Volume 1:  Number 11           February 1, 2007

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.

Goal Keeping 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 goalie’s concentration.
 
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, and personnel.

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 game.

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. 

GENAI KERR

Genia Kerr US GoalieINTERNATIONAL/CLUB: 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 senior year.

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, 1st place

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

Planning 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. 

  1. Yearly
    1. Preparation Phase
    2. Competition Phase
    3. 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.

  2. Major Training Categories
    1. Physical
      1. Conditioning
    2. Technical
      1. Fundamentals
    3. Tactical
      1. Game Strategy
    4. Psychological
      1. Confidence
      2. Mental toughness

  3. Water Polo Categories
    1. Defense
    2. Counter Attack Offense
    3. Offense
    4. Counter Attack Defense
    5. 6x5
    6. 5x6
    7. Game Situations
      1. End of Game
      2. Time Out
      3. After Goal
    8. Position Training
      1. Center
      2. Defender
      3. Goalkeeper

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 components. 

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.

PRACTICE BREAKDOWN

Warm Up: 10-20%

Related to the Main Activity
Physical and psychological preparation
Main Activity: 40-60%
Goals of the practice
Related specifically to the game
Concluding Activity: 10-40%
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.

GUY BAKER

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.

Guy Baker US CoachPrior 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)