WATER POLO

  Learning and Teaching the Basics  

CHAPTER THREE

The Kicks of Water Polo

   
   Monte Nitzkowski

Good legs and good leg conditioning are musts for the successful Water Polo player. The front and back flutter kicks should be extensively conditioned as they are constantly used in the sport. Breaststroke and sidestroke (scissor) kicks also find extensive use in Water Polo. They provide the thrust for
what is commonly known as the lunge kick.

Of all the kicks, the EGGBEATER is far and away the most important kick for Water Polo players. It provides the base of support for vertical passing and shooting. The eggbeater is important for all Water Polo playing positions, but it is critical to the success of the Goalkeeper and the Two-Meter player. It must be taught properly and continually conditioned. Players should be introduced to the eggbeater kick on the first day of practice.

Simply speaking, the eggbeater is an alternating leg, breaststroke-type kick. A player using only the breaststroke kick will surge up, then drop down as the legs reposition for the next kick; this causes the player to "bound," creating a "kangaroo" effect. This is not good. To convert the breaststroke kick to the eggbeater, simply widen the kicking base and alternate the kicking motion of each leg (rather than kicking both legs simultaneously). This creates a stable base and eliminates the "surging" effect. Done properly, the eggbeatering player will ride high and stable.
           
To be successful with the eggbeater kick, players must have ankle flexibility and good foot rotation. As each leg kicks separately, the lower leg (from the knee through the foot) must draw up, then kick down and out and back-in, in a circular fashion. The lower leg must rotate outside the knee with toes pointing out, and then back into the extended position with the inside of the leg and instep of the foot "grabbing and pressing" in on the water.(Illustrations #17, #18.) To get this circular, thrusting motion, the ankles must be loose and able to rotate. "Iron ankles" will destroy the egg beater kick.

Illustration 17 - Eggbeater kick
from underwater.
Illustration 18 - Eggbeater kick
from underwater.

Once the fundamentals of the eggbeater kick are under stood, extensive conditioning of this kick should follow.(Illustrations #19, #20.) The coach should first put players on the wall, then kickboards. By so doing, the legs are elevated to a position where the coach can see if the proper technique is being followed.

Illustration 19 - Eggbeater kick while
holding on to wall.

When players demonstrate proper fundamentals for the eggbeater, the kickboard can be turned sideways and lowered into the water to create a "snowplow" effect.(Illustration #21.)

Illustration 20 - Eggbeater kick,
horizontal and on board.
Illustration 21 - Eggbeater kick,
'snow plow' position with board.

With the board in the snowplow position, greater resistance is created for conditioning the kick and the coach still can check for leg rotation. Finally, the eggbeater should be trained in the vertical position. Numerous drills can be used such as: vertical eggbeatering forward with hands clasped to the top of the head; vertical eggbeatering with upper arms held up and out of the
water, elbows bent; vertical eggbeatering with arms aloft, elbows straight; vertical eggbeatering with ball clasped behind head, etc. The vertical eggbeater should be practiced moving forward, backward and to both sides. Care should be taken to ensure that players remain vertical. (Illustrations #22, #23.)

Illustration 22 - Eggbeater kick,
ball clasped behind head.
Illustration 23 - Eggbeater kick
with arms and ball held high.

NOTE: Light weights can be used while training the Goalkeeper in the eggbeater. Weights should not be used while young players are still in their growth pattern; the eggbeater can be strenuous on the knees and weight adds to this stress. Even with adult Goalkeepers, weights should be kept light and should be added slowly as conditioning improves. (I've never been a great fan of conditioning the eggbeater with weights.)

The lunge kick is another important kick for the Water Polo player to master. It is the explosive kick which gets the player started toward the horizontal swimming position. It must be explosive in nature and provide the player with a quick start. Players who perfect an outstanding lunge kick most often will
be able to gain body position on their opponents. A great lunge kick, followed by one or two aggressive swim strokes, can free an offensive player for the drive or properly position a defensive player. Many times this will prevent the need to chase an opponent the entire length of the pool.

The two kicks which provide the thrust for the lunge kick are the (scissor(sidestroke) kick and the breaststroke kick. When starting on their sides, players must be able to execute the scissor lunge kick from both the right and left sides. Therefore, coaches must condition the scissor lunge kick with players practicing with each side down. To ensure this, the coach can stand on one side of the pool and have players look toward that side while practicing the lunge scissor kick. This kick should be practiced from a dead stop(followed by several hard front crawl swimming strokes) until players reach the far end of the pool. When coming back with the same drill, have the players continue to look at the side where the coach is standing, thus ensuring they are practicing this kick on both sides of the body. (Illustration #24.)   

Illustration 24 - Lunge kick from
side position, left hip down.

When the hips are parallel and at the surface, players should use the breaststroke or frog kick, rather than the scissor kick, to lunge forward and start the positioning drive. (Illustration # 25.)

Illustration 25 - Lunge kick from horizontal,
hips parallel position — breaststroke type
kick used for lunge.

Extensive training and conditioning for the lunge kick, from both the side down and the horizontal positions is a must. Positioning is everything in Water Polo and the lunge kick enables players to gain advantage position.

The lunge block, another important Water Polo technique which incorporates the breaststroke lunge kick, is used against opponents rolling to their backs while
attempting to pass the ball. To accomplish this while in the horizontal   position, a player should execute the lunge kick then immediately move an arm into a ball blocking position. This should be practiced first with one hand and then the other, until players find the blocking position most com-
comfortable for them. The breaststroke lunge kick, followed by the blocking
motion with the arms enables the defender to cross over the body of an opponent in an effort to reach out and block the pass. (Illustration #26.)

Illustration 26 - Lunge block maneuver,
started with lunge kick.