Buy this Book

Table of Contents


  The Manual for Coach and Player  

Chapter VIII: Part 2

Play Systems

Pete Cutino

Dennis Bledsoe

Against a Sluff — A sluffing defense can also stall many offenses. To heat a sluff number 1 or number 2 pass the ball to a near wing. The two yard man breaks to the same side the pass went to and should in turn receive a pass. Immediately after the first pass number 1 and number 2 cross (pick) and drive. Number 3 should have an open man to pass to. The sluffing man will now be cleared out. If no shot is taken, the middle is clear for offensive play.

Fig. 8-210-211

Variation For Figure Eight — If a team has members of unequal ability, and if they get burned in a swimming game because of some slow men; if all the players do not handle the ball well and if they lose the ball too often, then use the better ball handlers in the offensive end. Keep two men around halfcourt. Their job is to set hooks and make themselves open for passes out to halfcourt. This provides an outlet for the forwards to pass to when under pressure.

Two men are major drivers and two men alternate at the two yard position. This provides at any given moment one two yard man, three drivers and two pressure relief men that do not drive. These two men also protect against counterattacks. fig. 8-212

Fig 8-212

Initiating the Offense — Initiating the offense from the defensive end after an opponents' goal or foul against the opponent takes place. Each individual should, whether breaking or working for position, move toward the center of the pool (in line with the goalies). fig. 8-213

Fig. 8-213

General rules for this follow:

  1. The closest man to the opponents' goal breaks deep (two yard if possible) and sets a wing.

  2. Timing must be correct; cut for the wing when the midcourt man receives the ball—he can't wait, and he needs to pass to a moving target.

  3. Break to the same side the goalie puts the first pass on (as Double Y).

  4. Refer to following. fig. 8-214

Fig. 8-214

If the team does not, or will not, set good hooks and do them properly, then use drills to force it. This must become habit. Use drills for practice.

Wing Drills:

1. Use three lines. The outside two set wings (more than 90-degrees). The middle man drives in and sets a deep wing (two yard). Ball comes from the line then to the deep wing. The driver goes to the same side the first pass is on (while the ball is in flight). Driver starts just slightly before the wings. fig. 8-215

Fig 8-215

2. Use two lines. Each line does the same thing only on opposite sides of the pool. The object is to set wings. Two men go at a time or alternate, i.e., after man in right line hits midcourt, then the man in the left line begins. Hooks can be made at certain specified areas or on the coach's command. fig. 8-216

Fig. 8-216

3. Begin on whistle, hook on whistle, second man in line begins when first man hooks. A ball can be used. fig. 8-217

Fig. 8-217

Drive, Hook, and Pass Drill: The first man in line drives the center and sets a hook and wing. It is preferable that he be guarded. The second man in line passes to the wing man and drives. The wing man hits the driver on the way in. The driver hooks and wings with the ball and throws it back to the line. Repeat for as long as desired. 8-218

Fig. 8-218

Wing and Drive Drill: On the whistle the three men begin. The pass goes to the midcourt wing. The middle man, number 2, drives the center to the two yard line and sets a wing. Goalie passes ball to number 1 wing. Number 2 will feed number 3 as he drives. If goalie passes to number 3, then number 1 will drive for the shot. fig. 8-219

Fig. 8-219

Scrimmage Hints:

  1. Three second scrimmage

    This is a good method of forcing movement, pass and go, defense and heads up play.

    Use a regular scrimmage situation. However, each player may control the ball for only three seconds. The team controlling the ball for one minute wins. Time only counts when the ball is in the offensive end.

  2. Reaction scrimmage — 4 on 4 or 6 on 6 (maker's take)

    This scrimmage helps to develop quick reaction to offense or defense. A normal scrimmage situation is set up. The team that scores immediately becomes the offensive team going in the other direction. The goalie should immediately put the ball in play to take advantage of quick openings. If a shot is taken and missed, the defense immediately becomes the offensive team.

  3. Winners out (halfcourt)

    The team scoring retains possession of the ball until it is lost. The purpose is ball control and successive goals. A fullcourt scrimmage can also be used.

  4. Counterattack scrimmage

    In order to prepare to face a counterattack, one team should play offense and anticipate a counterattack. After the initial attack the ball is turned over to the opposite goalie. Continue for as long as desired.

Box Pattern

For Use in a Small Pool — This offense uses two men back. They break into the offensive area only if there is a good opportunity to score. If they do break, someone else must come back and cover the open position.

Attempt to get the ball to the right wing number 1; he takes the ball to the two yard area and attempts to pass to the center forward moving across. Continue the basic pattern and break clear. Never limit players to the pattern if an opportunity comes. fig. 8-220

Fig. 8-220

Left forward may receive the ball and reverse the flow; he is the key, especially if there is a left-handed shooter on the team.

If the center opens up, a guard may break. This should not become a habit.

The box pattern offense is used in other countries; however, it has seen little use in the United States. This offense does have possibilities. In a small area it will help keep the defense spread and give the man moving across the center a chance to work one-on-one. It presents an offense not familiar to most defensive players.


When selecting a team defense, the personnel on the team must be considered. For example, an extremely slow team will not be able to use a fullcourt, tight man-to-man defense. They would be beaten by fast breaks from the backcourt. The slow team may desire to play a loose man-to-man and pick up tight in the offensive end of the court. They may decide to use a zone defense. It is the author's feeling that by far the best defense to use presently is usually the tight, pressing fullcourt, man-to-man.
As soon as the ball changes hands, it is imperative that each man jump immediately in front of an offensive man. Do not allow the offensive man the opportunity to break downcourt (cut him off). fig. 8-221A

Fig. 8-221 A

Tight Pressing Man-to-Man

If a fullcourt press is used, each man must do his job; one man can not let down. The passing lanes must be covered. A passing lane is the area between the passer and the receiver. Cut off the pass and the lane has been plugged up. Generally when the opposing goalie has the ball, the team defense should be extremely tight on all men the goalie can pass to, cut off all passes. If a pass is made, press so hard that the individual must pass back to the goalie. Defense men in the offensive end of the tank may play more loosely and gamble for a stolen pass. (Fig. 8-221 B) In this situation if a guard that should be tight on a man relaxes and allows a pinpoint pass, the men playing loosely could be burned and be scored against.

Guard Positions

The defensive man's arm should extend between the man and the ball. If a pass comes, the hand is already there. It also discourages passes. (Figs. 8-221 B and 221 C)

Fig. 8-221B abd 221C

Remember (Man-to-Man)

  1. Put extreme pressure on outside men.

  2. Force a poor pass. It can possibly be intercepted. fig. 8-223

  3. It is best to allow the inside defense men to sluff and relax. fig. 8-222

  4. Slight sag on opposite side from the ball is desirable. fig. 8-223

  5. When a man drives, hand fight and give him a way to go; give him a path of least resistance. Do not allow ball side drives. Do not follow your opponent; once this happens, the individual defensive player is beaten. Make the offensive player fight for all the ground he gets. fig. 8-224

  6. If the ball is lost, immediately sprint into the defensive half of the tank. This will tend to eliminate fast-break and man up situations.

  7. As the offense moves into the forecourt, pick them up. At this point the defense is the same as in the tight man-to-man.

Fig. 8-224

Zone Defense

Zone defenses are mentioned in the prior chapter. However, an effective zone defense must have a good goalie. The defense is designed to force long, outside shots. We do not recommend zones for most teams. If each player is not properly schooled and does not play his position almost perfectly, then the sharp offensive team will simply take its time, pass the ball around and take a shot when the opening presents itself.

When a shot is stopped and taken by the goalie, the two wing guards flare out to receive the pass. The ball should advance just as described in the Double Y.


  1. Lefty — When organizing and beginning the season, coaches should attempt to find a left-handed player for the right wing position. This is especially important in fast-break situations. It is much harder for right-handed players to handle the ball and shoot effective shots from the right side of the pool. It is much easier for a left-handed shooter to execute hard shots from this position. A left-handed player in this position also helps maintain pool balance.

  2. Driver should bear into the defensive man, then hook.

  3. Driver should attempt an RB if the guard plays in front and fights. (If close enough to the goal.)

  4. Two Yard Man — as a feeder always be ready for a return pass right back) and immediate shot. Guard tends to relax.

    1. Use two yard picks when anyone in the scoring area has a free throw.
    2. Two yard man when feeding a driver should move with him. fig. 8-226
    3. If two yard man does not have position, he should move out and join the pattern.

    Fig. 8-225

  5. Two yard pick — Number one should swim up and set a screen for number two. Number two breaks toward the left goalward, and as soon as number two is past, number one breaks in the opposite direction. One of the men should be open for a pass. fig. 8-227

  6. Fig. 8-226

  7. Use wing picks at any point in the pool to free men.

  8. Wings are needed on both sides of the pool to relieve pressure and spread the defense. (Halfcourt wings essential.)

  9. Deep man drive into the two yard line before setting the hook.

  10. Need wings on the two yard line before the hole man locks in.

  11. Fig. 8-227

  12. Do not float on the wings. Start in the center; move out and continue movement.

  13. Do not move up and down the outside. It fouls up wing sets. Move up the outside and down the middle.

  14. If a body length lead on a man, during a break set a wing if none are set. Need to advance ball first. If wings are set go in.

  15. Know where the ball is at all times.

  16. When breaking look over each shoulder.

  17. Eye to eye contact before any pass.

  18. Advancing the ball:

    1. Need wide wings at halfcourt. Goalie needs a target. Opens middle for driving and movement.
    2. Do not stack up in the middle. Continue movement; do not clog the center. If one defensive man can guard two people, then move to open water.
    3. Fill outside wings if empty. Always need them.
    4. Continual movement means men will be open for a pass. Do not sit and watch—move some place.

  19. Backdoor — Drive on non-ball side once in a while (to a ball side position). fig. 8-228, 8-229

  20. Stalled drives — If stalled along side, use a pick to free the man rather than continuing drive. fig. 8-230

  21. Don't sit on outside wings; move up to midcourt, drive, hook, etc.

  22. After opponent goal, move to center and over midline—when official puts ball in play, break to wings.

  23. Wet pass—tightly covered man should receive a wet pass.

Fig. 8-228-230


  1. Pressure (tight) on outside man, force a poor pass. A good pass into the hole or inside is the outside guard's fault. It is best to allow inside defense to relax.

  2. No gross fouls inside the four. If opponent has lead on a drive-in, percentage is with allowing the shot. Try to stop it—don't foul.

  3. Path of least resistance. Give it to driver, no ball side drives.

  4. Man-to-man — Demand tight, slight sag away from ball is O.K.

  5. Do not follow your opponent; once you do you are through.

  6. Front hole — If the hole man is in front and pressing for position on the four, give in to him. When he reaches the four, let him go and rotate in front—then be tough, nose to nose.

  7. Control scrimmage — Give one team ball on offense. When they lose it, give it back. Ball goes to goalie. Working on defensive skills, tight man to man, cut off passing lanes, etc.

    This is good because players think they are working on offense; actually coach is working on defense. If you have two coaches, one work the defense and the other the offense.

  8. Defensive work the day prior to the game will sharpen defensive attitude and anticipation.

  9. Cut off passing lanes, i.e., stay between your man and the ball where possible. Helps to pick off passes and harass.

  10. Two yard guard keeps hips high, don't over-commit.

  11. Front all two yard men.

  12. Call out your man prior to game. Entire team should do this.

  13. On lost sprint do not wait in backcourt for them to set up; move in fast and apply pressure.

  14. Play position — Force drivers outside. Face him square. Hand fight him. Eggbeater up and ride high.

  15. Protect against a back door.