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Volume 6 Number 10 August 1, 2014
The road to success is not doing one thing 100 percent better, but doing 100 things 0ne percent better.

Forgotten Angles and Forbidden Shots

Photograph by Water Polo World

In the last four articles, we covered the five forgotten angles and four forbidden shots, the lob, the skip shot, the backhand, and the side arm shot.  We have learned to read the goalie from the shooter’s angle on whether or not to shoot to the strongside of the goal or the weakside of the goal and what shot to take.  In this article, we examine the technical clues that the goalie’s body gives us as to where to shoot the ball.  Does the goalie have strong legs and good blocking technique or bad?  Is the goalie fat and slow? Does the goalie have deep hands, is he or she better to the right arm, a jumpy goalie, a goalie afraid of the ball, slow to react, too quick to react, shuts his or her eyes, pulls away from the ball, or sinks after one fake.  When the shooter has these clues to the physical nature of the goalie’s technique and playing skill, he or she can increase their scoring average dramatically.  Knowing that a goalie cannot block a particular shot, an angle, a high corner shot, and lob or skip shot or uses incorrect blocking technique are golden clues on how to score on the goalie. 

These are the hidden goalie clues that the shooter must read if he or she is going to maximize his or her scoring percentage.  It is rare that a coach knows much about goalies— how to train them or even how to score on them.  “Just throw the ball at the goal and it will go in” is the usual instruction to the shooter by the coach.  The shooter believes that he or she only needs to overpower the goalie with a hard shot and the goalie will be knocked back, fall into the goal, with the cage collapsing into pieces.  The theory behind this throwing concept is wrong.  It takes skill to score on a goalie, not just brute strength!

The goalie read requires the shooter to evaluate the angle, the shot, and the goalie’s technique.  For example, if the goalie has deep hands and weak legs, he or she cannot block the high corner shot.  All shots thrown to the high corner of the goal will score.  A goalie with no lateral movement receives a cross-cage shot.  These simple reads result in every shot going into the cage.  The shooter reads the leg strength of the goalie and their technique for clues.  The goalie’s body tells the shooter where to throw the ball.  

There are no great goalies, only bad shooters

Most goalies are bad.  However, the shooter throws the ball into the arms of the goalie anyway. “Did the goalie block my shot?”  On the other hand, the shooter should ask, “Did I block my own shot by aiming at his or her arm?”  There are no great goalies, only bad shooters. The average age group and high school goalie has no instruction at all in blocking technique.  Many players are made into goalies because they cannot swim very well.  The goalie should be the best athlete on the team with the strongest legs.  Most of the time the goaltender is the worse athlete on the team and the shooter must take advantage of this situation.  Unfortunately, for the shooter, few shooters can read the goalie’s clues.  Most of the shooter’s shots are thrown at the goalie’s body for an easy block.  The shooter, however, with a few instructions, can double or triple his or her scoring average if they evaluate the goalie before throwing the ball.

When the shooter’s mechanics and the mind meld together into one, the ball will score.  If the shooter is unthinking, throws a power shot at the low corner every time and never looks at the goaltender, the ball rarely scores.  Luck, not skill, puts the ball in the goal for the unconscious shooter.   The skilled shooter is not affected by bad luck.  He or she takes and makes the high percentage shot and scores every time.

Scout the Goalie in Warm Up

The shooter needs to evaluate the goalie.  The best time to read the goalie is during the warm up before the game.  It is always a good idea for the shooter to spend a few minutes watching how the opponent’s goalie is blocking various shots and protecting the corners.  Since all shooters want to score, the goalie’s teammates will always show you how to beat him during warm ups!  This is valuable information that the shooter needs to have before the game begins.  To shoot at a goalie without any idea of the goalie’s strengths and weakness is sheer folly.  It may take the shooter several quarters during the game to find out that the goalie cannot block a lob, a skip shot or a high corner shot.  By this time in the game, the shooter has already had several shots blocked.  The shooter’s  read of the goalie starts before the game starts—not during the game.

The goalie creates the shot not the shooter.

The goalie creates the shot not the shooter.  What this means is that the shooter’s idea what he or she wants to do with the ball is changed when the shooter confronts reality—the goalie. The shooter takes what the goalie gives him. For example, if the goalie is set up to block the shooter’s favorite shot and spot, the shooter changes the shot and the corner.    By changing, the shooter takes advantage of the goalie’s weaknesses in the cage.  Reading the goalie requires the shooter to adjust to the goalie’s play.  Rarely, can the shooter dominate a good goalie.  Take (advantage) what the goalie gives you.  Scoring on the goalie is in actuality, smartness.  Smart shooters score; dumb shooters do not.

Shooters are Dumb

Since most untrained shooters are going to throw the ball into the goalie’s arms, the goaltender has little to fear.  Goalies are taught, “All shooters are dumb.”  They are taught to come out of the cage with the arms raised at between 15-inches to 18-inches (38-41-cm) in the middle of the cage to block the shot.  The goalie knows the low elbow shooter, with center of the ball at 15-inches (38-cm) above the water with weak legs, is going to throw the ball at the middle of the cage or at the low corner of the cage.  It is simple for the goalie to block the average shooter’s shot.  Scary but true.  The author agrees with the popular goalie opinion that most shooters are dumb.


Small Goalie   Shuts his Eyes
Fat Goalie   Sinks after one Fake
Deep Hands    Cannot Block the Lob
Jumpy Goalie    Pulls Away from the Ball 
Bites on the Fake   Weak to the Left Hand
Afraid of the Ball   Shooter Shoots Low from Outside
Too Slow to React   Gap in the Corner
Too Quick to React    Cannot Block the Skip Shot
Hides in the Goal   The Great Goalie
Arm Swinging Goalie    

Small Goalie

The small goalie cannot make it across the goal on a weakside power shot or lob.  The goalie cannot “fill the goal” and make it look like the goaltender is covering the entire cage.  The small goalie looks small in the goal.   Cross-court passes to a shot and lobs are the bane of the small goalie because of reduced lateral movement in the cage.  The goalie’s arms are not long enough to make it across the cage to block the cross-court shot.  The same is true of the weakside shot from an angle, such as a 2-spot (EU 4-spot) shot to the right corner.  The lob goes over the head of the out of position small goalie. The small goalie has to read the angle much better than a taller goalie to block the shot.  The small goalie can be overpowered by a hard shot. 

Fat Goalie: Shoot high

The fat goalie is out of shape, has weak legs and deep hands, and is usually a poor swimmer.  He or she is in the cage to prevent being beaten on the counterattack.  The shooter is looking at the weakest possible goaltender he or she will ever see.  The ball is thrown at the high corner of the goal where the fat goalie is unable to lift him or herself out of the water.

Deep Hands: Shoot high


When the goalie’s hands are deep it means he or she has weak legs and must use the sculling hands to assist in staying up in the goal.  Deep hands should be the first item on the list that the shooter checks on when facing the goalie.  A goalie with deep hands cannot react quick enough to get to the high corner shot.  All shots are thrown at the high corner of the goal.  The players should be able to read that the goalie cannot block a high corner shot by the first quarter of the game or, better yet, before the game during warm-up (see Figs. 1, 2).




In Figure 4, the counterattacker is low in the water with a low elbow.  The ball is thrown at the middle of the cage at the goalie’s arms for a block (see Figs. 3, 4).

Note: In a recent Southern California CIF quarterfinal game between two famous Orange County high school boy teams, the goalie could not jump to the high corners of the goal, due to weak legs and deep hands.  However, in the game, he blocked 10 one-on- nobody counterattack shots!  The counterattacker would tire, not elevate very high out of the water and have a low elbow and shoot low.  The result was the ball was thrown 15-inches (38-cm) above the water in the middle of the goal at the goalie’s arms. 

Jumpy Goalie: Patience and any shot goes in

The jumpy goalie reacts too quickly and pulls the hands out of the water.  The jumpy goalie will also jump to the high corner or to one side.  A good fake can cause the jumpy goalie to leap up early in the goal.  The shooter should never try to out-quick the jumpy goalie but wait for the goalie to jump up.  Once the goalie is committed, and airborne, the game is over for the goalie. 

Bites on the Fake: Shoot high

A one fake goalie is like the jumpy goalie.  The goaltender has his hands lightly sculling in the water but bites on the shooter’s first fake.  He or she leaps up and is sinking as the ball is shot high.  The shooter fakes, reads and waits.  If the goalie jumps early, the shooter throws the ball a second later.   Do not throw the ball low into the hands of a sinking goalie!

Afraid of the ball: Throw the ball at goalie or corner

When the goalie is afraid of being hit in the face with the ball, he or she will pull away from the shot.  The goalie will duck the head or the pull the arm away from the ball.  The shooter facing the frighten goalie shows no mercy.  The shooter throws the ball right at the goalie’s face or high corner to intimidate the goalie.  A goalie is a psychological being.  They have to be in a good mood to play goalie.  Once the goaltender is challenged and scored on, the goalie becomes depressed and gives up.  

Too slow to react: Shoot at high corner

A goalie that has slow reactions to the release of the ball is scored upon by quick wrist shots and by high corner shots.  Goalies must have quick reflexes to play in the goal.  Almost any shot will score, even the over the head shot.  There is no need for patience as the goalie’s hands are too slow to block the ball.  Deep hands is a tip off that the goalie will have a slow arm motion upward.

Too quick to react: Fake and wait

The goalie reacts and leaps up on any movement by the shooter.  Kick up high out of the water and the goalie jumps, pump fake once and the goalie jumps, etc.

Hides in the Goal: Any shot will score

The inexperienced goalie is deep inside the goal and uses the cage as a “home.”  However, the goalie needs to play outside the cage to cut down the shooter’s angle and block the shot.  Any shot thrown inside the goal is a goal whether the goalie gets a hand on it or not.

Shuts his eyes: Throw at face or anywhere

The well-trained goalie watches the ball until it hits his or her arm.  The untrained goalie or fearful goalie closes his or her eyes as the ball is shot.  The shooter shows no mercy in the first quarter of the game and throws the ball at the goalie’s face.  The shooter intimidates the goalie.   Another shot is to shoot at the high corner of the goal because the goalie has to see the high corner shot and he cannot because his eyes are shut.  Skip shots are another good shot that a blind goalie cannot block.

Arm Swinging Goalie

The swinging arm goalie is usually a boy goalie in high school.  The goalie swings at the ball without any leg support behind the arm.  The result is, the goalie’s arm swing makes contact with the ball, but ball knocks the arm into the goal for a score.  Almost anything thrown towards the corner goes into the goal on the arm-swinging goalie.

Cannot Block the Lob: Lob


The goalie that cannot block the lob is found in both genders.  After the skip shot, the lob is the second most hated shot on the goalie’s list of undesirable shots to block.  Most goalies react too soon or do not move far enough to the corner to block the shot.  A goalie should immediately move all of the way to the corner and wait for the lob to drop to block the lob shot.  Women, due to their shorter arms, have a more difficult time setting up to block a lob than male goalies.  A woman goalie may make the wrong assumption that she is facing “a dumb shooter,” and overplays the bad angle and jams the goal post.  The alert shooter sees the goalie is out of position and lobs to the open weakside corner of the goal for the score (see Fig. 5). 

A goalie with poor lob blocking technique will incorrectly play the lob “short” and attempt to block the lob at the middle of the crossbar.  However, the lob continues and scores in the corner of the goal.  A lob that is short, always hits the middle of the crossbar of the goal.  There is no reason for the goaltender not to go to the corner to wait for the lob shot.  To prevent the alert goalie from playing the angle correctly, a good shooter should fake the goalie on the strongside angle, lock the goalie to the goal post, and then lob the ball to the weakside for the score.  To “lock and lob” the 2-spot (EU 4) shooter must first point the left foot at the left corner, fake, and then move the left foot to re-point the foot at the right corner and shoot (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Lobs Part 1-3).

Pulls away from the ball: Shoot at that corner 

A goalie that pulls away from the ball cannot block a corner shot.  The goalie’s head should move towards the ball he or she is attempting to block.  The goalie’s arm follows the head.  The goalie does not want ball to hit his face and pulls the head away from the ball (along with the arm).  When the shooter sees the goalie’s head pull away from the shot, the ball should place the ball in the corner of the goal. 

Weak to the Left Hand: Shoot at left hand

Most goalies are righthanded and play shots thrown at the left corner of the goal well. However, the righthanded goalie has a more difficult time playing to his or her left hand and the right corner of the goal.  The shooter during warm ups should look downcourt at his opponent’s goalie to see if the goalie favors his or her right hand.

Shooter Shoots Low from the Outside: Shoot high

The goalie knows that most shooters on the 7-meter line or beyond are going to shoot at the low corner of the goal.  The rule is, Outside—Shoot High.  For a low corner outside shot, the goalie does not need to leap up.  The goalie sits and waits for the low corner ball to hit their waiting wet hand.  On the other hand, the high corner shot from 7-meters forces the goalie to judge the speed of the ball and make a judgment on when to leap up to block the ball.  Half of the time the goalie misjudges the speed of the ball and the ball goes into the high corner.  Again, the golden rules is, THE SHOOTER SHOULD NEVER SHOOT LOW WHEN OUTSIDE.Unfortunately, most shooters do not listen to the coach and shoot low!

Gap in the Corner: Shoot at gap


The goalie plays the bad angle of the 1-spot, 2-spot, (EU 5-spot, 4-spot) the left side of the pool, leaves a small gap in the corner.  The goalie believes he or she is on the angle, but is slightly offset towards the center of the goal.  When the goalie is offset in the cage, there is a gap next to the goal post.  The goalie believes the arm covers the corner—it’s not.  At the age group and high school levels, the inexperienced goalie leaves a gap most of the time in the goal.  The shooter throws the ball into the strongside gap and scores (see Fig. 6). 

Cannot Block the Skip Shot: Skip the ball


The goalie is unable to figure out the trajectory of the skipped ball and the ball scores.  The shooter skips the ball on all of his shots.  In age group and high school, boys and girls, the goalie is not good at blocking skip shots (see Fig. 7).

The Great Goalie: You are in trouble!


The great goalie, as seen in the above photograph, reads the shooter, moves to the ball, knows the direction of the ball and the release of the ball, if the ball is going to the high or low corner, keeps his eyes on the ball and moves the head in the direction of the ball.  The goalie’s left arm pushes off the water to accelerate his movement to the left corner of the goal.  The great goalie has control of his body and supports the arm with the legs so the arm does not swing backward and let the ball bounce off the arm into the goal (see Fig. 8).

A shooter that has feasted on bad goalies in age group or high school is in trouble facing the great goalie.  A great goalie has quick reflexes, strong legs, plays the angle correctly, and has great technique.  The shooter is not going to beat the goalie to the high corner of the cage.  The shooter is not going to overpower the goalie.  The goalie blocks the lob shot and the quick wrist shot does not work. The shooter has to have a good pump fake or a hesie fake to deceive the goalie.  The hesie fake is a series of short abrupt non-rhythmic burst-like fakes (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Hesie Fakes Part 1-4).  A good fake pulls the goalie’s hands out of the water or moves him or her to the left corner or right corner.  The great goalie is a thinking goalie but one that can be deceived by a good fake.  The shooter by faking the ball can cause the goalie to commit early.  

The shooter requires patience as a great goalie is not easily scored to on.  The shooter must keep shooting no matter what happens.  A shot not taken is a 100-percent miss.  Sometimes, the shooter loses the battle and the goalie dominates the shooter.  However, the shooter keeps shooting, no matter what is the outcome. 


The read of the goalie’s technique creates the shot—not the shooter’s ego.  The physical ability of the goalie or lack of creates the shot for the shooter.  The shooter does not take a shot without first reading and understanding the goalie’s technique and weaknesses.  Blindly throwing the ball low in the direction of the goaltender’s body is not going to score.  The shooter, when facing the goaltender, quickly evaluates what type of goalie he or she is going to shoot at.  For most goalies, a high corner shot or a cross-cage weakside shot is going to score.  For better goalies, the shooter sees if the goalie is on the angle, leaves a gap in the goal to the right corner or left corner, or bites on the fake.  The goalie has a weakness in the cage and the shooter must find it before he or she shoots.  Reading the goalie requires the shooter to develop his or her mental skills: thinking, analysis, and patience.  The end-result of developing the mental game is the ability of the shooter to find the weak spot in the goaltender’s technique and score.

© Copyright 2014 Jim Solum
Next month: Reading the Goalie Part 6

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