Situation Fundamentals – Part 2

Robert Gaughran
California Sports Clinic

The "situation fundamental" is a reaction to certain situations that arise during the play­ing of a game of water polo. Players who are schooled in the fundamentals often be­come confident players who are able to diagnose many situations around them. These players are rarely "stung" because they are unaware of what is happening.

Some of the "situation fundamentals" which I feel are among the most important to the success of any water polo team are as follows:

1. Defense: A person in a forward position must assume an immediate defensive position on his/her opponent when the person’s team loses the ball

2. Defense: Play in front of center forward or opponent or opponent playing this position.

3. Defense: Keep constant pressure on your opponent.

4. Offense: When breaking attempt to break on the "ball side” of your opponent.

5. Offense: Center forward – stay in front of your defender.

6. Offense: Strive for quick goal on close-in free throws.

7. Offense and Defense: Keep your head up and your eye on the ball at all times.

I will now try to define these fundamental moves to the best of my ability.


In a center forward oriented offense, it is essential that the center forward keep the defender behind him/her and that the center forward remain in the best scoring area which is close to the center of the two yard line.

When the center forward is in front:

a. The center forward is able to receive passes from all areas of the pool with little fear of interception.

b. The center forward can control the ball and wait for teammates to work themselves free for a pass.

c. The center forward is able to control the ball indefinitely if there is nobody free to receive a pass.

d. In the event that no teammate gets clear to receive a pass, the center forward is in the best scoring  area in the pool, and a shot from this position is a very good percentage shot.

If however, the center forward allows the guard to play in front of him/her:

a. The center forward loses all the above advantages,

b. The center forward gives the defender an excellent opportunity for the easy interception when a pass is attempted to the center forward,

c. On an interception the defender has an excellent position to get the jump on the center forward if the defender decides to break to the scoring end of the pool.

In the event that the center forward can not contain his guard behind him,

a. the offense should be changed, or

b. a new man should be rotated into the center forward position.


The best scoring opportunities from free throws are usuall from those free throws that are taken on a corner throw or on a free throw within the 4-meter line.

A goal is accomplished by a combination of hustle, good positioning, accurate passing, fast hands, and team work.

When a free throw occurs in the above situation then the offensive person who is behind or even to where the foul happened and who is closest to the ball must hustle to obtain the ball. The potential scorer must hustle to a position directly in front of the defensive team's goal. This hustle is essential if the goal is going to be scored, and the reaction must be immediate.

Positioning for the receiver of the free throw, who hopes to score the quick goal, must follow some rules to be consistently successful:

a. He/She must attempt to get ball side of his/her guard;

b. He/She must get close to the 2 yard line in front of the goal.; and

c. He/She should keep his hands free and be expecting the ball to be passed at any moment.>

Accurate passing on the part of the player throwing the ball is of great importance. The pass must be taken quickly and thrown to the hand of the receiver. It must not be lobbed, and it must be thrown to the desired person with a minimum of "telegraphing" to the opposing team.

Fast hands on the part of the shooter are also vital for converting the close-in free throw into a quick goal. The ball, in most instances of this maneuver, is not actually handled; instead it is either batted, tipped, tapped, or spiked toward the goal.

Often times in the successful completion of this type of play, all the shooter gets in contact with the ball are his finger tips. However, if the shooter keeps his/her eyes on the ball and his/her hands react faster than his/her opponent's and firm contact is made with the ball, then the shooter is usually successful in scoring the goal.

To be successful, there must be teamwork. There must be an understanding of what is happening on the part of all players concerned with the execution of the play. Often times, with teammates who have played together for any length of time, all that is needed is a "look" perhaps as long as 10 seconds before the attempted goal, or as little as a fraction of a second before the attempt.

This teamwork is the result of hard practice and unlimited repetition of the play by those who might at one time be involved in its execution.


There is nothing more embarrassing to a player than to have his opponent score a quick goal off of him because he had his head down or didn't know which of his opponents had the ball.

By following the two above mentioned rules, a player;

a. can eliminate swimming past the ball because head is buried in the water,

b. is able to spot and intercept passes,

c. is enabled to get the jump on any loose ball within reach,

d. can help teammates by appraising and advising them of situations,

e. can spot free man for passing,

f. are aware of referee calls,

g. can allow for smoother switching with teammates,

h. can immediately see ball changing hands.

i. can locate man who may be uncovered.

(For the most part I tried to keep the content of Robert Gaughran’s original hand-out " Situation Water Polo " intact; however, I did take a few liberties with the original work. I changed the outline form, updated some of his terms, and edited a few sentences for my own clarity. Robert said essentially that I could do with his hand-outs what I pleased, and hopefully, what I did would please him. Place your mouse pointer on Robert's photograph and see how he looked when he wrote the handouts.- Doc)