|STANDARD ENTRY PASS|
|ENTRY PASS TECHNOLOGY|
|SERBIAN ENTRY PASS SYSTEM|
|2-SPOT, 3-SPOT & 4-SPOT PASSING|
Over the years, there have been a number of different approaches to throwing the entry pass into the two-meter player. Many coaches from the USA and Europe have tried to develop the perfect entry pass that did not skim past the 2-meter player’s right hand. The universal 2-meter pass was to throw a soft 15 MPH (28 KMH) lob-like ball up in the air and have it drop straight down at the center’s fingertips. However, as the speed of the sloughers increased, the pass needed to be thrown without a 45-degree lob arc and at speeds of 20-30 MPH (37-55 KMH) Inevitably, with a flatter angle on the pass and a higher ball speed, the ball skimmed passed the center. To combat the ball’s tendency to skim, the Serbian coaches created several new entry passes to reduce ball skim.
STANDARD ENTRY PASS
Figure 1 and Figure 2
The standard 2-meter entry pass for the passer is to throw a high arching lob-like pass at 15 MPH (28 KMP) into 2-meters. The ball dropped straight down and there was no skimming. The perimeter passer was vertical, kicked high and hard with the legs, elevated high out of the water to clear the ball of the guard’s outstretched hand, and released the ball with a “soft touch” without a lot of ball spin off the fingertips. The hand is horizontal and cradles the ball. The incorrect passing technique is to have the passer falling over on the back with a low-ball height release that causes the ball to skim past the center (see Figs. 1, 2).
A few elite water polo players have great touch on entry pass are able to skim the ball perfectly into the 2-meter player’s hand. This highly skilled hand is called a “smart hand”. However, these passers are rare. The entry pass is the most difficult pass in water polo and requires the greatest skill. The average perimeter passer used the standard passing technique and threw the ball short, hoping it would skim to the center’s fingertips. The short pass hit the water and stopped and the slougher stole the ball. The entry pass did not have enough ball speed and ball spin to travel to the 2-meter player. When the ball was thrown with more power and more ball spin, the ball skimmed past the center to the goalie. Too little or too much ball spin was the curse of the average passer.
ENTRY PASS TECHNOLOGY
The old lob entry pass into 2-meters did not work anymore. A new pass or passes needed to be invented to get the ball quickly into the 2-meter player to beat the slough. The solution was for the passer to throw a direct high-speed 20-30 MPH (37-55 KMH) entry pass into the center. The problem with the high velocity pass was the ball skimmed to the goalie or skipped over the center’s head. A scientific approach was applied to the entry pass to get the ball quickly into 2-meters without skimming. The entry pass was broken down into six parts to analyze it and develop a new entry pass.
Six Parts of Entry Pass
Ball Angle and Ball Height
- Zero to 90-degrees ball angle
- Hand 5 to 50-inches in air
The players realized that the closer their hand was to the surface of the water, a zero-degree angle, the more likely the pass would skim. The closer the ball got to a 90-degree angle the less likely the ball would skim. A lying-on-the-back passer positions the center of the ball at 5-inches (13-centimeters) for a zero-degrees release and a wild skimming pass. The ideal entry pass is 30-30. The hand is elevated out of the water to 30-inches (76-centimeters) with a passing angle of 30-degress. The elevated hand creates a pass that is much less likely to skim (see Figs. 3, 4).
2-Spot, 3-Spot & 4-Spot Passing
- 2-Spot Above left goal post (EU 4-spot)
- 3-Spot Point (EU 3-spot)
- 4-Spot Above right goal post (EU 2-spot)
The spot is a location in the pool from where the shooter throws the ball into the center. The spot is numbered from left to right as the 2-spot, 3-spot and 4-spot using the US numbering system. The European numbering system is the reverse of the US system, with the 2-3-4-spots now numbered as the 4-spot, 3-spot and 2-spot. The wings rarely pass the ball. The best entry pass is thrown from the top three spots above the goal. Every spot has an angle that the passer has to adjust to pass the ball into the 2-meter player. Certain angles to the 2-meter player either increase ball skimming or decrease it. A right-handed passer throwing from the US 2-spot (EU-European Union 4-spot), a left-to-right diagonal, has a good passing angle and the ball is less likely to skim. The ball thrown from the US 4-spot (EU 2-spot), a right-to-left diagonal, has more ball spin and may skim past the center. Several coaches banned the 4-spot entry pass (see Fig. 5).
- 15 MPH lob pass
- 20-30 MPH modern pass
The low-speed entry pass is thrown at 15 MPH (28 KMH) with a 45-degree arc on the ball trajectory. The high-speed entry pass is flat and thrown at 20-30-MPH (37-55 KMH). For comparison, the high school male senior throws the ball at an average speed of 38 MPH (70 KMH). The passer has to throw a hard pass and yet at the same time have control of the ball so it does not skim away. A paradox rises: how does the passer have a hard arm and a soft hand on the pass? The dilemma increases as the passer throws a pass at less than 20 MPH for less ball skim and the sloughers steal the ball. When the passer throws the ball at 20-30 MPH, the ball skims or skips. What can the passer do? The passer needs a high-speed pass that does not skim.
- Ball rotation, stripe angle, direction of spin, trajectory, ball velocity
- Backspin, diagonal spin and topspin ball spins
The ball has five qualitaties: number of ball rotations, angle of the stripes, direction of ball rotation, trajectory and ball velocity. Each quality has a profound effect on the ball. Ball rotation or spin is the number of revolutions of the ball per second. The angle of the ball stripes, vertical or diagonal, effects what the ball does when it hits the water, i.e., skims or digs into the water. The direction of the ball spin is how the ball spins in the air. For example, a backspin pass has the ball spinning backward, the topspin ball spins forward and the diagonal spin slightly sideways. Trajectory is the path the ball travels such as straight, curved or rising and sinking. Ball velocity is the speed of the ball.
The properly released backspinning ball looks like the ball stripes are vertical (an optical illusion). The ball spins backward with a straight ball trajectory. When ball stripes are angled, a diagonal ball spin appears with a slight curve on the ball. The topspin ball has the ball stripes vertical but blurred, the ball spins forward and travels in a straight line but then drops sharply. Ball velocity affects the ball spin and skim. The slower the ball velocity the fewer the ball spins and the less ball skim. The higher the ball velocity, the more the ball spins and the greater the ball skims on the water. The diagonal and topspin ball spin entry passes are unaffected by ball speed as their unique ball spins dig into the water and stop the ball. However, the diagonal ball spin uses the index finger release or the ring finger release (see Fig. 6).
- Cradle and pinch grips
- Hand behind the ball
- Hand on top of the ball
The position of the passer’s right hand had a crucial effect on whether the ball skims or not. There are three types of handgrips: cradle, pinch and hand on top. The cradle grip gently cradles the ball in a horizontal hand without gripping the ball. The pinch grip has a vertical hand firmly holding the ball. The hand on top of the ball grip is a pinch grip with hand on top. When the passer’s hand is behind the ball using a cradle or pinch grip, the ball skims. When the passer’s hand is on top of the ball with the fingers pointing straight-ahead, the ball does not skim at the release. The hand on top of the ball position creates a sharper passing angle and repositions the fingertips to put less spin on the ball (see Figs. 7, 8).
- Index Finger
- Ring Finger
There is more than one way to release the ball. There are four releases in fact. The standard release is for the middle three fingers of the hand to make final contact with the ball and place backspin of the ball. The Serbs went a step further and developed an entry pass system using a different finger release for each spot in the pool. Each release creates a different ball spin on the entry pass into 2-meters and is used at a different spot in the pool.
The Serbs used one finger releases (index or ring finger), a two finger release (index, middle fingers) and the standard 3-finger release (index, middle, ring fingers). The entry releases are the same finger snaps used to throw the index finger, 2-finger and the 3-finger skip shots. The difference is the passer’s body is leaning forward to be able to get the hand on top of the ball instead of behind the ball. At the 2-spot, the index finger release is used. The 3-spot uses a 2-finger or 3-finger release. At the 4-spot, the ring finger release is used (see Fig. 9).
SERBIAN PASSING SYSTEM
The Serbs developed specific entry passes for the three spots in the pool that pass the ball into the center. They used 1-finger, 2-finger and 3-finger releases to get the ball into 2-meters without skimming the ball. The passer changes the hand position from hand behind the ball to hand on top of the ball to reduce ball spin. The 2-spot (EU 4-spot) uses the index finger release. At the 3-spot (EU 3-spot) the 2-finger or 3-finger release is used. And at the 4-spot (EU 2-spot) the ring finger release is used (see Articles: The Shot Doctor: Skip Shot 1, 2).
2-Spot: Index Finger Pass
- Pinch ball, hand on top, lean body forward
- Index finger snaps down on ball
- Diagonal ball spin
The US 2-spot (EU 4-spot) passing angle uses a Serbian index finger entry pass into 2-meters. The player is high out of the water, leans forward with the hand on top of the ball. The index finger snaps down on the release causes the index finger to slightly pronate the hand (thumb turns inward) creating a slight diagonal spin on the ball. The slight diagonal ball spin causes the ball to “dig” into the water and stop at the center’s fingertips. The 2-spot entry pass has top of the ball release. It is a different hand position than the index-finger skip shot that has the hand positioned behind the ball (see Figs. 10, 11).
3-Spot: 2-Finger Pass
- Pinch ball, hand on top, lean forward
- Index and Middle snap down on ball
- Reduced backspin on ball
The hand is firmly gripping the top of the ball with the index and middle finger together and in the center of the ball. The passer elevates and leans forward to get the hand on top of the ball. The two fingers snap down hard on the ball and make final contact with the ball. The ball has little backspin on it and sticks in the water.
The difference between the entry pass and the 2-finger skip shot is in the 2-finger skip shot release has the hand behind the ball.
3-Spot: 3-Finger Pass
- Pinch ball, hand on top, lean forward
- Middle three fingers snap down on ball
- Reduced backspin on ball
Figure 12 and Figure 13
The 3-spot passer (EU 3-spot) passes the ball from the point, using three fingers to snap down on the ball from a hand on top position. The off-and-on release is not used. The all five fingers of the hand pinch the ball and the three middle fingers remain on the ball before and during the release. The three middle fingers snap down hard on ball to sharpen the angle and produce little spin off the fingertips (see Figs. 12, 13).
4-Spot: Ring Finger Pass
- Pinch ball, hand behind the ball
- Ring snaps down on ball
- Diagonal ball spin
The ring finger release entry pass is used to pass into 2-meters from above the right post, the 4-spot (EU 2-spot). The 4-spot is the most difficult entry pass due to its right-to-left diagonal passing angle. The passer’s body and hand is vertical with the ball pinched with the fingers behind the ball. The ring finger dominates the release and snaps down on the ball. The ring finger release slightly turns (supinates) the wrist inward from little finger side, which causes the ball to have a slight diagonal spin and dig into the water and stop (see Fig. 14).
Off-and-On Entry Pass
- Thumb and little finger pinch the ball hard
- Middle fingers lift off the ball
- Middle fingers snap down on release
Figure 15 and Figure 16
The off-an-on pass is an example of 3-finger release becoming a sharp angled pass with little ball spin. The passer accomplishes this changing the release angle of the whole hand. The perimeter passer kicks up in the vertical, with a great height, takes the middle three fingers off the ball for a tenth of a second and then snaps down on the ball to throw the entry pass. The ball is squeezed hard by the thumb and little finger with light pressure from the middle three fingers. As the passer reaches maximum height out of the water, the passer’s middle three fingers lift off the ball and then snap down hard on the ball on the release. This unique off-and-on hand position causes the ball to stick in the water. Unfortunately, the off-and-on release is rarely used today because of its difficult hand motion (see Figs. 15, 16).
Entry Pass Drills
For homework, the player improves finger control and dexterity by flicking the ball back and forth between the two closely held hands. The index finger snaps down on the ball, followed by a 2-finger release, a 3-finger release, and then the ring finger. In the pool, the passer passes the ball using index, 2-finger, 3-finger and right finger releases in groups of two. Then set up a player as a center and have two players pass into the center from the 2-spot and 4-spot diagonal passing angles using the new releases.
In concluding, the passer develops a “smart hand” to master the hand skills necessary to throw the modern entry pass into 2-meters. The days of the uneducated “I just throw the ball” passer are over. The player masters the four Serbian release passes for the three spots. The modern passer is vertical, high out of the water and uses index finger, 2-finger, 3-finger and ring finger releases. The player becomes a skilled passer and owns the ball.
Copyright 2009 Jim Solum
The three-part 2-meter entry pass series is condensed from Dr. Solum’s new book called:
The Science of Shooting The 2-Meter Player.
[Click Jim's photo at top of page to learn more about his water polo experiences
and Click the water polo ball at top of the page to learn more about Jim's books.]
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