Running the Score May Be Running Teams Out of Water Polo?

Richard Hunkler, PhD.
Water Polo Planet
03/15/08

Running a score in a collegiate water polo game helps no one. It doesn’t help the team that runs the score and it sure as heck doesn’t help the team getting the score run on them. In point of fact this could be one of the reasons some teams are being cut, and you answer by saying, “Yeah, about 1 in 10,000 have ever been cut for that reason”. We have so many collegiate teams that we can say losing one more team is not very important? If you think that then you probably also think that next year the Men’s NCAA Championship will have 8 teams and the Women’s NCAA Championship will have 16 teams similar to days of old.

We should try to eradicate every minute reason we can find that might cause another men’s or women’s water polo team to be cut. Who knows what dwells in the evil minds of some Athletic Directors and some College Administrators? I am tempted to say here, “The Shadow Knows”, but I don’t think he does either. Besides saying that running the score might cause some collegiate team to be cut gives drama to my title and it will cause me to reach more people than would my real title which is “Running the Score is Stupid and It Helps No One!”

When I was young I thought it was bad to run the score on any team anywhere but now that I am older, much older, I have mellowed and come to believe that anything legal goes in Championships. If a coach and his players believe that they won’t be able to win the championships if they don’t play intense in the first round of games because it will cause them not to play intense in critical games as well. And if playing intense causes them to run the score so be it. I don’t really think I buy that side of the argument a 100% but I am a coach that wore the same cap and game shirt to every game we won and only changed them if we lost a game.

When I was coaching Slippery Rock University I only ran up scores in championships when goal difference could determine one’s place in a bracket and that was before we had the Eastern Championships. I can never remember intentionally running the score on a first round team in Easterns and we won nine consecutive Eastern Championships. But who am I to say my superstition is better than some other coach’s superstition. You know that old hackneyed expression; however, that goes something like, “One person’s pleasure can be another person’s misery”.

I haven’t discussed the other primary reason that coaches’ use as why they run the score and that is, “If I don’t run the score then I will be given a low ranking in the polls and the low ranking will cause my team to receive a lower seed for the championships”.  If a pollster cannot tell your team is much better than the other team without you running up the score then the pollster shouldn’t be allowed to rank teams and if a coach believes he or she can get a better seed by running scores then I have some flooded land in the mid west that I would like to sell the coach.

Now, let us speak of running the scores in games that are not in championships. To me running scores is similar to the old saying, “Let us kick them while they are down”. And you say that’s much better than pulling out of counter attacks, passing and shooting with the weak arm, and/or not shooting until five seconds are left on the shot clock. Players having to pull out of counter attacks and having to pass with the weak arm might be as embarrassed as the players who are getting beat by a score of 28 to 3 but I doubt it. (Today good weak arm passing is about as rare as finding a goalie who can stop penalty shots with his foot.) But having players shoot with their weak arm or having them waiting to take the shot until there are five seconds left on the shot clock embarrasses no one. The reason it doesn’t is because everyone on your team can still play as hard and as tense as you want them to play.

There are other ways to keep from running the score and here are a few:

There are many more ways to help your players play better in this type of game without running the score. If I can come up with the above seven suggestions and the two in the text then I know you can come up with four fold more ways to make your team and the team you are playing better. Note:  Again none of the suggestions I have made will keep your players from playing hard and intense. Of course there are exceptions to every rule and there may be games that no matter what you do the score gets out of hand. But coach, if you do these suggestions then you and your players can leave the deck knowing that you did everything in your power not to run the score and that there is a good possibility that not only your players but the players on the other team learned  to play better polo.  Finally, coach when you play a team much weaker than your team remember try to be creative and not cruel.

(If any coach would care to add to the above list of suggestions on how not to run up the score then email me your name and suggestion and I will post it with the others along with your name and school.)

Email Coach Hunkler at rhunkler@waterpoloplanet.com