Inside Inside Water

Richard Hunkler, Ph.D.
Slippery Rock University
04/01/05

When a player is between the defensive player and the defensive player's goal, then that player has inside water. Inside water anywhere in the swimming pool is an advantage, but having inside water in the strike or red zone is down right dangerous to a losing outcome of a game. Four things can happen when a player has inside water in the strike zone and receives the ball: 1) the player scores; 2) the player wins a four meter penalty shot; 3) the player earns an ejection; or 4) the player loses the ball. This means when a player gets inside water in the strike zone 75 percent of the time something good is going to happen for his or her team and only 25 percent of the time something bad will happen for his or her team. Take those kinds of odds to Las Vegas and a person will win big and take advantage of those kinds of odds in a water polo game and the team will win big.

Winning inside water is not only a physical skill but it is also a state of mind. Every time players drive or every time players are on an offensive counter attack they have to be thinking how they can win inside water on their opponents. It is not a one-time-offensive-play it is an all-time-offensive-play. Like the first sentence reads it has to be a state of mind. Driving for inside water is both a science and an art, and the player who masters this skill will be in the driver's seat that will help steer his or her team to a winning season. This is the seat in which most players and coaches would like to be sitting.

We know what can happen if a player gets inside water on his or her defensive player in the strike zone, but what can happen if player gains inside water on his or her defensive player in the counter attack or the transitional part of the game . Well, if a player wins inside water in the counter attack, then the player can stunt his or her defender. A stunt is when the player stops quickly and jerks his or her head backwards. This little play acting can cause the referee to think the defensive player is pulling the player back on the counter attack. A pull back is a big time no no that can cause the defensive player to be viewing the game for 20 seconds from the penalty box. Along with the quick stop and the head movement a player can add a small guttural grunt which helps convince the referee that the player is being pulled back or the player can go for the Academy Award nomination by moaning very loudly during the player's stunt. While making the stunt, a player must not let his or her head go under the surface of the water because if there is a no call by the referee then the player can still help in the counter attack or the set offense.

There may be as many ways to earn inside water as there are whistles in a water polo game, but of all those ways only two are discussed - the cut and the slip. The cut is easy to do when a player is swimming and his or her shoulders are in front of the head of the defensive player who is swimming to the side of the player. All the player has to do is swim or cut in front of the defensive player and the player has inside water. It is hard to believe how many players who when they get a couple of head-lengths in front of their defensive player they just keep swimming parallel to the defensive player. If the defensive player is a faster swimmer than this offensive player, then in a few strokes the defensive player will be even or ahead of the offensive player, and will be in a good position to guard the offensive player.

If, however, the offensive player cuts the defensive player and has inside water, then the offensive player owns the defensive player and all the speed in the world is not going to help the defensive player move into a position to guard the offensive player. This means of course the player with inside water has to hold the inside position by swimming to the left when the defender tries to swim pass on the left, and swimming to the right when the defender tries to pass on the right. This often frustrates a defender, who is a fast swimmer, and this frustration will, often times, allow a player to perform a perfect stunt and wave bye-bye to the very fast but ejected defender.

The slip is performed when the player is swimming even or a small distance in front of the defender. If the player is on the defender's right side, then the player swims along side of the defender until the defender's right arm goes underwater on the swimming stroke and the player slips in front of the defender over the defender's submerged right arm. If the player is on the defender's left side, then the player slips in front of the defender over the defender's submerged left arm. The secret to slipping a player for inside water is the timing of the slip over the stroke of the submerged arm of the defender. With good timing a five foot two player weighting 140 pounds can slip a six foot six player weighting 250 pound. It is a skill that has nothing to do with brute strength but rather has to do with quickness, agility and smarts. It is one of those politically correct skills because it is one of those few equal opportunity and non-discriminating skills in water polo. It doesn't discriminate between sizes or weight and anyone can certainly learn it.

The last question to address is when a player wins inside water in the strike zone how long is that player to hold his or her position? Holding the inside water position on a player in the strike zone is called "holding water". Players on both my men and women's teams were always told to hold water until the "cows come home" as explained in an earlier article. Simply translated this mean hold water in the red zone until either the ball comes to the player holding water or until the two meter player throws the ball back out to a player on the offensive perimeter. Thus, hold water until there is no longer a viable chance for the player to receive the ball so he or she can score or win a penalty shot or earn an ejection. Now that you are on the inside of inside water go out there and win some inside water in the red zone to make 75 percent of what you do with the ball a good thing for your team.

Email Coach Hunkler at rhunkler@waterpoloplanet.com