Volume 1:  Number 10           January 1, 2007

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 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.

Two-meter Defense and Differences in Domestic and International Style by Brian Alexander

  1. When playing the two-meter defensive position you need to approach every possession as if it is the game deciding stop at the end of the clock. As a two-meter guard you are expected to be excluded and not allow any advantage for the offensive player. Therefore you need to tell yourself that the other player will not get any shots off.
  1. Sometimes it is difficult when you are matched up against a player who is bigger than you are (especially when playing against international two-meter men), so in order to defend these types of players you need to be more mobile than them. Larger players tend to want to use their size and strength in order to succeed in the center so a smart two meter guard should work on keep a smart distance from the other player (usually ½ to ¾ arms length is smart). However be aware of the dry over the head pass, when you are at this distance from the other player.
  1. Always have your hips up in a power pushing position. This doesn’t mean that they are at the very surface of the water. At the international level a lot of offensive players look to grab any part of the lower half of your body in order to gain advantage. Therefore when you are behind and trying to push the other player out of their position, watch their hands and arms at the same time you are keeping track of the ball on the perimeter. It is sometimes a cat and mouse game under the water.
  1. As soon as the offensive player swims into the center whether it is off the initial whistle or the counter attack, the defensive player should put pressure on them and make it difficult to enter the middle of the goal. Make it a goal to have them as tired as possible so that if they will not have energy to capitalize on any positional advantage they might gain.
  1. Use the offensive player’s body, specifically under the armpits, to move around him. As long as you do not put your body weight or pressure on top of the other player, then you shouldn’t be excluded while jockeying for position. Sling yourself from side to side by using the sides of their torso to move from one side to the other while the ball is moving around the perimeter.
  1. Finally after you and your defense have stopped the opposing offense, the offensive two-meter man should be exhausted. This is when your conditioning needs to kick in for very strong counter attack. At the national team level (especially in a try-out) coaches look for the counter attack advantage to come out of the center position on the defensive side. When the ball is turned over, put the offensive player behind you and counter as hard as you can.

BRIAN ALEXANDER

INTERNATIONAL/CLUB: A young standout whose scoring ability will help Team USA...Scored three goals at the 2005 FINA World Championships in Montreal, Canada…Scored three goals at the 2005 ASUA World Championships, including a two-goal game against Brazil...Was a member of the USA Junior National Team in 2002-03...Played in the 12th FINA Junior World Championships in Naples, Italy...Led the USA Junior National Team in scoring at the World Championship with 12 goals...Played for the U.S. National "B" Team in the U.S. Cup World Challenge in 2003

PROFESSIONAL: Played on Aguas De Valencia in Valencia, Spain for the 2005-2006 season.

COLLEGE: Named All-American in 2003 and 2004 playing for UCSB...Garnered Third-Team All-MPSF honors in 2003 and Second-Team-All-MPSF honors in 2004...Led UCSB in scoring for two consecutive years with 70 in 2003 and 64 in 2004...Named team MVP in 2003 and 2004.

HIGH SCHOOL: Earned High School All-American honors playing for Foothill High School in Santa Ana, California...Selected to First-Team All-CIF...Scored 91 goals as a senior and ranks fifth on Foothill’s all-time single-season goal-scoring list.

PERSONAL: Enjoys surfing and bike riding in his spare time...Graduated with a psychology at UCSB and hopes to become a sports psychologist… Enjoys the beach, reading, sleeping, video games…Admits his most embarrassing water polo moment was when his suite was torn and his grandma told him about it after the game.

INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION HIGHLIGHTS:
2005 FINA World Championships, Montreal, Canada, 11th place
2005 FINA World League
2005 ASUA Cup, Mexico City, Mexico, 1st place
2005 Four Nation Tournament, Hamm, Germany, 4th place
2003 FINA Junior World Championships, Naples, Italy, 11th place
2003 U.S. Cup World Challenge, Stanford, CA (USA “B”), 4th place

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

Counter Attack Fundamentals with the Ball by Patty Cardenas

These are eight counter attack with the ball fundamentals that we consistently practice.  Master these techniques and your game will improve.

  1. Dribbling: The ability to swim head up fast with the ball is an important part of the counter attack and can’t be ignored during training.  Practice having the head higher than the ball and looking to the left and the right.  A strong flutter kick is an important part of dribbling the ball.  Use quick and short strokes.  A player must be able to see the advantage and the defense when dribbling with the ball.  
  1. Ball in Hand: It is important to be able to control the ball when the defense is stunting or storming the ball.  When the defense is stunting or storming the player with the ball, we get the ball in our strong hand and continue to move forward by stroking with the other arm and using a strong breast kick that continues to move us forward.  We are ready to pass if the defense continues to the ball or we are ready to continue the counter attack if the defense does not press the ball.  To practice the Ball in Hand technique, start by doing a half to full lap with the ball in hand.  Slow down and work on the technique of either palming or cupping the ball (hand is too small to palm the ball), stroking with the other arm and using a breast kick to move/lunge forward.  Don’t be in a hurry.  Master the technique.  This fundamental alone will greatly improve your counter attack game.  The defense stunts to slow or stop the player with the ball.  It is important to be ready to pass if the defense presses the ball and it is equally important to maintain speed with the ball in the hand if the defense only stunts but does not press the ball. 
  1. Dribble to Ball in Hand: To practice game like situations we practice dribbling the ball and then getting the ball into our hand.  A typical drill for us is to dribble 4 strokes to ball in hand for 4 strokes and continue the pattern until the lap is completed.  There are many variations to the pattern of this drill.  Game like intensity and speed is very important in this drill.  Practice like you play in a game and that will make the game easier. 
  1. Outside Hand Pass: This can be either a pick up or hook pass.  Outside hand means the strong hand away from the defense.  Again we start this drill with the ball in hand for 3 strokes then the pass.  A pick up or hook pass starts with the ball in hand, on the breast kick we lunge up and out, the ball is lifted up above the head and the pass is made. There are many variations to this drill.  We dribble for a number of strokes, ball in hand for a number of strokes then the pass.   
  1. Inside Hand Pass: This can be either a pick up or backhand pass.  Inside hand means strong hand closet to the defense.  Same as Outside Hand pass; but we use our inside hand.  The breast kick to lunging up and out with the ball is very important.  The player with the ball wants to rise above the defense player in order to make the pass.  We work in groups of 2 or 3 and we combine inside and outside hand passing together.  One direction one player is practicing outside hand passing and the other player is working on inside hand.  The next lap the players switch hands.  Again there are many variations.  All passes with right hand, all passes with left hand, all outside hand and inside hand.  
  1. Pressure Passing: One way to stop a counter attack advantage is to foul the ball and drop to cover the advantage.  All players must be able to pass the ball under pressure.  We start this drill the same way.  Ball in hand then with the strong hand we move to Pressure Pass Base Position.  If the strong hand is on the outside then we step away with the ball into a semi-horizontal position, ball overhead away from the defense and we use a strong breast kick on the step away and one more breast kick to get us into the pressure pass base position.  The breast kick is more powerful than an eggbeater kick and increases the separation from the defender.  If the defender continues to press, then continue to breast kick away from the defense keeping the ball overhead.  If the strong hand is on the inside, then the player rolls away from the defense into the pressure pass base position.  This can be practiced individually or in groups of 2 or 3.  We start individually and then add players.  Ball in hand for 3 strokes to pressure pass base position with 2-4 breast kicks.  First time step away, second time roll away.  Repeat for the rest of the lap.   
  1. Horizontal to Vertical Shooting: We practice going from a horizontal position with the ball into a vertical position as quickly as possible.   As we start to move into the vertical position and drop our hips underneath we use a breast kick to rise up and out and a breast kick to move forward.  We call it up and slide.  We rise up with a breast kick and we slide forward with a breast kick.  Two kicks.  The ball is always in the Double Threat Position.  Double Threat Position means the ball is always in a position to be passed or shot.  If part of practice is Horizontal to Vertical Shooting we will work on this technique by doing laps.  For example: Ball in Hand for 4 strokes, Up and Slide into Double Threat Position, Hold for 3 seconds then follow through to the water.  Repeat for two to three times for each lap.   
  1. Horizontal Shooting: Again practice this with the ball in hand.  When preparing to shoot use a breast kick to lunge up and out.  Keep the ball in front, away from the defense.  The breast kick may allow for time to move to vertical position in order to shoot.  If the defense is too close then, the breast kick and keeping the ball in front will keep the ball away from the defense.  On the lunge with the ball, read the goalkeeper’s position and hands and arms out of the water or on the water.  It is important for the offensive player to control this situation.  The advantage is with the player with the ball.  On the lunge the goalkeeper has the tendency to over commit.  Be patient and then look for the opening.  Both the shooting fundamentals can add defensive trailer.  Again start slow and learn the techniques, then start to add defense.

As you have probably noticed each of these fundamentals are related to the next.  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the ability to dribble the ball, have the ability to have the ball in hand and move forward and at the same time be able to pass or shoot and using a breast kick to lunge up and out with the ball.  If you master those three skills, then the other fundamentals will be easy to master. 

This would be a typical start to a National Team Counter Attack practice with an emphasis on ball skills:
                                                                                  (10-30 seconds rest after each lap)
Warm Up (Head Up Free and Breast Kick Lunges)                        4 laps
Dribble                                                                                             8 laps
Ball in Hand                                                                                     8 laps
Dribble to Ball in Hand                                                                     8 laps   (4 and 4)
Pressure Pass Base Position (Full laps with only breast kick)       4 laps 
Dribble to Ball in Hand to Pressure Pass Base Position                  4 laps
                                                                                 (4 and 4 Step Away and Roll Away each lap)
Dribble to Ball in Hand to Horizontal to Vertical Position                 4 laps
                                                                                 (4 and 4, 2 times Horizontal to Vertical each lap)
Passing (Outside and Inside Hand-Groups of 2)                            4 laps
Pressure Passing                                                                            4 laps
Horizontal to Vertical Shooting                                                        10:00 minutes
Horizontal Shooting                                                                         10:00 mniutes

PATTY CARDENAS

INTERNATIONAL/CLUB: Member of the Junior National Team from 1999-2000…On the team that won the 2000 Junior Pan American Championship in 2000… Won the Junior Olympics with Commerce Club team, 1997-1999, and the Junior Nationals in 1996-1998...Cardenas was a member of the Youth National Team from 1997-1998… Member of the Youth North American Championship First Place team in 1998

COLLEGE: Selected as the 2003 All-Southern California Co-MVP while at Golden West Community College… Won the 2002 State Championship with Golden West… Named the California Community College MVP and Community College Southern California MVP in 2002…Scored 40 goals for USC during her first season after transferring (2006); the third highest scorer on the Trojan roster

HIGH SCHOOL: Cardenas won four straight CIF Division III championships at Bell Gardens High... A three-time first-team All-American at Bell Gardens...Named CIF Co-MVP as a junior and senior... Team went 117-3 from 1999-2002

PERSONAL: Cardenas is majoring in sociology... Parents are Josefina and Alfredo... Has two brothers, Jose and Ivan (also plays water polo)... Enjoys spending time with her family... Lists Lance Armstrong as her biggest sports hero…Recalls her most embarrassing water polo moment
as scoring a goal on her own cage at age 6…Favorite movie is Shrek.

INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION HIGHLIGHTS:
2000 Junior Pan American Championships, Venezuela, 1st place
1998 Youth North American Championship, 1st place(Biography by Kelly Foster photograph by Kirby Lee - provided courtesy of USA Water Polo)