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Volume 5 Number 11 August 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. 


Women have a difficult time making outside shots and scoring 6-on-5s during a game.  At 2-meters, the center guard grabs the swimsuit and the center shot is eliminated.  And the drive-in screw shot is blocked by the goalie without too much problem.  This leads many to the conclusion that women water polo players cannot score in water polo.  This is not correct!  The return of the driving game with high-tech shots and push offs is here to save women’s water polo.  The woman driver can score from 2-meters if she knows the correct drive-in shooting and separation techniques.  The old style drive-in push shot or screw shot has failed women.  She drove straight ahead and threw a screw shot at the right lower corner.  This shot, of course, is blocked by the goalie.  There are no great Manuel Estriarte type drivers found among women.  There is no creativity when women shoot the ball off the water.  And for that matter, there is no creativity among the men either.  In today’s game, no one can shoot drive-in shots!  Many coaches believe that driving game is a dead.  It is just better to pass the ball into 2-meters to the center (dunked with the ball stolen) than to go for a drive-in shot.  The coaches, however, are dead wrong.  The driving game is alive and well for women who learn to be creative.


Manuel Estriarte was the greatest driver of the 20th century, a 6-time Olympian, who led Spain to an Olympic gold medal in Atlanta, USA—by driving.  At 5 foot 9 inches and 145 pounds (1.7-meters, 65-kilos) he scored by pushing off the guard.  The question is why are there no Estriarte drivers among women?  Women have clung to a shooting technique that does not score goals.  The logical question is why not change to a shooting technique that does score goals.  Women are better drivers than men are.  Women love to drive.  And women throw the ball hard. So why can’t women score.  The shooting style of women has to change to reflect the modern age by moving laterally to the right or left and by pushing off the guard.

Male coaches assume that women cannot shoot drive-in shots.  Therefore, they spend a lot of time on the counterattack to create a one-on-nobody shot.  However, it is quite possible to create a one-on-nobody shot on the drive and take an unhindered drive-in shot at 2-meters by moving laterally to become open for an overhand shot.  A goal is a goal, no matter whether it is thrown in the vertical or in the horizontal position. The way for women to score more drive-in goals is to push off, rollout or step-out.  Women do not use any of these three concepts in today’s game.  Moreover, these techniques are no longer used in men’s water polo. 

The driving game is dead.  Or is it?  The author believes that women can resurrect the driving game and make it a valuable part of the shooting game.  Why throw the ball into the center at 2-meters if the ball is only going to be stolen?  Why shoot a 6-on-5 when teams are scoring 1 for 9?  Why not bear-in to the guard, push off, and rollout to the left or step-out to the right for a Boyer shot and throw the ball into the goal for a natural score.  For women to be able to score, they must develop lateral movement on the drive and use separation techniques.  In addition, to the push off/separation techniques she has to learn new shots such as rollouts, slam-dunk shots, backhand shots and Boyer step-out shots.  This means that there must be a complete re-education of the woman driver in shooting technique.

For ages we have relied on the push shot, screw shot and T-shot to score.  As the goalies got bigger and better, these three off the water shots no longer scored.  The shots that Estriarte developed were all overhand shots where the entire right arm is out of the water and high in the air. The driver, however, cannot lift the ball in the air if the guard is closely guarding her.  The push off created the separation from the guard and allows the overhand shot to be taken.


Women have a great advantage over men in water polo.  Women float, have a short torso and long legs, which makes them the ideal body type for driving.  Men, on the other hand, do not float, have a long heavy torso and short legs and are top heavy.  The woman driver has a great offensive advantage over the woman defender.  Most of the weight of the woman guard is in her hips and legs—she is bottom heavy.   Furthermore, when the woman driver pushes off the guard and knocks down her legs, the guard is very slow to recover and is dead in the water.  The push off works in the women’s game because the woman guard does not have the upper body arm strength to quickly recover and pull herself up.  The push off is not nearly as effective on the male guards because of their superior upper body strength.  If the driver can suddenly change directions on the guard and push off, she is wide open and has a clear overhand shot at the goal without being attacked by the guard.   Women coaches have not considered the unique anatomical advantages that the woman driver has over her driving guard.  It is now time to take advantage of these deficiencies in the woman guard and begin using Manuel Estriarte type push off moves and lateral movement shots.

When the woman driver is on the 2-meter line with a guard on her back and the goalie looming big in the goal, the driver believes that she is doomed.  Actually, she is in a great position to score!  She is in a great position to score only if she is mobile and pushes off.  The static driver, on the other hand, is in a hopeless situation.  The author has developed three major shots to use when driving to score in these “hopeless situations.”  When the guard is side-by-side on the driver’s left side—step-out into a Boyer shot; guard is behind—rollout to the left and shoot; the guard is tight behind the driver—push off, go airborne for a straight-ahead slam-dunk shot.


Three Shooting Techniques for the Drive

Position    Direction   Shot    Push Off
Guard on Side   Lateral Right   Boyer Shot    Left forearm push off
Guard on back   Lateral Left   Rollout Shot, Backhand   Left Hand or foot to turn
Guard on back   Straight-Ahead   Slam-Dunk Shot   Bent transverse right leg


The three basic push off shots are tailored to the guard’s two defensive positions.  When the guard is side-by-side on the driver’s left shoulder—the driver turns to the right, pushes off with the left forearm off the guard’s ribs, step-outs, and shoots a Boyer.  If the guard is on the driver’s back—the driver turns to the left for a rollout shot by using the left hand on the guard’s swimsuit or the left foot on the guard’s hip.  When the guard is tight on the driver’s back—she drives straight-ahead, pushes off with the right leg folded across the guard’s stomach and both hips, and shoots a slam-dunk shot.  The driver reads the guard’s position, and selects the appropriate push off and shot for the situation (see Fig. 1).



BOYER SHOT (Lateral Right)


The average driver drives to the right corner in a straight line, the guard tightly covers her left shoulder, and the goalie is waiting in the right corner to block the screw shot.  The modern driver is different.  She stops, drops the legs to the vertical, pushes off with the forearm off the guard’s ribs and hip, steps-out and shoots a Boyer overhand shot at the high right corner.  The push off increases her shooting power by 25-percent.  An advanced shot is to slide the right leg forward and shoot cross-cage at the left corner.  The right-foot forward position allows the shooter to rotate her body to the left for the left corner shot.  The forearm push off is easy to learn.  However, the Boyer step-out leg and arm shot motion requires some study (see Figs. 3, 4, 5).


Boyer Drills


The Boyer shot drill is taught by pushing off from the wall with the forearm.  The ball is over the head and stepping-out with the right leg with the knee high. At the apex of the vertical movement, the ball is passed to a partner.  If the player misses the apex of the release, she sinks low in the water without any power on the pass.  She must also step-out with a high knee so the hips are level.  If she steps-out with a low knee, the water will force the knee down and cross the legs.  The result of a cross-legged shot is the elbow hits the water, the shot is weak, there is no lateral movement and the goalie is hit center cage with the ball (see Women’s Shooting Part 6).  In the second drill for the Boyer push off shot, the driver is on the 2-meter line with the guard side-by side and the driver pushes off with the guard with the forearm, steps-out and shoots (see Fig. 6).

ROLLOUT SHOT (Lateral Left)


The driver has the guard on her back and faces the right corner of the goal.  A drive-in shot to the right corner is a sure block by the goalie.  The left side of the goal is wide open.  The driver grabs the ball in her right hand, uses the left hand on the guard’s hip or the left foot to “hook” the hip to turn to the left.  She turns to the left, extends out the left arm underwater to roll the right hip up and lifts the ball high in the air.  She swims laterally across the face of the goal on her side and shoots a rollout shot (an overhand shot on the side).  She moves laterally by using a right lower leg “whip” sidestroke kick or a dolphin kick.  For the overhand shot release, she changes to a scissor kick.  If the driver cannot get her legs to grip the water and be in a power position, she can “arm the ball” (throw the ball with the arm without using the power of the body) and lob it into the left corner of the goal.  The driver is adding “center shots” with vertical leg positioning and lateral movement to the horizontal straight-ahead driver’s shooting repertoire (see Figs. 7, 8, 9).

Rollout Drills

The driver without a partner, faces the goal, picks the ball up on top and turns to the left by extending the left arm underwater to roll the right hip up.  Next, add a partner in the static and repeat.  Move to the goal, drive and stop on the 3-meter line, hook with the left foot on the hip or grab the hip with the left hand and rollout to the left.  After the turn, a weaker player can put the ball in the water and then push off the ball and rollout.  A strong player rolls-out with the ball high in the air.

BACKHAND SHOT (Lateral Left)


All women, not just centers, can throw the backhand shot.  This is also a great drive-in shot for the driver.  Once the right corner driver has moved laterally to the left, she is wide open to take a backhand shot.  The goalie cannot move quickly to get across the cage to cover the left corner of the goal before the backhand shot.  The drive-in backhand shot for women is a legitimate shot. In a traditional shot, the driver drives with the guard on her left side to the right corner and the goalie blocks the right corner screw shot.  However, the observant driver now realizes that the right corner is covered but the left corner of the goal is open.


The question is how to get there?  The driver turns 90-degrees to the left with the ball high in her right hand either palmed or pinched and is trying to do a rollout shot. The guard stops the shooter’s rollout motion. Instead, she puts the ball in the water, moves the legs to the vertical, and turns the back to the goal, which allows her to step-out with the right leg towards the left corner. She steps-out to the left, points the right heel at the left corner of the goal and holds off the guard with her left shoulder.  The shooter is now in a perfect back-to-the-goal backhand shot position.  At the same time as she turns her back, she steps-out forward with her hand on of the ball. With the ball as a pivot point in the water, she cocks her arm and shoots a backhand skim shot into the left lower corner of the goal.  Do not try to throw a high-in-the-air backhand, it does not work (see Figs. 10, 11). 


The driver is vertical in the water and is not lying on her side or lifting the right arm high in the air.  A skim shot needs to have the shooter’s hand close to the water or the ball stops.  A high-in-the-air backhand throws the ball at a sharp angle at the water and causes the ball to dig in and stop.  When the driver cannot shoot a backhand, it is because she did not move her legs to the vertical, and is stuck horizontally in the water.  Another shot, the push shot lob, was invented to counter this leg position error.  After making the turn, the horizontal-legged driver throws a push shot lob into the left corner of the goal for a score.  The goalie has little lateral movement in the cage and is out of position to block the backhand or the lob shot (see Figs 12, 13).


Backhand Drills

The drill to teach this is to have a passing partner 5-meters away, face the partner, turn the back, move the right leg to the left and backhand skim the ball to the partner.  Add a guard and repeat the drill.



The Russian women developed a separation and shooting technique called the Russian slam-dunk shot for scoring when the guard tightly covering the driver’s back with the driver stopped at the 3-meter line. This awe-inspiring shot has the driver leap high in the air and slam the ball down into the goal!   In this situation, the driver has dropped her legs, is dead in the water, and is waiting for the goalie to come out of the goal and steal the ball.  This common game scenario does not have to happen as the Russian driver makes an explosive leap into the air and slams the ball into the goal.  The secret to leaping high in the air while tightly guarded is the folded leg push off by the driver—the Russian push off for short.  The driver drops her legs, holds position by fierce sculling and allows the guard to get tight on her back.  Then she folds the right leg across the guard’s hips and stomach and pushes off at the same time as she grabs the ball and leaps up (see Figs. 14, 15). 

The slam-dunk push off occurs as the driver is in the act of shooting and does not give the appearance of a huge push off (which it is).  She pushes off and leaps into the air with the ball high above her head with the torso square.  Then she uses her abdominal muscles to “crunch the abs” for the shot.   She begins the shot motion by snapping the torso forward, followed by the right arm moving.  The extra power generated by the abdominal muscles allows her to shorten her arm cock so the right arm does not swing back and into the guard’s outstretched hand.

Slam-Dunk Drills

The drills for teaching the slam-dunk shot are the wall push off slam-dunk, Serbian straight-arm shot, slam-dunk swims, slam-dunk 180, the slam-dunk drive-in shot and the Russian push off slam-dunk.

Wall push off drill

The driver holds on to the ball on top, pushes off the wall with the right foot and leaps into the air.

Serbian straight-arm shot drill

The ball is above the driver’s head, elbow locked and use the abs to snap the torso down to throw the ball.

The right arm only moves after the torso is snapping forward.  It is not a right arm-only throw.

Slam-dunk swim drill

The driver takes 4 strokes, picks up the ball on top, leaps high in the air and slams the ball down on the water.

Slam-dunk 180 drill

The woman pushes down on the ball, leaps up with the ball high over the head, spins 180-degrees, crunches the abs and slams the ball on the water.   Note: girls 12 years and under can spin 360-degrees due to their narrower hips.  Older women with their wider hips have more drag in the water and cannot rotate as much.  For less experienced players they can push off the wall and spin in the air to get the feeling of the 180-degree spin.

Slam-dunk drive-in shot drill

The driver picks up the ball underneath, leaps high in the air, locks the elbow, hand is flat under the ball, slides the fingers on top of the ball and then slams the ball into the goal.

Russian push off slam-dunk drill

The guard’s legs down in the water with her chest tight on the driver’s back who is holding position in the water by fiercely sculling.  The driver bends the right leg so it is across the guard’s stomach and hips and pushes off.  Add a ball and cage and shoot the Russian push off slam-dunk shot.

In concluding, the modern driver uses the new separation techniques and lateral movement shots to score on the goalie.  The drive-in shot is not an automatic blocked shot any more.  The old school “Big Three” drive in shots: the>push shot, the screw shot and the T-shot, are no longer the primary shots for the driver.   In the women’s driving game, the driver has the advantage over the guard.  The woman guard cannot adjust to lateral movement and recovers slowly from a push off.  Now, nothing can stop the determined woman driver from shooting and scoring!  When the woman driver is preparing to shoot on goal, she knows that the goalkeeper is limited in her ability to move sideways to stop any lateral movement shots.  No matter what the defender and goalie do, the triple option driver has the ability to shoot and score in any situation.  To the driver’s left is the rollout shot/backhand.  Straight-ahead is the slam-dunk shot.  And to the driver’s right is the push off Boyer shot.  The driver doing a planned drive eliminates indecision as the driver selects the appropriate shot for the situation.  It is now a new age for the woman driver and with new moves and new shots.  It is an age when the driving game replaces the center game and the 6-on-5 game as the main scoring tool in the women’s water polo.

For additional information on driving please read Dr. Solum’s new book the “Science of Shooting: The Driver” that is available from lulupress.com.  Click on the water polo ball to the right at the top of the Water Polo Planet article to find the book.

© Copyright 2012 Jim Solum
Next Month: Women’s Shooting Part 8


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