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 3August 15, 2013
The Keyword in Real Estate is Location and the Keyword in the sport of Water Polo is Fundamentals!

Checklist for the Season

As another summer winds down it is time to begin looking at the fall season.  In my opinion, it is a great time to reflect on the past summer (club season) and set some goals for the upcoming season.   I thought I would write about this “checklist” this month and help you get ready for what lies ahead. 

Fist of all, REFLECT.   Don’t rush through this.  Take some time to sit and reflect and really be honest with yourself. In a way this is like looking at the scoreboard. Where are you in the game?  Find a quiet space and carve out some time to think about and write out all the good things that occurred during the past year of playing.  What were your biggest areas of improvement?  What did you do well?  How did you contribute the most to your team’s success?  What do you like most about your game?  Then look at the other side as well. What do I still need to improve on the most?  What is my biggest weakness?  How can I help my team more?  If you do not take the time to do this then it is almost impossible to set realistic and meaningful goals.  If you are really serious about your game this exercise should fill a page if you are writing it out. 

Now it is time to SET SOME NEW GOALS.  Once again, it is more powerful if you write your goals out on paper. These goals should include where you want to be at the end of next year and what you want to accomplish during the fall season.  Set both the long term and the short term goals and then write down some steps as to how you are going to make this happen.  An example might be if one of my goals is to get stronger legs.  One of my action steps might be to do an extra 15 minutes of leg work 4-5 times a week.  Be specific with your goals.  Another example might be, I want to improve on my 6 on 5 shooting from the 3 post especially with passes from the 4 spot.  Many players struggle a bit with these angle passes.  How do I improve on this?  I am gong to take 25 passes from the 4 to 3 after or before practice 4-5 times per week and have my coach evaluate how I am doing.  That is a specific goal.  Since this is a team sport it also makes sense to include team goals.  Remember back to your reflection – how can I help my team more?  Many times these goals will coincide perfectly and by getting stronger legs and becoming a better shooter on the 3 post you will indeed help your team.  Your goals might be to help your team win league or to win CIF.  In order to do this you might have to check in with your coach to have him/her give you some feedback as to what you can do to help your team.  Take your ego out of it.  Ask and be humble.  This is how you will learn and become better.  After you have spent some time and written your goals out if you are really serious about this it is time to share them with someone that can help hold you accountable to your goals.  This might be a parent or a good friend or someone you know that won’t let you off the hook easy.  How bad do you want this?  If you want  it bad enough then it is very important to have someone else hold you responsible.  Research tells us that this is absolutely the best way to achieve any goal.

PREPARE YOUR BODY.  Take inventory on your body and how you are feeling.  Do you have sore shoulder?  A sore knee or hip?  This is the time to really take care of yourself and help the body heal.  Since you are not grinding away in the water it may be a good time to do some extra weights or band work to try to balance or strengthen any weak or slightly injured areas.  If you have had a more serious injury it may be a good time to get it looked at by a doctor.  It may also be a good time to get some chiropractic care or some PT to help to stabilize an injured or weakened area.    While it is a great time to take a break it is also smart to do some cross training.  Keep your cardio up while giving your water polo muscles a bit of a break.  Find something that you like to do (be smart  - the last thing that you want to do is to get injured) and spend some time doing it.  This might be bicycling or rollerblading or playing a little basketball.  Always make sure that you wear the proper equipment.  For example, a good pair of high tops is highly recommended for basketball.  The bottom line is that this is a great time to take a little break, heal from your injuries, and strengthen weak areas while keeping your body fit.  The last thing that you want to do is just sit around and watch TV.  Remember first impressions.  If you show up to the first day of training in great shape you will stick out in your coach’s mind and it will pay off for you when he/she starts to figure out who is starting or playing critical minutes in the games.  What any coach wants to see is that his/her athletes have self discipline. By coming into camp in shape you are sending a strong message that you “want it”. 

REFRESH AND REFOCUS YOUR MIND.  There is no doubt that the biggest factor in your success is your mental toughness.  Your mind is either your worst enemy or your best friend.  In my opinion, taking a break from playing gives you a chance to refresh and refocus.  It is a time to re-energize.  We all tire during a long season and one of the biggest factors in this fatigue is wearing down mentally.  The “grind” of a long season will certainly take it’s toll on the body but perhaps more importantly the long season begins to wear on us mentally and emotionally.  Taking a break can give you this time to rest mentally also.  A family vacation or taking some down time (see above body paragraph) gives the mind some down time.  This is huge for any athlete and especially in a sport like ours which is one of the most demanding on your body and your time.  It is a good time to read a book – maybe something inspirational or in an area that you want to gain some knowledge.  I enjoy reading books about athletes and coaches in all sports.  Their stories and the lessons that they learned often teach me life lessons that I then don’t have to learn the hard way (making the mistakes myself).  If your not a big reader than it may be a good time to watch a few movies that you have wanted to see for a while or watch an old favorite or two that you know that you will find inspirational.  The movie “Miracle” is always a good one.  Regardless, this is just a good time to settle and quiet the mind and get away from that “survival mode” that we live in too often.  The mind is powerful and can be such a great asset when in the “creative” mode.  Fill your mind with positive thoughts – be thankful for what you have.  Gratitude is always a great place to refresh from.

MAKE THINGS RIGHT.  The break is always a good time to make things right in the important relationships in your life.  It may be with a parent, a girlfriend/boyfriend or just a friend but make a bit of extra time to heal and grow these important relationships.  Once again, when we are caught up and lost in the middle of a season and things are hectic we tend to be focused on our own survival and don’t always spend the time to keep outside relationships strong and healthy.  I like to take some extra time in prayer and make sure that my relationship with God is strong and growing and usually this keeps me focused on “Love” which in turn helps every other relationship in my life.  Each individual is different and you will know if there is a relationship that needs some extra time.  Make the time to do it now.  Small acts of kindness and a little extra time spent may help to avoid a crisis during the season.  Having healthy relationships will help you perform better! 

This is also a good time to visualize what you want your season to look like.  Having gone through the above steps you are in a better place to “see” more clearly what the season might look like.  Keep your thoughts positive and be passionate about it.   Stay in the moment and enjoy the journey.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about this month’s article feel free to email me at [email protected]

See you at the pool!



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