Volume2: Number 9 Women's Varsity Coaches August 1, 2007

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 team you are about to play has a 2 meter defender who continually pulls on the suit straps of your 2 meter player. What do you show or have your 2 meter player to do to counter act all this suit pulling and what do you tell her that will help her to keep her cool?

Carin Crawford , San Diego State University

ANSWER: Suit holding is a unique problem in the women's game. Coaches and officials discuss this problem at great length in our meetings and clinics. There is consensus that suit holding diminishes the enjoyment of the game for the players and spectators. Officials have been instructed to call ejections for suit-holding, including offensive ejections. When suit holding results in exposure, this creates a negative perception of water polo among new fans to the sport, takes away from the elegance and athleticism of the game, and makes the sport look more like a wrestling match.

If we are about to play a team whose 2 meter defender tends to hold suits, I will be sure to address this in our pre-game meeting. It is important for all the field players to know about this tendency, because often officials will not make a call at 2-meters until the ball gets put into the center position.

Perimeter players will need to know of the importance of watching the situation at set if the defender and center are "untangling," wait until the 2-meter player is set, and make a safe entry pass. (Often aggressive, defenders who hold suits are part of a team that plays aggressively on the perimeter too, usually in a press and front defense.)

I hope to recruit and develop 2-meter players with an appropriate disposition for the physical nature of the center position. That said, it can be very frustrating for a 2-meter player to have their suit held. In our pre-game meeting, we will discuss what our 2-meter player will have to do to be successful against a defender who holds suit. This includes:

It is crucial that the 2-meter player focus on the ball. We want to coach our players to make it easier for the officials to make the right call. Therefore, it is essential that the 2-meter player avoid holding the defender's suit in retaliation. If the officials cannot figure out who is holding whom, an offensive may be called, or worse, a double ejection. If a defender is holding, they have less mobility, and we will hope to turn that into our advantage. Furthermore, if my 2-meter player really focuses on the ball, and turns or scores, they are less likely to get into a wrestling match with the defender.

Finally, I will politely mention to the official before the game or in the early stages of the game, to keep a close eye on a defender who tends to hold the suit of the 2-meter player. This is often more effective than waiting for the holding to occur, and then yelling at the official to call it. I expect that they will not call the suit holding every single time, but if the official is watching for it, they are likely to call it early. If it is called early and consistently, smart defenders will adjust or foul out, and that goes a long way toward solving the problem.

Carin Crawford

Carin Crawford, SDSEntering her ninth season at the helm of San Diego State water polo, Carin Crawford continues on her mission to establish the Aztecs as a top contender in women's collegiate water polo.

In each of her eight years at San Diego State, Crawford has guided the Aztecs to a top-11 national finish. During her tenure, the Aztecs have accumulated 14 All-America awards and all-MPSF honors 18 times. In addition, her players have earned 30 all-MPSF academic selections and 28 AWPCA all-academic awards.

Prior to water polo becoming an NCAA championship sport in 2001, the Aztecs, under Crawford, advanced to the National Collegiate Water Polo Championship in her first two seasons in 1999 and 2000 and finished fifth and sixth, respectively. In 2001, Crawford's Aztec team took second place at the postseason National Collegiate Select Tournament.

Crawford's coaching and playing experience has provided the foundation upon which she has built the Aztec women's water polo program. Prior to her arrival on Montezuma Mesa, Crawford served as head coach of the San Diego Mesa College women's water polo team from 1996-98 and guided the team to a berth in the 1996 SoCal championship while coaching two players to All-America honors during her two seasons there.

As coach of the Sunset San Diego Girls water polo club, Crawford assisted in building one of the premier club programs in the nation. The Sunset Girls were perennial medalists in every age group at the National Junior Olympics Water Polo Tournament from 1996-98. As a player for the Sunset Senior Women's team, Crawford was a four-time All-American, helping her team win nine Senior National Championship titles.

While a member of the United States National Team from 1989 to 1992, Crawford participated in four U.S. Olympic Festivals, earning two gold medals, a silver and a bronze. Through her participation on the national team, she traveled to Hungary, Holland, Australia and New Zealand, accumulating international playing experience and bringing that to San Diego State.

During her collegiate career, Crawford was a co-captain for the UC San Diego Tritons and received All-America honors in 1988 and '89. She graduated cum laude in 1989 and returned to earn her master's degree in U.S. history in 1992 while competing on the U.S. National Team.

As a former athlete representative to USA Water Polo, Crawford has worked at the grassroots level to raise the status of women's water polo to an Olympic and NCAA championship sport. Her contribution to the sport paid off when women's water polo was included in the 2000 Olympics and was recognized as an NCAA championship sport in 2001.

A native of Albuquerque, N.M., Crawford attended Valley High School. She enjoys surfing, gardening and spending time with her husband, Jack, and two sons, Jackson and Shane. The family resides in San Diego.

(The coach given this question failed to send in her answer before the deadline. Carin graciously consented to answer this question so this article could be posted with answers from both a west coast coach and an east coast coach. Thus WPP wishes to give a special thanks to Carin for helping us out of our predicament - THANKS CARIN!)

Matt Anderson, University of Michigan

ANSWER: I was at a tournament this past weekend and was talking with another college coach of a west coast team who said that they were losing an average of two suits a game. Two suits!! That is expensive!  Now the problem could be with the manufacturer of the suit and/or the problem could be because the 2 meter player is so dominating that the poor defender thinks she has to grab the 2 meter players suit or it will be a certain goal. Either of these two problems can cause a player’s suit to malfunction and or tear.
You can break down an ejection into three areas. 1) Hold; 2) Sink; or 3) Pull Back. All three of these can be accomplished by a player who grabs suits. But it is impossible for the referee to make a call every time a hand gets a fistful of suit nor, in my opinion, is it needed. It should only be called if it takes away the player’s advantage.

When a two-meter defender is grabbing a suit then the type of suit she is grabbing can either hinder or help her cause. You see, some teams at the high school level are going to two piece suits. This type of suit cuts down on the area that can be grabbed and it changes the position of the hand the player uses to grab the suit. This makes it harder for the person doing the grabbing to accomplish their goal of slowing the person down and it is easier for the referee to see a fistful of material in the hand of the player grabbing.

In the case of a suit that has straps (an X strap or straight over the shoulder straps) you can tell your 2 meter player to make a move away from the side that is being grabbed. This causes the defender’s arm to twist over the shoulder/back area and can give a better view to the referee who is watching for suit grabbing that is impeding the flow of the game. If they are grabbing in the middle where the straps cross then a strong vertical movement can show the grab above the water which then can be called.

With a suit that doesn’t have straps and is more of a full back, then you need to have a strong eggbeater to be able to make an explosive move either out towards the ball or up high. This gives the player a chance to show the referee that the front section or upper back is being grabbed.

Protect your suit with a strong turn spin and a seal move. This way you can get the defender on your back and you will be able to control your position better then the defender.  A strong step out move can show the referee that the suit is being pulled back or held. Also a quick sweep shot can be used to the side that the defender is holding onto your suit.

In the men’s game holding the suit of an offensive player causes a player’s hand to be deep in the water. This gives the offensive player a chance to get his hand on top of the player’s wrist which, in turn, gives the advantage back to the offensive player. Also if the offensive player can get the defender’s arm between his arm and his body then again this gives the offensive player the advantage because it allows him to attempt a strong turn move.
If a defender is taught to just hold and grab a suit then the defender is not being taught the fundamentals. For a player to learn water polo correctly then he or she should be taught fundamentals from day one. I feel that if you have one hand behind the defender worrying about holding the player’s suit then you are at a disadvantage. Because you will not be able to swim, foul, stop the back hand, the quick step out, or the sweep and you will be playing a defense where you are asking one hand to do what two hands need to do.

It is easy for the referee to see when a hand is down when playing from behind. Then the question in the referee’s mind become whether the defender is holding offensive player’s suit or whether the defender is trying to stop the offensive player from grabbing  - which is another topic, but one that is just as prevalent. It then becomes a game of who is holding who last has the advantage!

Frustration is going to come into play if the defender is getting away with more then they should. At that point when you have the opportunity to talk with your offensive set it is important to stress that she must maintain her mental discipline and she must have the patience to keeping doing things the right way. Tell her she must maintain a unified, consistent effort towards the common goal of staying with the game plan. Tell her not to panic and not to allow the defender to take her out of the game either mentally or physically. Tell her that worrying about what you do correctly is much more important then worrying about what the defender is getting away with. Finally, tell her to have faith that the referees are going to catch the suit grabbing - and when they do she must be prepared to take full advantage of it!

Matt Anderson
Matt Anderson, Michigan

Matt Anderson was named the second head coach of the Michigan water polo program on Oct. 1, 2002. Anderson immediately brought a hard-nosed philosophy and defensive intensity to the Wolverines. He has amassed an 110-45 (.710) record and won four CWPA Division titles in his four sesaons since arriving at Michigan.

Last season, Anderson reached his third Eastern Championship final after posting a 29-12 record. His offense broke numerous school records, including most goals (399) and steals (470) in a season as a team. Anderson's squad won the CWPA Western Division Championship for the fifth straight season with a thrilling 4-3 win over the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington, Ind. As a result, Anderson won the the Western Division Coach of the Year for the third straight season.

In 2005, Anderson set a precedent by coaching the program to its first NCAA championship win in its second NCAA appearance, a decisive 13-7 win over Redlands. Anderson also helped the Wolverines to a dramatic first-place finish at the Western Division Championship, winning their final game 11-10 in overtime versus eighth-ranked Indiana and again narrowly defeating Indiana 8-7 in the final game of the Eastern Division Championships. For his efforts he was awarded his second CWPA Western Division coach of the year honor and was also named the CWPA ‘Doc Hunkler’ Eastern Coach of the year.

In 2004, Anderson helped the Wolverines set school records in wins (30), fewest losses (9), winning percentage (.769), points (665), assists (291) and goals-against-average (4.61). Anderson coached U-M to an 8-0 record in conference play and its third consecutive CWPA Division Championship crown resulting in Anderson earning the CWPA Western Division Coach of the Year award.

In his first season as head coach of Michigan water polo, Anderson led U-M to a 22-10 record, a third-place finish at the Eastern Championship and a second consecutive Southern Division Conference crown. The following year, the 2003 team set a number of school records, including the best team winning percentage (.688), the fewest losses (10), the most assists in a season (222) and the lowest goals against average (5.09).

Anderson spent the 2001 season as an assistant coach at Indiana University, where he was responsible for the Hoosiers recruiting and conditioning. During his tenure at Indiana, the Hoosiers improved from No. 20 in the nation to No. 14. Prior to coaching at Indiana, Anderson was an assistant coach at San Jose State (1999-2001), where he helped his alma mater to a school-best No. 5 national ranking.

Before coaching in the collegiate ranks, Anderson achieved over 200 victories in 11 years as a coach at the high school level. He was the head coach at Los Gatos High School in Los Gatos, Calif., from 1993-2000. Over that time he compiled over 170 victories, three league titles and one finals appearance in the California Interscholastic Federation/CCS divisional playoffs. In 1999, he was named the CIF/CCS Honor Coach of the Year for his devotion to students and the game of water polo at the high school level.

Prior to coaching at Los Gatos, Anderson was the head coach of boys water polo and head coach of girls and boys swimming at Newbury Park High School in Thousand Oaks, Calif., from 1991-93. He was the head coach of boys water polo at Santa Clara High School in Santa Clara, Calif., in 1990.

Anderson is also an assistant coach with the men’s national 16-and-under Cadet Team and previously was the head coach of the national youth ‘B’ team for five years (1999-2003). He was part of the coaching staff that led the national team to a second-place finish in the Belgrade Cup, third in the Balkan Games and third in the Odysseus Cup. As head coach of the ‘B’ team, he led the squad to the 2000 and 2003 Santa Barbara International Tournament Championships. In August 2002, Anderson’s team won the bronze medal at the International Youth Championships in Santos, Brazil. In 2000 he was the assistant coach for the Men’s junior national team (20-and-under), which won the gold medal at the Pan Am’s in Barquisamento, Venezuela.

In addition, Anderson holds the position as treasurer for the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC) and is ardently involved in USA Water Polo. He is currently the vice-chair on the Women’s International Olympic Committee and is a member of the Board of Delegates for the Midwest zone.

As an assistant coach of the U.S. Men’s Cadet Team this past summer, he helped the squad to seventh at the 16-and-under World Championships -- the United States’ highest placing at the competition. In the summer of 2007, the 16-and-under group will represent the U.S. in the Pan American Youth (18-and-under) Championships.

In December of 2006, Anderson took the team to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to compete at the North American Championships, which featured teams from Canada, Brazil, Austrailia and Mexico.

From 1997-2001, Anderson served as the Zone Six head development coach for the Boy’s 19-and-under development camps, the second largest water polo member zone in the United States. His responsibilities included recruitment, selection and implementation of water polo programs for future Olympians. Anderson also spent seven years as the city of Sunnyvale, Calif., Youth Coordinator. There he was responsible for school-to-career development for area youth, including programs for at-risk teens and teen parents. He is currently a member of the five-person board of directors for the Collegiate Water Polo Association—as voted by his fellow collegiate coaches.

Anderson earned his bachelor’s degree from San Jose State in journalism with a minor in literature in 1991.