Here we are just a week or so away from our biggest tournament this year – the World Championships. After a fairly good showing at the World League Super Finals in Montenegro last month, we went home and spent three weeks on our own getting ready for Rome and the World Championships. As we enter the final week of preparation, we will focus a great deal on our 6 on 5. In my opinion, the 6 on 5 is perhaps the biggest key to having success in the big tournaments. You can not win the big games without scoring a high percentage of your extra man opportunities. So for this month’s article I decided to focus on the fundamentals of a successful 6 on 5.
First and foremost, team work is really measured by your 6 on 5. This is when the “team” really shines or when weaknesses are exposed. This is due to the fact that a successful 6 on 5 is all about setting up a team mate. To score a high percentage of 6 on 5 opportunities a team needs to have the post players involved as well as the perimeter. A good perimeter game (players attacking on their legs) will set up the post game and vise a versa. One on one play does not work on a 6 on 5. When you are up a man you need to really work together to make sure you score the ball. Typically, a team that is playing together and winning the big games will be scoring 60 – 70% of their man advantage situations.
Here are my keys for a successful 6 on 5:
- Look for the quick. Immediately after the exclusion look for the quick. It is often easier to score if you can attack before the defense has had a chance to set up. If you can break down the defense so that you have a 2 on 1 or a 3 on 2 right after the exclusion you will have a higher scoring percentage. Just make sure that you do not force a bad shot or create a turnover by trying to create something when it is not there.
- Get to your position. If the quick is not there then get to your positions. On every team individual players have strengths and weaknesses. Make sure that you get the post players to the posts and the perimeter players to their spots.
- Start wide. Many teams will try to hit you if you are to close and then you end up playing on your back. So start wide and try to pull the defenders out. This will open up the posts more too.
- Be a threat. At the same time that you start wide you need to be a threat. Get on your legs. Each player on the perimeter must be in the attack mode. Post players are actively looking for free water and the ball. Penetrate as you attack and then when you make a pass move back out so that you are ready to receive the next pass and attack again. The bottom line is that you need to make the defense work in all positions. You have the advantage so put the pressure on the defense.
- Keep good spacing. Never let one defender guard two players. Remember that you should be moving with and without the ball. You should be looking for a passing lane and/or a shooting lane.
- Body positioning and balance. Make sure that whether you are on the post or you are on the perimeter - you are constantly keeping yourself on balance and ready for the next pass. Prepare your body to shoot before you receive the ball. Too many young players catch the ball and then prepare their bodies to shoot. You must be ready to shoot the ball.
- Set up a team mate. The best passes come from a player that looks like a shooter. All passes that go to the post should come from a perimeter player that has locked down the defense by looking like a threat.
- Read the middle defender. He/she will determine which side the 3 on 2 is. Attack that side. The goalie is also relying on the middle defender to shot block so be prepared to take advantage if he/she is out of position.
- Run your rotation. The ball should be worked around the perimeter with each player attacking a locking the goalie/defense down. In reviewing tapes of many games, especially at the high level it is quite clear that there is a much higher percentage of scoring when all the perimeter players have touched the ball. Work it around - attack but be patient and break the defense down.
- Try to work for the best percentages. Don’t let the defense dictate where the shot is going to be taken from. Defensively, many teams will try to make a right hander shoot from the 5 position. Don’t settle for this on offense. That is the lowest percentage shot. Try to work to set up your best shooters from their best spots.
Finally, practice like it is a game. Practice does not make perfect but practice does make permanent. So if you practice at 60% then it will be difficult for you to score when you try to suddenly go 100% in a game. Get on your legs and be serious when you practice 6 on 5.
This will absolutely make or break you as a team.
As always feel free to email me a firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. Cheer hard for USA Water Polo at the World Championships. We are going for the gold.
See you at the pool.
USA Water Polo Ė Menís National Team Coach