Jim SocumShot DoctorBandage Ball

Volume 1 Number 1 March 1, 2008
The road to success is not doing one thing 100 percent better, but doing 100 things 0ne percent better.
 

FUNDAMENTALS OF THE WATER POLO SHOT

The throwing motion is a series of structured and mechanical movements.  The shooter who masters the mechanics of throwing can go on and become an Olympic player.  The best shooters, through trial and error, figure out how to throw the ball hard.  When the great shooter is asked about how he or she “did it,” the question is usually not answered. The player’s few words are, “Watch me in the water.”  The player’s shooting motion is never translated into words.

The average player or coach does not have the special insight into throwing that the Olympic player does.  Straining our eyes, we do not see what the shooter’s body does underwater.  This monthly series on shooting will fully explain the shooter’s entire throwing motion both above and below the water.

The difficulty in water polo is the observer only sees the shooter’s head, left shoulder and the right arm.  The other 75-percent of the body is underwater and unseen. Visually it looks like the shooter only used the right arm and left shoulder to shoot the ball. 

Coaches call this throwing technique the “Big Three.”  The shooter kicks up, rotates the left shoulder and slaps the hand on the water. In fact, there is a lot more complexity to the shot then the “Big Three.” For example, there is the “Big Ten.”  The seven other parts of the throwing motion are the torso, left arm, hips, right leg and left leg and the feet. These seven body parts generate most of the thrower’s posture, power and placement of the ball. 

FUNDAMENTALS OF THE POWER SHOT

The power shot is the main throwing motion for the shooter.  Throwing the ball hard requires the shooter to use perfect technique and follow the ten throwing fundamentals.  Failure to follow these ten throwing steps results in the shooter throwing a weak shot.

The proper throwing technique consists of ten parts, five lower body fundamentals consisting of the hips and legs; and five upper body fundamentals that use the torso and the arms. Each one of the throwing fundamentals uses a specific part of the body to assist in throwing the ball.  The ten parts of the throwing motion function together to create a whole body throwing motion with the shot starting in the toes and ending in the fingertips.

The shooter begins the shot by using the five lower body throwing fundamentals.  The shooter points the left foot at the goal, the right leg is straight back, the right foot rotates inward and outward to kick, the hips rotate back to cock the body and rotate forward throw the ball. The weight of the body transfers from the right foot to cock the ball to the left foot to help release the ball.

The shooter’s five upper body fundamentals position the back in the vertical, the abs crunch and contract to snap the torso forward, the left hand sweeps to the left to turn the body to the right to cock the right arm and then pulls down to elevate and rotate the hips.  The shooter’s right arm is high in the air, close to the ear, with the elbow at ear level.  The right hand grips the ball softly in a horizontal cradle position or in a vertical hand position with the finger firmly pinching the ball.  The ball is released using the standard 3-finger release, a 2-finger release or 1-finger release.  The ball leaves the hand with a backspin (ball spins backward), no spin or a topspin (ball spins forward).  Each one of the fundamentals or parts of the body builds on the previous one until the ball leaves the shooter’s hand. Below is a list of the ten fundamentals necessary to throw the ball. 

LOWER BODY FUNDAMENTALS

1. Left Foot Points, Pivots, Aims the Ball
        Left foot is fixed, is used by the body to pivot around, points to aim the ball
        Part of a system that angles the body
        Part of the a system with the right leg to cock the body for power
        Left foot forward prevents a square-to-the-goal body
        Square-to-the-goal body position creates a weak shot

2. Right Leg Straight Back
        Right leg and foot is mobile, moves and shoots the ball
        Right leg steps-out to the side
        Right leg swings back to point the left shoulder
        Shot starts in the toes and ends in the fingertips

3. Right Foot Snap-In
        Right foot is cocked to the side to cock the body for the shot
        Right foot snaps-inward to begin the shot
        Right foot rotates to side and down to power the shooter
        Scissor kick, where both legs slap, together is not used
        Scissor kick lunges the shooter to the left when right
        leg slaps left leg

4. Hip Rotation: The Hips are the Shot
        Throwing motion is mainly a rotational movement
        Hips rotate the body
        Left hand assists in rotating the body      
        Strong hip rotation creates a strong shot
        Weak and slow hip rotation creates a weak shot

5. Weight Transfer

       Shooter’s weight transfers from the right foot to the left to throw the ball
       Shooter cocks the arm with the weight of the body on the right foot
       Shooter throws the ball and shifts the weight onto the left foot
       Weight transfer makes the back vertical
       Poor shooter lies on back, has heavy right foot and throws ball over the goal      
                 
       Football example:
            Quarterback steps back to cock the arm and shifts weight onto right foot
            Quarterback steps into the throw and shifts weight onto the left foot

UPPER BODY FUNDAMENTALS

6. Vertical Back
        Shooter’s back is vertical to catch the ball, cock the body and throw
        Vertical shooter shoots accurately, with power at the high corner
        Vertical shooter positions the elbow and hand high
        Horizontal shooter cannot create much power or shoot accurately
        Horizontal shooter shoots low to the left corner of goal

7. Ab Crunch: The Abs Throw the Ball
        Three main parts of the body throw the ball: legs, torso and right arm       
        Most shooters have strong legs and arms and weak abs
        Abs and low back are called the core.  A weak core creates a weak inaccurate shot
        Power from the legs is transferred into the torso and into the right arm
        Ab crunch snaps the torso forward for power and a vertical body position
        Abs are a vital part of the 3-part throwing motion:
                      Elevate (legs), rotate (hips) and crunch (abs snap torso forward)

8. Left Hand Usage
       Left hand is more important than the right hand for throwing the ball
       Is the third hip of the player and assists in body rotation
       Sculls to keep the shooter vertical, elevate and turns the body right or left
       Sweeps to the left to turn the player’s body to catch the ball
       Sweeps to right and left to rotate the body for the pump fake
       Sweeps to left to cock the shooter’s right arm and body     
       Pulls down to begin the shot

9.  Right Arm Position
       Right arm releases the ball, creates ball spin and the length of arm cock
       Right arm decides whether the ball is aimed high or low by height of hand/elbow
       Controls the amount of power transferred to the right hand for lob or hard shot
       Power shot-100% power; Lob shot- 40% power

10. Right Hand Release: Grip, Releasing Fingers and Ball Spins

       Grips:

             Standard cradle grip: horizontal hand, fingers lightly hold the ball (backspin)
             Pinch grip: vertical hand with five fingers firmly gripping the ball (backspin)
             Football grip: hand across the top of ball (topspin)

       Releasing fingers:



             3-finger release for backspin power shot, lob, skip shot
             2-finger release for backspin power shot, lob, skip shot
             Index-finger release for backspin skip shot
             Middle-finger release for no-spin lob and off-speed shot              
             5-finger football release for topspin power shot, lob, curve and skip shots      

       Ball Spins:

            Fingertips release ball in the center
            Middle three fingers make final contact with ball
            Impossible to have the hand on top of ball (standard release)
            Backspin is the standard spin with the ball rotating backwards
            Topspin has the ball rotating forward, used for skip shot or curve shot
            Knuckle ball has no ball spin
            Diagonal spin has ball stripes diagonally spinning for curve shots

THROWING MISTAKES

Poor posture and improper body position drastically effect the shot.  The majority of these throwing mistakes occur underwater in the shooter’s lower body fundamentals.  A wobbly ball comes from a wobbling arm and torso that originates in the shooter’s wobbly unstable legs. The Hungarians have a saying about these types of technique errors: All mistakes are leg mistakes.

The shooter and coach mistakenly focus on the right hand release when the ball goes awry.  The ball curves to the left, turns into a lob or flies over the goal and the shooter assumes that the release is the cause.  The hand is not the cause but the effect. The cause is the ten parts of the body not functioning together.  In list below, both shooting problems and their fixes are examined.

Problem Fix
   
1. Not angling the body     Left foot forward, Right leg back, Rotate the hips (L.L.R.)
2. Falling backward           Weak legs, weak kick, right leg not back, torso not vertical
3. Falling to the side           Point the left foot at the corner, vertical back, rotate the hips 
4. Side arm            Angle the body=Left foot forward, Right leg back, Rotate the hips

5. Dropping the elbow:
    Boys before the shot
    Girls during the shot


Lazy legs, lift up the elbow
Angle body, arm close to ear
6. No hip rotation Angle body
7. Ball curves:
    Diagonal spin
    Side spin
Angle body, arm close to ear
Angle body, elbow high
Angle body, no side arm, do not drop elbow

In conclusion, the perfect shot comes from perfect technique. The shot starts in the toes and ends in the fingertips with the shot starting in the legs, moving to the hips and torso and finishing in the right hand.  When all ten parts of the body function in harmony, the ball is thrown by shooter’s whole body with power and authority.

Next Month: The Skip Shot

© Copyright 2008 Jim Solum

[Click Jim's photo to learn more about his water polo experiences
and Click the water polo ball to learn more about Jim's books.]


 

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