Each month a player or coach from a US National Men's
Team and a player or 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.
Strength training is a critical component for any serious water
polo athlete. Obviously, water polo is a unique sport that requires
special consideration for any strength training program. In my opinion,
three of the most critical areas to focus on are the shoulders, legs,
and the core.
Because water polo is a combination of swimming and throwing
the shoulder region is vulnerable to injuries. A water
polo player may experience overuse type injuries such as impingement or
tendonitis from the daily grind of a combination of swimming and throwing.
This athlete may also experience throwing type injuries to the rotator
cuff muscles. Therefore, when developing a strength training program
for this unique athlete you need to carefully consider what is being done
for the shoulder region. It is important that water polo athletes stress
balance in their approach to strength training. My suggestion
would be to reduce the amount of chest exercises and increase the back
exercises. Less pushing and more pulling. My personal
routine is to use a 2:1 ratio. I do two pulling exercises for every
one pushing exercise. For example, if I do two sets of bench press
(pushing) then I will do 4 sets of rows (pulling). The normal water polo
athlete will get plenty of chest work in the pool. This is the reason
why you should have them do more back exercises in the weight room.
As far as the legs go, my suggestion is to do medium weights
in the weight room. I always gained the most benefit in
strength training for my legs with resistance type exercises in the pool.
Doing eggbeater drills while pushing on a team mate or holding a team
mate up. Doing water jugs or heavy balls is also a great leg workout.
Outside of the water, my suggestion would be to run stairs or ride a bike.
Of course, on the stairs run up and walk down. For a little extra
benefit for your eggbeater kick try running up the stairs with your knees
in and your feet out a little (this will mimic your eggbeater kick a little
bit) Leg strength is critical. In my experience as a player
and as a coach the best players have the best legs!
The other big area to stress is the core. Throwing a ball in baseball
or other land based sports uses a closed chain principle. This means
that when you throw a baseball you are using muscles from your feet all
the way to you shoulder. The power to throw a baseball is generated
in this chain reaction from the ground up. In water polo when we
throw a ball we do not have this closed chain. Therefore, a great deal
of pressure is placed on your core and lower back region. This is
where we develop the torque and power to throw a water polo ball. My suggestion
would be to develop a very strong core to protect yourself from injuries.
A strong core will mean less injuries (even to your shoulders).
My personal routine was to do between 1,000 and 2,000 crunches or ab exercises
everyday. It takes some time but it will pay off in becoming
a better, healthier water polo athlete.
Here are some suggestions for a well balanced exercise routine
for your water polo athletes.
Daily stretch bands or elastic tubing exercises. (stabilization exercises
for the rotator cuff)
- Shooting motion - overhead, left and right arm
- Swimming motion freestyle, left and right arm
- internal rotation – elbow at side 90 degrees
- external rotation – elbow at side 90 degrees
- supraspinatus – empty can exercise
- reverse shooting motion – to strengthen the deceleration muscles
On all of these exercises do: 10 - 15 reps full range of motion and then
find a weak spot in the ROM and do 15 - 20 seconds of fast paced/short
FOR the BACK and ABS
- Half sit ups - crunches - daily (500 – 2,000)
- Back extension – daily (50 – 100)
WEIGHT TRAINING - make sure that you are working the
back of the body (rhomboids and middle traps) as well as the front of
the body (pectoralis muscles) Do 2 sets back to every one set chest!
- Bench Press - shoulder width grip (narrow grip helps to protect the
- Pec Flys - narrow grip
- Leg extension - one set with toes straight, one set with toes pointed
- Leg Flexion - one set toes straight, one set with toes pointed out
- Pull Downs - in front of the body only *****
- Seated Rowing - do not over extend *****
- Triceps extension *****
- Wrist curls - work entire forearm *****
- Back Extension - 20 - 30 light weight - do not over extend ****
- Water Pumps *****
- Bicep Curls - protect the back
- Calf raises
**** - very good exercises for balancing the body
- Stretch before and after weight training (flexibility is extremely
- Do this routine every other day - or 3 days per week
- On all exercises think about doing the exercise in good posture
- Never lock out the joint (always keep a slight bend in the working
- On shoulder exercises - use a fairly narrow grip to protect your shoulders.
Be aware, that strength training will cause some muscle soreness.
It is important for each athlete to become in tune with his/her body and
to be able to differentiate between muscle soreness and fatigue (as a
result of a good workout) and pain that may be a precursor to injury.
Listen to your body and you will be healthier. It is also important
to try to vary your routine. In the early part of the year (pre-season)
you may want to do heavier weights and fewer reps. As the season
progresses I would recommend less weights and more reps. Try to
always train with a team mate. You will not only have more fun but
you can watch out for each other and make sure that your training partner
is doing the exercises properly.
Water Polo Hall of Famer Dr. Terry Schroeder accepted an assistant coaching
position with the Men’s U.S. National Team in January 2006.
Dr. Schroeder is considered one of water polo’s all-time stand-out
players. He captained the National Team from 1983-1992 and has coached
Pepperdine University’s men’s team for 20 years. Under Dr.
Schroeder’s lead, the Pepperdine Waves have a cumulative record
of 307-195 (.612), have attended the NCAA Championships eight times and
claimed the NCAA championship in 1997. Schroeder was inducted into the
USA Water Polo Hall of Fame in 1998 and was recently inducted into the
International Swimming Hall of Fame.
With Schroeder as U.S. team captain, the team finished second to Yugoslavia
at both the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games and placed fourth at the 1992
event in Barcelona, Spain. The team also captured the FINA Cup in Barcelona,
downing longtime nemesis Yugoslavia in the title game.
A graduate of San Marcos High in Santa Barbara, Calif., Schroeder earned
All-American honors at Pepperdine in 1977, 1978 and 1980. He graduated
with honors in 1981 and then completed his doctorate studies at Palmer-West
Chiropractic School . Schroeder and his wife, Lori, reside in Westlake
Village, Calif. with their daughters, Leanna and Sheridan.
(Biography by Jennifer Ross - provided courtesy of USA Water Polo)
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A U.S.
PLAYER, MORIAH VAN NORMAN, AT THE NATIONAL
7:30-9:00am Strength Training
In the morning we have an hour and a half of strength training. This
includes, Core Work, Running, Shoulder Exercises and Stretching before
we even start lifting. All these extra things we do allow us to not only
warm up for weights, but it also help us strengthen our bodies in different
ways without weights. When we start lifting we are usually in groups of
2 or 3. The main exercises are Squats (front or back), Bench Press, RDL’s,
Pull-ups, Straight Arm Pull-down and Lunges. After we do all our reps
of these exercises, we finish with Slide Board. This is an exercise were
we work for a short period of time focusing on only our legs. This is
a physically demanding exercise which helps us with our speed and quickness.
9:00-10:00am Swim Training
This is the part of practice when we swim. We swim four times a week,
each time 3,000 yards. Depending on the day, we vary from sprints to long
distance swimming which builds our endurance for games.
10:00- 10:30am Position Training
After lifting and swimming, we are broken into position training. This
means Kami Craig and I are separated from the rest of the team and work
individually with our position coach, Kyle Kopp. During the last thirty
minutes of practice, we condition our legs. Kami and I have on a weight
belt and we usually do sets of 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off with a weighted
bar over our head or on our back. This is definitely a hard practice.
10:45 We Receive the Afternoon Practice Plan.
1:30-1:40 Afternoon Practice Plan Talk
We meet as a team to go over the afternoon practice. This is where Coach
Baker will walk through what was on the practice plan and answer any questions
we may have.
1:40-2:00 Warm-up for Afternoon Practice.
2:00-2:50 Defense with Kyle Kopp
This includes the Perimeter and Defender position. We all have on weight
belts as Kyle walks us through each perimeter position. Since one of the
strengths of this team is our press defense, we start by getting up in
the lanes and denying the pass. This is practiced by lunging into the
lane and putting our right hand on our offensive player’s right
arm or left hand on their left arm (depending on where the ball is). We
then practice defending the drive from players at the x2, x3, or x4 position.
When this happens we are taught to reverse pivot and cover water. This
tactic is practiced so we do not put ourselves in a position to bring
the refs into play and have him/her call an ejection.
After perimeter defense, we go through the Defender position. We work
on three main drills that help our defenders gain and maintain ball-side
position. The first is swimming around the defender. For this drill we
partner up and simulate offense and defense. The defender starts with
her hand on the offensive players left shoulder. She will pretend the
ball is being passed from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 to 5, and then she will have
the repeat this going the other way. The second drill is the one arm stoke.
This drill is done the same way, but instead of swimming, the defender
is just taking one big stroke to get herself in a position to stay in
a front and press. The third is spinning. This drill is also done the
same way, but instead of swimming or stroking, the defender spins into
the offensive player. She ends up looking like she is setting on the offensive
2:50-3:20 Position Training
This is where we are again broken up into our specific position. Kami
and I go with Kyle as the rest of the players are with Guy. Since the
last part of this practice is counter attack, Kyle will emphasize the
importance of transition. Kami and I will swim into set as if we were
on a counter attack, turn, spin and seal, and receive a pass from a perimeter
player. We will then stay at the center position and take 4 more shots.
After we work on specific shots we will finish with leg work. This could
be a number of different things, but the last part is usually conditioning.
3:20-3:50 Defense to Counter Attack
This is the part of practice that is most difficult for any center. It
forces us to be on top of our game both mentally and physically. This
drill requires us to be fundamentally sound when we play offense, defense
and transition when on a counter. We start off in a press defense, if
the offense scores they stay on offense, but if anything else happens
we counter. So after playing a hard press defense, I have to be ready
to counter. My position on defense changes, so I never go to the same
spot on offense. My positioning all depends on the counter attack, if
we are up, I have to know what kind of counter attack it is (6x5, 5x4…),
if we are not up, I know it is a transition counter and I have to get
to the center position. My teammates have to know which side I am going
to seal off and then get the ball in to me. It is my job to not only get
to the right position, but to seal my defender off so the perimeter players
have an easier job working with me.
3:50-4:20 Defense to Counter Attack Again
We finish practice with the same drill, only this time we play 3 defensive
series and counter 3 times. This turns into a scrimmage situation and
even though we are extremely tired from a full day of conditioning, we
are expected to focus on the last part of practice and get better that
day. It is not easy, but we know that if we can practice like this and
continue to improve as a team, we are going to keep getting better together.
4:20-4:30 Warm Down
The Best Part of Practice for Me Is When We Are Working on 5x6
The best part of training for me would be the 5x6 or 6x5 practices. As
a national team, we emphasize the importance of winning this battle against
all of our opponents, as it usually determines the winner of the game.
If we consistently execute what we are being taught and we play fundamentally
sound throughout, it makes it that much easier to apply what we are learning
in crucial situations. Performing at an elite level on a daily basis is
what gives us confidence going into our games.
During a typical 5x6 or 6x5 practice, we are expected to have studied
the practice plan and come ready to play. The practice is broken into
several drills that will emphasize the importance of each position, so
by the end of practice we can play “live”.
An example of this type of practice follows:
Fundamental part: If our focus is 5x6, the first
hour of practice is going over basic fundamental moves through each
position. We will break down every position into its fundamentals
and the responsibility of each position is discussed throughout the
entire 5x6 practice. When working on x1 and x5, we work on getting
over our hips quickly to take away strong side shots and then quickly
recovering to the post, simulating a pass. When covering x2 and x4,
we work on body position and knocking down the player with the ball.
All this movement is done with weight belts to get us quicker and
stronger when we face our opponents. Our defense is very rhythmic
and by understanding what the offense is doing, we can adjust our
defense as a team to be successful.
Technical part: The second part of practice is more
technical. This portion of practice is usually done in smaller groups
of 3-6 players. If our emphasis is on x1, x3, and x5 we now
add offense to test the skills we have just practiced for an hour.
This may include rotations from the offensive players, or the posts
popping, but all of this movement demands the proper execution of
what we have been taught. This part gives my teammates and I instant
gratification as we see the fundamentals we practice every day paying
Tactical part: This is the part of practice that
brings everything together. We have broken down every position and
every responsibility a player may have, so now we are challenged to
be successful in a scrimmage situation against each other. Our coaches
will have the defensive unit read out what the offensive unit is doing
and apply the necessary skills. This is the most challenging part
of this practice because despite being tired, you must be focused.
If one player is not concentrating and executing their role on defense,
the whole defensive sequence will be unsuccessful. The strength of
our team is how disciplined we are and this practice is a perfect
example of how we get that way.
The Hardest Part of Practice for Me Is the Mental Aspect
The hardest part of any practice is the mental aspect of it. Practicing
six hours a day is physically demanding, but that is only one part. To
continue to learn and excel at this sport you must be willing to stay
mentally strong and focused even when you are exhausted. We are challenged
to play our best water polo every day despite anything we have done that
day, or that week. Playing at a high level when you are tired is
something our team works on every day, and we are able to get through
MORIAH VAN NORMAN
Proved her outstanding skills as one of the world’s top centers
at the 2005 FINA World Championships, helping to lead Team USA to a silver
medal…Scored two goals for the U.S. Team in the Championship game
against Hungary and four goals from hole in the tournament…One
of the few U.S. athletes to compete at the World Championships and Junior
World Championships in 2005, winning gold at Juniors…Co-led the
team in scoring at the 2005 FINA World League Series with 12 goals…Played
on the championship teams at the 2003 Junior World Championships and 2002
Pan American Games…Went to Holland in 2002 as a member of the U.S.
COLLEGE: Selected to the All-MPSF First Team and ACWPC
All-American First Team in 2006…Scored 52 goals for USC during
her senior season and concluded the year among the Trojan’s top
five all-time scorers with 175 goals and helping her team to the NCAA
Championship game (2nd place)… As a sophomore, became the second
player in USC women's water polo history to win the Peter J. Cutino Award
as the nation's top collegiate women's player...In leading the Women of
Troy to the national championship, Van Norman was named as MPSF Player
of the Year and earned All-America and All-MPSF first team honors...Earned
NCAA All-Tournament first team honors... Earned All-America and All-MPSF
second team honors in her 2003 freshman season after leading the team
in scoring with 65 goals.
HIGH SCHOOL: She earned four-time All-American honors
at University High in San Diego, Calif... Member of San Diego Hall of
Champions... Named CIF Player of the Year and league most valuable player
in her senior season.
PERSONAL: She is majoring in creative writing...Parents
are James and Marsha...Her brother, Jordan, is on the USC men's water
polo team...She also has an older brother Josh and a younger sister, Sarah...Her
goal is to represent Team USA at the 2008 Olympic Games.
INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION HIGHLIGHTS:
2006 Holiday Cup, Los Alamitos, CA , 1st place
2006 FINA World Cup, Tianjin, China, 4th place
2006 FINA World League, Cosenza, Italy, 1st place
2005 FINA World Championships, Montreal, Canada, 2nd place
2005 FINA World League, Kirishi, Russia, 5th place
2003 FINA Junior World Championships, Calgary, Canada, 2nd place
2003 Holiday Cup, Los Alamitos, CA, 1st place
2002 Junior Pan American Games, 1st place
Biography by Jennifer Ross - provided courtesy of USAWP