The Shot Doctor - Jim Solum

Number 1 ExtraJanuary 15, 2009
The road to success is not doing one thing 100 percent better, but doing 100 things 0ne percent better.



As the offensive game evolved it became necessary to name each player's position in the pool.  A numbered player moves to a specific spot in the water and performs specific duties on the offense.  Over the years, two different numbering systems emerged in the United States and in Europe.  The Europeans expanded their system further to include counterattack lanes, defensive lanes and shooting lanes.

The US and European frontcourt offense and the 6-on-5 offense players each have numbers for their respective positions. The American naming system numbers for the frontcourt offense from the left wing to the right wing is: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. The center is 6.  The European system numbers are the reverse. Europeans start numbering from left wing to right wing 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. The 2-meter player spot remains the same at 6.  Currently, at the time of this writing, both USA national teams, men and women, are using the European system.  The rest of the country is using the old numbering system.   In this article we present both shooting systems.  The six-on-five offense numbering system is also different in the American and the European numbering systems. 



Figure 1

The American frontcourt offense is numbered from left to right starting at the number one.  The right-hander in the left wing is named 1.  The outside left post is called 2.  The center cage position is called 3 and is the same for both systems.  The American outside right post is called 4.  The lefthander’s spot on the right wing is called 5.  The center player is 6 (see Fig. 1).



Figure 2

In the American six-on-five system, 5-meter line, the outside right post is called 5; the outside right post is 4.  On the 5-meter line: the right-hander is 1, the left post 2 and the right post 3 and the left-hander is 6 (see Fig. 2). 

There is also passing triangles on the extra man offense.  The lefthander's triangle is 3, 6 and 5.  The righthander's triangle is 1, 2 and 4.  The ball is passed for a while on the lefthander's triangle to draw the defense over to the right side and then passed to the shooter in the righthander's triangle.



Figure 3

The European frontcourt offense numbering system is the exact opposite of the American system and numbers from right to left.  The left-hander’s spot on the right wing is 1. The right-hander’s spot is 5.  Right post or flat is 2; left post or flat is 5.  The point is numbered as 3 (see Fig. 3).  

The European system expanded their system to add counterattack lanes and defensive lanes using the same numbering system. For example, the 1-shooter drives down the right side on the pool in the 1-lane during the counterattack.  The middle three counterattack lanes are 2, 3 and 4.  The left side of the pool lane is numbered 5.

On defense, the number of the lane remains the same.  The 1-guard, is the guard on the right side of the pool, and defends the corner shooter in the frontcourt and the 6-on-5.  The 2-guard defends the outside right post shooter; the 3-player (the point) takes the middle counterattacker (the point) swimming down the center of the pool. The 4-guard defends the left post offensive player.  The 5-guard defends the left corner shooter.  When exclusion occurs, the numbering for extra man defense remains the same. 


Figure 4


Each counterattack player has a specific lane with certain duties as seen in the illustration above.  The 1-driver and 5-driver on the counterattack is supposed to release for the ball at half tank if he or she is not open.  They do not blindly swim head down to the 2-meter line.  The 2, 3 and 4 drivers on the counterattack are the fastest swimmers on the team and counter the middle of the pool to get open.  The 2, 3 or 4 counterattackers are not going to stop at mid-tank but continue down the pool to become the freeman.  When the ball is not passed to the half tank releases at 1 and 5, the 2 and 4 counterattackers are actively looking for the late pass and intelligently swimming to the side of the pool to receive the deep counterattack pass (see Fig. 4).

The Europeans, like a basketball team, also have shooting lanes.  The 1-player masters shooting from the right wing.  The 2-player is a shooter above the right goal post must have a good cross-cage shot to the left corner.  A 3-player is a shooter that shoots from the center.  The 4-player is above the left goal post and also has a cross-cage shot to the right corner and a good shot at the left corner.  The 5-player is a corner shooter who must have a great cross-cage shot.



Figure 5

The European named six-on-five in the 4-2 formation is the same around the perimeter as the frontcourt numbering system.  The left-hander is named 5 on the 2-meter line and the right-hander on the opposite side is 1.  The outside players are the numbered: outside right post is 2 and the outside left post is 4.  The 4-position is the same in both the European and American extra man numbering systems. The inside posts on the 2-meter line are left post is 6 and the right post is 3 (see Fig. 5).  

In the European system the lefthander's triangle is 1, 2 and 3.  The righthander's triangle is 4, 5 and 6.  The ball is passed around in the righthander's triangle to draw the defense over to the left side and then passed to a shooter in the lefthander's triangle.


USA   1   2   3   6         EUR   5   6   3   1
        4   5                     4   2    


Figure 6

Table 1: US and European 6-on-5 comparison by position

Righthander   US 1   EU 5
Lefthander    US 6   EU 1
Left Post   US 2   EU 6
Right Post   US 3   EU 3
Right Flat   US 5   EU 2
Left Flat   US 4   EU 4

The American using the European system will have to remember that the lefthander spot is named 1 instead of 6 (US) and the righthander spot on the other side of the 2-meters at the left wing is called 5 instead of 1 (US).  The left inside post player is renamed 6.  The right inside post player remains the same number at 3 in both systems.  The 6-spot moves from the lefthander’s spot at the right corner to the left inside post (see Fig. 6).

In conclusion, the American and European numbering systems are opposites of each other.  This can be confusing to the player for a week or so but players quickly learn the new numbering system if the coach changes numbering systems.  The European system is the superior numbering system of the two.  The European system is a more logical numbering system that does not change from the frontcourt offense to the extra man offense and extends into counterattack lanes and defensive lanes. 

Copyright 2009 Jim Solum

Jim's emailaddress is [email protected]

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