Back to Water Polo Fundamentals by Terry Schroeder

"Good Water Polo Entry Pass" Fundamentals

Terry Schroeder, DC
US National Men's Team Coach
US Team Won the Silver Medal in the 2008 Olympics

Volume 2 Number 1February 15, 2009
The Keyword in Real Estate is Location and the Keyword in the sport of Water Polo is Fundamentals!

After being a part of our Olympic Team this past summer, I am more convinced then ever that our commitment to building good fundamentals was one of the key factors to our success.  As we continue on our road to London and the 2012 Olympic Games we will strive to make building good fundamental skills a priority.  I truly believe that if you focus on doing the simple things better than your opponents you will be successful.  It is once again an honor for me to write some articles for water polo planet.  I am pleased to share some of my thoughts regarding building good fundamentals.  This month I have chosen to write about good entry passes.  This is a pass that occurs (hopefully) on every offensive series in the game and yet how often do we practice this skill during our passing drills?  Hopefully your answer is often.  If we don’t practice this skill often then how do we expect our athletes to make good entry passes in a game?  Anyway, this is a vital skill.  In today’s game a good entry pass will more often than not lead to something positive from the center position.   In fact, most of the time a good entry pass to a center that is sealed to one side will lead to an exclusion on the defender. 

First, I will explain what a good entry pass is.  A good entry pass is a pass to the center from a perimeter player.  Usually, this pass is a wet pass which lands in the water about an arm’s length away from the center and allows the center to maintain his/her position against his/her defender and work to turn or shoot the ball.  I usually instruct my players to throw this pass at the center’s head (generally firm but not hard).  This will allow the center to reach out and knock the ball down (control it) to set up his/her next move.  It is better that the ball is too tight (close) to the center than too far away.  A short entry pass will completely bring the center out of position.  The other key on a good entry pass is to make this pass without much of a lob.  A ball that is lobbed into the center will give the defense time to crash and possibly steal the ball.  So a firm pass that arrives quickly without skipping is the best.  It is also possible to work on dry entry passes to the center (this usually occurs when setting the center up for a quick shot off of a dry pass).  For the purpose of this discussion today, I will focus on the wet entry passes to the center.  These are the most common type of entry passes. 

I will break this down into two types of entry passes.  First, we will talk about entry passes when you are pressed and then I will talk about entry passes against a zone or a drop. 

The first key to being able to make a good entry pass is strong legs.  This is equally important against a press or against a zone.  There are two different scenarios’ that play out against a press.  In the first, the ball is on the water the defender on your back and you are attempting to make your entry pass from this position. When making an entry pass against a press the first important step is to be able to hold your water.  You can not allow the defender to push you out away from your center.  You “hold” your water by using your legs to push back against a defender on the perimeter.  The key is to be able to do this without losing stability.  Once again, you are using the split eggbeater position.  If the guard is on your left shoulder than you are holding him/her off with your left shoulder and forearm (close to your body as to not create an offensive foul).  Your left leg is down below you and your right leg is behind you pushing into the guard to ensure that you can hold your water and still have that stability to make ea good pass.  Your right hand is controlling the ball and keeping the ball away from the defender.  Perhaps you can use a little back spin to keep the ball where you want it (so that you don’t have to rest your hand on the ball). More than likely if the center is set on your side then you will probably be fouled.  The key becomes being able to control the ball and the defender when you are fouled.  In order to do this you must think like a center.  You must absorb the foul and maintain control of the ball so that you can get it up quickly and be able to make the pass to the center before the defender can get back into a drop to protect against the pass to the center.  The absolute best way to do this is to make a quarter turn on the perimeter defender as you are being fouled.  As you make your turn make sure that you drop the ball (in control) so the official can call the foul.  Now you can pick the ball up quickly (stepping out over the leg that was pushing the defender back) and you have also created a nice passing lane to make the entry pass to your center.  As you do this if you can hold and control the defender just for a split second you will make your entry pass much easier.   The reason that you want to hold the defender is that he/she is going to want to foul and drop to protect the center defender and if you can delay him/her for even a split second then your pass begins easier.  Do not hold the defender too long because this can result in an offensive foul being called. 

The second scenario against a press is to make a nice release before the ball comes to you.  Now you can receive the ball dry and avoid getting fouled and possibly catch the defender out of position so that you can make an entry pass without getting fouled.

If you make a successful release for the ball and catch the defender out of position and he/she is not able to foul you before you can make an entry pass the defender will most likely drop back into a zone to protect the center defender.   

Making an entry pass to the center while the defender is playing back in a zone is a real art.  The only way to do this successfully is to attack the defender and look like a shooter.  This begins on in the double threat position  - split egg beater (ready to pass or shoot) and penetrating in towards a better shooting angle.  As you attack this defender he/she will have some point have to make a decision to knock you down (move out at you) or stay back and protect the center defender.  If the defender moves forward to knock down then you have to be able to use your legs to move laterally or elevate to a higher position in the water.  If you move laterally then you can pass the ball to the center using the passing lane that you have created.  If you elevate than you can pass over the defender for an entry pass.  One big key is to look like a shooter the entire time.  If the defender believes you are going to shoot then he/she will have to stay in a shot blocking position and it will be more difficult for him/her to block your entry pass.  A good entry pass can also be made by using your arm to move the ball around the defender left or right.  This takes practice and it is difficult to disguise at first.  But as you practice you will find yourself getting better as using a combination of arm movement and leg power to make this successful pass to your center. 

Drills to build these skills.

Three man passing drill against a press (one player is the center and one is the offensive perimeter player and one the defensive perimeter player).  The center and the offensive perimeter player are about 5 – 6 meters apart. Make this drill as game situation as possible.  Begin with the ball on the water with the offensive perimeter player trying to hold water against the defender and make a good entry pass to the center.  The offensive player should try to make the quarter turn and create a passing lane so that it is easier to make a successful entry pass.  If he/she is fouled (instruct the defender to try to foul and jump back to protect the pass to center, however make sure that they do not foul and hang on because there is nobody blowing a whistle to call the foul). Once this foul occurs the offensive player needs to try to get the ball up quickly and make a good entry pass to the center.  This is the place to practice and see how much space you need to make your pass.  You will make some mistakes here but don’t lose your focus. If you stay focused and practice the skill you will get better and better at it and have more success during an actual game.

Three man passing against a zone ( one player is the center, one player the offensive player on the perimeter and one player the defensive player on the perimeter).  The center and the offensive perimeter player are about 5 – 6 meters apart.  Once again, make this drill as game like as possible.  The ball starts in the hand of the offensive player on the perimeter, the perimeter defender is in a drop/zone – protecting against the pass to the center but also not allowing the offensive player to get too close for a shot.  Instruct the defender to knock down the perimeter player when he gets to a certain spot ( an imaginary 5 meter line).  When the defender comes at the offensive player instruct the offensive player to work on moving laterally or elevating in the water to create a safe pass to the center.  Utilize arm movement and leg strength to make your pass.  Work on making a good wet ( which lands in the water about an arms length away from the center) pass to the center.  Each player makes 5 passes and then switch positions. 

Consistent good entry passes to the center can be the difference between winning a losing a game.  Practice these skills on a regular basis. 

Once again feel free to email me if you have any questions.  [email protected] 

See you at the pool!

Coach Schroeder

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