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 with a significant size advantage. Their players are larger and stronger than your players. What do you do to try to lessen this advantage, and why?
ANSWER: In order to execute the below explained game plan, the size and strength challenged team I am coaching would need to have depth. To successfully execute the movement based offensive and defensive schemes over 32 minutes would be impossible with less than 12 contributing players.
1. Offensively I would attempt to create a lot of movement, probably a "ball side" driving offense forcing the big guys to go over their hips a lot during a given possession. Basically you have your player at the 4 or 5 positions become your quarterback and begin the offense with no 2M player. Drives can be individual drives toward the goal initiated by the 3 or the 2, or a 3/2 pick. If someone gets ball side, the quarterback delivers the ball. If the defense over plays the ball side you can have your driver pinch the drive defender across the cage and post up toward the 1/2. The quarterback crosses the ball to the 1-2 and enters the ball to the post up player. Despite the fact that bigger players can cover a lot of area and take up more space, they have a harder time getting their hands up when required and (as stated before) getting over their hips.
2. Defensively I would attempt the limit contact as much as possible. Assuming the opponent is bigger and physically stronger it will certainly not be to our advantage to get into a wrestling match on defense. Our defense would involve splits, gaps and traps. 2M will always be taken away…with a foul and help method on one side and a zone and split on the other side. The sides dedicated to each can be mixed up by quarter, following a time out, on a verbal command from the coach or goalie, or based upon the position of the 2M player. The premise will be encouraging the perimeter offensive players to throw the ball where it shouldn’t be.
For example, 2M player set to 1/2…so we press and deny 1/2 and foul and help if it does get there. On the other side we slightly sag off 4/5, encouraging the ball to these players. Once it arrives at 4/5 (the wrong side) we “trap” or press no foul on this side.
3. Counter Attack. Hopefully, if we are not bigger or stronger we would at least be FASTER. If this is the case, we would obviously encourage reaction and execution of whatever counter attack scheme we decide to employ. Cutting off on the counter attack will also be key as we force the big guys to change directions, declare their innocence by getting their hands up, etc.
4. 6x5. With big guys, again they take up a lot of space (physically and shot blocking as well) so our “man advantage” attack will need to involve some rotations. A 3-3 into a 4-2 with various positions initiating the rotation would be one way to create the defense to move. Or a 4-2 rotation…ball at 6, 5 to 3, 3 to 2, 2 pop to 4, and 4 center could also create movement and holes on the inside. The basic premise is to make the big guys move and not remain stationary.
5. 5x6. Hopefully, if our front court defense is being executed as planned, we will not be excluded a tremendous amount. Nonetheless, our plan would again involve movement. Upon the initial exclusion, we would cover the center and begin the 5x6 in a standard set up. From there, we would employ an “audible” or trigger into a new defense. The new defense would encourage an outside shot as opposed to an inside shot where we would be at a size disadvantage. The 5x6 would attempt to reveal to the offense they have a 3x2 advantage where WE decide it should be. For example, give them 5 and 6 and lock down everything else (especially if no lefty). This tells them where WE will allow the shot to come from and make it easier for us to shot block and easier for our goalie to anticipate.
6. The X Factor. Teams with size advantages tend to look across the pool at the size of the opponent to gage what to expect in the coming competition. If the BIG team does not take the SMALL opponent seriously (and the SMALL team anticipates this), the SMALL team can crate early momentum for itself. Not to mention, the intangible qualities of individuals or cohesive teams (regardless of size) such as heart, desire, perseverance, persistence, and effort. Never underestimate the power of a cohesive unit…regardless of size.
In conclusion, of course execution will be key, but depth will be critical to this execution. The game plan will require a lot of movement, which will require at least 12 contributing players.
A graduate and student-athlete at Whittier College, Carty was an All Conference selection three times from 1993 to 1995. As well as being the first player in Whittier history to be named to the All Western Water Polo Association Team in 1994, Carty was also selected as an Academic All American in 1995. He was selected Whittier College’s Freshman Athlete of the Year in 1993, and Outstanding Male Athlete of the Year in 1994 and 1996.
Carty’s coaching career began at Whittier High School in 1992 where he helped lead the Cardinals to their first League Championship in eight years, and their first CIF Championship appearance in 33 years. Since taking over as the Head Men’s Water Polo Coach of the Poets in 1997, Carty has accumulated 142 overall victories, including a 70% winning percentage versus conference opponents. In his nine years as Head Men’s Coach, Carty has placed 16 male athletes to the Division III All American teams. Most recently, Whittier College captured the Men's SCIAC Conference Championship in 2004 and Coach Carty was named "Coach of the Year" by the American Water Polo Coaches Association for NCAA Division III.
In July 2002, Carty was promoted to full-time status at Whittier College and was named the Aquatics Coordinator. As Aquatics Coordinator, Carty retains his duties as Head Men’s Water Polo Coach, but also has taken over as Head Women’s Water Polo Coach, where in his first season led the Poets to their most successful season in the program’s history. In just four years as the Head Women’s Water Polo Coach, Carty has rebuilt the program into a SCIAC Conference contender, including placing four female athletes to the Division III All American teams.
Coach Carty graduated from Whittier College in 1996 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Physical Education, as well as a minor in Psychology. In 1998, Carty completed his Masters of Arts Degree in Education, also from Whittier College, in which his thesis topic was “Creating Team Cohesion.” Finally, Coach resides in La Habra Heights with his wife Lyn ’96 of seven years and their daughter Tess.
ANSWER: When playing a team that has a significant size advantage over my players, I like to offset that advantage by keeping the pace of the game very fast. Offensively, we will counterattack as much as possible and we will continually swim their players from two meter line to two meter line. By doing this, we are:
1.) Not letting our opponents get set in their defensive scheme so they can't impose their size and strength against us.
2.) Making their players very tired on defense which will adversely affect their play in their offensive end of the pool.
If our counterattack isn't successful, we want to run a lot of drives during our offensive possessions. Hopefully, we'll get a lot of man advantage opportunities which will help us to score more goals and and will help us to place their better players in foul trouble.
Defensively, I would employ a double team against their 2 meter players and play a stunt/chase split with my perimeter defenders. This will neutralize our opponents' size advantage on the interior of the offense and force them to take outside shots to score goals. The stunt/chase defense also feeds very well into our offensive game plan for counterattacking.
Bob Filander will serve as the head coach of Washington & Jefferson College men's and women's water polo teams for the fourth season during the 2006-07 school year.
Filander, who is the school’s first-ever full-time head water polo coach, spent four seasons as the assistant coach for both water polo programs prior to taking over for Mike Orstein, who launched the first four years of water polo at Washington & Jefferson.
Filander's combined record as a collegiate head coach is 64-64, including a 37-27 mark with the men's program. He has twice led the Presidents' men to 14-win seasons.
A 1999 graduate of W&J with a double major in English and education, Filander was a four-year letter winner for the Presidents’ swimming team. He still holds four school records at the College. Also an All-Presidents’ Athletic Conference track and field athlete, Filander was named Washington & Jefferson’s Male Athlete of the Year in 1999.
Filander, who also serves as an assistant for the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, is a native of Charleroi, Pennsylvania.