Jim Socum Shot Doctor Bandage Ball
Biography   Buy Books

Volume 5 Number 10 July 1, 2012
The road to success is not doing one thing 100 percent better, but doing 100 things 0ne percent better.


The woman driver has the advantage.


The driving game is dead.  No one scores anymore when they take a drive-in shot.  Both men and women cannot score.  The question is why?  The shooter is on the 2-meter line, facing the goal with the guard on her side or behind her.  These are ideal situations for the woman driver to be able to score.  However, she does not score because she does not have the correct shooting technique or separation technique (also called pushing off).  Ages ago, drivers used to score by creating separation and taking fantastic shots.  The driving and throwing techniques of that bygone age have been lost.  At one time, in the Atlanta Olympics, a driver, Manuel Estriarte led his Spanish team to the gold medal—by driving.  Since Manuel Estriarte retired, the knowledge of shooting and scoring from a drive has been forgotten.  In this article, we explain the techniques necessary to create great women drivers.

Women are better drivers than men are.  Women float, have a short torso and long legs.  This is the ideal body type for a driver.  Women love to drive because of these advantages.  However, women do not get open or score  because of poor training.  It is a myth that they do not score because they have a “weak arm.”  Women are strong shooters not weak shooters.  The driver has to be able to move laterally on the drive for positioning and shooting. The woman driver of today is unable to do this.  She cannot dribble, bear-in, hold position, duck under or do a Wigo bump.  She cannot get separation using the legs, hands or forearm to push off, or turn to the right or the left.  Moreover, she cannot take lateral shots such as a push off Boyer to the right and a rollout shot to the left.  All she has been trained to do is swim straight ahead and put the ball in the lower right corner of the touch pad, also called a goal.  She drives as if she is in a swim meet. And she is unable to move laterally in the water or push off her guard to gain a tactical advantage.  The driver in water polo has become a “lost” swimmer with a ball looking for a lane line. 

The woman driver has to be able to control the ball, her “driving line,” move the guard (bear-in), duck under the guard, push off and hold position.  If she cannot control the guard at 8-meters then she cannot control the guard at 2-meters when she wants to shoot.  Unlike the outside shooter, where 100-percent of the technique is in the outside shot mechanics, the driver has to learn how to drive to become free in addition to being able to shoot.  This makes training a driver a much more difficult job than training an outside shooter.  This is the main reason why there are so few drivers in the world and a great abundance of outside shooters.

12-Meters to 5-Meters   5-Meters to 2-Meters
Dribble the Ball     Hold Position
Bear-In    Duck Under
Duck Under    Foot for Separation   
Wigo bump   Hook with Legs
Hold Position   Push Off
Spin    Shooting
Counterattack Exclusion   Drive Exclusion


The drive is a part of the tactical game of water polo. The pool divides into two sections, a middle pool part that extends from 12-meters to 5-meters and a second part from 5-meters to 2-meters.  In each section of the pool, the driver performs specific techniques so she can arrive at the 2-meter line ready to shoot.  In the first part, she is driving without the ball; in the second part, she is driving with the ball.  Between the 12-meter line and the 5-meter line, the driver improves her position in the pool and controls her line as she drives to the goal.  Between the 5-meter line to the 2-meter line, she shoots the ball.  For example, she has the ball at 5-meters and must in 3-4 strokes select the shot, set up, push off and shoot.  Failure to get open, hold position and keep the advantage over the guard in the middle of the pool dooms her from ever reaching the 5-meter line to become an offensive threat.  Failure outside 5-meters leads to failure inside 5-meters.  A bad driver at 8-meters does not become a great driver at 2-meters.  The driver’s must have control in each of the two major sections of the pool from 12-meters to 5-meters and inside 5-meters to 2-meters to score (see Fig. 1).


Dribble   Hold Position   Wigo bump   Counterattack Exclusion
Bear-In    Duck Under    Spin Moves    

Dribble the Ball


The very first technique that is taught to the driver is how to dribble the ball.  Dribbling the ball may occur anywhere, from 12-meters to 5-meters or inside the 5-meter line.  Dribbling is a skill. While dribbling the ball may seem a simple technique to the coach, it is not to the players.  Over half of the players on the team cannot dribble correctly.  The ball slushes from the right to the left with every stroke.  Outside of 5-meters she may lose control of the ball, have it drift away, which slows her progress and may allow the guard to steal the ball.  In another situation, when the driver gets to the 2-meter line to shoot, she has to look for the ball.  In many cases, she has to stop, turn to the left to recover the ball before she can begin shooting.  By this time, the guard or the goalie has stolen the ball.  The correct technique for dribbling with the ball is a high elbow arm stroke.  The elbows are high in the air and cannot splash water on the ball.  The ball should remain in the center, between the stroking arms, and not move.  When the elbows are low, they make waves that push the ball from side to side.  The most common misplacement for ball is for it next to the left arm.  The stronger right low elbow arm stroke creates waves that force the ball over to the left arm.  A commonly taught technique is not to correct the low-elbow arm stroke driver and raise her elbows but instead to compensate and use two hands to get the ball back into the right hand of the driver to pass or shoot.  Not only is this two-hand technique slow, it makes the driver “flat in the water” (she cannot roll on the side and point the left foot to shoot) and telegraphs the shot to the goalie if the driver is inside 5-meters. The two-hand ball transfer technique must never be used.  In its place, the driver uses the proper dribbling arm stroke to meet the ball (see Fig. 2).


The driver holds her line while driving and moves the guard at an angle away from the goal.  The driver drives shoulder-to-shoulder rubbing shoulders down the pool.  She continues to disrupt the guard’s line and move her over towards the side of the pool.  When the driver has started in the center of the pool she can has reduced her area of shooting in half.  By moving the guard, by bearing-in to the outside of the goal post, she has the entire area in front of the goal to work with.  There is more to driving then swimming.  There is a strategy to driving.  Driving is a tactical game; shooting is a technical game.

Hold Position


The driver needs to master the technique for holding position in the water and keeping her guard behind her.  Holding position requires the driver to move the legs to the vertical, to eggbeater and scull fiercely with the elbows and back high out of the water.  Holding position occurs between the 12-meters to the 2-meter line.  Holding position is not only stopping in the water, it is a technique to set up the guard to be pushed off.  By the driver holding position, she is able to get the guard on her back and to have the guard drop her legs to the vertical.  When the guard’s hips are horizontal, it is difficult to push off.  When the guard’s hips are vertical, there are a number of push off techniques that can be used.  The strategy for holding position at 6-meters is for the driver to quickly stop, scull high in the water, get the guard on the back, fake a kick out, if the referee does not call one, then resume driving downcourt.  Holding position momentarily during the counterattack shows dominance by the driver over the guard.  The guard is not someone to fear.  The guard is a tool that is used by the driver to score upon.  By dominating the guard in the middle of the pool, the driver wins the psychological game.  The driver punishes the guard physically and psychologically.  The driver either dominates or is dominated by the guard (see Fig. 3).

Ducking Under



The driver dives under the guard and gets inside water.  The driver that was swimming side-by-side now has the guard on her back.  This is an ideal position for the driver and not one to be feared.  From this position, the driver can receive an exclusion on the guard, stop the guard’s progress and push off the guard.  Ducking under the guard is a “must have” technique for the driver.  The driver uses several techniques to duck under the guard. 

The driver has to position herself shoulder-to-shoulder so she is close enough to the guard to duck under the guard.  When the driver’s shoulder is 12-inches (30-cm) away from the guard’s shoulder it is impossible for her to duck completely under the guard.  It looks like to the coach that the driver tried to duck under the guard’s shoulder and not her body.  Without rubbing shoulders and bearing-in, the driver cannot get under the guard. 

The first ducking under technique one is to take two strokes with the outside arm and dive under the guard.  The dive is very shallow and the driver immediately can feel the guard’s chest, stomach and legs.  When the driver cannot “feel” the guard she has dove too deeply and is helpless.  The guard continues swimming uninterrupted while the driver plays submarine (see Figs. 4, 5). 

Wigo bump


The Wigo bump is a further advancement on the ducking under technique.  The Wigo bump knocks down the legs and arms of the guard and leaves her momentarily unable to move.  Ducking under only blocks the guard. With the guard in this position the Wigo driver is free to fake the kick out, push off and/or swim to freedom.  The technique is duck under the guard, spread the arms wide and scull intensely.  The legs are spread apart and eggbeater.  From this position, the driver shoves the buttocks up into the guard’s stomach, which leaves her unable to move for a second.  The driver can fake the kick out, push off or just swim away.  The Wigo bump is only done when the driver is shoulder-to-shoulder and hip-to-hip with the guard.  If the driver is slightly ahead of the guard when she does the bump, she will bump the guard’s face with her buttocks (see Fig. 6).

Spin Moves


After the counterattack is over the perimeter “umbrella” is set up with the players in a semi-circle from 8-meters at the point to the wings at 2-meters to 4-meters, with the set player in front of the goal on the 2-meter line.  The perimeter passer throws the ball into the center to shoot the ball.  However, if the center is being sloughed on, then the perimeter player with the ball “makes offense” and spins the guard for inside water.  The standard spin move is to swing the ball 180-degrees around the guard for inside water with the guard on the driver’s back.  The technique for spinning around the guard is to place the hand in the center of the small of the guard’s low back or on the right hip.  The elbow is locked, the ball is held on the side or palmed and the right arm is swung close to the water at high speed.  Immediately, let go of the ball, lift the buttocks up in the air to block the path of the guard (hold position) and swim away. 

When the perimeter guard overplays the driver’s left shoulder anticipating a spin to the left, the driver spins to the right for a reverse spin.  The reverse spin does not use a grab point to hold onto the guard’s swimsuit.  The left hand pushes water to help the driver turn to the right.  There are two versions of the reverse spin: over-the-top or on-the-water.  In the over-the-top reverse spin, the driver places her hand on top of the ball and swings it in the air and straight back.  This spin is the simpler of the two spins.  The ball-on-the-water reverse spin, the driver spins with the ball close to the surface of the water (see Fig. 7).

Counterattack Exclusion


During the counterattack, the driver may want to fake the kick out to get an exclusion called on the guard.  The driver ducks under the guard and sinks and the guard swims over the top of her body.  The driver speeds up her arm stroke when she ducks under and brings the left hand next to her hip, takes another stroke with the right hand and pulls it down next to the right hip and then pushes upward with both hands.  The hands do not break the surface of the water.  She sinks down to the bottom of the pool. If the referee does not call the exclusion, the driver continues on her way down the pool.  Half of the time, the referee does not call the kick out on the guard.  If there is no exclusion called, the counterattacking driver has slowed or stopped the guard and shown dominance.  Another form of dominance is the stop-and-go drive.  The driver ducks under the guard, stops, and then takes off.  She may actually do this several times during the counterattack to upset the guard’s psyche.  The last offensive interference by the driver is to bear-in to the guard, drive her into the wall and then turn and drive away with open water.  The goal of the counterattacking driver is not to swim down the pool leisurely as if she is in a swim practice but to torment the guard on every arm stroke. The guard is going to punish the driver once she has the ball, so why not punish the guard all of the way down the pool?  Punish or be punished is the rule for the driver (see Fig. 8).

In concluding, the downcourt in water polo divides into two parts: from 12-meters in to the 5-meter line and from inside 5-meters to the 2-meter line.  The goal of the driver in the middle part of the pool is to improve her position with the guard.  She does this by dribbling the ball, bearing into the guard,  holding her position, by ducking under, spinning and faking the kick out during the counterattack.  The driver masters the 7-meter distance from the 12-meter to 5-meter line to maintain her line to the goal.  Learning how to drive is much harder than learning how to be become an outside shooter.  The driver requires twice as much training to learn her position. The education of the driver is a stroke-by-stroke experience. 

In the women’s game, driving is very important for the success of the frontcourt offense.  The author believes that the driving game for women is more important than the 6-on-5 game.  Getting a natural goal is much easier for a woman than an extra man goal.  The men’s game is designed to get exclusions at 2-meters and then set up a 6-on-5 for a probable goal.  When the women’s team gets an exclusion and a 6-on-5, it is a punishment.  It is not a reward, as it is nearly impossible to score. When one looks at the odds, one sees a women’s 6-on-5 scoring 20-percent of the time and a drive-in shot scoring 50-percent of the time.  Men can score 50-percent of the time on a 6-on-5 with their stronger arms, but women cannot.  Women are different. The women’s game is the driving game—not the 6-on-5 game.  Women are built to drive and score.

© Copyright 2012 Jim Solum
Next Month: Women’s Shooting Part 7


WATER POLO PLANET.COM: the Alternative Voice    www.waterpoloplanet.com