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 have a young team and the team you are going to play has a tenacious full court or lane press. What do you do in practice to prepare your young team to play this team, and why?
ANSWER: Looking at the question, I would say that there are two main objectives that will lead to success on the offensive end in this situation:
1. Limi or /eliminate turnovers on the perimeter – Basically, don’t let the ball get stolen from you and don’t throw the ball away
A. Pressure Passing – as part of warm-up with any young team, working on the layout pass and drawing the foul on the perimeter are crucial. With many young teams, success is dependent upon minimizing your turnovers and getting every player to be able to handle the ball. A common joke with younger teams is that the ball becomes the “big yellow problem” - meaning that there will be players that aren’t comfortable when they get the ball in their hands and tend to panic. As a coach of a young team, this is the biggest offensive priority.
B. Movement on Offense
1. When a defense is up high in the lanes, it is easier to gain and maintain inside water. By doing this consistently and getting the ball to the open player, the defense will be hesitant to be as high in the lanes, which will allow for easier ball movement. While learning different releases to get the ball around on the perimeter are all things that a team needs to learn, I believe that the best way to start is by teaching a player to drive to the water at the defenders back (cut-off) and hold position and finish the drive. Beating the defense on drives can earn you exclusion fouls, force another defender to help (breaking the press) or open water for another player to quickly swim up to and get to a ball-side position to receive the pass. I would emphasize movement early in the clock. The more movement that we create early, the more offensive chances we will have
2. Another simple movement to help break the press is for the 3 position (point player) to drive to the strong-side of the pool (on the side of the ball). This will free up space for the players on the weak side to get open for the ball. The 3 Drive may be open in the middle, as well.
C. I would then run one-way counter attacks with the following emphasis: First wave needs to get down to the 2m line (especially the wings), the second wave needs to release for the ball deeper into the offensive end and speed up their swimming right before releasing, and have 2-3 players releasing for the ball (so that the opponent can’t plan and play for one release to get into their press). We need to have explosive releases to get the ball down the pool quickly and before the opponent can apply pressure to the ball and get set up in the lanes.
2. Be able to create offensive opportunities to score early – if we can do this early, we may force the team away from the press defense
A. By driving and looking to get the ball to the drive, there is an opportunity for an early advantage or exclusion
B. By getting the wings to the 2 meter line, our center (fronted) can push the defender out away from the goal, so when the ball gets to the wing, it can be passed into the center with inside water.
C. If the center is weaker or we are unable to consistently get the ball to him/her against the press and front in practice, running an offense that is based around ball-side drives is another option. Players drive in, post up, drive out and another player drives in and does the same thing. This will keep the team focused on defending drives and less on stealing the ball and counter attacking.
Once I had the team understanding the tactics, I would run 4-5 minute scrimmage segments, focusing on what we had learned and I would not call many perimeter fouls (I would let the team know that ahead of time). With 4-5 minute scrimmage segments, it allows the young team to focus on one or two things for a short period of time and then get feedback. Start simple and then add options. I would continue to referee little or no perimeter fouls through practice until the game. The intent is that if we create worse-case scenario in practice, we will be prepared for anything in the game that may happen on the perimeter.
These are several options to work with depending upon the offensive strengths of your team.
Entering his second year in Tempe, Head Coach Todd Clapper has the Arizona State University water polo program on the rise following a 2006 campaign in which his squad finished ranked sixth in the nation. No stranger to the side lines of the collegiate coaching ranks, Clapper will begin his eighth season as a women's head coach and the 13th season of collegiate coaching after leading the Brown University women's and men's teams in six and five seasons, respectively, and ASU in 2006.
Clapper has been a successful coach on many levels, most recently being named as the head coach of the USA Women's Youth National Team. Along with his collegiate coaching stints which include assistant positions with Villanova and Slippery Rock, Clapper also has served as the head coach of high school, age group and masters level teams.
The first year under Clapper's tutelage provided many high notes for the Sun Devil program, including several wins over Top 10 foes and a sixth-place finish in both the MPSF Championships and the final AWPCA National Top 20 rankings. With a 15-13 record and a 5-7 mark in the MPSF, the Sun Devils finished seventh in the league's regular season standings.
Individually, Clapper helped two freshman to success, including Rowie Webster, who scored a program-record 63 goals en route to earning Third Team All-America accolades as well a place on the All-MPSF Second Team and MPSF All-Tournament teams. His other rookie sensation was Addison Doud, who was second on the team with 39 goals. Both played internationally with their respective junior squads (Australia and USA, respectively) while Doud also played for the US Senior `B' Team at the FINA World League Preliminaries.
Clapper also had a successful summer internationally as his USA Women's Youth National Team won the gold medal at the 2006 Pan-Am Games in Montreal. By winning the tournament against teams one age group older, Clapper's team was selected as the 2006 U.S. Olympic Committee's Team of the Year.
In his first season on the pool deck with the Sun Devils, Clapper worked with the goalies and helped Caylinn Wallace become one of the top young players in the nation as the rookie earned a spot on the MPSF All-Freshman team. Wallace also set a school record for saves in a single game as she stopped 22 in an 8-7 upset of No. 8 UC Santa Barbara. Wallace also led the MPSF with an average of 9.35 saves per game.
Clapper came to Tempe with a wealth of coaching experience. Following his graduation from Slippery Rock University in 1997, he stayed on with his alma mater and served as an assistant coach for the women's team for one season. From there, he took on assistant coaching duties at Villanova for one year.
His first head coaching position came one year later when he took over the reigns of the Wissahickon High School boys and girl's programs in Ambler, Pa. In his one season with the girl's team, he helped them attain their highest state finish as the team placed third in the Pennsylvania meet.
Following the girl's season at WHS, Clapper took over at Brown University were he also mentored a pair of teams as the head coach for both the men's and women's water polo squads from 1998-2004. Under Clapper, the women earned a berth into the inaugural NCAA Championship event in 2001 while also climbing as high as No. 12 in the nation.
For his efforts at Brown, he earned several coach of the year awards, including New England (2000), Eastern Championship (2001 and 2003), Northern Division (2002) and Northeastern (2004). He closed out his tenure with the Bears' women's program with a record of 105-73 while seeing his team post 18 or more wins in each of his last four season, including 22 victories in 2001 and 20 in 2002.
His teams also fared well in the championship seasons as his team won the Eastern title in 2001 and the Northeastern division in 2004. The Bears also took runner-up honors at the ECAC Championships three times, the Northern Championships twice and the Eastern Championships once.
Most recently, he served as the head coach for a pair of teams in Las Vegas, including the City of Las Vegas Masters team and the Southern Nevada United (age group) team. He was instrumental in building the two programs as the masters team saw an increase from 10 to 25 members while the age group team was built from the ground up, now totaling nearly 30 members.
Clapper was a four-year letter winner for The Rock, helping the team attain a Top 15 national ranking. As the starting goalie, he captained the team as a senior in 1996, the same year he also was selected second-team all-conference. A walk-on that became the starter in goal by the end of his sophomore season, he graduated Cum Laude with a BS in Exercise Science (aquatic emphasis) and also attained a minor in Adapted Physical Activity and Rehabilitation
ANSWER: Going up against a physically tough press defense is always a challenge for a young team. By preparing for a press in practice, and focusing on a few key areas, a team can hopefully put themselves in a position to not only handle but overcome a strong press defense. Here are a couple of areas we like to focus on in practice before facing a tough press defense:
- Weight Room: Every drive, pass and shot will be contested by a press defense so it is especially important that your players are physically prepared for the demands of the game. Hopefully your team has put in the time and effort in the weight room.
- Leg Strength: We spend as much time on leg work as any other form of conditioning. Fighting for and holding position when posting up will be very important in breaking through a strong press, so leg strength will be critical.
- Swim Conditioning: Playing four quarters against a press defense is very taxing on your players. It is important that they are in the best shape possible as they will be in a constant battle for positioning and to initiate any kind of motion.
- Passing:My biggest fear in facing a lane press defense is turning the ball over and giving the other team easy opportunities in transition. Focus on accurate passes to safe water as well as ball handling work.
- Shooting: Your scoring opportunities against a strong press will be few, so it is important to convert and capitalize on those chances. Shot selection will be critical as well as you do not want to force poor shots that the other team will counter off of.
- Body Positioning: Just as important as passing the ball accurately, your players must be able to move and/or hold a side to make themselves available for the ball. Perimeter players must avoid being vertical in the water as it makes them an easy target to be countered off of.
- Finish Your Counter: Young teams when facing a press defense have a tendency to get pushed out of their front-court offense and spread too far from the cage. It is important that the team finishes their counter attack and transitions deep into their offensive end of the pool.
- Advance the Ball Quickly: The faster you can advance the ball into your offensive end of the pool, the harder it is for the other team to organize and establish their ball-side defense. Moving the ball up quickly will also give you more time to work in your front-court offense.
- Push the Counter Attack: By transitioning hard consistently throughout the game, you can force the other team to expend a lot of energy playing defense. Especially if your team has the advantage in depth, you want to wear the other team down as much as possible in transition.
SCOUTING THE OTHER TEAM :
- Avoid Strong 2M Defender: If the other team has a dominate 2M defender, try to avoid setting against that player. If possible, roll in and post-up your second option and keep that 2M defender on the perimeter.
- Exploit Miss-Matches: Identify those players on the other team who are either overly aggressive, or weak at individual defense. By attacking those players you can hopefully draw a few quick ejections and create scoring opportunities in front of the cage.
- Attack Aggressive Transition Players: If the other team has particular playersthat are aggressive in transition, try to drive them through or post them up as much as possible. By keeping them deep in their own defense end, you can prevent them from leadingtheir team’s counter attack.
These are a few of the ideas that we focus on in the practices leading up to a match-up against a tough press defense. Hopefully by preparing correctly for this type of defense, a team can exploit it and find its own advantages. In coaching a young team, preparation is critical as it gives your inexperienced players the best opportunity to execute properly in competitive game situations.
Andrew Silva, the 2006 MAAC Coach of the Year, embarks on his third season as the head coach of the Marist College women's water polo program. In his first campaign Silva led the Red Foxes to a 13-20 record, the most wins in the program's short history. While under the direction of Silva the Red Foxes finished the regular season tied for second in the MAAC and earned its second consecutive trip to the MAAC Water Polo Championships. Silva also guided Marist to the programs first ever victories over the likes of Maryland, Slippery Rock, Queens College, Mercyhurst and Villanova.
During his second season at the helm, Silva guides the Red Foxes to a program best 23-15 record, including an 8-2 mark in MAAC regular season play. Under Silva's guidance, the Foxes beat #16 Hartwick in 2006 and won the school's first ever MAAC Championship by defeating Iona and Wagner in the conference tournament. Marist earned the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Championship, hosted by The University of California-Davis, where they took on national power Stanford in the first round as the #7 seed.
The California native began his coaching career at San Luis Obispo High School as a assistant coach upon graduation from the high school in 1996. In 1999 he was hired as both the boys' and girls' varsity coach at San Luis Obispo High, where he helped rebuild the programs. He guided the girls' team to consecutive top-10 division rankings and a Northern League Title in 2002. In Silva's second season at the helm, the boys' team made their first playoff appearance in four seasons.
Silva-coached players have gone onto see collegiate success around the nation. One of his protégé's earned First Team All-Tournament honors at the 2003 NCAA Division I Women's Water Polo Championship, playing for Loyola Marymount. Other Silva-coached players have gone onto successful playing careers at the likes of UC-Irvine, Princeton and UC-Santa Cruz. Two other of Silva's standouts at San Luis Obispo have made the trip to Poughkeepsie to play for him at Marist.
Silva was an All-League selection during his scholastic playing days as a goalkeeper at San Luis Obispo. He helped lead his squad to a league title and back-to-back playoff appearances.
He has promoted the growth of the sport of water polo, helping to establish the San Luis Obispo Water Polo Club, a program for boys and girls age 13-18. The club consisted of three teams for each the boy's and girl's and catered to nearly 100 young athletes in the community.
A native of San Luis Obispo, Calif., Silva earned a degree in political science from Cal-Poly in 2002. He currently resides in Poughkeepsie, NY.