Volume2: Number 8 Women's Varsity Coaches July 15, 2006

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 :The players on the team you are about to play can set picks very well. They do up picks, down picks, an cross picks. Name a pick and they can do it. How do you prepare your team for playing this team.

Rick Rowland, Coach of California Baptist University

ANSWER: Scouting Opponents:  A scouting report from a local coach or Videotaping your opponent will certainly will help you set up your practice and prepare you for the upcoming game.

When and where in the pool do they execute picks?
What players on the team usually execute the picks?
Do they execute them after an ordinary foul at 2 meters or do they execute them off a perimeter foul?
Do they run picks from one side of their frontcourt offense? 
Do they run picks from down low on the wing or on top from the perimeter? 

Types of Picks:

1) Front Court Offense Picks:  We number picks off of our offensive positions.  We give the number listed first to the player who sets the pick out of the frontcourt offense:
A 1-2 pick would begin from the #1 position on offense swimming up and setting a pick on the to the back or side of the player at position #2.   The opponent may also run a 2-1 pick.  The #2 position swims down and sets a screen for the #1 player.  The #1 player may just loop around pushing off the #2 players back and throwing up a shot directly behind #2.  Does the team also run a 4-5 side pick, a 5-4 pick?  Do they run picks from the top of the offense: 3-2, 3-4, 2-3, 4-3? Do they use their body to run picks? Do they swim and use their body and then use their hands to secure and hold temporarily? Teams may even run a scrape pick off of 2-meters from position 1or 5.

Player numbers

2) After Goal Play Picks:  After the opposing team scores a goal,  the team will often counter with a pick or play from ½ court off of the line-up.  The pick is executed to open up player for an offensive opportunity down in front of the goal.

Do they run a pick or series of picks to release and receive the ball from a teammate or Goalie? 
Once the ball is received do they run a ball side pick with specific personnel to execute a shot or foul or ejection? 
Does the pick then flow into their frontcourt offensive scheme?

3) Transitional Counterattacking Picks: Picks run from backcourt to mid court while transitioning from defense to offense.  The counterattacking player initiates a picks crossing over in front of another teammates defender and usually does not even stop but slows down to screen off the defender for their teammate. This will open up their teammate for a ball side transition or front water opportunity.

4) Timeout Plays with Picks:  Picks set with 2-meter players and or attacking players to produce an opening for a shot or inside water position for the player involved in the pick. The pick may draw an ejection, Penalty shot or quick goal with little time left on clock.

Practice executing the opponents “Picks

I recommend running the opponents picks in an unguarded situation first for younger players. After perfecting the picks unguarded transition to perfecting them against full defense in set situations and in scrimmage game-like situations.

1) Communicate: Use teammates names, “Jeff, Pick coming”!  Recognition of the pick will certainly make it easier to defend. The easiest thing to do in water polo is communicate. Once you hear the pick is coming you should Step Back toward the center of the goal away from the pick by stepping and stroking back with your legs and arms. If that kills the pick then you can Step up to press the athlete you are guarding or switch to the athlete who is trying to come off of the pick.

2) Switching or staying with your man: Get your head on a swivel so you know what is going on at all times.  You may be able to switch quickly or move away from pick because you have a visual of the pick coming at you. You can switch to the most open player if you have your hips up and directed back to the goal. Stepping over your legs to move laterally or backwards to defend the pick coming at you will help you stay out of the ejection box.

3) Swim through or fight through the pick:  Good picks are tough to swim through unless you see them coming at you and are able to get through the pick before it has been set. You may even need to make light push away from the pick or counter spin a hold if you are caught unaware of pick.  On mid court and transitional picks out of the backcourt anticipate turnovers and get out on your back ahead of the player you are guarding before the :30 second clock expires. Be clock aware. This will give you lead on your opponent down the pool and an early visual on any oncoming mid court or transitional picks

4) Match-ups:  Often times the opponents leading scorers or best athletes will be run the majority of the picks on time out plays or after goal plays.  Match-up your best defenders on the skilled players. The best time to set up match ups is off the ½ court line-up after you score a goal or during a time-out when you know they are coming at you with their special pick.

5) Sag back or cheat back on Picks:  Cheat off the weaker players who are not as involved in the pick play.  The opponent’s opportunities to score or draw ejections will be reduced with match-ups and sagging back on their pick. On after goal plays with multiple players involved just pre-set your defense already in front of the goal putting your best defender at the 2 meters or perimeter areas where they will execute their pick play.  They will have to come to come off the ½ court line to where you have established your defense to defend their pick play

Rick Rowland

Rick Rowland, Cal Baptist The architect behind all of California Baptist University’s success in aquatics, Rick Rowland started the swimming and water polo programs in the 1999-2000 school year and is now in his seventh season as head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams.

As one of only 3 NAIA schools to field a water polo program, the CBU men’s and women’s water polo teams compete against the nation’s top programs and are part of the national ranking system that includes the NCAA schools. The men’s team has regularly been ranked in the top 20 during the past 5 years, and its highest end-of-season ranking was No. 14 in 2001. The women finished No. 17 in 2001.

In 6 seasons, Rowland has led the men’s team to an overall record of 127-72 (.638) and a record of 95-59 (.617) against 4-year varsity programs. Rowland’s women’s teams are 125-80 (.610) overall and 90-75 (.545) against varsity teams. Combined, Rowland’s water polo teams are 252-152 (.624) overall and 185- 134 (.580) against varsity teams.

In swimming, the women’s team snapped a string of 5 years where it finished second or third at the NAIA Swimming & Diving Championships with its first-ever championship in 2005. The men’s team has finished in second place all 6 years. Rowland was named 2001 NAIA Coach of the Year as both teams placed second.

His men have won 20 individual NAIA championships and 3 relay titles, while the women have won 23 individual crowns and 2 relay races. He has had 26 men earn a total of 153 All-American honors, and 22 women earn 149 All-American honors.

Academically, Rowland has coached 29 American Water Polo Coaches Association All-Academic selections (9 men and 20 women) and 8 NAIA Swimming Scholar-Athletes.

Rowland started on campus during the 1998-99 season as Director of Aquatics and spent one year recruiting and starting the program from scratch. Previously, he coached at Santa Margarita High School from 1993-98 and Villa Park High School from 1988-93. He was also a high school and intermediate school teacher during this time.

From 1982-85, Rowland was the assistant coach for men’s water polo and swimming at Pepperdine, his alma mater (his father, Rick Sr., was the head coach). Rowland graduated from Pepperdine with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and kinesiology in 1981. He was a standout swimmer and water polo player there while playing for his father.

Rowland also earned a master’s degree in education from Azusa Pacific in 1999. He and his wife, Teri, have 2 children (Trevor, 15; and Meghan, 11).

Jason Gall, Coach of Brown University

ANSWER: When preparing to play a team that predominately uses picks we first have to ask “what is the purpose of the pick?”   Here are a few reasons why a team would run a pick:

  1. to create a ball side drive situation;
  2. to create a mismatch at 2 Meters;
  3. to gain inside water for a cross pass;
  4. to free up a player to receive a perimeter pass so that the ball can be passed to the 2 Meter player;
  5. to free up a player for a perimeter shot;
  6. to earn an ejection or penalty shot with inside water.

If I know that we are going to play a team that runs a lot of picks, and we have a few practices to prepare, we will start the week off with basic sculling drills, working on keeping our hips on top of the water, sculling backwards, and rotating over the hips, keeping our hands light in the water.  We will transition into 1 on 1 drives.  Here I emphasize giving the offensive player a little bit of separation, knowing that they are going to be driving.  We focus on staying 1 stroke ahead of the offensive player and watching the ball whether it’s coming from 2 meters, the strong side or the weak side.  We then have players simulate the types of picks that our opponent will be running.  We will prepare ourselves for the drive/pick by making sure we are trying to take away ball side by playing between the ball and the players we are defending.   As the pick is happening the 2 defensive players must communicate with each other so that the player closest to the cage is covered and we re not giving up inside water.  We will try to fight through picks as our first option; however, if we do get “picked” we will call for a switch..

Defense on the ball/passer is almost more important than defense on the pick itself.  Good picks will create advantages but if the ball can’t get to the open player the play is broken.  If the for example the ball is on the 4/5 side of the pool, and the pick is used to open up a player driving towards the post on the 4/5 side, the defender on the ball will look to fouls and drop, to prevent the ball getting to the open player, or if the passer is out against the side wall or lane line and we don’t have time to foul and drop we will just drop.  It is important that the defender on the passer knows what’s going on behind them and is ready to crash back. 

If for example the pick is happening on the 1/2 side and the ball is up at the opposite flat or wing, 4/5 side, we will try to put pressure on the passer without fouling, and force them to make that long pass under pressure. Because the passer is under pressure, the goalie can slide toward the pick knowing that it is unlikely the passer will be able to get a shot off. A long cross pass under pressure is not an easy thing to do so even if the pick is executed properly, the ball still needs to get there within the 1 or 2 seconds that the player is open. 

Just like any aspect of water polo, defending the pick takes a total team effort.  Every player must know what’s going on in the pool, communication is key, and effort must be at 100% at all times.

Jason Gall

Jason Gall, BrownJason Gall was hired in 2004 as Brown's head coach for men's and women's water polo. In his short tenure, he has already brought about great improvement in both squads.

He was named Head Coach of the Pomona-Pitzer Women's Water Team in 1998 and Head Coach of the Men's Team in 2002. Last season, the women's team won the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) title and finished second in the nation at the NCAA Division III championships. In 2003, Pomona-Pitzer won the women's NCAA Division III championship and Coach Gall was named Division III Coach of the Year. Gall's six year conference record with the Pomona-Pitzer women's team was 46-25.

Since 1999 Gall has also worked as an assistant coach with the CHAWP club team. He also spent three years as the assistant coach with the ORCA club team. Both teams have competed in National Championship events including the Junior Olympics and National Age Group Championships. In 2003 Gall help lead CHAWP/ORCA to silver and bronze medals at the National Junior Olympics.

Gall has also served as the head coach for the Inland Empire Women's Youth Zone Team for the past year as part of the Women's National Team staff. His duties included developing the players into future Olympians as the team attends the National Selection Camp each year.

From 2001-2002 Gall was the head men's water polo coach at Orange Coast Junior College in Costa Mesa, CA.

Coach Gall graduated from the University of Southern California in 1997 and earned his Master's Degree from Azusa Pacific University in 2001. His collegiate water polo experience includes being named a 1st team All-American at Long Beach City College in 1993 as well as playing on the University of Southern California team which finished 2nd in the nation on 1996.