Offensive Structures: Part 5

Monte Nitzkowski
US Men's Olympic Coach '72, '80, and '84


  The Inside Pick  

The inside pick varies greatly from the moving pick. First, it is set by an offensive player positioned to the inside. As an example, in an Umbrella this pick is set by the left or right WING PLAYER, as they are playing to the inside (toward the goal) of the other perimeter positions. The inside offensive player moves to pick off either the 11-O'CLOCK DEFENDER, or 1-O'CLOCK DEFENDER. In the true sense of the word, the inside offensive player really is "picking off the defender. The Driver accomplishes this by stopping next to the defender and using his/her body to briefly block the defender's movement.

Sometimes momentary impeding does take place and referees can call an offensive foul. An offensive-foul call is very common internationally. In the United States, the referees tend to be more liberal with their pick calls. As a result, much greater use of the inside pick is seen in the United States game.

As mentioned earlier in this section, the 1972 United States Olympic Team employed the inside pick extensively and to great advantage on its journey to capture the bronze medal in Munich. Properly executed, the inside pick creates a free player 100% of the time.

Let's take a look at the inside pick and some of its possibilities:

Figure 22

Figure 22 shows the inside pick on the 1-o'clock side.

Illustration in Figure 22 shows the (WING PLAYER) moving to pick off the defender guarding the 1-o'clock position. Once set, the situation looks like this:

Figure 23

Figure 23 shows the WING PLAYER has picked the 1-O'CLOCK DRIVER. As the 1-O'CLOCK DRIVER moves to the left, a two-on-one situation has been created. The WING DEFENDER has a choice of staying with the WING PLAYER or picking up the 1-O'CLOCK DRIVER. If the WING PLAYER is covered, the offensive 1-O'CLOCK DRIVER is free for some type of dry shot. If the WING PLAYER switches to the 1-O'CLOCK DRIVER, the offensive WING PLAYER comes off the outpositioned 1-O'CLOCK DEFENDER and moves to an advantage position for the shot.

The same type of pick positioning can be used on the opposite, or right side of the pool. However, as most players are righthanded, the inside pick on the left side (righthander's side) is usually favored.

If both defenders pinch back to prevent the WING PLAYER from setting the pick, the two offensive players and the two-meter passer must recognize the situation. When the defense drops to pinch off the player trying to set the pick, the WING PLAYER needs to slide in front of the defenders (he/she is now facing the defenders) and set a screen for the outside (1-o'clock or 11-o'clock) player. This player should come to the vertical behind the screen and take the two-meter pass for a shot. The offensive player setting the screen must use his/her body, not the arms, to set the screen. Caution must be taken not to draw an offensive, blocking foul. See Figures 24 and 25.

Figure 24

In Figure 24 the defense pinches back.

Figure 25

In Figure 25 the 1-O'CLOCK DRIVER uses screen for shot.

The inside pick changes to a moving type pick when the wing player does not stop to set a pick, but crosses over to the inside in an effort to confuse or "rub-off' the defense. When referees are calling offensive fouls on a team's picking game, the inside pick should be changed to the moving pick.

  The Muscle Pick  

When run properly, the muscle pick can be highly successful. The muscle pick is generally run from the left side (righthander's side) of the pool and executed by the 1-O'CLOCK DRIVER and WING PLAYER.

This is the pick which Jim Kruse used so effectively with the National Team in 1977 and 1978. Kruse would set up at the

1-o'clock offensive position and drive to the inside on the first pass in to two meters. See Figure 26.

Figure 26

In Figure 26, Kruse, at 1-o'clock, executes a strong-side drive covered by his defender. At the same time, the WING PLAYER rotates out to fill for Kruse's drive, creating a loop around situation.

Figure 27

In Figure 27, Kruse is now at the inside position with the WING PLAYER and his defender rotated to the outside. The next key move, the two-meter pass to the releasing point player, also is shown.

Figure 28

Now, as the point player makes the return pass to the 2-M PLAYER, Kruse moves out and rotates so his back is flat against the back of the outside defender. See Figure 28.

As the back to back pick is set, the 1-O'CLOCK DRIVER starts a hard, short drive to the left, hopefully freezing Kruse's inside defender. At this point, Kruse slides slightly to his right and extends his right arm to receive the two-meter pass for a quick release shot. If his original defender is frozen, even for a second, Kruse is free enough for the quick shot.
Kruse was very strong and had a quick, short range of motion shot. With Kruse and the muscle pick, the United States had a great offensive weapon. If the inside defender completely committed to him, the 1-O'CLOCK DRIVER was free for the shot. See 29 and 30.

Figure 29

Figure 29 shows the muscle pick shot.

Figure 30

Figure 30 shows the 1-O'CLOCK DRIVER shooting when inside defender stays with Kruse.
When positioning for the muscle pick, many times the outpositioned defender trys to grab and hold in an effort to prevent a shot. This creates a great excuse for the player running the muscle pick to use his/her left (underwater) hand on top of the defender's suit, using the fouling defender for leverage to take the shot.

Picks can be used with equal success from the Umbrella and the Three—Three offensive structures. However, as there is little driving room for the outside players in the Three—Three structure, when the 11-O'CLOCK DRIVER or the 1-O'CLOCK DRIVER do drive, they are almost certainly driving to create a picking situation between themselves and their teammates on the wing. The type of pick to be set should be determined by two criteria: the defenses' methods of playing the pick and what the referees are calling. When the drive originates from the outside, many of the picks set in the Three—Three are screen-type picks, created by the outside drive. When the pick is set by the inside (wing) player, both screen and pick movement shots can be created.

The three basic picks described earlier in this section (moving, inside and muscle) provide the base for a number of variations which may be known by other names. Be creative. Work on picking moves which beat the defense but also are acceptable to the referees.

In addition to his lucid explanation of Offensive Structures: Picks, Monte presents in his book, United States Tactical Water Polo, a series of excellent drills which will reinforce the concepts taught in the articles on Offensive Structures: Picks. WPP will not have an article on these drills; however you can buy Monte's book and get them - Doc

(Monte began coaching water polo internationally with the Pan American Games in 1967 and retired following the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles . He served as Assistant Pan American Coach in 1967 (Gold Medal) and 1975 (Silver Medal), and as Head Pan American Coach in 1979 (Gold Medal) and 1983 (Gold Medal). Monte was the Assistant United States Olympic Water Polo coach in Mexico City (5th place) and Head Olympic Coach for the 1972 Munich Olympics (Bronze Medal), the 1980 Moscow Olympics (boycott) and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics (Silver Medal). The 1980 Olympic Water Polo Team was one of the finest teams ever to represent the United States and was con­sidered a strong contender for the Gold Medal. During his career, exclusive of the boycott, every Olympic Team which Monte head ­coached won an Olympic Medal. Monte was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale , Florida in 1991.

Monte has written two excellent water polo books, United States Tactical Water Polo and Water Polo, Learning and Teaching the Basics. Starting March 15 , Water Polo Planet will feature a monthly water polo article by Monte Nitzkowski. His books can be found at his Water Polo Consulting Service web site. - Doc)