Questions That You Might Ask Yourself When Coaching Special Situations

Bob Gaughran
California All Sports Clinic
Richard Hunkler
Slippery Rock University

The most crucial point in team preparation for special situations is to be creative and flexible as a coach, examine the options and approach every option as a real possibility. Moreover, the place to start thinking about the following special situations is in practice.

1) Situation: Last seconds of a period.
Questions: What do we do offensively; and what do we do defensively? (Aren’t you glad you effectively practiced for one minute game situations?)

2) Situation: Penalty shot.
Questions: How do you select the shooter (Letting different players in practice take a penalty shot helps the selection process?) On offense are players thinking about rebounding; and are the field players placed correctly? On defense are players thinking about screening out; are the players thinking about countering off the failed shot; and have you mentally prepared the goalkeeper for penalty shots?

3) Situation: Defending an opposing star.
Questions:Is help available if so from where; when do you tell the team to double team; should you really guard everybody the same or back off  weak players and encourage them to shoot; how to send help without getting burned; should we stunt to force a pass; and to switch or not to switch, that is the question?

4) Situation: Creating an offense to take advantage of your key player.
Questions: How can you get the key player in a position to take a shot on goal; if a team double teams the key player how can you take advantage of the situation; and how can you create mismatches for your key player?

5) Situation: Plays for special situations in the game.
Questions: Do you have plays for after winning the sprint; plays for the line up after a goal; plays off of a corner throw; and plays off of a free throw at 2 meters?

6) Situation: Taking shots on goal.
Questions: Have you practiced and discussed shot selection with skip shots, deflection shots, look away shots...; have you discussed strategies about "how" and "where" and "when" to shoot?

7) Situation: Preparation of the goalkeepers.
Questions: Have you taught the goalkeeper to play percentages and  angles; have you discussed shooter tendencies of the team you are about to play; have you told the goalkeeper when you would like for him or her to come out the goal for a steal; what are you going to do when the goalkeeper gets ejected; when is your goalkeeper to shoot the ball (if you want him or her to shoot then you have the goalkeeper practice  taking shots on goal); and finally, god forbid, what are you going to tell your deep water goalkeeper if you have to play in a pool with a shallow end?

8) Situations: Time-outs
Questions: Why call a time-out (changing the flow or momentum of the game and trying to win or tie the game in the last minute); when to call a time-out; and can you change the flow of a game without wasting a time-out?

9) Situation: Playing against a team you know will front your 2 meter player.
Questions: Can the person fronting the 2 meter player be pushed out to the 4 meter line allowing the 2 meter player a chance to receive the ball from 1 or 5 for inside water; can several players on the team front the two meter player well or is there just one player who can be easily swum out of the 2 meter position; and can you use a double 2 meter offense to offset the fronting of the 2 meter player?

10) Situation: The organization of practice.
Questions: What can you do with a short practice time; can “over" practicing the players fatigue them; what can you do with too few players at practice; what do you do when you have too many players at practice; what do you do if you don’t have enough equipment; what do you do if you have to share the pool for practice; and how can you eliminate the boredom of repetition in practice?

11) Situation: Handling fouling. (Is it ever acceptable to purposely commit an ejection foul?)
Questions: Have you discussed “smart” fouls and “stupid” fouls with your team; when do you say "Don't foul!" (like when the referee is calling quick fouls on the perimeter) and when do you say “foul everywhere” (like when you are a point behind with a minute to go in the game to stop the clock); and what do you do when a key player has two fouls early or two fouls late in the game?

12) Situation: The luxury of playing with one or more left handed players on your team.
Questions: Where are you going to place the left hander(s) on even up offense and defense; where are you going to place the left hander(s) in your 6 on 5 offense; and where are you going to place the left hander(s) in your 5 - 6 defense?

13) Situation: Scripting your 6 on 5 offense.
Questions: Generate some questions using “Doc” Hunkler’s article “The Mathematics of 6 on 5 Offense” which is found at the following link: The Mathematics of 6 on 5 Offense

14) Situation: Scripting your 5 on 6 defense.
Questions: Generate some questions using “Doc” Hunkler’s article “Steely-eyed, Shifty 6 0n 5 Defense” which is found at the following link: Steely-eyed, Shifty 6 on 5 Defense

15) Situation: Substitutions.
Questions: Why would you substitute (strong bench; keep team fresh similar to hockey, foul trouble…); when do you substitute (when a player needs a break, foul trouble, wear the other team down, remove a hot head on your team…)?

16) Situation: Use of signals from the coach on the bench to the players in the water.
Questions:< Should you use them; can they be used effectively; if they can, can the signals be kept secret.

17) Situation: The sun as a factor.
Questions: Should you choose ends so the sun is in the face of your goalkeeper and the defense the last quarter or should you choose ends so the sun is in the face of your the offense the last quarter (know in advance whether your defense or offense tolerates the sun best); Maybe you should choose the sun to be in the goalkeepers eyes the first quarter to try and get a quick lead or if the sun will be down before the last quarter?

18) Situation: Playing in a shallow pool or narrow pool.
Questions: Can you find a shallow to deep pool in which to practice at least once before the game; or can you use lane lines to narrow the playing area in your pool? (Remember in the shallow end getting high enough to expose the legs of your suit means to many referees that you are jumping off the bottom which is an ordinary foul.)

19) Situation: Running up the score.
Question: Can your team not run the score and make it not look obvious that you are (Play substitutes of equal abilities if possible; make players play hard but use only their weak hand to both pass and shoot; players are not allowed to score unless they win an exclusion; use colors - no one is allowed to shoot until 5 seconds is left on the shot clock, the red time zone…)

20) Situation: Scouting an opponent.
Questions: Generate some questions using Robert Gaughran’s article “Scouting Water Polo” which is found at the following link: Scouting Water Polo

21) Situation: Hiding a weak player.
Questions: Can you match your weak player with a weak player on the opposing team; practice switches from the 2 meter position to make certain the weak player never has to defend the 2 meter player; when the A team plays the B team can you play the weak player even though he or she is a starter a good bit with the B team (the weak player has a better chance of getting strong if you play him or her against the better players)?

22) Situation: Taking advantage of a weak opposing player.
Questions: Generate some questions using “Doc” Hunkler’s article “Advantage Rules!” which is found at the following link: Advantage Rules!

23) Situation: Defending a fast break team (when your team is fast and when your team is slow.)
Questions: Generate some questions using “Doc” Hunkler’s article “Person to Person Defense Is Not Always Person to Person” which is found at the following link: Person to Person Defense

24) Situation: Use of video.
Questions: Can your program afford to buy a camera and tapes (if so do it because the old hackneyed expression, “One picture is worth a 1000 words”, is very true); can you get someone other than yourself to video tape your games (try to wear too many hats and some of them are going to fall off); do you have time to watch the videos with the team (make time); and can you overdo the videos?

The next five special situations are left for you to create the questions, and if you would care to send them to “Doc” Hunkler at [email protected] then he will post them to the handout with your name and school affiliation.

25) Your player is "close" to a fight with his opponent.

26) On a Fast Break some teams get such a consistent "Jump" on your team.

27) Playing against a full "Lane" Defense.

28) When a predictable referee is calling your game.

29) Too much crowd noise.

The last situation is a reminder to never get in over your head when trying new tactics and strategies.

30.) Situation: Hey Coach! - If you can't understand it, and you can't teach it, DON'T DO IT!