Jim SocumShot DoctorBandage Ball

Volume 3 Number 2 May 1, 2010
The road to success is not doing one thing 100 percent better, but doing 100 things 0ne percent better.



In last month's article, Radar Part I was devoted to explaining the factors involved in throwing a high speed ball.  Body position, technique, countermotion and how the whole body of the shooter was involved in throwing the ball. A radar gun was used to clock the various speeds of different shots by men and women and different age groups.  If you have not done so already, please read the April 2010 article in "The Shot Doctor" series. The reader will see in Radar Part I, the speed of all of the shots listed and for all of the age groups.  Radar Part II is a continuation and a more   in-depth exaimination of the ball speed of a limited number of shots.

Throwing Mechanics Effect on Shot Speed

The preceding lists above show the top speeds of the various shots for men and list the technical flaws that result in the shot not reaching its proper ball velocity.  It is important to take the speeds of the various shots as clocked by the radar gun to see how poor throwing mechanics slows ball speed.

The Hungarians state that “The shot starts at the toes and ends in the fingertips.”  “The shot is a whole body shot,” is what the Serbians water polo coaches say.  The whole body throws the ball and it throws the ball most efficiently when the body is vertical, elevates, rotates, flexes and extends properly when throwing.  Proper throwing whole body mechanics produces the highest speed shots.

So often the young shooter believes that strength and not technique is what throws the hardest shot.  Strength and ball velocity comes from proper technique.  Without good technique there cannot be a hard shot. Sometimes there is no shot as the shooter’s wildness causes him or her to drop the ball or throw the ball weakly over the cage.  Power kills.  Wildness is not wonderful.  Mechanics create the magic.

It is notable that the shorter arm, torso and leg motions produce a slower velocity ball but a quicker release of the ball and makes a "wrist shot."  Shots with a long arm extension, long back arch and abdominal crunch and a long leg kicking motion create the most power and the highest velocity shots.  The drive-in shots will have the lowest speeds because their throwing motion greatly reduces whole body motion.  The shooter selects the proper shot for the situation.

Below is an explanation of the speed and mechanics of eight shots taken by the US men’s national team.  The overhand shot from a Croatian senior men's national team player is recognized as the fastest shot in the world at 60 MPH (96.5 KPH).

Overhand 60 MPH (96.5 KPH)

The overhand shot is the standard throwing motion in water polo.  It is the same arm motion as a pitcher uses in baseball.  The overhand shot has all of the elements necessary for it to be a high velocity shot if all of the shooter’s power is applied.  This shot has a long arm extension to cock the ball, a long back cock when the back arches, a long right leg extension to assist in cocking the ball.  The vertical body of the shooter with the long arm extension creates the greatest power by allowing full rotation of the hips and shoulders; full flexion of the torso by the abs, and full extension of the arm. 

The overhand shot presents many advantages when cocking the ball.  The shooter must first cock his/her body before the shooter’s whole body can accelerate forward to release the ball.  An example of this is the coiled spring that explodes after being compressed.  Cocking the ball turns not only the arm into a spring but the whole body becomes a spring. 

The overhand body position allows the shooter’s cocked whole body to resemble a giant “C” shape.  The right leg is the bottom of the “C.”  The torso that is arched backward is the middle of the “C.”  And the right arm is the top of the “C.”  The whole body is cocked and will reach maximum acceleration when the ball is released.  This cocking principle is the same as the archer pulling the bowstring back to cock the arrow before shooting.

Side Arm 47 MPH (75 KPH)

The side arm shot is a slower shot because it reduces the flexion of the torso forward and rotation of the shoulders.  Side arm shots use a lot of lateral movement for power.  The side arm shooter steps-out to the side.  He or she uses the Gluteus Medius muscle, a long and thin hip muscle above the top of hipbone. Stepping-out creates hip abduction (lateral movement) necessary for the side arm shot.  Young shooters have weaker arms and depend more on body rotation to produce a large percentage of their power.  The young shooter’s side arm shot is 10 MPH (16 KPH) slower than a college player because the arm must make up the power difference of a lower speed arm position.

The side arm shot is usually not a pure power shot but a power shot with deception.  The deception in the side arm is created by the shooter shooting around the arms of the goalie. A goalie expects the ball to be thrown at his or her stomach and not in the far corner of the goal. 

Boyer Shot 44 MPH (71 KPH)


The Boyer shot is a lateral movement shot where the shooter steps-out sideways and shoots around the goalie to the opposite corner.  It is a quick deceptive shot.  The shooter’s right leg moves laterally; the torso and arm also move laterally to the right.  This shot lacks great elevation. 

The lateral movement also reduces the amount of shoulder and hip rotation and torso flexion.  The reduction in these actions results in a shot that is 11 MPH (18 KPH) slower than the overhand shot.  However, this shot is more likely to score than the overhand because the goalie does not expect a quick cross-cage shot.     

Women’s Fastest Shot 42 MPH (67 KPH)


The fastest woman shooter throws the ball at 42 MPH (67 KPH).  The well-trained woman throws the ball 4 MPH (6 KPH) than the average male high school shooter.  At younger ages, females may actually be bigger and stronger than a male of the same age due to maturing earlier.

Rear Back 41-42 MPH (66-67 KPH)

The men’s rear back shot or R.B. shot is slower than the overhand shot because it is a wrist shot with a short arm extension, reduced shoulder and hip rotation and limited leg kicking motion.  It is a time-based shot with only 7-tenths of a second to kick up, catch the ball and shoot.  A power shot requires a longer body motion and more throwing time.   The R.B. shot is quick shot that requires great strength.  Weak players should not try this shot at the age group level. 

Some of the mistakes made by weak high school and junior college shooters are to try to increase the arm extension from 6-inches to 2-feet (15-61-centimeters) to generate more power.  This action results in the shooter falling backward and shooting the ball over the top of the cage.   The weak shooter tries to replace the power lost from having a weak whole body: weak abs, hips and legs, with a long 2-foot (61-centimeters) arm extension.

This too long arm extension topples the R.B. shooter onto their back.

The R.B. shot only uses about 10-percent of the power of the arm to wrist the ball into the goal and 90-percent power from the rest of the body.  The rear back shot uses the least amount arm power and the greatest amount of wrist action of any of the overhand shots.  When the R.B. shot is taken correctly the shooter is absolutely vertical. 

Backhand 40 MPH (64 KPH)


The backhand is a 2-meter shot. A 2-meter player has the back to the goal and throws the right arm backward at the goal.  It is a "blind" shot in a sense compared to the face-the-goal power shot.   It is a vertical shot but one that rotates the body in the opposite direction.  The backhand position reduces the shoulder/hip rotation and limits arm extension.  And the back-to-the-goal posture also greatly reduces crunching the abs and flexion of the torso forward and makes the backhand shot 30 MPH (48 KPH) slower than the overhand shot.

Sweep Shot 40 MPH (64 KPH)


The sweep shot is a 2-meter shot that moves the right arm in the opposite direction of the backhand.  The sweep shot uses greater shoulder and hip rotation to throw the ball and not arm flexion and extension to throw the ball as does the backhand.  The arm extension for the sweep shot is longer.  Due to use of increased body rotation, the high school and age group shooter can create more power making it easy to throw a sweep shot.

Screw Shot 35 MPH (56 KPH)


The screw shot 5 MPH (8 KPH) slower than some of the outside shots or hole shots because the body and legs are horizontal.  The abs cannot be snapped forward much, hip and shoulder rotation is reduced, and the legs cannot be fully utilized.  The screw shot is the fastest of all of the drive-in shots.  The screw shot not only uses arm extension but also forearm and wrist rotation.  The screw shot uses the greatest amount of shoulder and hip rotation and power of all of the drive-in shots. 

In comparison, the T-shot, 25 MPH (40 KPH) is the slowest shot.  This is because the wrist dominates the shot and not much of the body is used to throw the ball.  There is little power and ball speed in a wrist shot.  The T-shot, however, scores because of quickness.

Lob 15-30 MPH (24-48 KPH)


The lob has the slowest ball velocity.  The lob has a long arm extension to cock the ball but a slow arm speed that does not generate much power.  The trajectory or ball flight is curved upward.  The fastest shots all have a flat trajectory.  The combination of low arm speed and a 45-55-degree arc on the shot contribute to a low ball speed of 15 MPH (24 KPH). 

A slightly faster lob is the high arching topspin lob that has a rapid ball spin and uses more arm power.  The 60-degree spinner topspin lob speed is 22 MPH (35 KPH).  By comparison the 2-meter entry pass into the 2-meter offensive player is 15 MPH (24 KPH). 

A new lob is the power lob.  It is a mild arching 25-degree topspin lob thrown with all the power of the shooter.  The ball arc takes speed off the ball.  The topspin causes the ball to drop down into the goal.  The power lob is estimated to be about 30 MPH (48 KPH). 

Pop Shot 15 MPH (24 KPH)

The pop shot has the driver throw the ball up in the air and then slap the ball with the hand.  In age group and high school where the goalies are poor the goaltender jumps up when s/he sees the ball in the air.  The ball is shot as the goalie sinks.  The pop shot is the slowest shot.  It is the slowest shot because only the wrist is used to provide power to throw the ball.  Arm extension, torso flexion, shoulder and hip rotation and leg extension (the kick) are not used. 

Four Qualities of the Great Shooter


The reader has read about what are the fastest shots and what a power shooter needs with his/her throwing mechanics to throw a high velocity shot.  However, being a power shooter does not automatically make one a scorer.  The high scoring shooter may or may not have a fastball.  The qualities that make a great shooter that scores goals are: power, accuracy, quickness and deceptiveness (faking, lob or an unpredictable shot).

There are many examples of different types of high scoring shooters: the power, the wrist shooter, the shooter with a great fake, women with a deadly lob or a Boyer type shooter.  The great shooter tries to combine all qualities and shooting styles into his or her throwing motion.

A power shooter that throws every shot over the goal will never score.  A power shooter with a deliberate, long arm extension and slow moving arm will telegraph the shot to the goalie and have the shot blocked.  The quick shooter will always score more goals than the power shooter. 

The quick shooter beats the goalie to the high corner every time.  The elements of quickness and the unanticipated shot that surprises the goaltender are the most valuable qualities in shooting.  Quickness is more important than power for scoring.  Most shooters incorrectly believe that power is more important than quickness.

The deceptive shooter uses a fake or has a throwing motion that causes the goalie to jump early, to the wrong side and set up on the wrong angle.  The deceptive shooter will score many times during the game and may not have a particularly powerful shot.  The hesie fake, lob shot, off speed shot, and the misdirection shot are all examples of deceptive shots that fool the goalie into being out of position in the goal. 

In concluding, it is unfortunate for the art and science of shooting, the majority of shooters concentrate on being a one-dimensional power shooter.  These shooters fail to develop all of the qualities necessary to score on a goalie.  The shooter obsessed with the power shot is a very limited shooter.  When the one-dimensional power shooter plays against a good goalie all of his or her shots will be blocked.  The great shooter has more than one shot.  This complete shooter changes the type of shot depending on the situation.  The technical shooter of today does not take the same shot in every situation.

The laws of physics govern the speed of the various shots.  Therefore, shots that allow the greatest range of motion of rotation, arm extension and torso flexion will have the highest ball velocities.  Drive-in shots shorten these power-producing motions of body rotation, arm extension and the torso flexion and reduce shot speeds.  The shooter selects the best shot for the situation, whether overhand, drive-in or 2-meter shot, uses the correct technique and creates the high percentage shot.

The modern shooter with the correct throwing mechanics creates a high-speed shot.  Poor technique and countermotion do not exist in the modern shooter's correctly thrown ball.  When the shooter has the correct motion, the high speed shot appears every time.  The modern shooter is aware that mechanics creates the magical shot.  One day, the diligent shooter that has practiced hard to use the correct mechanics, throws the ball with magic on it.  His or her stunned teammates look on at the great shot but do not realize that mechanics make the magic.

Copyright 2010 Jim Solum

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