Jim Socum Shot Doctor Bandage Ball
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Volume 6 Number 7 June 1, 2013
The road to success is not doing one thing 100 percent better, but doing 100 things 0ne percent better.


The coach teaches the spin move, a weakside 180-degree spin around the guard for inside water to the left with varying degrees of success.  A lot of players do not know the basic mechanics of the spin move and are stopped by the guard or worse yet have an offensive foul called against them.  Interestedly, the 2-meter offensive player and 2-meter defensive player are the best at spin moves.  What happened to the drivers, one may ask?  Why does the driver have a difficult time learning how to spin around the perimeter guard?  The answer is very simple and lies in the fact that 2-meter players are involved in rotational movements and drivers are not.  The 2-meter guard spins around the 2-meter offensive player every time to front the center.  And the center takes 2-meter shots that are rotational shots: the backhand shot and the sweep shot.  The backhand rotates the body to the right for a backhand and to the left for a sweep shot.  Rotational movements by the center and the center guard are requirements to play either position.  For the driver, however, rotational movements are a new motion.  The driver is not used to making moves in the vertical nor rotating around the guard.  The driver is used to being horizontal in the water and flutter kicking and swimming straight ahead.

There are five 180-degree spin moves that the coach teaches to the players. There is the standard weakside spin move towards the right corner.  And there are four reverse direction or strongside spin moves that the player uses to spin towards the left corner of the goal.  The position of the guard determines which direction, right or left, the player spins.  When the guard is overplaying the right shoulder—spin to the left/the right corner of the goal; when the guard is overplaying the player’s left shoulder—spin to the right/the left corner of the goal.  The player never spins into the strength of the guard, i.e., guard overplays the player’s left shoulder so the player spins into the guard’s body on the left.  Misreading which side to spin to, results in the guard stealing the ball or getting a ball-under foul called on the player.  For this article we will concentrate on the weakside spin to the player’s left towards the right corner of the goal.  Next month in Part 4 the reverse strongside spins will be discussed.


The spin move seems like it is a “natural move” that anyone can do but in fact it is not a simple move.  The spin move is a skilled move that requires specialized training.  Few players can figure out a spin move without training.  The theory behind teaching rotation is different than teaching driving.  Driving is a horizontal swimming movement and a spin move is a vertical rotational movement.  It is not a “natural move” for the driver to drop his or her legs, grab the ball and grab the guard around the waist and rotate the body 180-degrees for inside water.  The average player knows only two vertical leg positions: eggbeater and the scissor kick.  This limited knowledge of the driver is not enough to be able to do a spin move correctly. The average player makes many mistakes: he short-spins the 180-degree spin move by grabbing the wrong hip or he leaps high out of the water, pushes off the guard’s shoulder and tries to lunge forward.  The weakside 180-degree spin move fails due to the driver not understanding the theory behind the move.  Below in Figure 1, the player grabs the wrong hip (the right hip) and only spins 90-degrees (see Fig. 1).


It is logical to assume (if you are a coach) that to leap high in the air is not going to allow the offensive player to spin around the guard. We copied the spin move from basketball.  In the spin move, the basketball player has both feet on the ground to spin around the defender.  The basketball player would never consider jumping up in the air to spin around the defender.  However, in water polo, our age group and high school players think that the way to spin around a guard is to jump straight up in the air!  The next obvious question for the reader is to ask why the water polo player jumps up in the air to spin around someone (see Fig. 2).


The player’s lack of leg education is the answer for our pole vaulter.  The young player only knows two vertical leg motions: eggbeater and the scissor kick.  If it is not the eggbeater kick then it must be the scissor kick (which elevates the player).  When this move fails, the player assumes that the left hand must be used to push down on the guard’s shoulder neck to so the player can lunge past the guard.  The average player is mystified when the move fails, and cannot figure out WHY he or she always has an offensive foul called on the spin move.

The concepts that the driver must learn are difficult: be vertical, rotate the body, use the left hand for leverage and swing the right arm to rotate the body and use the tactile senses of the back and left hand to locate the underwater hip leverage point.  The eyes cannot be used to guide the player—the player uses the back and the left hand in the spin move.  The player has to use the use the back to rub against the guard to sense where the guard is located—tight or loose.  Then the player’s left hand has to find where the guard’s waist and right hip are located so he or she can grab it as a leverage point to spin.  It is easier for the average player to locate the guard’s shoulder visually and push off.


The three major rules of the spin move are: The legs remain in the water and are wide a part so the player can rotate to the left—The left hand position on the guard’s body must be in the proper leverage point to spin.  And—The ball cannot be lifted straight up high in the air in order for the right arm and ball to rotate around the guard.  In simple word, one cannot go up in the air for the spin move to be effective.  All of the player’s movements must contribute to the player moving in a semi-circular direction around the guard (see Fig. 3).



The coach begins the demonstration by jumping up in the air with a guard behind. Naturally, all the players can see that the coach did not spin around the guard. Then the coach demonstrates the proper leg positioning to spin around a guard using a weakside spin to the right corner.  The coach shows how the player’s right leg steps-out and then he moves the right leg to the extreme left, towards the right corner, to spin the body.  The coach continues and demonstrates that the correct placement of the player’s left hand is not on the guard’s shoulder but on the waist and right hip.  Placement of the player’s hand on the guard’s nearside left hip only allows for a 90-degree turn (see Fig. 4). 


Placement of the player’s left hand on the guard’s opposite hip, the right hip, creates a leverage point where the player can rotate 180-degrees around the guard.  The coach finishes the third demonstration by showing that if the right arm and the ball go straight up in the air the player cannot rotate around the guard.  The correct position of the right arm is be locked and extended, pinching the ball in the fingers or palm the ball between the palm and the forearm and to rotate in a level position, across the water with the ball an inch (2.5-cm) above the imaginary water.  The right arm follows the right leg as the player’s body rotates to the left and the right corner of the goal with a lot of help from the left hand.  A special dry land drill for the boys is to push off of another player’s shoulder and jump straight up in the air.  The rest of the players can see that this is “dumb move” and does nothing. Dry land practice allows the players to watch and easily duplicate the spin move.  However, it is a different matter, when the players jump into the pool (see Fig. 5).



The coach moves the earth-bound players into the water to demonstrate how the spin move works in the real world—the aquatic world.  Of course all of the players have nodded their heads that they completely understand the dry land demonstration of the weakside spin move.  Naturally, the players have forgotten what they have learned once their bodies hit the water.  The coach must remember that the weakside spin move is a complex series of movements because the players will not.  Players learn by doing and not by listening.  The dry land talk is necessary for the players to understand the concept mentally of the spin move.  Once the players get in the water and have to do it physically, it gets complicated. 

The coach has a player and a guard in the water without a ball.  The player first places the left hand on the opposite hip or the farside right hip of the guard.  For many players lowering the left hand away from the guard’s shoulder and finding the guard’s waist and right hip is difficult.  The players have never had to feel their hand behind their back to find the guard’s waist and farside hip. Once the left hand is positioned on the farside leverage point then the player can step straight out with the right leg in what is called a step-out.  At which point, the player has the right elbow locked, the right arm close to the surface of the water and swings the right arm to the left towards the right corner of the goal.  The momentum of the right arm movement rotates the player’s body around the guard 180-degrees so he or she has inside water and is facing the goal (see Fig. 6).

There are three parts to the in-the-water demonstration: legs, left hand and right arm positioning.  Failure in any of the three parts dooms the spin move.  Failure of the spin move by incorrect spin mechanics results in the player having the ball stolen, a ball-under foul, only spinning 90-degrees or the referee calling a contra foul for player leaping high in the air (making it look like a push off).  The players see in the in-the-water demonstration that dry land “knowing” is not the same as in the water “doing.”  Ideas and movement are two different things when it comes to athletes. Side note: High school boys push off the guard’s shoulder and girls do not.  It seems that the girls realize that this is a wasted move and choose not to do it.  The boys, on the other hand, have to be dealt with a strong hand by the coach, as they will continue to shoulder push off during the spin move for their entire career unless stopped.


The player can perform spin moves at home in front of a mirror or alone in the water before practice begins.  The best place to do homework is in the pool with or without a partner.  The player must practice spin moves until it becomes “muscle memory” or more accurately a permanent neural pathway in the brain.  Once the player has successfully memorized the spin move, no further practice is necessary.  In reality, this a simple move.



Unless the center or driver reads the defense—the spin move is useless. What is meant by this statement is the player must read the position of the guard that is defending him.  This is a mental activity and it involves the tactile senses.  It is not a technical activity.  The offensive player spins in the direction that is opposite of the guard’s position to get inside water.  For example, if the guard overplays the player’s right shoulder, the spin is to the player’s left, towards the right corner of the goal.  Simply put: Guard’s chin on player’s right shoulder—spin left.   When the guard is overplaying the offensive player’s left shoulder, (guard’s chin on left shoulder) no weakside spin is possible (see Fig. 7). 


Once player knows that he can spin to inside water, he must “find” and grab the guard’s farside right hip leverage point to spin 180-degrees.  In Fig 8, the player incorrectly grabs the guard’s nearside left hip and only spins 90-degrees and does not get inside water.  The player has to “feel” where the guard’s body and right hip are positioned to be able to spin successfully (see Fig. 8).



The weakside spin move is basically one drill—spin around the guard—repeated over and over again with perfect technique.  After a few weeks the players learn how to do the weakside spin move to the left and the right corner of the goal and it only needs to be practiced occasionally.  The weakside spin move, however, is the offensive move most likely to result in a contra foul being called on the offensive player.  When the player does the spin correctly he or she has inside water; done incorrectly, a contra foul results.  While this is a simple move, the use of the back and the left hand to locate and position the player’s left hand correctly on the waist and the farside hip takes practice.  Water polo for the average player is a visual game and not a tactile game.  The player must learn to develop his or her hand skills to be able to feel the position of the guard in the water and accurately grab the right hip or waist of the guard.  The players must move his or her hand from pushing off the guard’s shoulder to moving the left hand down 24-inches (60-cm) without using the eyes to find the guard’s farside right hip.  It is not easy for the players. That is why it must be practiced over and over again to develop perfect technique (see Fig. 9). 


The spin move drill requires the player and the guard to be guarding each other tightly so the player can spread the legs apart and step-out to the ball with the right leg.  The guard may want to impress the coach in practice and have his/her hips high in the air, but this defeats the purpose of teaching the offensive drill.  The guard needs to drop his/her hips to the vertical so the offensive player can grab the guard’s waist and/or farside right hip and spin.  Dummy defense is what the guard is told to play.  Once the guard is snug on the offensive player the offensive player steps-out with the right leg to spread a part the legs so they can rotate easily (see Fig. 10).


Then the left hand technique is used as the player reaches around the guard’s back and grabs the middle of the guard’s back at waist level or the right side hip as a leverage point for the swing move.  No leverage = no 180-degree spin.  The player spins to the left without a ball to master this important spin move mechanic.   The player should turn 180-degrees around the guard for inside water.  If the spin is 90-degrees the coach knows the player grabbed the guard’s right hip.  When the spin is 120-150-degrees the coach knows the player’s left hand was not near the guard’s farside right hip.  The leverage point where the player grabs the guard’s waist determines the amount of spin.  No matter how much effort the player puts into a left hip leverage point he or she is only going to spin 90-degrees.  The leverage point or some call it the grab point IS the spin move (see Fig 11).


The right arm positioning technique is next after the leg positioning and left hand mechanics are completed.  The average player wants to scissor kick with the legs and lift the ball straight up into the air.  Jumping straight up in the air with the legs is not a spin move.  This upward body motion cannot work to spin around the guard.  The player must have his or her arm level with the surface of the water with the hand pinching the ball in the fingers or palming the ball.  The player with/without the ball and without a guard practices spinning in a half circle.  Once the concept of rotating the body 180—degrees is mastered the guard is added.  The player is instructed to grab the guard’s right hip or right side of the waist and spin with the ball around the guard.  The first impulse of the player is to dip the left shoulder to aid the spin, which automatically lifts the right arm and ball out of the water.  In this elevated arm and ball position the 180-degree spin becomes a 0-degree to 90-degree spin.  And the ball is knocked out of the player’s hand by the guard.  A toy top cannot spin unless it is vertical and level.  The player’s shoulders must be level to spin (see Figs. 10, 12).

The player’s right arm must be level with the water.  The elbow is straight and locked and moves arm swiftly across the surface of the water.  The speed of the arm swing is the speed of the spin move.  When the player slowly swings the arm, the spin is only 90-degrees and the ball is usually stolen by the guard.  For the player to have a fast spin there must be a fast moving right arm.  Some players will bend the arm in half when spinning and only move 90-degrees.  The right arm must be straight for a full and a fast spin move.



Once the player has spun around the guard, the player must hold position to protect inside water.  The beaten guard will immediately attempt to regain inside water by swimming around the player.  The player must make a “wall” with his or her butt by moving the body in front of the guard.  The spin move player should never get inside water and then immediately lose it by not protecting his or her position (see Fig. 13).


The drag and roll ball technique solves the problem of the ball drifting away after the spin move for the center or driver. The force of the spin move makes a large wave that carries the ball away from the offensive player.  The drag and roll technique prevents the ball from drifting away.



There are a number of mistakes that the spin move player makes when trying to finish the shot. Some players throw the ball on the spin move and the ball is stolen.  Another is to spin with ball underwater for an automatic ball-under foul. However, when the player has correctly held onto the ball and the player lets go of the ball after the spin (as he is supposed to) the ball is carried away by a wave.  When the player puts backspin on the ball, the ball spins in one place on top of the wave that is taking it out towards the goaltender.

The only technique that returns the ball to the original position after the spin is the drag and roll technique, which rolls the ball back to the player’s hand when a special hand technique is used. There is a big difference between a ball backspinning on top of a wave and a ball rolling backward over several waves. To get the hand in FRONT of the ball as spin is almost completed, the player lunges forward which allow him to place the hand in FRONT of the ball and SLO-O-O-W-LY drag the hand backward.  The ball slowly rolls back over the waves to the player’s hand for possession.  The spin is done at 20 mph (31 km/h) and the hand drag at 1 mph (1.6 km/h).  The spin and the lunge are two separate moves done at light-speed so they appear to be the same move. As a result, the player spins, fakes the kick out, sinks, and the ball rolls back to the player’s sunken body for an exclusion on the guard (see Fig. 14). 

This is the final and the most important part of the spin move is:  Keeping possession of the ball by the offensive player!  Many referees will not call an exclusion foul on the holding guard if the offensive player does not have possession of the ball.  A ball that floated away and is now located half way between the goalie and the offensive player.  The offensive player does not have possession of the ball—the pool owns the ball!  A spin move that loses the ball is a worthless effort. The drag and roll technique should be practiced at every practice until the players memorize this critical hand skill in ball handling.  It is a crucial technique.


The weakside spin move to the left towards the right corner of the goal is a necessary move for the frontcourt offense when the center is covered and allows the drivers to create offense.    With the spin move, no longer are the perimeter players just sitting idly by, unable to pass the ball into the double-team center.  The driver can now spin his or her guard and go on offense.  The elements of the weakside spin move are: read the defense, the right leg step-out and positioning, the left hand grabbing the guard’s right hip and the right arm being low and straight.  The driver does not push off the guard’s shoulder and jump high into the air as this is creates a foul.  After the spin move is completed it is vital for the player to retain possession of the ball by using the drag-and-roll technique.  Properly performed, the spin move adds a new offensive dimension to the frontcourt offense.

© Copyright 2013 Jim Solum
Next Month: Teaching Shooting Part 4 Reverse Spin Moves

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