Volume 1:  Number 9            December 1, 2006

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

Each month a player or coach from a US National Men's Team and a playeror 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.

Tips on Six on Five Positions byThomas Hopkins

1 position

From the 1 position, your main purpose is to shoot the ball and score when the opportunity arises. Every player should develop a "quick shot" and a "shot off the fake."

1) The purpose of the "quick shot" is to try to beat the shot blocker by shooting the ball strong side before the x1 defender has the time to take off their strong side responsibility. There are two ways to beat the x1 defender with a quick shot strong side.

a) Position your body on the 2 meter line to maximize the distance that the x1 defender must travel to take off their responsibility. Then when the ball is passed to you, shoot the ball quick, strong side. To improve your quick shot, in a group of 3 pass the ball quickly in a triangle.

b) Position your body on the 3 meter line. When the pass is made, use your legs to drive your body towards the 2 meter line. You should catch the ball as you are sliding down to the 2meter line. When you catch the ball, shoot the ball quick, strong side, behind the x1 defender. To practice this shot, pass in a group of 3 and every time you receive the ball step to your left, receive the ball as you are stepping and them make a quick pass to your teammate.

2) The "shot off the fake" is taken to try to beat the shot blocker by beating the defender strong side. There are two basic shots every player should learn to master from the 1 position and the first is the "wrap around" and the second is the "over-the-top".

a) With the "wrap around" shot you are trying to shoot to the right of your defender by dropping your elbow and shooting side arm. In doing so, the ball should wrap around your defender and score strong side. To execute this shot, start by stepping up into the pocket to give yourself some room. Then, when you receive the ball, fake the ball towards your defender. Then, right before your defender is able to hit your arm, drop your elbow and shoot around the defender, strong side. To work on this skill, practice throwing the ball side arm with a partner.

b) With the "over the top" shot you are trying to shoot the ball over the defender's arm. To set this shot up, you should start at about the 3 meter line. When you receive the ball, fake the ball towards the x1 defender. With your fake, drop your elbow, so that the defender thinks that you are going to try to beat them with a wrap around shot, then at the point that your defender tries to hit your arm, use your legs to drive your body out of the water and shoot over your defender, strong side. To practice this skill, work on driving your body out of the water with one big kick and then make the pass to your teammate.

2 and 3 position

The 2 and 3 positions have two main jobs. First to create shooting lanes for teammates, and and second to move to open water to receive a pass for a quick shot.

1) To create shooting lanes for your teammates the 2 and 3 players have to get physical. Both players should constantly be pushing defender's hips, getting them off balance, and getting in their head to prevent them from focusing all of their attention on the play, and instead focusing more of their attention on you. By doing so, defender's will get out of position and won't take off their shot blocking responsibility, thus creating a shooting lane for your teammate.

2) The 2 and 3 players should always be moving to open water to receive a pass from one of the perimeter players for a quick shot. In doing so, the 2 and 3 players need to work in tandem and should never be in a straight line, if the 3 player is at the 3 meter line, then the 2 player should be at the 2 meter line and vise-versa. By always moving to open water and never being in a straight line then you will effectively create more passing lanes and thus more opportunity to receive a pass for a shot.

4 and 5 positions

The 4 and 5 positions have 3 jobs. First control the ball, second shoot quick when you have an opening, and third set up your teammate for a goal.

1) The 4 and 5 positions have the best view of the entire offense, so it is their job to work with each other to control the ball.

2) When their is an opening, or your shot blocker isn't taking off their responsibility, it is your job to take the shot.

3) The 4 and 5 positions always have to have the ball up high and set the defense and goalie before every pass. In doing so, you will set the goalie and defense on you, so when you make the pass to your teammate, the goal is wide open.

6 position

The 6 position has one main job, to set the defense and then make a pass to a teammate for a shot. Assuming that all of the players are right handed, the 6 position is the only position in the pool where every player the 6 is passing to can catch the ball on their strong side. If you can learn to lock down the defense and goalie before you make a pass to your teammates, you will see your assists go through the roof.


INTERNATIONAL: A member of the United States Junior National Team in 2002 ... Helped the U.S. to a 2nd place finish at the 2002 Junior Pan American Championships

COLLEGE: Second in scoring for Stanford with 48 goals in his senior season (2005)…Helped lead the Cardinal to a 2nd Place finish in the NCAA Championship Tournament…Scored 60 goals as a Junior in 2004, second-best on the Cardinal ... Named First-Team All-American by the American Water Polo Coaches Association (AWPCA) as a junior in 2004 ... Scored in 26 of the team's 28 games averaging more than two goals a game... Named to the NCAA All-Tournament first team in 2004 ...Named a honorable mention All-American by the AWPCA in 2003... Named third team All-MPSF ...Stanford's second leading scorer (47 goals) as a sophomore ... Named to the 2003 NCAA All-Tournament second team

HIGH SCHOOL: A three-sport athlete at Coronado High School ...A four-year letterman in water polo, soccer and tennis ... Was captain of his water polo team in his senior year ... Named MVP, All-American and CIF Player of the Year in 2001 ... A two-time Most Valuable Offensive Player in soccer and three-time MVP in tennis ... Scored the winning goal in the 2001 CIF Water Polo Championship.

PERSONAL: Civil Engineering major at Stanford... Brother Jonathan is a member of the UC San Diego water polo team.

2005 ASUA Cup, Mexico City, Mexico, 1st place
2002 Pan American Games, Boca Raton, FL, 2nd place

(Biography by Kelly Foster photograph by John French - provided courtesy of USA Water Polo)

Five on Six Defense from a Goalie's Perspective by Betsey Armstrong

Always square your shoulders to the person who has the ball

  • By squaring your shoulders with the shooter, the shooter sees you more than the goal

Keep your hips and body slightly more vertical than usual

  • During 5 on 6, your body position needs to be ready at all times for a quick shot or fast pass
  • Keep your knees high and your hands light so you are ready to react immediately for whatever move comes next; whether it is a shot or pass

Try to anticipate the pass

  • Do not become too locked down by one shooter’s fake
  • You must maintain a certain level of composure on 5 on 6, to be able to react to a pass.  If you are always jumping around expecting a shot, then you will not be able to react to the passing

When reacting to block a shot, use your whole body, not just your arms

  • As you react to the shot you will cover more area and maintain better control of the shot/rebound when you get your whole body up and behind the shot

Trust your field blockers

  • It is important to trust your field blockers
  • A goalie must react to every shot, especially when it is in your area of the goal
  • If you are always reacting to cover for your field players, you will start missing your own responsibilities
  • In practice get used to directing your field players into the correct position

Positioning Drills

  • Break the goal up into four sections; 1, 2, 4, 5 (the perimeter positions)
  • Goalie positions

  • Start with quick short movements around 1, 2, 4, 5, really cut the angle from 2 to 1 or 4 to 5 with lead hand out of the water
  • Build to skipping spots (ex. 1 to 4, 4 to 2, 2 to 5)
  • Emphasis using trail hand to help move lateral by pushing the water and use the lead hand to help reach the new area of the goal (slap the water with the lead to help keep it shallow).  Quickly regain balance with knees high in front and hands light


INTERNATIONAL/CLUB: Starting goalkeeper on Junior National team (2000-01) ... Rookie of the Year (1998).

COLLEGE: 2005 Academic All-Big Ten Conference ... Two-time U-M Athletic Academic Achievement award recipient (2002,d 2005) ... 2004 Cutino Award Finalist ... 2004 AWPCA All-American second team ... 2005 AWPCA All-America third team ... Two-time AWPCA All-America honorable mention (2002-03) ... 2003-04 CWPA Division MVP ... Four-time CWPA All-Division First Team (2002-05) ... Two-time Eastern Championship MVP (2002, 2005) ... Three-time All-Eastern Championship first team (2002, 2004-05) ... Six-time CWPA Player of the Week ... U-M's career leader in blocks (1,267), minutes (3,329), goals against average (5.64) and save percentage (.654) ... Michigan record holder with 350 saves in 2004 ... Michigan record holder with 24 saves vs. Indiana (3/6/04) ... Michigan record holder with 20 games with 10 or more saves in 2004 ... Has 68 career games with 10 or more saves, including two with over 20.

HIGH SCHOOL: Attended Huron High School (2001)… Three-year letterwinner ... MWPA Player of the Year (2000) ... MWPA MVP (2000) ... Two-time allstate first team (2000-01) ... Eastern Region MVP (2000) ... Eastern Region first team (2000).

PERSONAL: Earned degree in classical archeology…Enjoys reading, the beach and watching movies… Listens to Ben Harper’s “With My Own Two Hands” to get pumped up for a game…. Older sister also played water polo.

2002 Junior Pan American Games, Boca Raton, FL, 1st place

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