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Volume 6 Number 8 July 1, 2013
The road to success is not doing one thing 100 percent better, but doing 100 things 0ne percent better.



In last month’s article we covered the standard weakside spin move towards the right corner of the goal.  This month we look at three strongside reverse spins and one over the top spin move.  The strongside reverse spin moves are done when the guard overplays the offensive player’s left shoulder and has his or her body offset to the extreme weakside shoulder of the offensive player.  All moves by the offensive player to the weakside right corner of the goal are stopped.  However, the knowledgeable player will adapt and spin towards the strongside shoulder, the right shoulder and the left corner of the goal to become free.  The guard is completely out of position to defend against a move to the strongside shoulder and the left corner of the goal.  The addition of a strongside spin move forces the guard to play “even up” and play behind the offensive player.

There have always been water polo players that have done strongside spin moves on their teams.  However, it was not until 2006 that men’s college teams whole-heartedly begun using strongside spin moves as the guard overplayed the offensive player’s left shoulder to prevent the weakside spin move.  Soon strongside spin moves became a nation-wide move.  There are three reverse strongside spin moves that are used to defeat the guard who overplays the offensive player’s left shoulder.  In addition, there is a center shot out of a strongside spin.   Spin moves when done properly should not result in offensive fouls. In the strongside spin the offensive player does not grab the guard’s waist or farside hip to spin and therefore there is no contact and no contra foul should be called by the referee. 



The strongside spin move cannot work if the guard is expecting it and is positioned on the offensive player’s right shoulder.  The only time the offensive player uses a strongside spin move is when the guard is overplaying the player’s left shoulder.  The read of the guard’s positioning is critical for the offensive player to select the correct type of spin move.  The strongside spin move prevents the guard from overplaying the offensive player’s weakside spin move to the left.  Now the guard cannot set up to exclusively block the weakside spin move.  The guard has to play behind the offensive player and cannot shade one shoulder or the other.  In this neutral guarding position, the offensive player can spin to the left (weakside) or right (strongside) the guard (see Fig. 1).


The coach demonstrates that the right hand is pinching or palming the ball and swings the right arm and right leg to the right to face the imaginary goal.  The left hand does not grab the right hip or any part of the guard’s  body.  Add a guard who is overplaying the coaches left shoulder.  The coach may even have the guard put their right hand on the coach’s left shoulder for more realism.  The players can see the rotation of the coach’s body.  However, once, they get into the aquatic environment, the players immediately forget what they learned.  A terrestrial demonstration does not carry over into the pool.

A reverse strongside spin does not use any hand hold on the guard’s swimsuit.  Only the weakside spin move uses the offensive player’s left hand to grab the guard’s farside right hip as a leverage point to spin.  The strongside spin can only be done if the guard overplays the offensive player’s left shoulder and is totally out of position to defend against a spin move to the right.  The left hand swimsuit hold makes the weakside spin move; the guard being out of position makes the strongside spin move.  Reverse strongside spins are becoming quite common as the guards assume that every spin move is going to be a weakside spin to the left.



In the pool, the guard overplays the offensive player’s left shoulder to prevent the weakside spin move to the left.  With the guard completely out of position to defend a spin move to the right, the offensive player pinches the ball or palms the ball and spins to the right for inside water.  Practice having the guard in a neutral position and then move to the offensive player’s left shoulder to force the offensive player to “read the defense.”   The correct move is for the offensive player is a strongside spin to the right to get away from the guard.  The rote player only does a weakside spin to the left, cannot adjust to the dynamic game of water polo.  He or she will continue to do a weakside spin into the guard without thinking about the consequences.  Reading the defense requires the offensive player to be able to improvise to gain the advantage over the guard (see Fig. 2).


The player stands in front of a mirror and does a strongside spin to the right without a guard.  Next, grab a brother or sister (a parent will also do) and have the person over play the player’s left shoulder and spin to the right.  For a complete read of the defense, have brother or sister switch from shoulder to shoulder so the player has to respond and spin to the right or left. When facing the mirror it is easy to see what side the defender is on.  For a greater degree of difficult, the player turns their back to the mirror and feels what side the defender is located on.


The strongside drills are simple.  With a guard, the stationary offensive player spins around the defender who is overplaying the player’s left shoulder.  The guard plays dummy defense with the hips down and has to play slowly.  Guards that play “smartly” ruin the drill because they know that it is a spin move to the right. Practice for 10-minutes a day until the strongside spin move is mastered.  The coach needs to have the spin done with perfect technique and speed.  A slow spin is the result of poor technique.  Slow spin moves are squashed by the guard.  In a game, the players have to be reminded that when the guard is overplaying their left shoulder, they are wide open to spin to the right.  Players can get very conservative in a game and forget to read the defense or to use a strongside spin move.  The coach needs to practice both spins, weakside and strongside, during the practice so the players become accustomed to the both types of spin moves



In the over the top move, a women’s move, the driver palms the ball and lunges straight into the guard’s right shoulder, becomes free, and has inside water.  This move does not work very well with males as the guard quickly snuff out the move.  The technique for the over the top spin move is to place the right hand on top of the ball and pinch it or palm it.  Palming the ball gives the player more control and she is less likely to drop the ball.  The player leans forward, gets her legs underneath her hips and scissor kicks up hard and flings the right arm back for momentum.  The woman lands on her back just past the guard’s right shoulder.  Then driver flips on her stomach and drives away leaving the guard vertical and dead in the water.  There is no swimsuit grab with this move. 



This is the standard strongside spin move for spinning around the guard to the right for inside water.  The player reads the position of the guard to see that the guard has overplayed the offensive player’s left shoulder anticipating a weakside spin move towards the left.  Once the player has established that the guard is overplaying his or her left shoulder, the offensive player spins to the strongside, away from the guard’s hands (see Fig. 3). 


This is a variation on the spin move with the hand under the ball and not having the hand on top of the ball.  The player grabs the ball underneath and spins to the strongside.  The guard that is used to seeing the driver place his or her hand on top of the ball is surprised and is beaten to the strongside for inside water.  The fundamentals for the hand under the ball spin move are the same as the hand on top spin move.  Very few players use the hand under the ball technique for some reason.  It is a deceptive spin move that seems to work every time as the guard has never seen this type of spin move before.


Fig 4



The strongside spin move to face the goal for a center presents a problem.  The center’s right foot and right shoulder are facing the goal after the spin.  The center is used to the left foot pointing at the goal when shooting.  The center needs to learn a right foot shot to score.  This is not a unique situation in water polo as it would seem.  The right post player (US-3, EU-3) has same right foot/right shoulder body position in the 6-on-5.  The righthander (US-1, EU-5) passes the ball into the right post for a right foot/right shoulder tip-in shot.  For the center shot after the strongside spin move, the right footed center keeps their right hand on the ball, raises the arm up in the air, uses a forearm shake fake and throws the ball over the goalie’s head.  The goalie does not expect a shot from the center and is unprepared to block the shot (see Figs. 4, 5, 6).  

Men doing a strongside spin usually sink underwater and get an exclusion foul.  A man’s body does not float and he takes advantage of this lack of buoyancy and sinks to the bottom of the pool.  Women, on the other hand, float.  The woman center completes the spin and is high in the water.  The referee does not call an exclusion.  The referee is not a women player and does not realize that women float even if she is held.  He (usually it is a he) does not realize that a strongside spin results in a right foot forward leg position that makes it difficult for the center to shoot the ball unless the guard has her hands up instead of holding.  For comparison, the weakside spin results in a left foot forward leg position, which is the normal leg position for throwing the ball.  Players shoot with their left foot forward, just as baseball pitchers throw with their left foot in a forward position.  The women were in a quandary as the spin move was a nice move with no possible shot.  So they invented a right foot center shot to use with the strongside spin move.

The women centers adopted a 6-on-5 post shooting move where the post shooter’s right shoulder was facing the goal for a 1-spot to 3-spot pass to a shot (EU 5 to 3).  A spin to a shot has the center’s right shoulder/right foot shot has the center palm the ball on top and do one or two in the air fakes and shoot the ball over the goalie’s head.  The center’s left shoulder is used to bump (shoulder push off) the guard’s chest for extra separation from the guard. The right arm is vertical and the ball is held high with a fake or two.  The forearm fakes shake the forearm back and forth a couple of times to gain momentum to release the ball and score.  The center right foot  shot is in widespread use among the top high school and college women water polo players. Boys and men can also take this shot.



The coach should have the team practice backhand shot passes and sweep shot passes to help the player perform the spin move better.  When the coach looks at a strongside spin move he or she should also see that it is a backhand without a shot.  When the strongside spin move was introduced, the first players to adopt the spin move were centers. The drivers took much longer time to adopt the spin move.  The backhand shot is a body rotation to the right; the strongside spin move is a body rotation to the right.  One lets go of the ball (backhand) and the other one (spin move) holds on to the ball.  To help with weakside spin moves, the coach has two players practice throwing sweep shot passes to each other.  Body rotation is body rotation, whether it is to the right or left side.  The drivers need to be able to move in the vertical with their legs down and rotate their bodies to do a spin move.  Swimming horizontally is not enough.  The centers have been doing spins for their backhand and sweep shots for years.  It only takes seconds to teach a center how to do a spin move; about a week for the driver (see Fig. 7).


There are three reverse strongside spin moves, over the top, hand on top and hand underneath.  These spin moves are used by the offensive player to get open on a guard that is overplaying the player’s left shoulder anticipating a weakside spin to the left.  The offensive player reads the defense, the guard’s chin position on the offensive player’s shoulder.  Guard’s chin on right shoulder = a weakside spin.  The guard’s chin on the offensive player’s left shoulder = a strongside spin.  In addition, when the center does a strongside spin he or she needs to move into a right shoulder/right foot shooting position and shoot the ball over the goalie’s head.  Because women centers float this is an easier shot for them.  For the men, they must kick hard to regain a shoulders out-of-the-water position for the right foot shot. 

In the final analysis, the use of the strongside spin move enables the offensive player to take advantage of the guard’s attempt to stop the weakside spin move.  The offensive plays spins to the strongside and scores.  The guard now has to play in a neutral position on the offensive player and not overplay one side or the other.  With the guard in this neutral position the offensive player can now spin in either direction.  Adding the strongside spin move to the team creates many more inside water drives in the frontcourt offense and makes the offense more mobile and unpredictable.

Copyright 2013 Jim Solum
Next Month: Teaching the Shooting Part 5

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