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Volume 6 Number 6 May 1, 2013
The road to success is not doing one thing 100 percent better, but doing 100 things 0ne percent better.

How to Teach Shooting: Part 2


The left foot aims the ball and the right leg aims the left foot.

In the first article we covered how a drive-in drill could be used to teach leg positioning for the vertical shot.  In this month’s article we look at how the R.B. or rear back shot can be changed from an explosive leg catch-and-shoot shot from a right wing pass to one that utilizes strong legs, sustaining legs, smart legs and smart hands.  In Hungary men’s water polo, they recruit very tall men to play water polo.  Like in basketball, tall is in.  In USA women’s water polo, they seem to prefer women that are 5’10 (1.8-m) or above.  One of the problems with very tall people is balance.  The Hungarians solved this by developing awkward passing and catching drills.  The drills force the player’s right leg, left leg and left hand to balance out the shooter to prevent him or her from falling over and dropping the ball or worse, throwing the ball over the cage.

All shooters would like to have everything as static as possible.  He or she would like to use the same left leg/right leg positioning and shoot from the point with a pass from the right wing or right flat for all of eternity.  However, water polo is a dynamic and ever-changing game that forces the player to improvise.  This is never more so than when catching the ball and shooting the ball.  This month’s drill is a highly mobile R.B. drill that forces the shooter to have strong legs, which sustain his height for 2-seconds out of the water and move smartly.  The R.B. shooter radically moves the right leg to readjust to the catch and balance out then readjust, and moves the left foot point to shoot.  The coach commands are simple: R.B. up, turn left to catch the ball, shoot at the left corner.  We will find that though the command is simple; the mechanics of the Bad Angle R.B. Shot are not.


The S4 theory is based on the whole body of the shooter being involved in the throwing motion.  The shooter’s right leg, left leg, hips, torso and left hand and right hand are involved in the process.  The myth that only the right arm throws the ball is dead.  Whole bodied shooting reflects the reality that the whole body of the shooter throws the ball.  A right arm-only shot throws the ball at 15 mph (25 km/h).  No one has ever seen a baseball or a softball pitcher just stand there with his or her legs together and only throw the baseball or softball with the right arm.  In no other sport does anyone believe in the right arm-only throwing motion.  Drills have to reflect reality.


In the Bad Angle R.B. Drill the shooter swims four strokes, stops, turns around 45-degrees to face the passer who is on the shooter’s extreme left and catches a pass thrown behind him.  Then the shooter turns to face the goal, points the left foot and shoots at the right or left corner of the goal.  This drill forces the shooter to catch a bad pass in an awkward body position and then reposition the legs, balance out, sustain the height out of the water and then shoot quickly and accurately without a fake.  In this drill, there are all of the components necessary for making a great shooter (see Fig. 1).


Players are a real skeptic bunch.   Talking to them does very little.  They need to see things visually and then experience the movement to be able to learn.  Athletes are not people that learn by reading or listening—they learn by seeing and doing.  They can see that the right arm moved and the right hand released the ball.  Therefore, based on this flawed reasoning, only the right arm and hand are involved in throwing the ball!  The best dry land demonstration is to have the coach stand squarely facing the wall with the feet together and try and throw the ball with only the right arm.  It is a very slow throw.  Next, the coach puts his left foot forward, right leg back and pushes off with the right foot which rotates the hips and the arm moves forward and the ball is released.   It is a much harder throw when the whole body is involved in the process of throwing the ball.  Follow this demonstration with a pass coming from the extreme left and the coach moving to catch the ball and then face the wall.  Ask the players what legs moved and did the right arm move the body so it could catch the ball?  The players sit stunned and not knowing what to say.  No one has ever asked him or her about what are the mechanics of catching the ball.


This lack of knowledge continues as the player does not even know what part of the body aims the ball.  Does the right hand aim the ball?  The right hand was pointing in the direction of where the ball went—so the right hand must aim the ball, right? Wrong!  The shooter’s left foot aims the ball.  The rule is: Wherever the left foot points, the ball follows.  The coach must patiently explain the mechanics of the shot to the players over and over again (see Fig.2).


Point the Left Foot

The left foot aims the ball is the first drill.  Everyone on the team seems to believe that the right hand aims the ball.  The players are standing and asked to throw an imaginary shot at the extreme left.  Automatically, the players point the left foot to throw the ball to the left.  Then ask the players to throw an imaginary ball to the right and they all repoint the left foot to the right and throw.  The coach then has the players lock the left foot forward and try and throw to the extreme left.  The right arm cannot throw the ball across the body.  The extended left leg in the left foot forward position locks the left hip and prevents rotation so the right arm cannot throw across the body.  The left foot has to reposition the body so the right arm can throw to the extreme left.  This demonstration graphically shows to the players how little the right arm can do.

Locked Left Hip

The second dry land drill illustrates to the players that the left leg cannot be locked in the forward position if he or she wants to shoot at the left corner of the goal from the point.  The players face the wall with the left leg and foot forward.  Then the players are asked to throw the ball to the extreme left.  They cannot.  The left leg cannot be high in the water and fixed if the hips are to rotate the left leg to the left.  The demonstration teaches that the left hip rotate the left leg and the right hip the right leg and the rest of the body.  A high positioned and extended left leg locks the hip joint and prevents left foot from point to the left corner of the goal or wall.

Right Leg Controls Length of Arm Cock

The right arm is fairly inflexible at the shoulder joint in extension.  The player stands up and lifts the right arm straight up and from that position (without moving the hips or bending the back) extends the right arm as far back as possible.  This is about 4-inches (10-cm).  The question that the coach asks is how is a 24-inch arm cock made if the right arm only moves back 4-inches?  Silence.  The players have never thought about it.  Then the coach has the players move the right leg way back and rotate the right hip and suddenly a long arm cock appears.  Amazing!

Short Arm Cock and Square Posture

The next dry land drill has the players standing squarely with the right arm straight up in the air and realizing that a square body with the feet, hips and shoulders parallel the wall makes a short arm cock that has no power to throw the ball.  As the right leg moves back, the power of the shot increases. This is a revelation for the age group boy or high school girl.  The longer the arm cock, the greater the distance that force can be applied to the ball for a high velocity shot.  The right leg position controls left side of the body: left foot point, left shoulder point and the left hand position.


Freeze Right hand.

After the shot, the player freezes the right hand as soon as it hits the water.  The right hand is directly above the left foot after release of the ball.  The shooter has to freeze the hips to stop the forward motion of the right leg and the body automatically turns to the left to go into the follow-through stage.  The follow-through stage is the stage where the body stops.  The cocking stage is where the body and right arm are cocked; the acceleration stage is where the body throws the ball.  The shooter can clearly see that the right hand follows wherever the left foot points.

Square Body with Right Arm Up

Same drill as the dry land demonstration.  The shooter tries to throw the ball from a square to the goal body position.  Then have him or her swing the right leg way back and the long arm cock appears.  The left hand assist in rotating the right leg back.

Left Foot Point Aim

The player moves the left foot to shoot at the left corner. Then the player moves the left foot to point at the right corner of the goal. Finish with the player pointing the left foot at the right corner of the goal and trying to throw the ball at the left corner of the goal.  There is tremendous movement of the left leg to make the player aware of how the left foot has to be repositioned to shoot at the right corner or the left corner of the goal.

Left Arm Moves Left Foot Point

The player is center cage with the left foot forward and pointed at the middle of the cage.  The player’s right leg is way back.  Do not allow the player to be square to the goal.  The player’s right arm is up in the air with a ball in the hand.  The player cannot move in the water.  The player holds his or her left arm wide and sweeps to the right to turn the body so the left foot points at the left corner of the goal.  Then player resets and points the left foot at the middle of the goal.  Then the player uses the left arm to sweep to the left to point the left foot at the right corner of the goal.

Straight On and Turn Left


The Straight On and Turn Left drill repositioning the left foot to point to the extreme left.  The player is above the right corner of the goal and catches a standard pass from the right wing.  Then the player repositions the left foot to point at the left corner of the goal and shoots (see Fig. 3).

Point Right/Left and Shoot


The Point Right/Left and Shoot drill teaches that the left foot controls the direction of the ball.  The player picks up the ball at the point with the left foot pointing at the center of the goal.  Then he or she moves the left foot to point at the right corner of the goal.  The player finishes by moving the left foot to point at the left corner of the goal and shoots the ball.  A pump fake can be added to increase the difficulty of the left foot movement.  A pump locks in the shooter’s position in the water and “glues” the left leg into bonding with the water.  It is much harder to move a set left leg than a mobile left leg.  This is a critical drill as the player realizes the left foot point aims the ball and not the right hand (see Fig. 4). 


To increase the degree of difficult switch corners and have the shooter start with the left foot pointing at the left corner of the goal and then repoint the left foot at the right corner of the goal using the left hand.  The second drill starts with the ball already in the shooter’s hand (see Fig. 5).


The player faces a mirror with the left foot forward and the right leg way back and moves the body 45-degrees to the left catch an imaginary ball.  Then the player rotates back to face the mirror and throws and imaginary ball or soft fabric ball at the mirror.  The second mirror drill is for the player to spin left, catch the ball, spin to the right, and then points the left foot at the right side of the mirror.  Repeat the drill but this time the player spins and points the left foot at the left side of the mirror.  The player has duplicated all of the movement involved in Bad Angle R.B. (except for the left hand movement).  In addition, the player is learning that wherever the left foot points the ball follows.

The second mirror drill is for the player to step-back at a 45-degree angle to the left to catch the imaginary pass.  The player notices that both feet face the imaginary passer.  To shoot at the right corner of the imaginary goal, the hips rotate both of the feet to point to the right. The body does not move, only the feet.  Repeat several times until the player realizes the hips move the feet. 

The third drill is used when the player still does not understand that the hips move the feet. Use last month’s drill where the player stands in front of the mirror with his or her right hand on the hip joint (wiggle the leg to find hip joint moving) and tries to rotate the right foot without rotating the right hip.



There are two Bad Angle R.B. Shot drills: a right corner shot and the advanced left corner shot.  The right corner shooting drill is very simple—catch a pass from the right, turn and shoot. The R.B. left corner shot is more difficult and involves tremendous movement of the right leg and left hand.  The coach begins teaching with the left corner R.B. drill.  Once the players master the drill, the left corner R.B. drill is taught.  The left corner R.B. drill requires the player to master the skills of the left hand and right leg motions (see Fig. 6). 

The player drives the point (center) from the 7-meter line, stops at the 4-meter line, turns 45-degrees to face the passer at the extreme left.  The passer is located outside the left post on the 6-meter line.  The ball is passed high and hard to the R.B. shooter.  If the player is young, a softer and more lob-like pass is thrown.  With younger players, the player is allowed to stop dead in the water and catch the ball while in a static (non-dynamic) position.  The high school or college player catches the ball while in the air, sustains the height and spins to face the goal.  The R.B. shooter remains high in the air during the entire shot.  The shooter uses the left hand to assist in rotating the body through these two extreme rotations.

The beginning shooter of the right corner R.B. turns 45-degrees to the left to catch the ball in the air.  He or she quickly shoots the ball at the right corner without faking or sinking.  Both of the Bad Angle R.B. Shots are based on momentum and are time-sensitive.  The R.B. shooter has about 1-second to catch and shoot before he or she sinks.

The correct technique for the left corner R.B. shooter is to drive to the 4-meter line at full speed, stop with a forward high left knee and the right leg extended straight back, turn to the extreme left 45-degrees by using the left hand to sweep water and by then swinging the right leg to the extreme right so the left foot points at points at the left corner of the goal.  Body rotation is a combined left hand/right leg action.  On the other hand (no pun intended), the right arm only holds the ball up and the right hand only keeps the ball from falling in the water (see Fig. 9).


At the youth/beginner level, the R.B. right corner shooter faces the passer, catches the ball and then turns and shoots. In high school or college, the ball is passed medium hard and direct to the shooter’s R.B. left corner shooter’s hand.  Catching the ball at a 45-degree angle aim the left foot at the right corner of the goal.  Then the right leg does not moves 90-degrees and 1-meter to the left.  It is a much more difficult and advanced shot is to shoot at the left corner of the goal, which requires right leg movement to reposition the left foot to point to the left corner(see Fig. 7).


The left corner shot requires the shooter to move the right leg almost 90-degrees or 1-meter so the left foot can point at the left corner.  The right leg controls the left foot point.  If the shooter wants to move the left foot 90-degrees to point at the left corner of the goal then first the right leg must move 90-degrees.  For the shooter that does not know any theory at all, the concept of catching a bad angle pass and shooting at the left corner of the goal is beyond his or her comprehension (see Figs. 8, 9). 


Left Hand Motions

The left hand during this radical 90-degree spin to the face the left corner of the goal has three hand positions.  It is held wide and sweeps the left hand to the left as the hips rotate to swing the right leg wide right 45-degrees to catch the pass. Then the shooter’s right leg moves 90-degrees right from the catch spot, the left foot points at the left corner of the goal. The shooters footwork and legwork are now set.  Then the shooter’s left hand repositions itself close to the surface and points at the left corner, pulls down to elevate the shooter and begin the shot (see Fig. 9).


The left hand, left foot and the right leg control the shooter’s body position during the Bad Angle R.B. Shot.  The R.B. shot uses a radical change in right leg and left leg positioning and left hand positioning to be able to rotate the shooter’s body to the extreme left to catch the ball and to the extreme right to shoot the ball at the left corner of the goal.  In addition, the player becomes aware of how the left hand facilitates body rotation.  The Bad Angle R.B. Shot forces the player to master the theory and how to coordinate the right leg, left foot point and the left hand technique.  When the Bad Angle R.B. Shot is mastered, the player becomes a great shooter. So the moral of the story is the left foot points at the goal and the right leg points the left foot.

© Copyright 2013 Jim Solum
Next month: Drills Part 3

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