Back to Fundamentals by Terry Schroeder

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

Volume 5 Number 1May 15, 2013
The Keyword in Real Estate is Location and the Keyword in the sport of Water Polo is Fundamentals!

Post Play on the 6 on 5

There is no doubt that each and every position on the 6 on 5 is critical for a successful attack.  This month, I want to make a case for the importance of post play on the 6 on 5.  I can tell you this that every team that I have either played on or coached that had a highly successful 6 on 5 had good post play.  Some might say that the 6 player (left hander) is more important and there is good argument for this as this position often runs the plays and is a key set up player.  The lefty (6 position) has been called the quarterback of the 6 on 5 by many coaches.  The quarterback however, is only as good as the line men in front of him or for that matter the receivers.  In water polo, good active post play makes a huge difference on any 6 on 5.  If the posts are truly a threat to score than this will open up many other options.  Let’s break down this critical position on the 6 on 5.

First and foremost, a good post player is always aware and alert. He/she wants the ball and wants to score.  The very first thing that any post player should do when the opposing team is called for an exclusion is look for open water and make himself/herself available for the quick.  Many goals are scored as the defense is getting set up.  The post player must move into free water and get his/her body ready.  This means good leg support and showing teammates that you are ready for the ball.  If the quick is not available than the next thing to think about is spacing – go to your position (post) and make sure that you are working with your team mates to maintain good spacing and good balance. 

There is no rest on the 6 on 5.  Once you go to your position you need to prepare your body to receive and shoot the ball from each perimeter position.  This takes practice.  The best post players can not be one dimensional – meaning that you can not expect to receive and shoot the ball from only one perimeter position.  For example, if you are playing the 3 post (closet to the lefty or 6 position) you might like the 6 – 3 pass.  However, you must work on be able to receive and shoot the ball from the 1, 4 and even the 5 position.  This takes practice and the only way that you are going to get better at this is to practice taking passes and shots from each position on the perimeter.  Make sure that you are practicing game situations.  The pass from 1 is often times a 1 – 3 inside pass in which you must seal off the defender and work on finishing with your left hand (as you hold the defender off with your right). It can also be done the other way, in which you hold the defender off or screen the defender with your left hand and shoot a back handed dunk with your right.  Try it both ways and see what works for you better.  I prefer to hold the defender off with my right and dunk with my left because I can get up higher and screen the defender off easier.   You might also receive the ball from 1 on a firm pass at the 2 meter line or slightly outside.  This pass requires you to receive the ball right handed with a back handed shot.  This is definitely a more advanced shot and requires lots of reps to master.  The pass from 4 will probably be a firm pass on the angle that also requires a back hand type shot (these last two shots are obviously dry passes to the back hand).  This requires that you have strong leg support – your body should be opened up with your right leg facing the goal.  As you receive the ball much of the power on this shot is generated from your legs with a strong breaststroke kick.  The pass from 5 to 3 happens most frequently when your team rotates 6 in 1 pocket.  As 5 goes wide this opens up a lane and a good angle to receive the ball behind the x5 defender for a strong shot. Once again you are popping to free water.  On a 6 to 3 pass, you need to work on a pop to the outside (don’t go too far wide of the cage) and a power 6 – 3 inside as you follow the 6 player inside and explode up for a timing pass and basically a slam dunk.  The 6 to 3 pop shot is usually shot cross cage and the inside shot is usually a quick near side shot. Each of these shots takes work and each can be effective as good scoring opportunities.

Now let’s look at the 2 post and the variety of shots from this position.  First the 1 – 2 pass.  Truthfully, there are not a lot of players in the world that are really good at this shot and it is one that even on our USA national team we did not utilize much.  If you are a 2 post player, I would recommend that you spend some time in practice and work on this shot.  The best 2 post players that are successful with this shot tend to move slightly towards the center of the cage when the ball goes to 1 and they sense that the center defender has given them a little space.  This is another shot where the right leg is out in front of you facing the goal and as the ball comes you explode to the ball for your shot with a big breaststroke kick and a quick back hand shot usually cross cage.  As the ball moves to the 4 position this is a very common shot on the 6 on 5.  The 4 – 2 pass over the X4 defender.  As 4 slides center the X4 defender has to decide whether he/she is staying back or moving at the 4 player.  If the defender goes out then there is a lane created for the 2 post to pop behind the defender for the shot.  Do not take yourself too wide.  Try to maintain a good angle and make sure that you are moving out over your legs and on balance to receive the ball.  Don’t go up and wait for the ball. The 4 player should put the ball up over your head and make you go get it for the shot.  If the defense plays it well, the cage will be covered ( X1 near side and X2 cross cage with the goalie taking middle) and you have to look for a hole to shoot at.  You can look over the goalies head or look to beat the shot blocker on either side.  You must also look for open space for a 5 – 2 pass on the angle with legs set and ready to catch and shoot a quick shot.   The 6  - 2 pass can be inside if 6 goes in you can follow him/her in and look for the slam dunk opportunities or if the pass comes from 4 to 6 and X4 was cheating out a bit then you can pop into that open water and take a firm pass for a quick catch and shoot.  All of the above shot descriptions are based on the 2 post being right handed.  It is very possible that you might have a lefty at the 2 post and then it would be similar to the first description of a right hander at the 3 post.   Every shot option on the post takes great focus.  You are going to get pushed around by the defenders and for a successful shot you must be able to rebalance and find your legs to prepare properly for the potential shot. 

All of these shots are realistic and very possible and a good post player should spend time receiving and shooting the ball from each perimeter position.  Make sure that you feel balanced and strong when you receive the ball from each spot.  The key is to be available.  Even if you don’t receive the ball if you are active and popping to free water then you will keep the back line defenders honest and create more shooting angles with higher percentages for the perimeter players on your team.  By moving you are keeping the back line defenders off balance in a sense because they have to honor you and this in turn will make them much less effective as shot blockers.  You are also creating a distraction for the goalie because he/she also has to honor you.  You will also notice that if you get involved early in the game and score a goal from the post how this will really open up the outside perimeter players for better scoring opportunities. 

Being a good scorer on the 6 on 5 requires awareness, good legs and good hands.  You also have to have good vision of the cage.  Once you receive the ball you have very little time to read the goalie and make a decision as to where you want to shoot the ball.  Another important factor while playing the post is to reset your position after you pop or move.    Don’t pop and then stay out  - you should constantly be  rebalancing and looking for a good lane to receive the ball. 

As I said earlier there is no time to rest on the 6 on 5.  The post man is often times getting mauled and you must keep your cool and be ready to battle back. If the defender hammers you don’t complain about it  - get your legs going and find the ball.  Re adjust and want the ball.  The absolute best thing for you to do if the back line defender is pestering you is to score a goal on him/her.  Don’t get caught up in any individual battles.  The scoreboard is the only place where it really matters.  

Good post play includes scoring goals and in doing so the defense has to honor you more which will open up your team mates the next time that you get a 6 on 5. 

I hope that this has helped.  If you are a post player than put some time into practicing these techniques.  If you get better as a post player you will help you team score a higher percentage of 6 on 5’s which generally translates into winning more games. 

As always please feel free to comment or ask me a question.  In the mean time have a great week and I hope to see you at the pool soon.   My email is [email protected]

Coach Schroeder

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