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.
101 by Genai Kerr
Water polo has evolved into a faster paced sport, making the goalie an
even greater determining factor in the game. The responsibilities
of the goalie have increased with the new rules. The 30 second shot
clock has increased the number of possessions and the number of shots
that a team takes throughout the course of the game. Introduction
of the 5 meter foul shot has also contributed to the importance of the
goal tending position. Now that the field players are only allowed
to shot block with one hand the goalie must cover more of the cage. Water
polo is very much a team sport and the goalie position should be just
as appreciated as goal scorers. Both roles are marked by changes
on the scoreboard whether negative or positive. Many games
have been won by a spectacular goalie save, or lost by one lapse in the
The goalie is much more than the last person between the ball and the
goal. The last second stop or blocking penalty shots always stand
out, but making a spectacular save is just the beginning in the path to
becoming a great goalie. Field players are now bigger, stronger,
and faster. Goalies have to be well conditioned both physically
and mentally so they can adjust to the game, tend goal, run a strong
defense, and quarterback a solid offense. The tempo of
the game is controlled by the goalie’s release passes. Throwing
the perfect pass varies from situation to situation. It is the goalie’s
decision to make a pass which takes into consideration the time, score,
There have been many comparisons between the goalie who makes the release
pass and the football quarterback who runs the offense. Accurate
passes during the counter attack can make the deference between a two
point turnaround. If attackers are sprinting down the pool with
the advantage of being one or more person(s) up the goalie must pass the
ball so it places the attackers in a position to score. Goalies
have to anticipate where the defense will slide once they make the release
pass. Taking that into consideration goalies must find the right
player for the pass and they must find the best angle for the pass so
the player can advance to the goal for a score.
Goalies should study their opponents to learn shooter tendencies,
opposing team offenses, and defenses. Studying each of
these aspects is important because it not only gives the goalies an advantage
in the cage, but in the placement of outlet passes as well. It also allows
goalies an advantage in instructing the defense according to the level
of threat players can be in regards to position, skill and tendencies
of the opposition. The best goalies are truly students of the game.
It is easy to take notes on certain players. Goalies should know
what players and teams depend on in different situations. For example
the goalie needs to take into account the strength of the two meter offensive
player and to know when and where to call for a drop. A goalie also needs
to know when to tell the team to leave the shot from a player the goalie
feels confidant that he or she can block..
Goalies are in the best position of any player in the water to communicate
what is occurring in the game. Their head is always above water
and they have a clear view of the entire pool. By studying the team’s
opponent a goalie will become a more effective communicator. Remember
goalies have to determine where they want the defense to slide during
transitions in counter attacks and they have to determine which defenses
to run in the front court. It is also their responsibility
to call out specific defenses according to the energy and tempo of the
I enjoy the excitement of playing goalie and I challenge myself everyday
to be prepared for the responsibility of helping Team USA. We depend
on each other and support each other as teammates and as brothers.
It is an honor to be a part of the Olympic Team and I hope we
can inspire younger athletes to prepare to do their best not only in water
polo but also in life.
Is an explosive net minder with great passing ability…
Key member to Long Beach Shore Aquatics’ defense at the 2006 Premier
League series with 141 saves… Played in USA’s gold-medal
win over Brazil at the 2003 Pan American Games to secure the United States’
place in the Athens Olympics...Was the starting goalkeeper for Newport
at 2003 American Water Polo League finals, helping his team to a first-place
finish…Had 57 saves in six games during FINA World League play
in 2002, including a season-high 12 against Russia…Was in the net
for Newport’s championship run at the 2002 Men’s Senior Nationals…Made
his National Team debut at the World Championship Qualification Tournament
in March of 2001.
COLLEGE: Earned Collegiate All-American Honors in 1999
and 1998 at UC Irvine under Coach Ted Newland...Led the MPSF in saves
in 1998...Named Big West Conference Male Scholar Athlete of the Year his
HIGH SCHOOL: Starred in water polo and basketball at
Coronado High School…Ran track at Chula Vista High School.
PERSONAL: Got involved in water polo on accident, he
followed the whistles to what he thought was a basketball game and ended
up at the pool…Enjoys painting, photography, cooking and other
sports…His artwork has been featured in several exhibitions…Favorite
foods are jerk chicken and Thai food…Was named one of the “Sexiest
Men in Sports” by Sports Illustrated for Women in 2002… Has
coached water polo at Sage Hill High School, Long Beach City College…Earned
Bachelor’s degrees in Studio Arts and Education.
INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION HIGHLIGHTS:
2004 Olympic Games, Athens, Greece, 7th place
2003 FINA World League Super Finals, New York, NY, 3rd place
2003 Pan American Games, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 1st 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
2001 World Championships Qualifier, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic,
(Biography by Kelly Foster photograph by Kirby Lee - provided courtesy
of USA Water Polo)
Practice: Part 1 by Guy Baker, US Women's Head Coach
This will be a four part series. The first part will focus on the
general guidelines we follow when developing a practice plan. The
second part will go into more detail our specific methods of designing
practices and drills.
Training is the foundation of our program. The
goals of our training are to develop a team that will be in shape, fundamentally
sound and be able to execute our system under pressure. Each component
of our training is coordinated. We have three major categories that
are divided into smaller phases or components.
- Preparation Phase
- Competition Phase
- Transition Phase
American sports traditionally follow a seasonal plan. Preparation
phase would be the off season and pre season time period. Competition
phase would be the season and post season. The transition phase
would be the time between end of the season and the start of the off
season. It is possible to have two preparation, competition and
transition phases in a year.
- Major Training Categories
- Game Strategy
- Mental toughness
- Water Polo Categories
- Counter Attack Offense
- Counter Attack Defense
- Game Situations
- End of Game
- Time Out
- After Goal
- Position Training
Each step of our planning revolves around the phase of the year, the
training category and the water polo category. All components are
coordinated. Each part of our training is a building block to reaching
the yearly goal. Each weekly plan supports the goals for the phase.
Each practice supports the goals for the week. Each drill supports
the goals for the practice. Etc….
We constantly ask ourselves the following question. What
are the goals and purpose of the year, phase, week, practice and drill?
We work backwards when planning a year. In addition, we work backwards
when determining our water polo system. We determine tactically
our defense, counter attack, offense, 6x5 and 5x6. Then we determine
what technical skills will support each tactical component and then we
determine the physical requirements to support the technical and tactical
This method will work at all levels. The goals should be the same
whether a player is on the National Team or an age group player.
The goal of each practice is too improve. All players want to have
the feeling of coming to practice and knowing they are going to be better
water polo player when the practice is over. What I am going to
learn today environment? Today, I will become a better player. It
is the responsibility of the coach to provide that type of environment
for their team. The only difference between an improving National Team
athlete and an age group athlete is the speed of the game and an age group
player may take longer to learn the exact same skill. Each
practice session should be focused, challenging and dynamic with an appreciation
for good play. In addition, players can improve by practicing
with better players. At different times of the year inter mix the
players on your club; younger and older players together. Young players
can improve by watching and imitating the older players and the older
players will master their skills by teaching the younger players.
The first step to designing a practice is to establish the goals
of the week. The weekly goals are the building blocks for
reaching the goal of the training phase. Goals should be specific,
challenging and realistic. For example; the technical and tactical goals
for the week are to improve the offensive press attack. By the end
of the week the perimeter players will improve their ability to control
their water, drive, release, pressure pass, draw a foul and pass the ball
to the center position. The centers will improve their ability to start
in the face to face position and then turn, spin and seal to gain and
then maintain ball side position. The center will focus on maintaining
ball side position by sealing the defender with a breast kick. In addition
the centers will snap to the ball every time the ball enters the center
position. The focus of this particular week is only in one area
of the game. Each practice and each drill throughout the week is
designed to improve the offensive press attack. After establishing
the goals of the week then begin to design practice plans for each practice.
Each daily practice should be coordinated with the weekly goals and the
goals of the practice. It is important to note these key points.
The goal of each practice is to improve either physically, technically,
tactically, psychologically or combinations of these four categories.
Don’t try to do too much; one to three goals for each practice.
Be specific and narrow down the goal. The clearer the goal,
the clearer it will be for the players.
Warm Up: 10-20%
Related to the Main Activity
Main Activity: 40-60%
Physical and psychological preparation
Goals of the practice
Concluding Activity: 10-40%
Related specifically to the game
Related to the main activity
Warm Down: 5-10%
Use the time to positive reinforce and recap the practice
The end result should be a focused practice which closely resembles the
pressure of the game and in which the players improve.
The second part of this series will discuss how to determine practice
needs and how to design and implement the drills to support the practice.
In 1998, Guy Baker took over the USA Women’s water polo program
and ran with it. In eight years time, Baker turned the national team program
into the most decorated women’s water polo program in the world.
He coached the Women’s National Team to a silver medal at the 2000
Olympics in Sydney, Australia, a World Championship title in 2003 and
a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
to his Women’s National Team head coaching position, Baker served
as the assistant coach to the U.S. Men’s National Team. Baker began
his coaching career in 1985 as an assistant coach under Ken Lindgren at
Long Beach State University, where he was a former star player. After
six years with the 49ers, Baker moved on to UCLA, here he was named men's
head coach in 1991. In his first year, Baker coached the men’s team
to a second-place NCAA finish and was named American Water Polo Coaches
Association Coach of the Year. UCLA added women’s water polo in
1995, prompting Baker to tackle head coach double duty from 1995-1998.
In that time, the UCLA women’s team notched three collegiate titles
in 1996, 1997 and 1998 and the men’s team won four NCAA titles in
1995, 1996, 1999 and 2000. Baker was named National Coach of the Year
on the men’s side in 1995 and 1996 and for the women’s team
in 1997 and 1998. Baker was the first coach in history to lead both a
men’s and women’s collegiate team to NCAA titles in the same
year (1995-96). He went on to duplicate the double win the following year.
Baker, who is also an avid basketball fan, currently lives in Long Beach,
Calif., with his wife, Michelle, and his two daughters, Samantha and Christen.
(Biography by Kelly Foster photograph by Kirby Lee - provided courtesy
of USA Water Polo)