Volume 2:  Number 4           July 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 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.

Tips on Strength Training by Terry Schroeder, US Men's Head Coach

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)

  1. Shooting motion -  overhead, left and right arm
  2. Swimming motion freestyle, left and right arm
  3. internal rotation – elbow at side 90 degrees
  4. external rotation – elbow at side 90 degrees
  5. supraspinatus – empty can exercise
  6. 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 arc work

FOR the BACK and ABS

  1. Half sit ups - crunches -  daily (500 – 2,000)
  2. 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!

  1. Bench Press - shoulder width grip (narrow grip helps to protect the shoulders)
  2. Pec Flys - narrow grip
  3. Leg extension - one set with toes straight, one set with toes pointed in
  4. Leg Flexion - one set toes straight, one set with toes pointed out
  5. Pull Downs - in front of the body only *****
  6. Seated Rowing - do not over extend *****
  7. Triceps extension *****
  8. Wrist curls  - work entire forearm *****
  9. Back Extension - 20 - 30 light weight - do not over extend ****
  10. Water Pumps ***** 
  11. Bicep Curls - protect the back
  12. Calf raises

**** - very good exercises for balancing the body

  • Stretch before and after weight training (flexibility is extremely important)
  • 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 joint)
  • 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.

TERRY SCHROEDER

Terry Schroeder, Assistant US Men's CoachUSA 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)

Tips On What Happens at Practice by Moriah van Norman

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A U.S. PLAYER, MORIAH VAN NORMAN, AT THE NATIONAL TEAM CENTER:

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.

10:45-1:00 Break

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 player.

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 or 6x5

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 off.

  • 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 it together.

MORIAH VAN NORMAN

Moriah van NormanINTERNATIONAL/CLUB: 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. ‘B’ Team.

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