Jim SocumShot DoctorBandage Ball

Volume 2 Number 6September 1, 2009
The road to success is not doing one thing 100 percent better, but doing 100 things 0ne percent better.


2-meter Entry Pass


The entry pass into the center by the perimeter passer is the most difficult pass to make in water polo.  The passer tries to beat the slougher and pass the ball safely into the 2-meter player.  Though the entry pass is difficult, there is no special training for the passer on how to throw this pass.  As a consequence, the entry pass frequently skims past the 2-meter player or is short.  Six new entry passes were developed to prevent the ball from skimming past the center. 

The coaches divided the entry pass into two types of passes: hand release passes and body fake passes.  In the hand release entry pass, the passer changes the release to a wrap around release, a middle finger release and a diagonal spin release. In the body fake 2-meter entry passes, the passer’s body is used as a fake to freeze the slougher. There are three body fake passes: 5-meter foul shot, Hungarian and Italian.   


In hand release entry passes the passer changes the release to fool the guard and put a different spin on the ball.  There are three releases: the wrap-around release, middle finger release and the diagonal spin release.  The wrap-around pass uses the arm to pass the ball, the middle finger pass uses the middle finger to release the ball and the diagonal spin pass uses the hand to slide on the ball to release the ball.  The wrap around entry pass has a backspin on the ball.  The middle finger release has no ball spin.  And the diagonal spin entry pass has a diagonal spin on the ball.


Figure 1

Figure 1

The wrap-around entry pass fools the guard into thinking the entry pass is to be thrown to the right instead of to the left.  The ball is aimed wide right at the guard’s left hand but is wrapped around the inside of the guard’s arm to the left.  This is one of the oldest “trick” passes in water polo.  The passer elevates with the left foot forward, pinches the ball and swings the ball close to the guard’s hand to commit the guard. As the ball swings toward the guard’s arm the passer changes to a Boyer shot position and steps-out with the right leg. The guard leaps high in the air with an outstretched arm and is “locked” in the air and cannot move.  The passer lunges to the left to create more shoulder rotation for a circular arm movement called a wrap around.  The circular arm motion moves the ball around the guard’s outstretched arm.  The wrap-around passer pinches the ball, locks the elbow for a straight arm, moves the ball towards the guard’s hand as if shooting the ball to the right and then swings the ball inward to “wrap” the ball around the guard’s arm.  The ball is thrown over the guard’s shoulder and to inside of the outstretched arm.  If the passer does not lunge left, the arm circle is quite small and the ball cannot be thrown to the inside of the guard’s arm.  The hand is angled and releases the ball by pronating (twist thumb to right) the wrist and placing a lot of spin on the ball so it can skim to the 2-meter player (see Fig. 1).

Wrap-Around passing drill

The secret of the wrap-around entry pass is for passer to lock the elbow and use the shoulder to rotate the arm almost 360-degrees and lunge to the left to increase shoulder rotation.  All other passes involve bending the elbow to move the arm.  Not locking the elbow and not lunging are the two big mistakes in this entry pass.  The locked arm 360 wrap is a difficult maneuver for the passer to learn and the drill requires two passers with a guard in between.  After the passer masters the arm circle, the angled release is taught.  The ball is released from a 30-degree angled hand using a pinch grip with a 2-finger release with an inward twist with a lot of backspin on the ball to skim into the 2-meter player. 


Figure 2

Figure 2

A middle finger release can be used as an entry pass from the 2-spot or 3-spot (EU 4 or 3-spot).  It is also used for the middle finger lob and for the off-speed shot (see Articles: Shot Doctor Lob Parts 1-3).  The player pinches the ball with the hand behind the ball and the middle finger snaps down on the ball.  The middle finger does not spin the ball off the fingertip.  Instead, the passer’s middle finger jabs at the ball.  A jab fingertip release causes the ball to leave the hand as a non-spinning knuckle ball.  A middle finger-only pass also has a slower ball speed.  The ball is not thrown from the 4-spot (EU 2-spot) as it skims.  The middle finger release is rarely used as an entry pass (see Fig. 2).  

Middle Finger passing drill

A drill to teach the middle finger pass is to pinch the ball with the index off the ball and snap down with the middle finger.  This middle finger snap is hard to master.  Next, the no-spin jab release takes several weeks to learn as the passer’s habit is to spin every ball off the fingertip.  Finally, the passer masters the middle finger release and keeps all of the fingers on the ball during the middle finger release. 


Figure 3, 4, and 5

Figure 3, Figure 4 and Figure 5

The diagonal spin entry pass creates a 30 MPH pass (50 KPH) with a diagonal ball spin that sticks in the water.  The high-speed ball dives into the water and makes a “thump” sound.  The ball does not skim.  It is thrown right at the outstretched hand of the 2-meter player.  The passer’s body position is square to the goal, with almost no arm cock with the hand in a transverse position on the ball called a football grip. The square body position prevents the arm from being cocked.  The standard long arm cock is 25-inches (63.5-centimeters); the diagonal entry pass has almost none.  With 2-inch arm cock the amount of hand slide on the ball by the hand is 2-inches (5-centimeters) to create a tremendous diagonal ball spin. The left hand pushes down hard to elevate the passer’s hand to a height of 30-50-inches (75-150-centimeters) up in the air.  The sharp angle and the diagonal ball spin cause the ball to dive into the water and stop.  The passer’s thumb and fingers slide from the football grip into a diagonal angle to the right on the ball. Do not slide the thumb down the center as this creates a high-arching topspin entry pass.  The diagonal finger motion creates a diagonal spin that sticks the ball in the water (see Figs. 3, 4, 5). 

There is no need to throw the ball short and have the ball skim 1 to 2-meters to the center’s hand.   The diagonally spinning ball stops when it hits the water.  When the passer throws the diagonal pass, he or she must overcome their fear of not having “2-meters of skim safety net” and throw the ball directly at the center’s hand.  The author believes that the diagonal spin entry pass is the best entry pass for the player to use as its diagonal spin eliminates the ball skimming.

Diagonal Spin passing drill

The diagonal spin entry pass is a difficult pass to throw.  The passer’s hand is across the top of the ball with the hand sliding slightly to the right side of the ball to create a diagonal ball spin.  The ball makes a thump sound when the ball hits the water strongly.  The passer’s body is square, the left hand strongly pulls down.  Psychologically the passer must bravely throw the ball right to the 2-meter player’s hand without throwing it “short” so the ball can skim.  A diagonal spin pass does not skim.


In the 5-meter shot, Hungarian and Italian entry passes, the passer appears to be about to shoot the ball and/or pass to another player and then throws a backhand or overhand pass into the center.  The passer uses the body to fake the guard into attacking him, which opens the passing lane to the center.  Body fake entry passes such as the 5-meter shot, Hungarian and Italian entry passes all begin with faking the 5-meter foul shot.

The body fake requires the passer to have strong legs, explode up in the air with a vertical back, fake the ball and use the right leg to move to the left and then backhand the pass to the right.  The fake shot must be convincing to commit the slougher to the passer.  If the passer is not authentic in the fake, by being low in the water, not committed to shooting and moving slowly, the guard will not commit to the “shooter” and continues to slough on the center.  The guard knows a passer is low and slow; a shooter is high and hard; the guard acts accordingly.  The passer’s body fake creates the pass.  The body fake is the pass. 


Figure 6

Figure 6

The passer is fouled at the US 4-spot (EU 2-spot), palms the ball or pinches the ball, left foot is forward with a long arm cock and the passer explodes high in the air with the legs.  The passer does a “monster fake” (intense short pump fake forward using a pinch grip) and a crunch hesie (snap torso forward by contracting the abs) and appears to be about to shoot the ball at the right corner of the goal as a 5-meter foul shot.  The slougher commits to the shooter and jumps into the air.  The ball is then lobbed over the guard’s head into the center.  When the guard stays in front of the center the passer’s right leg slides forward, the left hand sweeps water to right, the passer  turns and passes to the 3-spot or 4-spot (EU-3, EU-2) on the left (see Fig. 6).

5-Meter Shot Entry Pass Drills

The passer has to excel in three planes of motion: elevation, flexion and rotation to be able to throw the 5-meter shot entry pass.  The passer explodes up into elevation using the legs; crunches (snaps) the torso into flexion with the abdominal muscles and then rotates the body to the left using the hips and the left hand.  The hesie drill is the best drill.  The player, with or without the ball, kicks up high and hard, does a crunch hesie, stays up without sinking, and uses the left hand to sweep water to the right to turn the player to the left.  Other drills that train these three motions are slam-dunk swims and the 90-degree turn drill.  The slam-dunk swim drill has the player swim 5 strokes, pick up the ball on top and lunge up high in the air.  The 90-degree turn drill has the player kick up and hold the ball up in the air and turn 90-degrees four times without sinking. 


Figure 7 and 8

Figure 7 and Figure 8

The 4-spot (EU 2) Hungarian Entry Pass is a faked pass to the 2-spot (EU 4-spot) perimeter player that pulls the slougher away from the center so the pass can be thrown safely into 2-meters.  The 4-spot or 3-spot passer elevates high in the air, palms the ball with the right foot forward and fakes the shot.  The passer then turns to the left, apparently to pass the ball to the 2-spot (EU 4-spot) player.  The guard moves away from the center player to the left and leaves him open.  The passer moves the right foot from pointing to the left at the 2-spot player, re-points the right foot at the center, and throws a high-in-the-air backhand pass into 2-meters.  The passer needs to twist the wrist inward to place backspin on the ball to get the ball to skim on the water (see Figs. 7, 8).

Hungarian passing drill

The passer needs to master right foot passing.  The passer thrusts out the right foot out to stop and to be able to sharply turn to the left.  Practice in groups of two.  The passer steps forward with the right foot and turns to pass the ball to the left without sinking.  Next swing the right leg back to point at the center and use a high in-the-air backhand pass.  Both the right leg swing and the backhand pass require the passer to have good body control.  The hand pronates inward (thumb side of hand twists inward) to place more spin on the ball so it can skim correctly.


Figure 9 and 10

Figure 9 and Figure 10

The Italians liked the concept of the skim entry pass and made changes on the release to control ball skim.  The 4-spot passer’s body moves to the left with the right foot forward with the left hand turning the body for an apparent pass to the left.  The passer’s body sinks and the ball is backhand skimmed into the center. The only problem is a backhand skim entry pass is hard to control.  The Italians realized a skim pass to be controllable requires limiting the amount of force created and the distance the arm travels.  The method for shortening the arm cock and reducing the amount of power applied to the ball was for the passer to turn to the left with the right foot leading, elevate, sink, and release the ball on the down-kick (release the ball while sinking) as the elbow hits the water.   Only the passer’s forearm can now be used to throw the ball.  The power to throw the ball hard is greatly reduced and the ball becomes a low speed skim pass and skims to the center’s hand (see Figs. 9, 10). 

Italian passing drill

To practice the Italian pass have the passer pinch the ball and hold it over the head, elevate, sink.  As the passer’s elbow hits the water pass the ball with using a backhand motion.  The passer practices passing the ball on the down-kick while sinking. It is an unusual sensation for the passer to pass while sinking instead of elevating. 

In concluding, the passer uses the six new entry passes to beat the guard and get the ball into the center.  The passer changes the way the ball is released from the hand by using the wrap-around, middle finger and diagonal spin entry passes.  In addition, the passer uses the body as a fake to commit the guard and open a passing lane to the center by using the 5-meter foul shot pass, Hungarian pass or Italian entry pass.  The passer now has a number of entry passes to beat the guard and safely pass the ball into 2-meters.  

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.

Fig 8

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