Jim SocumShot DoctorBandage Ball

Volume 5 Number 1 September 1, 2011
The road to success is not doing one thing 100 percent better, but doing 100 things 0ne percent better.



The shot is the right leg, scissor kick and the kick angle

Eggbeater kick: Resting and Passing
Scissor Kick: Standard Shot
Breastroke Kick: Dutch Shot
Sidestroke Kick: Whip Kick Shot

In Part V of the Left Hand and Right Leg series, we look at how the right leg kick controls the mechanics of the throwing motion.  The focus is on the major leg kicks: eggbeater, scissor kick, breastroke kick and sidestroke kick styles used to throw the ball.  This article will focus on the shooter’s last kick, the finishing kick (release kick) that provides the power to throw the ball.  The shot starts in the toes and ends in the fingertips as all shots start in the legs and end in the right hand.  The shot starts in the leg kick.  In addition, the shot does not start with the eggbeater as the final kick. The last kick is the scissor kick and its variations. The eggbeater kick is not a “shooting kick” as coaches believe.  Coaches often are confused as to what kick is being used to throw the ball.  In water polo, only the player’s head, shoulders and right arm are seen.  In swimming, 70-percent of all of the force is generated by the arms.  In water polo, the legs generate 50-percent of the power.    

In the water polo kick, the leg has five major motions: rotation, flexion, extension, adduction and abduction.  The shooter’s leg rotates in the eggbeater, and in the scissors kick, the leg bends and straightens out as the legs slap together called flexion and extension.  In adduction where the shooter’s legs slap together in a scissor kick and abduction where the center steps-out with the right leg for a backhand shot.  The main finishing kick for the water polo shot is the scissor kick. The final kick of the shot is the most important of all of the kicking leg motions.  The eggbeater kick is never used as the final kick.  The eggbeater kick is used for resting and for stability during the catch and for low-effort passing.  This final kick or finishing leg kick is usually a scissor kick type kick.


Understanding the flexion/extension kick or the breastroke kick requires one to know it directionality.  That is, what direction is the leg moving toward during the kick.  There are six major directions the right leg moves in: north, south, east, west, up and down.  More fully explained: north (forward), south (backward), west (left), east (right), up and down.  All right leg motions from the scissor kick, breastroke kick, sidestroke whip kick move the right leg in a direction to produce power.  Once the coach understands that there is only one kick-a bending and straightening kick (flexion/extension or breastroke kick, etc.) then the direction of the kick becomes of critical importance.  The angle of the kick is the shot.

There are several examples, in the scissor kick— the legs slap together; breastroke kick one leg kicks; and in the sidestroke kick—a sideways kick. The shooter’s left leg does not move much as it is used a fixed point, a pivot point, that the shooter’s body rotates around. Think of a skater spinning around on the ice on her left skate point, the left leg does not move much.

Leg Directions   Kicks and Shots
Up/Down     Eggbeater Kick: 90-degree rotation
Right/Left    Scissor Kick: Right angle to 0-degrees
Forward/Back   Dutch Kick: 30-degrees to 0-degrees
Leg Angles   Sidestroke Whip Kick: Sideways left to right


Thigh and Calf Angles
Eggbeater Kick: Thigh and knee out, calf down and whole leg rotates
Scissor Kick: Thigh and knee out, calf down, whole leg slaps left leg
Breastroke Kick: Knee in and calf out, calf kicks inward twice
Sidestroke Kick: Upper leg moves a little, calf kicks inward and outward



The angle of the whole leg kick is one of most critical parts of the leg kick.  The position of the leg kick is the shot and the angle of the leg kick creates the shot.   The legs make the stable base, the type of leg kick and the angle of the leg kick creates the shot.  There are several examples, if the shooter’s right leg crosses the left leg in the scissor kick there is no kick.  The angle of the kick can be vertical and circular (the eggbeater kick), laterally from right to left (the scissor kick), horizontal (dolphin kick), and sideways (sidestroke whip kick).  As one looks at Figure 1, the first diagram, the lower right quadrant is where the power is created by the various kicks.  The scissor kick uses vertical legs, the Dutch kick has slightly lower legs and to the side (calf leads and not the whole leg), the sidestroke kick has the right leg straight back (see Fig.1). 

The thigh and calf angle is as important as the whole leg angle.  For example, in the scissor kick, the thigh is abducted (pulled away from the body) and the calf vertical but adductor muscles of the groin pull in the right leg to slap the left leg.  The Dutch breastroke kick has the knee in and the calf out for a breastroke leg position.  The power stroke is when the calf kicks inward for the breastroke kick that is identical to the breastroke swim stroke.  The dolphin kick uses two horizontal legs with the shooter lying on the side.  The sidestroke whip kick has vertical shooter leaning forward with kick coming from a side-to-side sidestroke whip kick.





The eggbeater is two alternating rotation kicks that rotate inward to generate power.  The shape is a “D” with the foot pulling straight down the midline and then flaring out in a circular motion. There are two phases: a power stroke and a recovery stroke.  The power stroke is the same as the underwater pull on the freestyle stroke and creates power. The recovery stroke is the arm stroke in the air and is powerless.  The power stroke in the eggbeater kick begins at the top and pulls inward; the recovery part of the kick has the leg and foot push and flare to the outside and return to the top to again begin the power stroke (see Figs. 2, 3).



The right foot snaps inward and moves across the top towards the midline and then the right leg pulls inward and back.  For an eggbeater demonstration: Stand on a carpeted floor and turn the right foot as far as it goes (35-degrees) then pull the right foot and leg inward and back until it stops.  This action completes the power stroke phase of the eggbeater kick.  Next, the player turns the right foot to the right (external rotation) and pushes the foot and leg forward to the top to complete the recovery phase.  Then the power stroke begins again.  The left foot and leg are doing the same motion on the other side.  The two eggbeatering legs alternate: one leg is in a power stroke phrase and turning inward and the other leg is in an outward recovery phrase.  These dual leg actions of the eggbeater make for a stable base.  The scissor kick is an explosive and more powerful kick than the eggbeater kick but is a one-and-done kick that has no stability after one-second.

The shooter is positioned square to the goal (shoulders, hips and feet parallel the goal) and uses both hands to stay afloat and rest. The eggbeater kick uses two alternating legs that rotate inward.  The legs are vertical and rotate a quarter of a circle or about 90-degrees.  It is a myth that the eggbeater kick spins the legs in a 360-degree circle or the foot rotates around the ankle.  If it did, the person’s leg or foot would twist off.  When catching the ball, the player uses a combination of a scissor kick to get up to catch the ball and the eggbeater kick to stabilize the thrower’s body in the water.  Low-effort passing of 15 mph (24 km/h) uses the eggbeater kick where the pass is an arm throw and not a leg and arm throw.  When the passer is attacked or is forced to throw a hard pass above 15 mph, the passer changes to the scissor kick for greater leg power and a higher ball velocity.  The eggbeater kick cannot develop enough power for a high vertical leap up to pass the ball that a scissor kick provides.  If the eggbeater kick is used for the last kick for power to pass the ball, the pass is weak.


The eggbeatering passer cannot get very high out of the water.  The eggbeater kick that is good for resting and catching the ball is not very good for making the high pass over the guard’s outstretched hand.  The scissor kick allows the passer to get from 12-18 inches (30-45-cm) out of the water for the high-unblocked pass.  The use of the left hand pull down in the angled body scissor kick creates a longer and deeper pull and 6-inches (15-cm) of vertical lift.  The square passer’s left hand is to the side with a short pull that produces no lift (see Figs. 4, 5, 6).

For a demonstration of hip domination in the eggbeater kick have the water polo player stand on the deck with his or her right hand on the hip joint and try to move the leg without moving the hip.  Nothing moves.  The hips rotate the legs.  The eggbeater kick is simply good for resting and for passing—that is all.  There is nothing noteworthy about the two-legged eggbeater kick.

Now we need to move into the real finishing kicks.


The scissor kick is the dominant kick in water polo.  Its use as the finishing kick in water polo is universal. In the finishing kick, almost all shooting, comes down to bending and extending motions of the right leg.  The problem that exists is that flexing and extending the right leg can happen at many angles in the water.  The angle of the right scissor kicking leg is as important as the kick itself.  The shot is the right leg kick.  The scissor kick in its many forms and angles moves the right leg in many directions (vertical, diagonal or horizontal).  A scissor kick in the vertical is the standard kick for the overhand shot.     

The right leg is the dominant leg in shooting.  The left leg is fixed, points (for aim) and is a pivot point.  The right leg is the shot.  And the right leg is dependent on the scissor kick to make the final finishing kick to throw the ball.  Of all of the 5-10 kicks that occur during the catch, fake and shooting of the ball, the last kick, the scissor kick is the most important to throwing the ball.   

In the scissor kick the right leg is abducted (moved away from the body) to cock the leg and then adducted (moves towards the body) inward to produce power for the kick.  The thigh angle is 80-90-degrees with the knee positioned outward.  The calf is high in the water and level with the thigh.  In the two pictures below, the position of the right leg scissor kicking is displayed (see Figs. 7, 8). 


In Figure 7, the right thigh is abducted with the calf horizontal when the right leg is cocked before the finishing kick.  As the leg accelerates for power to release the ball the right leg moves inward.  There is no eggbeater used during the finishing kick.  At the same time as the right leg kicks inward, the shooter’s left hand pulls down and back to generate elevation and increase power (see Fig. 7).


In the picture above, the right leg is abducted with the thigh and calf high in the water.  In the second figure, the right leg kicks inward.  Notice that the left hand pulls backward towards the hip.  The left hand is necessary for elevation and for generating power by helping hip rotation (see Fig. 8).


The shooter’s scissor kick must be correctly aligned with the body to maintain stability during the shot.  There is no advantage to what the author calls a “square scissor kick” where the shooter is knocked on her side as she releases the ball.  A shooter who is square-to-the-goal (shoulders, hips and feet parallel the goal) positions the right leg straight out to the side with the calf in a straight line with the thigh.  When the square shooter uses the square scissor kick, the force of the leg motion lurches the shooter to the left and causes her to fall over to the side and miss the left corner of the goal.  The correct right leg position for the scissor kick is to have an angled body with the right leg at a 30-degree angle.  When the shooter scissor kicks the force of the kick is angled forward so the shooter’s body remains stable during the shot (see Fig. 9).


The tall girl or woman shooter who is square to the goal will use a “square” scissor kick (not angled at 30-degrees) as the finishing kick.  She is positioned above the left corner of the goal to shoot the ball at the left high corner of the goal. She has a zero-degree right leg angle and slaps the right leg against the left leg.  The force of the square scissor kick moves her body sideways and she falls over and completely misses the goal.  The shooter’s left hand is out of position (to the side instead of in front) to stabilize the body FROM THE side force COMING from the square scissor kick (see Fig. 10).



The Dutch right leg double breastroke kick was developed from the scissor kick.  The Dutch kick is a bending and extending kick as the scissor kick but at a different thigh angle (30-degrees) with the calf at 90-degrees and the knee positioned inward for a breastroke kick.  In the Nederlands over 40 years ago, the Dutch invented this single right leg only two-breastroke kick finishing kick for a higher velocity shot. The shooter takes two one-legged breastroke kicks instead of a single scissor kick.  The shooter uses a more powerful kick—the right leg breastroke kick—and has two kicks to throw the ball (see Fig. 11).

In the Dutch technique, the shooter keeps the thigh and knee down and turned inward, and splays the lower leg out at an angle same as one would do for a swimming breastroke kick but with only the right leg.  The breastroke kick is a shorter leg movement, quicker motion and a harder kick that produces more power to throw the ball than the scissor kick. The shooter’s left hand pulls down on the second breastroke kick. The shorter quicker leg motion allows the shooter to use two right leg breastroke kicks instead of the one used in the standard scissor kick. The secondary effect of the two-right breastroke kicks is to elevate the shooter higher out of the water to release the ball.  This is a fantastic kick used worldwide and has replaced the scissor kick for many shots.  Many coaches, upon learning of this new kick, assumed it was a DOUBLE LEG breastroke kick used in swimming.  This of course is an impossible kick for a vertical water polo player to do. The Dutch breastroke kick is a one-legged kick.



There is a recent kick that has the shooter lean forward with the right leg kicking sideways using a modified sidestroke kick with the right lower leg using a breastroke whip kick.  It is not the traditional sidestroke kick with the knee locked and the power coming from the hip and not the calf.  The sideways breastroke whip kick allows the player to move rapidly forward towards the goal.  The player can use the sidestroke whip kick to advance the ball against the dropback or as an outside shot. The sidestroke kick creates great forward speed and a quick high corner shot.  In addition, the shooter’s left arm vigorously sculls to keep the torso upright (see Fig. 12)

In conclusion, the eggbeater kick is great kick for resting and low-effort passing.  It is not a shooting kick.  The eggbeater kick does not produce much power or height out of the water compared to the other kicks. To finish  the shot with the final kick, a scissor kick or a breastroke and sometimes even a sidestroke kick is used.  The eggbeater uses rotation for power, whereas the scissor and breastroke kicks use flexion and extension motions for greater power for the shot.  The coach and the player have to realize that there is more to shooting the ball than the eggbeater kick.  Kinesiology must replace mythology if we are to reach our potential. No longer is the shooter a one-dimensional player who only has one kick and one shot.  Knowledge of all of the various kicks gives the shooter and unlimited number of shots to throw.

Next month: Left Hand and Right Leg Shooting Part VI
© Copyright 2011 Jim Solum

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