew

Drive straight into the defensive man. To move to the defensive man's left side, begin a corkscrew motion to that side. The first move should involve the right hand entering the water near the side of the defensive man. The left arm moves over the water in a backstroke move, much like continuing the spin in "Side and Rotate." Continue the twisting until past. A hard leg drive is important.

Waist and Rotate

Swim into the defensive man. If the driver wishes to go to the defender's right, place the left hand near the defensive man's right side or back, spin or rotate to the right, leading with the right arm over the water and around (just as in the first move of the driving corkscrew). This works especially well if the defensive man does not keep his hips up.

Hesitate and Go

Drive until just out of reach of the guard. Fake to get the guard moving one way, then drive in the opposite direction.

Fake RB and Under

To drive to the defensive man's left, swim into his left shoulder. Use quick strokes but do not pull with power, let the water go. Rear up quickly as though to receive a pass. If the defensive man comes up to block any attempted pass, quickly slide under the guard's left arm and drive. This move should give the driver a half a body length lead on the defensive man.

Blind Side Drives

When the guard turns his head to see where the ball is, drive. Guard will usually be behind. (See Chapter VII — "Blind Side Drive.")

Fig 6-127, 128, and 129

Hooking in Front of the Goal (with or without the ball) (See Chapter III.)

Drive into the three or four yard line, hook left, as in change of direction drill, and then into a backstroking position. The legs must be carried high and kick white water. This helps keep defensive men away.

Three hooking moves follow:

Hook (to left) — As the right arm enters the water and extends in front, pull it under water and swing the left over and rotate or roll into the back position (twist to the right). If the individual is dribbling a ball he should control it with his right hand. If he does not have the ball, he is in position to receive a pass. If guarded and in control of the ball, this is the preferable method of rolling. The shooting arm is not exposed to the guard during the roll as it is in the next method. (Roll after hook is complete.)

Hook and Back — As the right arm finishes the stroke, turn or roll toward the right shoulder. Right arm will swing over the water and backward to a position on the back. If one is guarded, or dribbling a ball and maneuvering for a shot, this is not the prefered method of turning onto the back position. If the guard positions himself correctly, he will most often be able to contact the right arm as the forward rolls, nullifying any position attempt at a score.

Hook, Push and Shoot (See also Chapter III) — When the driver has a slight lead on the defensive man, scoop up the ball and change direction to the left (about three yards out). At the same time place the top of the right foot against the defensive man and scissor kick while cutting left. Use a high flutter kick on all drives.

The shots which may be taken off of all the hooking moves are:

  1. Backhand
  2. Overhand — After the driver hooks, he continues a vigorous kick and spins to his back, left arm over the top. Do not let go of the ball with the right hand. Spin toward the right shoulder; then the shooter is in position for an overarm layout shot.
  3. Forehand flick or push — (with left hand) Instead of a right-handed backhand shot, place the left hand under the ball; without prior warning movement flick or push it into the lower corner of the cage. This shot is hard for the goalie to anticipate. The arm should stay under water when executing the shot. It is easy to fake in this shot, either with the head or body.

    Note: This is a good shot to use if the guard is still tight on the driver and restricting his movement. He is usually looking for a right-handed shot. The other shots would be unsuccessful in this situation.

Hooks, Comments (types of shots) — In the driving hooks all shots tend to place the goalie at an increased disadvantage. The goalie will usually come up and expect a shot as the driver is executing his hook move, mainly because the driver will have the ball in his hand and be using a swinging or sweeping motion as he turns. The goalie will then come down, and follow laterally. It is at this point the shot should be taken, especially the backhand or forehand flick.



To pass a defensive man who is swimming beside the offensive man, synchronize the stroke with the defensive man. Then, in the course of stroking, place the hand or wrist over his hand. This will tend to inhibit his initial movement and provide a slight lead for the offense.

Keep Away

One method of using most skills involved in water polo and working on open water play is by playing keep away. The player's main objective is to break to open water and enable a teammate to pass. All other
aspects of the game should also be emphasized, e.g., guarding techniques and body position.


  1. Take 20 to 50 shots at end of practice, 5 at a time.
  2. Inside driving — If the driver does not have ball side, he should drive to the two yard area, hook and set a wing.
  3. Crosscourt passing helps produce ball side drives and pool balance.
  4. RB — Rear upper body up, just prior to the rear pull legs down hard. You need them under. (Pull knees to chest.)
  5. Backhand shot — Poor percentage shot.
  6. Pop and tip — Another skill that is used very infrequently but which is most effective is the pop or bounce and tip. When a player is converged upon by more than one player the ball is popped up in the air. As it is popped up, the attacking players will swing at the ball at water level. As the ball comes down, the offensive man tips it back up, or passes or shoots it, and repeats until he can control and shoot or pass. The defensive men tend to sink slightly just after the initial attack, thus allowing the offensive man to retrieve or tip his popped up ball. (Refer to "Pop and Tip" in Chapter II.)