Volume 1:  Number 7           October 1, 2006

US National Men's and Women's Water Polo Players or Coaches

Each month a playeror coach from a US National Men's Team and a player or coach from a US National Women's Team will give the water polo community some tips on how to play a particular position or a fundamental skill. In turn WPP will post a photograph and concise biography to help the water polo community get to know the players and coaches.

Defending the Drive and Setting Up Your Teammates by Adam Wright

The famous saying that Defense wins games and Offense sells tickets could not be more right on than for the game of water polo.  The game of water polo is generally a low scoring sport.  You see how the people who run the sport are constantly changing rules to increase goal average but usually there is not a dramatic difference.  I can remember one of our most important games internationally was at the 2003 World Championships in Barcelona Spain.  We were playing in the quarter final against Greece to advance to the medal rounds and the outcome of the game was 4-3 in favor of Greece.  From the outside it is easy to think that the offense was the cause for losing the game and indeed it was a part of it.  But after taking a look at the film both teams were getting opportunities but not converting which happens in all sports.  Looking closer at the film the defense for both teams was amazing but we ended up losing that game because of a defensive lapse on one possession.  One lapse on the defensive side can cause the outcome of the game whereas one lapse on the offensive side generally will not cause the outcome of a game.

Things to be thinking of while playing defense.

1. The Ball - where is the ball, it is important for all the players to know where the ball is at all times.

2. Your Man - the person you are defending, do not lose sight of them, so as you are looking for the ball you should be checking or feeling the person you are defending.

3. The Center - everybody needs to be aware of the centers position, does
your guard need help or can you press, is the center rolling out to one side
or another and can you help your guard.

4. Area - the area is the space of water around you, some players can cover
allot more area than others, this means if a teammate gets beat on a drive
or needs some sort of help, can you help them yet recover back to the person
you were originally guarding.

5. Anticipation - can you anticipate what the offenses next move will be.

You have to constantly be aware of these five things on defense.

Defending the Drive

When the offensive player begins his drive try to scull with him for as long as possible. At some point you will have to come over your hips and begin swimming. Allot of players have the habit of giving their hips to the offensive player which makes them quite vulnerable. When you have to come over your hips, you should swing them the opposite way of the drive. I like to compare it to a back spin from break dancing. When you swing your hips out the opposite direction this will propel your body in the direction you want to go. Most importantly this will give you full vision of all the players and you will be able to know where the ball is which is one of the five things to be aware of. Lastly you will also be able to catch or knockdown the overpass to the driver because you can see the ball coming. You will not have to worry anymore about the passes to the driver that you never see.

Setting up Your Teammates

On all sports teams each person has a certain role. No one role is more important than the other. Setting up the person who scores the goal is just as important as the person who scores the goal. The United States has a tendency to think the best athletes are the ones scoring the most points, whether it is basketball, soccer or any sport for that matter. Allot of the time the action leading up to the point scoring is much more difficult. Think of Magic Johnson, he would come down the court dribble past three or four people pass the ball behind his back to Kareem, who would in turn have a easy slam dunk. Each athlete should try to identify their role on the team. On our team we have shooters who should get the opportunity to shoot more than others because they are better at it. We have defenders, centers, goalies and drivers. Each person has a certain position on a team because they are better at that certain aspect than others.

As a set up person I feel you need to have vision of the whole pool always. What I mean by that is knowing where you and your teammates are at all times. I think the most important aspect is knowing your teammates movements, where they like the ball, when they like the ball, and what kind of pass they like to receive. For example, I know Tony on a drive likes more of a tear drop pass over the defender so it gives him time to work for better position. With this pass I like to throw it to him as he is swimming so the ball is on his hand when he stops. That is just one situation of many for one person in particular. I know that if Tony is on the outside, he likes the pass fast and behind his head so he can release it quickly. For two meters I know that Bailey likes the ball closer to his hand or on the hand given the situation. All these are just examples. Now imagine there are thirteen people on one team and hundreds of situations, but as a player it is important to know your teammates.

ADAM WRIGHT

INTERNATIONAL/CLUB: One of the most experienced members of the Senior National Team with nearly 15 years of involvement… Threat at both ends of the pool with tough defense and good scoring ability...Scored four goals for Team USA in the 2005 FINA World Championships...Scored a goal against Russia at the 2004 Olympic Games...Scored in six games and led Team USA with five goals at the 2003 World Championships ...Netted four goals at 2003 U.S. Cup...Had four goals, including three in one game, at the 2003 French International…First became involved with the National Team in 1997.

PROFESSIONAL: Spent the 2005/2006 season in Sicily, Italy playing for Nuoto Catania….Played for Dynamo in Moscow, Russia in 2004-2005 with U.S. teammate Ryan Bailey.

COLLEGE: Named collegiate All-American and All-MPSF athlete in four straight seasons at UCLA...Was a member of the 1999 and 2000 UCLA Bruins National Championship teams....Led the Bruins with 27 assists in 1999.

HIGH SCHOOL: Played at Wilson High School in Long Beach, Calif., under current National Team Coach Ricardo Azevedo...Was named the 1995 CIF Division I Player of the Year...Member of the 1994 Division I CIF Championship team...Awarded High School All-American honors in three seasons...Notched 309 career goals at Wilson.

PERSONAL: Favorite foods include sushi and Mexican...If he weren’t playing water polo, he would pursue baseball...Cites his parents, brother and Klaus Barth as his biggest influences…Loved traveling to Cuba and Hong Kong with water polo.

INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION HIGHLIGHTS:

2005 FINA World Championships, Montreal, Canada, 11th place
2005 FINA World League
2005 ASUA Cup Mexico City, Mexico, 1st place
2004 Olympic Games, Athens, Greece, 7th place
2004 Torneo di Napoli, Naples, Italy, 3rd place
2003 FINA World League Super Finals, New York, NY, 3rd place
2003 FINA World Championships, Barcelona, Spain, 6th place
2003 FINA World League, Budapest, Hungary, 3rd place
2003 U.S. Cup, Stanford, CA United States, 2nd place
2002 FINA World Cup, Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 7th place
2002 FINA World League, various locations, 3rd place
2001 FINA World Championships, Fukuoka, Japan, 7th place
2000 UPS Cup, Los Alamitos, United States (USA “B”), 6th place
1999 World University Games, Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 4th place

(Biography by Kelly Foster photograph by  Kirby Lee - provided courtesy of USA Water Polo)

Attacking a Zone Defense by Ericka Lorenz

We have three tactical principles that we follow when we are attacking a zone.

  1. The first priority is to draw the perimeter defender off their defensive line by attacking the open water.
  2. The second priority is to open a shooting lane to the goal either with or without the ball.
  3. The third priority is to open a passing lane to the center by drawing the defense off their line and opening a shooting lane.

Points of Emphasis

  1. It is important to note that the defense has a tendency to watch the ball. This is great time to move without the ball to create an open shooting lane or an open passing lane to the center.
  2. Always keep the ball in the Double Threat Position. Double Threat Position is the ball is always in a position to be passed or shot at anytime. The ball has to be in the Double Threat Position when faking.
    1. Double Threat Position
      1. Legs underneath slightly wider than the shoulders
      2. Ball is over and behind the head
      3. Elbow is out of the water and bent
      4. Shoulders are level with the non-shooting shoulder slightly in front
      5. Non-shooting hand is sculling in front of the body for stability and balance
      6. The ball is held with the palm up and the ball still
  3. Always know what to do with the ball before you receive it. When you don’t have the ball, watch the defense and the ball and be ready once you receive the ball to make the appropriate decision.

Attacking a 2-3 player Zone: Positional Roles

  1. Perimeter Player with the Ball
    1. Attack the open water
    2. Draw the defense off their line
    3. Before passing there are two options
      1. Ball fake to the center position before passing to a teammate. The ball fake will move the other zone defensive players closer to the center position
      2. Up and Hitch with the ball to lock the defense before passing. The Up and Hitch before passing will lock the goalkeeper and the zone defensive players on the ball.
    4. Every pass to a teammate should be a Lob Pass. The lob pass is very important for the rhythm and timing for attacking a zone. We always go up to catch a pass when we are attacking a zone. The lob pass forces us to go up and catch the ball and then we attack the zone by falling and sliding into the open water with the ball in the Double Threat Position.
  2. Perimeter Player without the Ball
    1. Slide to the left or right into the open water before receiving the lob pass
    2. Time slide with the timing of the pass
      1. Know when the player with the ball is ready to pass
      2. Important to slide at the right time, not too early or late
    3. Rise up to catch the ball and fall and slide with the ball into the open water
  3. Center
    1. Open a passing area for the perimeter players
    2. Center entry passes must be on a line and on the hand
    3. On the center entry pass make a quick and explosive snap to the ball

Technical Skills Progressions: Passing (Groups of 3 or 4)

Spend equal time, cross face and strong side, catching the ball. When catching the ball face the player who you are passing to next. All passing should calm and in control. All passes are lob passes. Keep the ball in the Double Threat Position. The technical steps are what are important, not the speed of the passing.

  1. Up and Catch to Fall to Up and Pass
    1. Up with a breast kick to Catch the ball
    2. Fall with the ball
    3. Up with a breast kick to Pass
  2. Up and Catch to Fall and Slide to Up and Pass
    1. Breast Kick Up to Catch the Ball
    2. Fall and with a breast kick Slide forward to Up with a breast kick to Pass
  3. Up and Catch to Fall and Slide to Up and Hitch to Lob Pass
    1. Add Up and Hitch. Hitch is when the ball is in the Double Threat Position, hitch or bring the shoulder forward and keep the ball in the Double Threat Position and then pass
  4. Up and Catch to Fall and Slide to Up and Ball Fake to the Center Position to Up and Pass. If the Up and Catch to Fall and Slide is difficult when passing, start by doing laps. Start with the ball and rise up with a breast kick, on the fall slide forward with a breast kick. Stop, reset and start again until lap is completed.

Technical Skills: Shooting

Be consistent when shooting. Keep the ball in play and practice these following shots.

  1. Pick Up the Ball to Fall and Slide to Up and Shoot
  2. Pick Up the Ball to Fall and Slide to Up and Hold to Shoot
  3. Pick Up the Ball to Fall and Slide to Up and Hitch to Shoot
  4. Pick Up the Ball to Fall and Slide to Up and Fake to Shoot
  5. Add one pass
  6. Add two passes
    1. Each time start with Pick Up to Fall and Slide to Up and Pass
    2. Each time Up and Catch to Fall and Slide
    3. Each time Lob Pass
    4. Each time after passing move back and reset
    5. Practice sliding to open water before receiving pass

Drills:

  1. 1x1
    1. One shooter and one zone defensive player
    2. Defensive player starts in zone base position and with the ball
    3. Defensive player passes the ball to the offensive player
    4. Offensive player attacks the open water and the defensive player is in shot blocking base position
    5. The offensive player’s objective is to score and the defensive player’s objective is to shot block
  2. 2x2
    1. Same as above with and additionally offensive and defensive player
  3. 3x3
    1. Same as above
    2. Add a the center and center defender position

ERICKA LORENZ

INTERNATIONAL/CLUB: One of the world’s most decorated and prominent outside shooters…Joined the U.S. Senior National Team only months before her first Olympic Games in 2000… Scored twice in the gold-medal win over Canada to qualify for the 200 Olympics...Had multiple-goal performances in four games at the 2003 Pan American Games...Scored the first three goals for the USA and finished with a game-high four goals i the USA’s gold-medal win over Italy at the 2003 World Championships... Led the USA i scoring with 13 goals at the 2003 Pan American Games... Had four multiple-goal games at the 2003 World Championships...Scored in three games at the 2002 FINA World Cup...Was a member of the women’s Junior World Championship team in 2001...Olympic Silver Medalistat 2000 Sydney Games...In 1998 she was on the Junior Pan American Championships team that won gold.

PROFESSIONAL: Played for Ortigia-Siracusa in Sicily, Italy for the 2005-2006 season

COLLEGE: Earned 2nd Team All-American honors in 2002 before taking time off to train full-time with the National Team...Led the Bears in scoring as a freshman with 44 goals and was named 1st Team All-American...Also earned 1st Team All-MPSF and All-MPSF Tournament in 2001.

HIGH SCHOOL: Named 1st Team All-American for three years at Patrick Henry High School... Also named First Team High All-CIF...Received First Team All-CIF honors in volleyball in 1998 and 1999...Named Offensive MVP in softball for four straight years.

PERSONAL: Enjoys surfing and wakeboarding while at home in Southern California.

INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION HIGHLIGHTS:

2005 FINA World Championships, Montreal, Canada, 2nd place
2005 FINA World League, Kirishi, Russia, 5th place
2004 Olympic Games, Athens, Greece, 3rd place
2004 FINA World League Series, Long Beach, CA, 1st place
2004 Holiday Cup, La Jolla, CA, 1st place
2003 Holiday Cup, Los Alamitos, CA, 1st place
2003 Pan American Games, Dominican Republic, 1st place
2003 World Championships, Barcelona, Spain, 1st place
2002 FINA World Cup, Perth, Australia, 2nd place
2002 Holiday Cup, Palo Alto, United States, 1st place
2001 FINA World Championships, Fukuoka, Japan, 4th place
2001 FINA Junior World Championships, Perth, Australia, 1st place
2001 Holiday Cup, Los Alamitos, United States, 1st place
2000 Olympic Games, Sydney, Australia, 2nd place
2000 Olympic Qualification Tournament, Palermo, Sicily, 2nd place
2000 Holiday Cup, Los Alamitos, CA, 1st place
Stephanie

(Biography by Kelly Foster photograph by Kirby Lee - provided courtesy of USA Water Polo)