Special Situations: Part 2

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

Play Two

For the second restart situation (plenty of time left in the quarter, but with the desire to create an immediate shot off the restart), Play Two can be called. See Figure 3.

Figure 3 Figure 4

In Figure 3 see the offensive players are lined up at mid-court, with the Goalkeeper moved up and the restart pass going back to the Goalkeeper. For identification purposes, the offensive players are numbered.

In Figure 4 player 6 fakes several strokes toward the frontcourt, then "hooks" back three-or-four meters into the back- court. Player 5 moves about four meters into the front-court and makes a right-side square.

Figure 5 Figure 6

Here in Figure 5, player 4 (the secondary-set player) passes the ball back to the Goalkeeper, then moves to two meters as if to "set." As the 2-M DEFENDER picks up player 4, he/she takes a deep right square at the three-or-four-meter line.

In Figure 6 player 3 moves as if going to the set position, then crosses over to the left, ending on the left side at approximately six meters outside the goal line.

Figure 7 Figure 8

In Figure 7 player 2 (the prime set) crosses over to the hole-forward position and player 1 starts to move up on the left side toward the eight-meter area.

Figure 8 shows all six field players in position and the Goalkeeper with the ball, ready to make the first pass to start Play Two.

Figure 9 Figure 10

Figure 9 shows the three possible Goal-keeper passes. Depending on defensive positioning, the Goalkeeper should make the pass to whichever offensive player 4, 5 or 6 has the best chance to make the next (second) pass into the hole. Player 2 must have worked to the right side (ball side) of his/her defender.

Here in Figure 10, the Goalkeeper has decided the safest pass is to player 5 who either immediately passes, or if necessary, first absorbs a foul from his/her defender, then quickly passes to the 2-M PLAYER. As the ball is "in flight" to two meters, player 1 starts the drive.

Figure 11

Figure 11 shows the 2-M PLAYER absorbing the foul and making the pass to a moving pick created by players 1 and 3. The 2-M PLAYER should pass to whichever of these two players "frees-up," or is in best position to receive a pass. With the two-meter pass, the hole forward must work to get ballside of his/her defender (toward the 1 and 3 players) so he/she can receive the return pass in case the ball is not shot from the pick.

The best-case scenario in Figure 11 for Play Two is that either player 1 or player 3 gets "free-up" for a good shot off the moving pick. The second scenario—still giving good advantage to the offense—is that the ball is not shot off the pick but returned to the 2-M PLAYER. Then the 2-M PLAYER is in proper position to either shoot or to absorb a second- consecutive foul. That second-consecutive foul might lead to an ejection against the 2-M DEFENDER. The worst-case scenario is that nothing opens for the 1 and 3 players, and the ball simply is controlled as the offense moves up and prepares to attack from the designated offensive structure.

Play Three

With approximately :15 seconds remaining in the quarter, on occasion, I like to use Play Three. Because of the :15-second-time factor, the opportunity to use Play Three may occur only once every five or six games, and seldom twice in any particular game. Play Three is what I call the "whose ball?" play and needs at least :15 seconds to be run through to completion.

Figure 12 Figure 13

This  shows the players in restart position with the first pass going back from player 4 to the Goalkeeper. Players 1 and 6 fake two-or-three strokes into the frontcourt (in an effort to attract defenders) then hook back three-or-four meters behind the centerline. Player 3 (the prime set) starts to move to the two-meter position.

The Goalkeeper gets the ball. Players 1 and 6 have hooked back; players 2 and 5 have moved into the offensive end at approximately eight meters, in position not to obstruct any passes which might be thrown to the 2-M PLAYER from player 1 or player 6.

Player 3 has moved into the hole and player 4 has moved up to a nearby position.

Figure 13 shows player 4 moving toward player 3, who is in the hole-forward position. Timing of 4's move is critical to the success of the play. Player 4 must arrive at or near the hole position simultaneously with the 3 (hole) player receiving the pass and absorbing the 2-M DEFENDER's foul. This creates a delicate timing situation. Looking at Figure 13, see that because of proper positioning, all field players have a passing lane open to the 2-M PLAYER
The Goalkeeper determines which player has the best passing lane to two meters and makes a pass to this field player.

Figure 14

The Goalkeeper has determined that player 2 is in the best position to make the pass to the hole position. This decision varies constantly and is always determined by the position of the defenders. Player 4 must start the drive immediately as player 3 receives the ball and is fouled. Prior to the two-meter pass, player 4 must have reached a position where only one-or-two strokes are needed to front his/her two-meter teammate.

With the two-meter foul, the  2-M PLAYER (player 3) releases either left or right (to "free" water), not having touched the ball after the foul. Player 4 then picks up the ball and passes to player 3 for the quick shot. It's the "whose ball?" situation.

The key points to emphasize for Play Three to be successful are as follows:

Play Three must be practiced heavily in order for players to learn the timing and positioning requirements for success. When properly run, Play Three can work against even the most experienced opponents. Again, this play requires approximately :15 seconds to run; for best results it should be employed from the restart position; and, for maximum success, it should not be repeated often.

Too be continued…

(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)