Bi-weekly a varsity coach from the west coast and a varsity coach from the east coast is given the same question solicited from a member of the water polo community. The coaches answer the question independent of each other and their answers are posted here together with a photograph and short biography of each coach. We hope to have the men's varsity coaches to answer the questions in the fall and winter and the women's varsity coaches to answer the questions in the winter and spring.
QUESTION: You are playing a team that is very fast. Your team, is not as fast as this team. What tactics do you use to play this team, and why?
ANSWER: You must be sure to focus on extending every possession to use as much of the shot clock as possible. This will turn the game into a front court contest and prevent the opponent from utilizing their counter attack as often. You must also be cognicent of driving on offense. Be sure to drive early in the offensive possession, pay attention to the ball and anticipate potential turnovers, and remind at least two offensive players to think defense as the shot clock draws closer to expiration.
Entering his fourth season leading the Cal Lutheran men's water polo team is Craig Rond. He is the first water polo coach in the history of the school and also serves as the women's head water polo coach.
In 2005, the third year for CLU water polo, Rond led the team to a ten wins season and finished 5th in the SCIAC conference.
In 2004, Scott Bredesen became the first water polo all-American in school history. He repeated that recognition in 2005. He was also tabbed All-SCIAC Second Team in both 2004 and 2005, while Jared Clark was twice named All-SCIAC Honorable Mention. Quinten Beckmann was voted an All-SCIAC Honorable Mention in 2004. The program has grown each year and the future of CLU water polo looks bright.
Rond not only brings extensive water polo playing and coaching experience to CLU, but the local product also possesses in-depth knowledge of the California high school swim scene, an invaluable recruiting asset.
Since 1989, Rond has been the director of the South Coast Water Polo Club in Thousand Oaks. Also the club's founder, he has developed several All-American, Division I, III, and III, and community college student-athletes. The club is open to swimmers age eight to adult and is one of the longest-lasting clubs in the state of California.
Rond has been teaching social science at Thousand Oaks High School since 1996. From 1994-2000, he served as the school's swimming and water polo head coach where he conceived the first high school girls water polo program in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.
As a collegiate swimmer, Rond was named the Rookie of the Year as a freshman at Pepperdine in 1984. After the school dropped its swim program, Rond moved on to become a two-time state champion as team captain and MVP at Ventura College. He then was named captain and team MVP of San Jose State's water polo team in 1988 and 1989.
A 1989 graduate of San Jose State, Rond earned a Bachelor's Degree in Communications. He also holds a Master of Arts Degree in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of Arizona.
To answer this layered question, we must first ask ourselves what a faster team is trying to accomplish to maximize their speed. If that team comes out pressing they will play aggressive perimeter defense looking to lane and take off from the weak side. If that team starts out in a zone defense, they are protecting their center defender and trying to force a low percentage shot while stunting in lanes. In both defensive examples these players are conditioned to anticipate a shot or turnover and are itching to counter.
The first problem that occurs with a faster team takes place before the opening sprint-confidence. How many times has a coach said, "Keep countering you will break this team." "They are not as fast as us." This confidence is a big mental tool if the players buy in. The hope is that team becomes overconfident.
Now how do you slow down this faster team? The root of the answer is transition defense. Monte Nitzkowski has written an article titled "Defending the Counterattack", which is posted on Water Polo Planet so I will not go into the details.
Transition defense is easier said than done because many factors go into this concept. A wise man once told me the easiest way to stop the counter is to score a goal. This same coach also preached if you are not part of the offense, think defense.
A stagnate offense is a counter's best friend. Movement is needed, for the very least, to keep the defense honest. Ball control is a must. Any turnover or ill-advised (quick) shot will ignite the counter.
To get into specifics, we will first look at teams we match up with, but are faster. We will try to put these teams back on their heals by attacking them offensively. Being patient and looking for quality shots. If you are able to achieve inside water it makes the other defenders drop into the attack zone for help defense and not allow them to lane and think counter only.
This is a lot harder with teams that you don't match-up well against. In this circumstance, the shot clock is your friend, not your enemy. Protecting the ball is a must. Again, you are being patient and looking for quality shots on offense, while using the entire shot clock. An ill-advised (quick) shot is considered a turnover in this situation and starts the counter without your team ready to defend.
In both examples, the objective is to get your opponent into a half court set offense. If you can accomplish this you have more confidence in stopping their offense and nullifying their speed.
Finally, something I didn't talk about, but needs to be mentioned is conditioning. If you are not conditioned to play four quarters your chances to slow down a faster team diminishes each quarter and you quickly find yourself playing from behind.
Curtis Robinette took over as men's coach August 1, 2002. Robinette, who graduated from Slippery Rock University in May of 2002, was a standout player for the Rockets. He was a four-year varsity award winner, captain for two seasons and was the recipient of the Dr. Richard Hunkler Water Polo Scholarship.
When Coach Hunkler was asked to comment about what kind of player Curtis was, he said,"Curtis was one of the hardest working players he ever had. He played smart and he was very quick. Also he drove like the Tasmanian Devil"
After four years of coaching swimming at both Slippery Rock and Toledo, Ohio, Robinette made his debut as a water polo coach for the second-year Laker squad. He also directs the women's team.
Robinette is a native of Maumee, Ohio.