Volume 2:  Number 2            May 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.

Tips for the Center by Ricardo Azevedo, US Men's Head Coach

PRIORITY – Controlling the offense

Holding position -

  • Controlling the line of scrimmage – it is called the 2 meters for a reason
  • Legs – your legs will determine your success
  • Upper body strength
  • Body position
  • Sealing off the defender
  • Being able to use right and left hand
  • Meeting the ball when it comes in – do not let the defender knock the ball away
  • Patience in your passing

Turning (perhaps better than shooting – more options) -

  • First, must have good form to draw the foul
  • Being able to turn both directions is a big advantage
  • Technique – quarter to half turn may be all you need
  • Keep ball away from defender
  • Watch the goalie
  • Work on wrist shots (get the ball up out of the water!)

Creating Shooting Opportunities -

  • It is important to establish yourself early in the game as an offensive treat
  • A good pass into to set is very important
  • Match-up with defender is important
  • Game situation
  • Need to run the offense
  • Develop sweep, backhand, and roll out (the roll out is the last option)
  • Need to work on separation for all
  • Turning gives you more options - wrist shot, KO, 5 meter

Passing -

  • Need to know where each player likes the ball  - how hard
  • Spend time passing with each player (wet and dry passes)
  • Don’t get lazy - practice and play with good technique
  • Get passing arm elbow out of the water
  • Work on passing with both hands
  • Work on passing and maintaining position or going for better positioning
  • A bad pass means you swim 30 meters

What to do when fronted

  • Swim out – if being overpowered
  • Work to hold a side – then have your team mates work the ball to you
  • Counter rotation move

DRILLS FOR DEVELOPING A SUCCESSFUL CENTER

Absorbing the foul –

  • Teach technique first
  • Animal drill - 10 fouls with no turnovers or you start over
  • Absorb two then shoot the third - go to 5 goals
  • 25 yard course - absorb 3 fouls - outside shot - swim to other end - absorb 3 fouls - shot – swim

Reading the driver -

  • Let the driver have a stroke inside – practice putting the ball to outside hand
  • Give the driver the RB – firm pass – help create a passing lane
  • One on one driving - full defense

Completing the pass - Where do your teammates like the ball

  • Greenie drill – quick passes
  • Spending time with each player – warm ups
  • Pass with a different player everyday in practice

Shooting at 2 meters -

  • Bull in a ring
  • Unguarded - strong and weak hand
  • Guarded  - strong and weak hand
  • Dry passes from the wings
  • Wet passes from the wings
  • 10 goals of one shot - back hand, sweep, roll out, turns
  • 3 goals at two ends - 2X - great conditioning drill
  • Wrist shots – turn, pick ball up – shoot down

Developing Leg Strength -

  • Another man pushing down
  • Weight belts
  • Bands
  • Animal drill (very good game situation drill)
  • Dry land (spinning, running stairs, jump squats)

Developing hands – especially the weak hand

  • Equal passing with weak hand
  • Take extra shots vs. out goalie
  • Dry land  - take a water polo ball home and work with it
  • Greenie drill is a great passing drill for working on hands

MENTALITY FOR THE CENTERS

  • Could be one of the biggest keys for being successful at 2 meters
  • Must realize more than anybody that he will get bad calls
  • Emotional stability can go a long way
  • No personal battles – think we – not me!

GOALS FOR USA WATER POLO CENTERS

Earn 8 – 12 ejections per game out of 2-meter position
Score 2-3 goals per game out of 2-meter position
Limit offensive fouls (zero would be good)
Work on defense – be an asset not a liability
Counter back to defense hard every time
Win the battle of each possession 

RICARDO AZEVEDO

Ricardo AzevedoRicardo came on deck as the Men’s National Team Head Coach in December 2005. He brings with him 21 years of experience working with national team programs. He spent 1998-2005 as the men’s and women’s head coach at California State University Long Beach.

During his tenure at CSULB, the 49ers recorded their highest MPSF tournament finish ever. Azevedo began his National Team career as the Junior National Team coach from 1984-1992. He went on to served as the assistant coach for 1996 and 2004 Olympic Teams. In addition, he was named Olympic Development Coach of the Year in 1998.

Azevedo also has a long list of accomplishments at the high school level. From 1990 to 1998, he served as the water polo coach at Long Beach Wilson High School where he led numerous teams to CIF Championships. Azevedo was voted CIF Coach of the Year three times and was selected as the 1998 California High School Coach of the Year.

Azevedo graduated from Long Beach State in 1979 as a two-time All-American. During his collegiate years, he also played for the Brazilian National Team (1974-1980) and Club Botafogo (1975-77). A 1975 graduate of Wilson High School, Azevedo and his wife, Libby, reside in Long Beach and have two children, Tony, a two-time Olympian and pro water polo player in Italy, and Cassie, a four-time All-American water polo player at Cal State

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

Planning Practice: Part 4 by Guy Baker, US Women's Head Coach

Development of team play for 18 and under

Realization of a player’s potential depends upon their own efforts, the support of teammates and the guidance of their coach.  They must be consistently exposed to a training and competition environment which challenges and broadens their technical, tactical, physical and psychological capabilities.  They must have a sound understanding of the system of play.  Players should show emotional stability when confronted with pressure situations.  Demanding and challenging training sessions and games are a must. 

SYSTEM

Creating a successful system is very important today and the system is everything.  This would be the time during player development to start implementing a system.  The first three parts of the player development are very important part of the process for implementing a system.  The first three parts are the building blocks for the system.  The technical, tactical, physical and psychological progressions have to be followed, so that a player will have the proper foundation for understanding and implementing a system.  Water Polo is a team sport that requires all the players to be interdependent upon each other.  A team can have an individual who has the best talent and skills in the world, but if that player does not play within the system, their actions are unpredictable or selfish, the system will fail and the team will lose.

A system is not only tactics.  It is the combination of the technical, physical and psychological standards required to implement the tactical system for defense, counter attack, offense, 6x5 and 5x6.  For example; what are the technical, physical and psychological standards to play a press defense?  What are the technical, physical and psychological standards to attack a zone defense?  What are the technical, physical and psychological standards to create an effective counter attack?  What is the best system for the team?  What is the experience of the team?  A system connects the defense to the counter attack to the offense and back to the defense.  A system connects the offense to the 6x5 and the defense to the 5x6.  A system connects the center to the perimeter offensive players, the defender to the perimeter defensive players, the goalkeeper to the 5x6 field players…. A system is created so every player has a role in every situation in the game and all the players understand not only their responsibilities but the responsibilities of all the players.      

Coach must be:  Charismatic, experienced, up to date, articulate, managerial know how and no doubt about who is in charge

Technical:

  • All techniques practiced at game speed, demanding excellence
  •  Individual skill covered during warm up and competitive practice situations 
  • There still has to be a strong emphasis on the technical component
  • Technique is everything

Tactical:

  • Increase tactical speed (game decision making) with increased pressure and competition.  Having the ability to change and adapt to game dynamics, flow of the game, clock management and end of game situations.

  • Individual:  The majority of time spent in functional training environments

    • Small group: 3x3 and 4x4
    • Position:Players play specific positions; attacker, center and defender.  Practices should be designed to include specific position training; especially for the goalkeeper and the center.
    • Defense:
      • Press and zone defense
      • A clear understanding of the quality of pressure affects the ability of team defense
      • Switch from a press to a zone defense
    • Counter Attack:
      • A clear understanding of the connection between the defense to the counter attack to the offense<
      • A clear understanding of Primary, Secondary and Transition counter attacks
    • Offense:
      • A clear understanding of how to attack a variety of defenses
      • A clear understanding of the importance of possession and clock management
    • 6x5:
      • A clear understanding of how to locate the 3x2
      • Active post play
      • Rotations
      • A clear understanding of how to attack a variety of defenses
    • 5x6:
      • A clear understanding of positional and shot blocking responsibilities
      • A clear understanding of how to defend a variety of 6x5 attacks
    • Team: 
      • Clearly defined team tactics and roles
      • The ability to execute a game plan

Physical:

  • Conditioning should still take place with and without the ball
  • Conditioning without the ball emphasizing water polo movements   
  • Flexibility: Static and dynamic
  • Importance of warm up and warm down
  • Swim Training: Aerobic and Anaerobic
  • Strength Training: Core, upper and lower body
  • Nutrition: Proper diet pre and post game and at tournaments
  • Importance of rest and recovery 

Psychological:

  • Increased concentration
  • Leadership and player responsibilities
  • Discipline
  • Respect for the game
  • Establish pre-practice and pre-game routines
  • Goal setting
  • Training and competitive mentality
  • Encourage players to watch college and National Team games

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)