Jim SocumShot DoctorBandage Ball

Volume 2 Number 5 July1, 2009
The road to success is not doing one thing 100 percent better, but doing 100 things 0ne percent better.




The driver analyzes the shot by using the four-limb theory to find the mechanical error or errors in the throwing mechanics of the drive-in shot.  In the first three articles in the drive-in shot series, we covered the glide, roll and point mechanics.  This month, as last month, we continue to develop the four-limb theory for analyzing the drive-in shot.  The four-limb theory has three parts, which allows the coach or player to analyze the drive-in shot by looking at the 2’s, 3’s and 4’s. The drive-in shot breaks down into the 2 stages of throwing, cocking and acceleration (CA),  the 3 motions of throwing, pull, extend and rotate (PER) and the 4 limbs involved, both arms and legs  (CAPER 4 for short). The right hand does not cause the ball in the drive-in shot to slip out of the driver’s hand or weakly leave the hand.  The driver’s body is one unit with mistakes occurring in the legs, hips, torso, left arm and right arm.  The major problems in the drive-in shot are usually found in the driver’s left hand pull and rolling the right hip up during the glide, roll and point cocking stage. 

A drive-in shot takes between 1.0 to 1.5 seconds to throw the ball depending on the age and the gender of the driver.  It takes a long time to shoot the ball.  We have reduced the complete body motion and time involved down to what is visible and above the water—the right arm and hand.  In a time and motion study of the drive-in shot, the right arm movement is a tenth of a second and 20-percent of the body motion.  We have developed the “only the right arm throws the ball theory” to confirm what we saw visually instead of asking, Is it a left arm or right leg/hip problem?  To fix the problem do not look above the water for the throwing error, look underwater at the whole body of the driver.  This is where the full second and entire body movement of the throwing motion is found.  In the full body motion, we find the totality of the shot, not in a fraction of the body-the right arm.  The part of the full body motion that needs correction is unseen, underwater and is 80-percent of the drive-in shot. 

This leaves us in a dilemma.  How do we analyze a drive-in shot correctly if we cannot see 80-percent of the shot?  Other sports such as baseball and softball do not have this visual problem. The pitcher’s whole body is seen throwing the ball.  Mistakes are seen in the pitcher’s footwork, leg positioning, hip rotation, left hand positioning, right arm motion and release. The four-limb theory fills in the blanks so we can visualize what we cannot see.  We fill in the blanks by fixing the left hand and right leg and hip and all the subsequent upper body problems are resolved.  The drive-in shot is like a chain or a whip. It is a chain-reaction of body links (legs, torso and left arm) transferring power up to the right arm. The body is a whip with the legs being the handle and the tip the right arm.  Power dramatically increases from the handle of the whip to the tip of the whip--from the driver’s legs to the right hand shot.  A small mistake at the beginning of the chain ricochets up through links of the driver’s body to make an unsteady right hand and a poor shot.       


Cocking Stage: Acceleration Stage:
Left hand pull, right hip rolls up Left hand pulls again, right hip rotates down
Right foot cocked, right hand picks up ball Right foot snaps-in, right arm shoots ball


Figure 1 and Figure 2

All mistakes in the drive-in shot occur in the 2’s, 3’s and 4’s.  The driver first looks for the mistake in the 2’s, the cocking and acceleration stage.  Next the three motions, the 3’s, of pulling, extending and rotating.  Then for the error in the 4’s, the four limbs, in the right and left arm and the legs.  Most of the throwing errors occur in the cocking stage, in the underwater pulling motion of the left arm and in the rotational motion of the right hip and leg.  The right arm is the effect and not the cause of the bad drive-in shot.  Treating the effect is not going to fix the cause of the problem, the left arm pull and hip roll. The best way to see the cause of the bad shot is for the coach to put on goggles and go underwater to see how the driver’s left arm influences the drive-in shot.  The coach, when underwater, sees the good shot has the driver roll on the side; the bad shot has the driver flat (see Figs. 1, 2).

In water polo, almost all mistakes occur underwater and in the cocking stage.  The right arm is last part of the body to move.  The right hand is the last part of the body to touch the ball.  How can the fingertips in the last few hundreds of a second of the release cause the ball to fly over the top of the cage?  The driver looks at the fingertips for the answer to the bad shot.  The coach thinks that the shooter needs a “steady hand” so the ball does not “slip.”  A steady hand in an unsteady body does not exist.  A steady right hand needs a steady body to shoot the ball.  The steady hand is created by the proper glide, roll and point mechanics of using the left hand to roll the right hip up. 

In the acceleration stage, the right arm motion is relatively uncomplicated as the right arm only extends forward.  It is a simple motion.  The right hand is not the dominant the hand in the drive-in shot—the left hand is.  The right hand does what the left hand tells it to do.  The right hand can only shoot the ball and nothing else.  The left hand, however, positions the body for the drive-in shot.  The left hand stops the drive, elevates the body, turns the body, makes the glide, roll and point motions possible, and the cocking and acceleration stages.


Screw Shot Failure to glide, roll & point prevents left foot forward and hand next to cheek.
T-Shot  Failure to glide, roll & point places ball in front of nose instead of to right.
Pop Shot  Failure to glide, roll & point prevents leap up and hard ball slap.

It may appear visually to the observer that the right hand was the problem in the bad drive-in shot. However, the error occurred further down the chain of the body’s links in the unseen left arm and right hip and foot motions.  Whenever there is a mistake made in the shot, look underwater.  See how well the driver’s underwater left hand is rolling the body on its side.  For above-the-water visual clues, the coach looks how far the ball is cocked away from the face in the screw shot indicating an incomplete body roll.  The screw shot driver’s right palm should be against the right cheek.  In the T-shot, the ball should be on the right side of the driver’s face when shooting and not in line with the driver’s nose.  The weak pop shot is caused by the driver not pulling strongly with the left hand to roll the body.  Mistakes made in the drive-in shot in the table below.

Errors in Glide, Roll & Point Stage  Errors in the Throwing Stage
Cocking Stage Acceleration Stage
Pulling Motion (left arm) Rotation (right hip and foot)
Left Arm   Right Leg (right hip and foot)
Where Shooting Errors Rarely Occur
Acceleration Stage
Extending (shooting arm)
Right Arm


The standard drive-in shot has the left foot forward.  The driver’s left foot is forward as the glide, roll and point move is completed.  It is not possible to take a drive-in shot while flutter kicking.  The left foot forward creates support for the driver to pick up the ball underneath and shoot.


Cocking Stage:  Acceleration Stage:
Glide, roll & point, ball in line with nose Right foot snaps-in
Left hand brings ball back to right side of face Right forearm is high and horizontal
Right elbow high and forward Right hand is horizontal and strikes ball


Figures 3 & 4 and Figures 5 & 6

The T-shot is a deceptive shot that catches the goalie down in the water.  The ball is shot in stroke with the arms moving in a normal swim stroke.  The driver must dribble correctly with high elbows so the ball floats in the middle of the pool of water and is in line with the nose.  The left hand picks up the ball underwater and accelerates the ball back towards the right side of the face.  The right forearm and hand is high and horizontal.   The right foot snaps-in and the right arm moves forward with a “gloved hand” as in catching a baseball or softball in a mitt.  The five fingertip pads and the palm touch the center of the ball. The thumb is down. The ball is thrown with great ball spin at the low corner of the goal.  To shoot at the high corner and raise the angle of the left platform hand that holds the ball. A mnemonic to use in remembering the hand technique is “GPS” for Glove hand, Pull ball back and Strike the ball (see Figs. 3-6).


Figure 7

The fingers do not strike the ball with elbow low, the right arm close to the torso and the fingertips pointing straight at the ball. Ouch! This hand position injures the driver’s fingers.  Do not lock the left arm as the driver’s right hand cannot reach the ball.  The left hand brings the ball back to the right side of the face and to the right hand.  For a demonstration, have the player stand on the deck with the ball in the outstretched left arm with the left foot forward. Then have the player try to touch the ball with the right hand.  It cannot be done.  The left hand must bring the ball is back to the right hand for the release. The T-shot lob drill has two player throwing T-shot lob passes to each while concentrating on having a high elbow, horizontal forearm/hand and the correct left hand platform angle.  When the ball flies into the water, look at the angle of the right hand striking the ball and the angle of the left hand. A right hand that strikes down on the ball or a flat palm will cause the ball to hit the water. Slide the thumb under the ball to lob the ball (see Fig. 7).


The horizontal to vertical shots changes the position of the driver’s body from the horizontal to the vertical and into the air to take a high corner shot using a pop shot or rear back (r.b.) shot.


Cocking Stage: Acceleration Stage:
Glide, Roll & Point  Scissor kick legs
Left hand flicks ball up  Body moves from horizontal to vertical
  Right hand slaps ball in air


Figure 8 and Figure 9

The pop shot moves the driver’s body from the horizontal to the vertical and up in the air to shoot the ball.  In the cocking stage, the driver glides, rolls and points the left foot to stop, the ball is tossed high in the air with the left hand.  The ball is not tossed too high, low or too forward.  In the acceleration stage, the driver jumps up and slaps the ball with the right hand at the high corner of the goal.  The driver does not catch the ball.   The goalie sees the ball in the air, leaps up, and sinks as the ball goes over the goalie’s head.  The pop shot is a good age group drive-in shot to learn as it teaches the driver’s legs to explode and to change body position on the drive (see Figs. 8, 9).   


The driver’s right foot is used to stop, turn and throw the ball. The Hewko shot is in cross-cage shot and the Vargas shot a right corner from a diagonal drive.  In the Rebound shot, the driver recovers the blocked shot, steps-out to the side with the right leg and shoots. 


Cocking Stage: Acceleration Stage:
Right foot forward to stop Left hand sweep
Right Hand on top of ball Scissor kick, shoot left


Figure 10 and Figure 11


Figure 12 and Figure 13

The Hewko drive-in shot is a 90-degree body rotational shot with ball shot cross-cage at the left corner of the goal using the right foot forward leg position.  The driver begins the diagonal drive at center cage on the 6-meter line and drives to the right goal post on the 4-meter line.  The cocking stage occurs when the driver snaps the right foot forward to stop, repositions the legs to the vertical and changes feet and points the left foot at the left corner, and uses the left hand sweep to rotate the body to the left for a left corner shot.  The right hand is placed on top of the ball and pushes down to help stop the driver’s body.  The left hand is moved wide of the body while stopping (see Figs. 10, 11).

In the acceleration stage, the driver sweeps the left hand to the right to turn the body to the left.  The ball is lifted up in the air and the arm is cocked as a standard outside power shot. The right foot or left foot points at the left corner to aim the ball. The ball is thrown cross-cage at the left corner of the goal.  For a demonstration of right foot leg forward position, the player stands on the deck, with the right foot forward, and turns the body to the left. The player with the left foot forward cannot turn left because the left leg forward position blocks the rotation of the hips and body to the left (see Figs. 12, 13). 


Cocking Stage:  Acceleration Stage:
Stop with right foot forward Left hand sweeps to right
Hand underneath the ball Right foot snaps inward
Forearm vertical, hand cocked right Right hand twists in for release


Figure 14 and Figure 15


Figure 16 and Figure 17

The driver drives at a diagonal from the left post, receives a wet pass and continues drive to the right goal post, turns 90-degrees and shoots the ball at the right corner of the goal.  The Vargas driver swims to the right goal post on the 3-meter line and stops by moving the right leg forward.  The hand is underneath the ball.  The driver’s hand pinches the ball in a firm grip with the forearm vertical, underwater and close to the body.  Do not raise the ball up in the air or make the shot into a sweep shot (see Figs. 14-17). 


Figure 18

The driver’s whole torso, right hand and foot are twisted and cocked to the right.  In acceleration stage, the driver’s left hand sweeps to the right, the right foot snaps inward and the right hand twists to the left to release the ball for a low corner skim shot at the right corner. The drill for teaching the Vargas shot is to have two players throw skim passes to each other (see Fig. 18).


Cocking Stage:  Acceleration Stage:
Step-out, hand underwater, arm extended Right foot twists inward
Left hand pushes water Right forearm twists inward to skim ball
Whole body, right foot/hand twisted right  


Figure 19 and Figure 20

The driver drives at the right corner of the goal, shoots high, the goalie blocks the ball and it bounces back into the water near the driver’s right shoulder.  In the Rebound shot, the driver drops the legs to the vertical, steps-out with the right leg, picks up the ball underneath and skims the ball into the goal.  The driver grabs the ball   underneath with the hand firmly pinching the ball in the hand with the forearm extended and underwater.  Do not lift the ball up in the air or try to make a long arm cock power shot.   The shooter has the forearm extended and slightly bent with the hand underneath the ball and cocks the whole body (right foot, torso and right hand) to the extreme right.  The left hand pushes water to the left as the right leg steps-out.  In the acceleration stage, the right foot snaps inward and the right hand twists inward to release a right low corner skim shot (see Figs. 19, 20). 

In conclusion, the four-limb theory of shooting allows the coach and player to analyze the drive-in throwing motion by looking at the 2’s, 3’s and 4’s.  The theory is incorporated into five drive-in shots: a left foot shot, a horizontal to vertical shot and several right foot shots.  The throwing error is rarely found in the right arm or above the water.  The throwing error is found underwater in the left hand and the right hip and leg.  The throwing mistake is not at the end, in the acceleration stage.  It is at the beginning of the shot, in the glide, roll and point of the cocking stage, where the driver’s left arm pull rolls the right hip up and cocks the body for a powerful shot.  Correction and perfection occurs at the beginning of the shot.   Perfection at the end of the shot is a reflection of what has happened beforehand at the beginning of the chain, at the beginning of the whip motion. The perfectly cocked body leads to the perfectly thrown ball.

Copyright 2009 Jim Solum

Next Month: The Two-Meter Entry Pass

The five-part drive-in shot series is a condensation from Dr. Solum’s new book called:
The Science of Shooting The Driver.

Fig 17

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