Jim SocumShot DoctorBandage Ball

Volume 1 Number 2April 1, 2008
The road to success is not doing one thing 100 percent better, but doing 100 things 0ne percent better.


The shooter creates the successful skip shot by following the ten fundamentals of power shot, uses the proper release and the correct skip point.  The shooter must have the strength to throw the ball that comes from technique.  The shooter selects the proper release using a 3-finger release, a 2-finger release or a 1-finger release.  The accuracy of the skip shot is determined by aiming the ball at the correct skip point in the water.  These three elements: technique, release and skip point determine whether the ball skips into the goal, over the goal or dies in the water.

Skip Shot on Goalie

The skip shot is one of the greatest shots in water polo, or one of the worst.  For the shooter, successfully skipping the ball into the high corner of the goal it is a sign that the player has arrived as a shooter.  For the coach, running after skip shots bouncing all over the pool deck it is a sign that the shot needs to be banned.  For a woman shooter, every skip shot that hits the water and dies is a frustrating experience. 


The shooter needs to have flawless throwing technique to generate enough power to skip the ball.  The ball to skip needs to have a speed of 27 MPH or more. Any flaws in the throwing motion reduce the ball speed by 2 to 3 MPH and prevent the skip shot from skipping off the water.  A ball thrown at 24 MPH does not have enough velocity to skip off the water.  The low-speed skip shot hits the water and diesProper technique creates the power for the ball to skip off the water.

The skip shot shooter’s technique follows the ten fundamentals that make up the power shot throwing motion. 

Ten Power Throwing Fundamentals

  1.  Left foot forward
  2.  Right leg straight back (slightly bent)
  3.  Right foot rotates
  4.  Hips rotate
  5.  Weight transfer from right to left leg
  6.  Vertical back
  7.  Crunch the abdominal muscles
  8.  High right arm and elbow
  9.  Cradle grip or pinch grip
  10. Release of ball: 3-finger, 2-finger, 1-finger

The shooter has the left foot forward, right leg straight back (slightly bent), right foot rotates inward and outward, hips rotate. The body shifts weight from the right foot to cock the ball and forward onto the left foot to release the ball.  The back is vertical with a strong ab crunch that snaps the torso forward.  The shooter has a high right arm and elbow with the arm close to the ear with the ball gripped softly or pinched in the hand. The ball is released with the standard 3-finger release, index-finger release or 2-finger release with the fingertips placing a lot spin on the ball.  The ten power throwing fundamentals have additional rules added to make the throw into a skip shot.

 Skip Shot Rules

  1. Strong leg kick up for power and height out the water
  2. High elbow with the hand 30”or higher for a sharp angle to the water
  3. Fingertips put extra spin on the ball to prevent the ball from stopping in the water
  4. Select the correct release: 3-finger, 2-finger or index-finger release 
  5. Select the correct skip point: 3-meters, 2-meters, 1 1/2 meter line

The average boy high school junior male throws the ball at 36 MPH.  The average girl high school junior shoots at 27-30 MPH.  The stronger boy may not have perfect technique as he falls over and shoots but still skips the ball at 33 MPH.  A girl shooter who throws the ball at 28 MPH cannot have a 3 MPH speed-robbing mistake and have the ball skip. 

Once the boy or girl shooter learns the proper throwing technique, accuracy becomes the next problem to solve.  Sometimes the ball skips into the goal and other times the ball bounces over the goal.  The use of the skip point solves the accuracy problem. 

The skip point is the spot in the water where the ball hits and skips up into the goal. It is a wet aiming point. For example, the standard 3-finger release uses a 3-meter line skip point and the ball hits this watery spot and bounces into the high corner of the goal.  Every time the ball is thrown at this spot, the ball goes into the goal.  Lucky, no, it is simply the mathematics of the skip shot.

The skipped ball is thrown at 29 MPH from a hand held 30-inches above the water, at a sharp angle to water.   The higher the hand and release point the sharper the angle and the more likely the ball will skip off the water. The shooter uses the standard 3-finger release and the ball bounces off the water at a 30-degree angle and travels six feet into the high corner of the goal.  If the same throwing factors are present for every skip shot, the ball goes into the goal every time.  It is math and mechanics, not magic, which creates the accurate skip shot.  The skip shot is not a wild low-percentage shot thrown by a crazed shooter as the coach or goalie believe. 

Goalies hate the skip shot because they assume that any ball thrown at the water is going to go into the low corner of the goal.  The goalie jumps to the low corner of the goal and suddenly the ball bounces into the high corner for a score.  To the goalie, the skip shot is an unpredictable shot that the goalie does not know how to block. 

The Horizontal Shooter Cannot Skip the Ball

Vertical height out of the water is the skip shot.  The higher the shooter gets the ball out of the water the better the skip shot.  The ball’s release point is measured from the center of the hand to the water and should be from 30-55 inches.  For comparison, a high corner shot requires a 30-inch hand release point.  The greater the ball height, the sharper the angle of the ball to the water and the greater the chance the ball will skip. Conversely, a lower release point height, the less the angle to the water, the less likely the ball is going to skip.  A release point below 15-inches guarantees the ball will not skip.   The horizontal shooter has a release point that is 5-inches high. The boy dragging his elbow in the water has a release point of 10-15-inches.  The weak kicking woman shooter has a 15-inch release point. 

Hand Technique

None of these three shooters above with low-height release points can skip the ball.  The closer the ball is to the horizontal the more likely the ball will skim or hit the water and stop.  To prevent a low-height skip shot the shooter must kick high and hard with the legs and pull down hard with left hand.  The legs and left hand lift up the shooter. The legs and left hand create 100-percent of the body’s power to lift the shooter’s body up out of the water and elevate the shooter’s release point.    



Three, Two, and Finger Releases

3-finger release   Middle three fingers make final contact with the ball
2-finger release   Index and middle fingers make final contact
1-finger release   Index finger makes final contact

The standard 3-finger release has the middle fingers making final contact with the ball.  These middle three fingers make up the 3-finger release.  For a demonstration of a 3-finger release hold the ball in the hand and roll it forward. As the ball rolls forward only the index, middle and ring fingers are touching the ball at the release.  The 2-finger release uses a pinch grip with the ball released by the index and middle fingers. These two fingers are together and snap down on the center of the ball.  The index finger release uses a pinch grip with the index finger snapping down and making final contact with the ball at the release. 

3, 2, and 1 Finger Skip Shots

The standard 3-finger release is the most difficult release for the shooter to use to get the ball to skip off the water.  For high school boys it is hard; for high school girls it may be impossible.   The three-finger release places the least amount spin on the ball and causes the ball to dig deeper into the water.  The greater the friction of the ball with the water, the longer the ball’s contact with the water and the more power necessary for the ball to “dig out” of the water and lift up into the air.  The 2-finger release and index-finger releases place more spin on the ball, create less friction with the surface of the water, have a smaller ball contact patch, and quickly lift the ball off the water and require much less force to skip the ball.

The index-finger release is first choice for the female shooter.  For the high school girl and college age woman the index-finger release creates the most ball spin, lifts the ball off the water with ease and requires the least amount of force.   The 2-finger release is used by college women and requires slightly more power. If the female player throws the ball with the same force with a 3-finger release, the ball hits the water and stops.  The number of fingers used to release the ball determines the success of the woman’s skip shot. 







The skip point is half of the skip shot.  The reason this is true is because the skip point aims the skip shot. The skip shot is the spot in the water where the ball is skipped that insures that the ball will go into the goal. The use of the skip point makes the skip shot an accurate shot.  In the illustration above the wrong skip point is used and the ball skips over the goal.  Each of the three releases: 3-finger, 2-finger and 1-finger release create a different shot. Each skip shot skips off the water at a different angle and requires a different skip point.  For example, the standard 3-finger skip shot skips off the water at a 30-degree angle from a 3-meter line skip point. A 2-finger skip shot has a 45-degree angle and uses a 2-meter skip point.  The 1-finger skip shot has a 60-degree angle and uses a 1.5-meter line skip point. 

Skip Point System

Skip point 3-meter line  30-degree rising angle 3-finger skip shot travels 2-meters
Skip point 2-meter line 45-degree rising angle 2-finger skip shot travels 1-meter
Skip point 1.5-meter line 60-degree rising angle 1-finger skip shot  travels 6-inches

Only one shot thrown at the 3-meter line can score-the 3-finger skip shot.  A 3-finger skip shot requires a 3-meter skip point because the ball is slower to rise in the air, skips at a 30-degree angle and needs a longer distance (two-meters) to lift the ball 30-inches above the water to reach the high corner.  The longer the ball takes to skip up to a height of 30-inches the farther back the skip point has to be.  

The 2-finger release rises up off the water quickly at a 45-degree angle and takes one-meter to reach the goal using a 2-meter skip point. The 1-finger release (index finger) lifts off the water even quicker at a 60-degree angle and hits the goal in six-inches using a 1.5-meter skip point.  The sharper the angle the ball rises off the water, the closer the skip point is to the goal. When a skip shot skips over the goal, the skip point is one-meter away from the correct skip point location.  

3-Finger & 3-M Skip Point

2-Fingers, 2-M and 1-Finger, 1.5-M Skip Points


THROWING MISTAKES: Why My Skip Shot Hops, Stops and Dies

The reason that a skip shot dies is not because the ball hit a “wave” in the pool.  The pool is full of waves and yet the well-trained shooter’s skip shot always skips into the goal.   Poor throwing technique and not bad luck is the reason the ball does not skip.  The shooter with poor throwing technique robs the arm of the power necessary to throw a high-speed skip shot. See the table below for a list of speed- robbing mistakes.

Speed-Robbing Throwing Mistakes

1. No hip/shoulder rotation      -15 MPH
2. Side arm    -10 MPH
3. Leg kick is weak  -5-10 MPH
4. Short arm extension  -3-7 MPH
5. Falling on back or side -3-5 MPH
6. Arm not close to ear -2 MPH

The poorly skipping skip shot is fixed by the correcting the mistake(s) from the list of the seven shooting errors listed below.  There is a logical reason why the ball did not skip and a simple fix. A small change here and there and the ball will begin skipping into the goal. Throwing mechanics not miracles skips the ball into the goal.  Great form creates a great shot.

Problem  Fix
1. No power  Bad technique, no kick, not vertical, body not angled, side arm
2. No ball spin Fingertips do not slide down hard enough on the ball to spin it
3. Ball skims                          Hand release 10” not 30” high for a sharp angle to water
4. No long arm cock Angle the body, right leg straight back
5. No skip Index or 2-finger release not used on release, more ball spin
6. Skip over goal Move skip point closer to the goal
7. Ball hops left Angle body, arm released close to ear, keep the wrist from turning to the left

When the shooter learns how to skip the ball, his or her first skip shot attempts skim across the surface of the water.  After a while, the shooter’s skip shots skip a short distance and bounce 12-inches above the water.  Finally, after several weeks the shooter’s skip shot is able to bounce 30-inches in height above the water and into the high corner of the goal.  Do not be discouraged when first skip shots take little hops in water.  Everyone begins throwing skims and little hop skip shots for a while before the big skips appear.

The skip shot is a great shot for the disciplined shooter who uses the ten power shooting fundamentals and follows the five skip shot rules.  Changing the hand release from 3-finger release to the index finger release makes the difference between the ball stopping in the water or stopping in the net.  When the shooter uses the correct skip point the inaccurate and uncontrollable skip shot becomes an accurate and predictable shot that skips into the goal every time. 

This article is an excerpt from Dr. Solum’s book on shooting called: The Science of Shooting. The book and several PowerPoint CDs are available from the author at [email protected].

Copyright 2008 Jim Solum

Next Month: Curved Skip Shots Part 2 of a 4-part series

[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.]

WATER POLO PLANET.COM: the Alternative Voice    www.waterpoloplanet.com