Overview of Water Polo in the USA: Part 3

Ivan Vranjes
National Water Polo League

In every kind of team sport, and especially in water polo, the goalkeeper has one of the most important and the most responsible part in the game. For the goalkeeper in water polo, coaches many times say that goalkeepers are worth half of the team. With that in mind coaches usually build technical and tactical ideas based around goalies. In modern water polo, games end with minimal advantage. Most of the times goalies are the ones who decide the outcome. The goalie is the last corrector of the defense’s mistakes.

Coaching a good goalkeeper (in this case, making a good goalkeeper) is very hard and a coach must CHOOSE GOALKEEPER very early in the training process. That is much earlier than other players find their best positions in the game. This choice must be made sometime in the water polo school when child is between 10-12 years (sometimes later) but their average sport lifetime is longer than players‘.


Goalkeepers have training different than other players. Their training is based on two parts (when we talk about training we talk about active work time). First part, between 35-40% of time must be general swimming training, which is adapted to goalkeeper (horizontal phase, working on aerobic section and general endurance). Second part, between 60-65% of time must be specific goalkeeper's training (vertical phase, specific aerobic-anaerobic preparation, endurance and strength). Modern water polo needs a special type of coach for goalkeeper training. Today's good clubs and clubs which intend to have good results must have an assistant coach and a coach for goalkeepers.

As previously mentioned before, the goalkeeper must be a very reliable person and must have excellent concentration (high level concentration which cannot be easily disturbed) during the game or training. He must give confidence to defensive players and be very coordinated with those players. The goalie must recognize a situation very fast and he has to react very fast, like quick and short jumps to the side with maximum support by legs (not hands!).

The statistic average for a goalkeeper save success; Good goalkeeper is between 40-50%, very good goalkeeper (quality) between 50-60%, excellent goalkeeper (top quality) between 60-70% and over 70% is very rarity, even in the one game.

Goalie skills that need to be perfected* while training in the age groups:

1. Water polo school (8-9 years old):

2. Age group (10 & under)

3. Age group (12 & under):

 4. Age group (14 & under):

5. 16 & under

6. 18 & under

To be continued ...