Other Voices for Not Running the Scores in a Water Polo Game

Joe Linehan & Scott Slay
Houston Water Polo Club

We fully agree with you, Doc, that running up the score is a detriment to the game.  Players quit, coaches get embarrassed, parents wonder why they have their children play, etc.  It is even worse when coaches try and rationalize why running up the score is beneficial to their team.   The worst is when a team plays only their starters, rarely subs, has plenty of players NOT playing, and the next week you read about a player from the team breaking a school record for goals or player of the week honors for scoring all their goals against  inferior opponents.  Coaches need to be educated about different ways to NOT run the score up.  Below are a couple of ways our club, the Houston Water Polo Club (HWP), works on skills while not running up the score. 

Pass Back to the Goalie & Counter Hard

Once we are comfortably ahead and know we will win the game (many times this could be before the game begins), we install the “Pass Back to the Goalie & Counter Hard” scenario.  Our team plays regular defense (same intensity as usual) with all steals or rebounds passed back to the goalie and everyone counters as hard as possible (sometimes even harder) working sealing off defense to offense, drawing ejections on the counter, and getting down the pool as fast as possible.  The first three people (1st line) get to the 2 meter line and play center and the two wings, the next three players (2nd line) get inside of seven meters and button hook (create a space for goalie to pass).  Once all six field players are down the pool (with defense in place as well), the goalie passes to a player in the 2nd line counter attack.  This allows our team to work our front court offense without pulling the ball out on a counter attack (sometimes this is embarrassing to teams).  If we score on the set-up offense a couple of times, we only allow shots from man up opportunities.  If needed, we then employ the same things you listed in your article (left handed, dump the ball with 5 seconds left, etc.). 

A very important aspect of what we do is that it allows our team to play hard defense at all times (something which is key to any team’s success) as well as counter offense.  HWP plays mostly 30 second shot clock games which puts a premium on getting into your offense as soon as possible if you do not score a goal on the counter.  This allows us to work on having the maximum time available to work our offense.  If the kids swim hard, they should get 20-22 seconds of offense.  If only one kid swims easy the time goes to 10-15 seconds.  Therefore, we practice good habits in a blow out instead of reinforcing bad habits in a lopsided game.  The key though is we do this when the score is only 5-1 or 6-1 NOT 15-2 when damage has already been done.  If a team makes a little run on us, we open up and allow counter attack goals to always try and keep the margin reasonable without being embarrassed.  Other times, we know a team is weaker and implement the system BEFORE the game starts and this keeps the score reasonable for all involved to have a good experience. 

Ultimate Comeback

Another way HWP keeps the score reasonable (especially when we know we will beat a team), we will start our bench for the first quarter.  If we are comfortably ahead, then the starters may only play a little bit the rest of the game.  If the subs take a beating, then the starters now have a challenge in front of them for the second quarter.

All solutions are positives considering there have been scores at the Junior Olympics of 35-1 in a 4 x 5:00 minute quarter game.  There is no need for these types of scores.  Coaches must remember that it is harder to teach good sportsmanship, skills, etc., then to roll out the balls, sit there and let your team score 20+ goals.  Coaches must be prepared as much for the blowouts as for the close games. 

Regards,          Regards,
Joe Linehan   Scott Slay
Houston Water Polo Club (HWP)   Houston Water Polo Club (HWP)
713-705-0945    Ross Sterling High School-Head Coach
[email protected]     [email protected]
www.HoustonWaterPolo.com     www.DirtyBayAquatics.com