Jim SocumShot DoctorBandage Ball

Volume 3 Number 9 March 1, 2011
The road to success is not doing one thing 100 percent better, but doing 100 things 0ne percent better.


The Whip Kick Shot   


In the previous four articles in the Smart Legs series extensively covered leg positioning and various kicks; in particular, how the player’s right leg creates the catch, the fake, posture and the shot. In Smart Legs Part 1 the duties of the left leg were to point and pivot and the right leg to balance out and shoot the ball were covered.  The second article covered the Serbian drill of lunging in four different directions and immediately coming back to the center and balancing out and the three-step leg hesie drill of stepping-forward, stepping-out and stepping-back to shoot the ball.  Smart Legs Part 3 covered how the right leg affects the shooter’s posture in the water and the subsequent shot.  And Smart Legs Part 4 described lateral movement shots.

Smart Legs Part 5 discusses the women’s new right leg position called the whip kick used for a horizontal single leg multiple whip kicks to a shot.  Because women float they can use this unique kick.  In fact, it is a woman-only kick.  One of the rare kicks that is only suited to the women because of their superior buoyancy in the water. The shooter’s horizontal single right leg kick is a series of one-leg breastroke whip kicks that propels the woman forward at great speed, creates a faster pump fake and a high corner shot.

History of Whip Kick

The whip kick was recently invented, but its predecessor has been used by women for decades.  Women did not like to advance the ball in the vertical like the men due to their wider hips and longer legs.  Since women float, they preferred to lie on their left side and side stroke with their arm and legs to advance the ball toward the goal against the slough.  The men’s body and legs, on the other hand, were heavy and the legs dropped down in the water and made the player vertical.  This fact forced the men to step forward with the left leg and swing the right arm back and forth to advance the ball. The new innovation in advancing the ball technique is to have the woman’s body vertical and use a modified half side stroke kick, the breastroke whip kick, to propel the shooter rapidly forward.

Anatomy of the Shot

The female body is very buoyant in the water compared to the male.  The male’s body sinks.  In water polo, being buoyant is a distinct advantage for women.  Up until recently, women have not taken advantage of this fact and tried to duplicate the male’s vertical posture in the water.  Men, in reality, are motorized rocks that are struggling to stay up in the water.  Women float and can move forward, sideways and even vertically better than men.  It is the horizontal whip kick that liberates women to move freely in the water.  The idea that women are less mobile than men in water polo is untrue.  Women are not floating buoys--unable to move well in the water.  It is a myth.  Women can jump high, run fast and move laterally in sports such as track, basketball and soccer and even as goalies in water polo.  How come women water polo field players can hardly move in the water when they actually float and are lighter in the water?

The Whip Kick


The shooter is vertical in the water with the right leg very close to the surface of the water.  To get the right leg positioned that high in the water is only possible if the shooter is a girl or a woman.  Men have less body fat, do not float and struggle to keep their torso up in the water and let their legs sink to the vertical.  The whip kick is a girl’s kick (see Fig. 1). 


The shooter’s right leg uses multiple single right leg breastroke whip kicks in a horizontal plane to move and shoot the ball.  It is not a vertical whip kick used by the Dutch as described in Smart Legs Part 3.  It is not a sidestroke kick done lying on the side.  The new whip kick is a horizontal kick done by a vertical shooter (see Fig. 2).




The horizontal whip kick allows the vertical female shooter to move rapidly forward to advance the ball towards the goal.  The kick-to-a-shot rhythm is two whip kicks and then a shot.  Due to the woman’s high position in the water the ball is automatically thrown at the high corner of the goal.  The horizontal whip kick elevates the shooter’s hand so the center of the palm is 30-inches above the water and aimed at the high corner of the goal.  The forward direction of the whip kick forces a same side or nearside shot.  For example, the shooter is above the right post and shoots at the right corner (see Figs. 3, 4, 5).

The horizontal whip kick prevents the shooter from falling over on her back and the whip kick prevents the slow long stroke pump fake.  Since there is little hip rotation necessary for the whip pump fake, the right arm does not swing way back as far.

Versions of Whip Kick

The shooter can use the standard whip kick shot using two fakes to a shot.  As the shooter advances she can add variety to the above the water right arm motion.  She can vary the length of the whip kick from two long stroke kicks to a shot or a long stroke kick and then a short stroke kick to a shot.  The right leg can drop slightly and add uplift to the shooter creating an elevation fake.  Another fake is two pump fakes to a step-out and then a shot.  The step-out leg motion creates a side arm fake and a cross-cage shot.

Goalie Reads the Whip Kick Shot    



The shooter needs to understand how a goalie approaches blocking a shot.  There are two things that a goalie wants to know: direction of the ball and the time the ball is released.  The goalie needs to set up on the correct angle to the goal to be in the path or direction of the ball to be able to block it.  Timing the shot requires the goalie to watch for the release of the ball to time her leap out of the water to block the shot.  For a goalie to pick the wrong corner of the goal to set up on, insures that a cross-cage shot will score.  Having the improper timing for the shot means the goalie is sinking as the ball arrives.  The combination of not knowing the direction and timing of the ball is deadly for the goalie.  In the first picture above, 2008 women’s gold medal Olympic goalie for the Nederlands, did not know the release or the direction of the ball. She did not know the shot was coming (timing) and she jumped to the wrong corner (direction).  In the second picture, the goalie has the correct timing on the release of the ball but has set up on the wrong angle as the direction of the ball is to the opposite corner.  The shooter used a side arm fake, stepped-out and shot the ball cross-cage.  In both cases, the shooter faked the goalie to the strongside left corner, the goalie overcommitted, and the ball was shot at the weakside right corner (see Figs. 6, 7).

The women invented the horizontal whip kick to a shot to fool the goalie.  As such, it will take time for the goalies to adjust to this new way of shooting.  In age group and in high school water polo the 1-2 whip kick to a shot will score every time.  The double horizontal whip kick creates a quick, accurate and high-speed high corner shot.  The girl goalie has been trained to face slow fakes and lobs. Now a quick whip kick fake into a high corner shot will catch the goalie down in the water.  College woman goalies, however, seem to catch on after a few whip kick shots.  They see that all the shooter’s fakes are thrown on a 1-2 shot rhythm, at the high corner and at the same side of the goal.  For example, a right flat shooter shoots every shot at the right high corner of the goal.  The whip kick ball cannot be skipped since the horizontal leg position reduces the force that the body can generate to skip the ball. The college goalie now knows the direction and timing of the whip kick shot.  A whip kick/step-out shot, however, destroys the goalie’s sense of direction and timing by throwing the ball at the opposite corner.

One of the things that women are doing to prevent telegraphing the shot is to change the direction of the shot, i.e. shooting cross-cage.  When the goalie sees the whip kick shooter above the left goal post, US 2-spot/EU 4-spot, she assumes that the whip kick shooter will throw the ball at the left corner of the goal.  The cross-cage shot, however, to the right corner of the goal scores.  It scores because it is unexpected shot for the goalkeeper who incorrectly read the shooter’s shooting angle and set up on the wrong angle (left corner).  The dual kick, a combination of two kicks, whip kick/step-out shot allows the shooter to shoot a cross-cage shot. 

Unpredictable fakes

In college and internationally there has to be variety in the shooter’s fake.  The shooter has to change the fake in stroke length, length of pause, sideways movement and to be off-rhythm with the whip kick shot for it to score.  The secret to the successful shooter’s faking motion is to make the release and the direction of the shot unpredictable to the goalie.  Shooters develop a rhythm to their fakes.  The goalie after a couple of shots recognizes the whip shooter’s faking rhythm.  For example, the whip kick shooter takes two pump fakes at the same speed and length and then shoots the ball, a 1-2-shot rhythm.  A shooter with a slow arm motion, long arm strokes and rhythmic faking motion telegraphs the upcoming shot to the goalie. The secret to a good hesie fake is for the fake to be unpredictable with sharp, abrupt and explosive faking movements that do not telegraph the release to the goalie.  One of the ways to make an unpredictable shot is to step-out with the right leg and side arm fake the goalie.  Another is to head fake the goalie by snapping the head to the right when above the right corner.

Dual Kick: Whip Kick-Step-Out Shot




The shooter does two whip kicks to advance the ball and steps-out to the right using a side arm fake into throwing a three-quarter arm cross-cage shot.   The shooter is above the left post, US 2-spot/EU 4-spot.   The three-quarter arm position has the right arm at a 45-degree angle for an overhand shot.  The goalie “bites” on the whip kick and assumes a same side high corner shot and is out of position as the ball is thrown cross-cage at the opposite corner.  This is a dual kick shot utilizing the whip kick and the step-out to confuse the goalie.  The whip fakes are quick as is the side arm fake into a quick shot.  It is possible to use a head fake while doing a whip kick fake to confuse the goalie.  The goalie assumes that when the head turns the ball is being released and jumps.  The addition of the step-out and the head fake make the whip kick shot unpredictable and does not telegraph the direction or release of the shot.  The shooter must also learn to shoot cross-cage from the US 4-spot/EU 2-spot at the left corner of the goal (see Figs. 8. 9, 10, 11).

Michaela Spin and Swim Shot


There is a new 2-meter shot for the mobile center called the Michaela shot. Instead of spinning 180-degrees and then facing the goal with the guard tight on the back, the Michaela shooter does a 210-dgree spin with the ball and swims across the face of the goal for a rollout shot.  Spin and swim is a dynamic addition to the standard spin move.  The standard spin move has the player place the left hand on the guard’s opposite hip and spins with the ball 180-degrees for inside water (see The Shot Doctor: The Driver Part 2).  The Michaela spin and swim is different in that it adds lateral movement across the face of the goal to the spin move and puts movement into the rollout shot (see Fig. 12). 



The Michaela technique is to spin the guard 210-degrees, take two strokes, pick up the ball on top, walk the ball twice and roll out on the side with the ball held high in the air.  Once she is free of the guard, the driver whipped kicked across the face of the goal.  As the driver moves, the ball is faked at center cage causing the goalie to jump.  Then she throws a high arm positioned shot into the lower right corner of the goal.  Once the goalie has her hands up in the air at center cage, the goalie is unable to move and cannot defend the right low corner shot. 

The horizontal whip kick creates the ability for a woman to move laterally across the face of the goal with ease.  Previously, the woman would spin the guard and be dead in the water and unable to move.  Now the buoyant woman using the whip kick technique can lift her legs to the horizontal and whip kick away from the guard for the cross-cage shot.  This is an example of how a driver turns into a center and then moves laterally for a rollout shot.  If a man does the Michaela shot, it becomes a power “muscle” move.  He spins, walks the ball across the face of the goal, dolphin kicks and shoots the ball at the right corner using all of his strength (see Figs. 13, 14).

Spider Swim 


The driver uses an alternating breastroke whip kick during the Spider Swim to change directions ducking under for inside water drive using the legs and not the hands.  The Spider Swim teaches balance and control. In the Spider Swim the driver changes direction by changing from a flutter kick to an alternating leg whip kick to improve her position and get inside water then to an eggbeater kick once the driver has the guard on his or her back.  Some coaches call this unique kick an eggbeater kick but the author believes it is a whip kick due to its alternating single leg use and sharp movements. The male or female driver has a high elbow stroke and each leg alternatively does a whip kick.  The outside leg kicks sharply to turn the driver in the opposite direction.  For example, the right leg kicks hard and turns the driver to the left.  The driver can change directions to the right or left quickly and remain stable in the water using the Spider whip kick.  The alternating Spider whip kick allows the driver with the ball to get inside water on the guard.  Once the driver has inside water on the guard, the Spider kick changes to a rapid eggbeater kick, providing good leg support for holding position and shooting (see Fig. 15). 


The Spider drill has the driver without the ball, change direction by kicking with one leg using a whip kick and then the other.  The Spider kick is used to position the driver to get inside water.  This makes for a disjointed choppy forward movement compared to the smoothness and balance of the flutter kick.  A ball is added and the driver repeatedly changes direction to the left and right to gain and hold inside water.  The Spider drill requires two strokes to the right and two strokes to the left with the outside kicking hard at an angle with a whip kick.  The Spider drill requires a lot of the player’s energy and is best done for a 10 strokes.  Add a guard and drive shoulder-to-shoulder or with the guard behind the driver and have the driver use the Spider kick to get inside water.  For example, the driver right hand turns with the ball as the outside right leg kicks sharply at an angle and the driver’s body moves to the left followed by a left kick to center the driver.   Another Spider drill is to swim in a square pattern taking four strokes and then turn (see Fig. 16).

Please turn to YouTube.com  le3is Water Polo Instruction 2 to see the video on the Spider Drill.

URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9pbSZZhohg


The whip kick to a shot is a new concept in water polo shooting for women.  The whip kick is different than the eggbeater kick, the scissor kick and the flutter kick.  The whip kick allows the player to advance forward quickly in the vertical, using multiple right leg horizontal whip kicks to throw the ball into the high corner.  The whip can be used for advancing the ball, as an outside shot, getting inside water and as a rollout 2-meter player shot.  At the age group and high school levels, the whip kick ball thrown to the same side corner of the goal will score.  At the college and international levels, a dual kick, a whip kick and step-out cross-cage shot with a possible head fake scores as the goalie is faked out of position for the cross-cage shot.  The whip kick is used in the Michaela spin and swim rollout shot for lateral mobility.  The whip kick is also used in the change of direction Spider Swim to get inside water. The whip kick will take women shooters to the next level.

Next Month: The Left Hand
© Copyright 2011 Jim Solum

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