Volume 2:  Number 6            October 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.

What Body Parts Are Vital for Water Polo? by Adam Wright

1.  Legs are the most important part of your body for water polo.  Your legs will create all your movements in the water whether it be the horizontal or vertical position.  It is important for each player to prepare his or her legs the correct way.  There are a number of different stretching and lifting exercises that one can do.  All your stretching and lifting should be geared towards movements of a water polo player.  First the eggbeater is the most important movement in water polo and the wider your eggbeater is the stronger and sturdier base a player will have.  Also with this wide base you will not use as much energy as a player with a narrow eggbeater.  A basic stretch is the butterfly stretch.  A basic lift is just body squats but making sure that you have a wide base on your squat and also making sure that you are getting all the way down past 90 degrees which will create a stretch that will widen your eggbeater.
 
2. Core - Your core plays a major role in water polo as well.  Your core is involved in every action of water polo whether it be shooting or turning around to go to defense.   It is very important to have a strong core which also will support your lower back stress that water polo creates.  Using your core when you shoot is very important. You can generate more velocity on your shot from your core.  A lot of players use just their arm when they shoot but if you watch the best shooters in the world you will notice their shot comes from their legs first and then up through their core as they finish their shot.  It is just like a baseball pitcher. If a pitcher only used his arm he probably would never make it to the big leagues as his arm would fail.  A pitcher uses his legs and core to generate his velocity and the same should be done for water polo.  Sit ups will build core strength but for every sit up you do you should do equal in back extensions.

3. The brain - It is best to save the best for last. I think if someone wants to become an excellent water polo player then they are going to have to eat, drink, and sleep water polo. Another way to say it is they are going to have to read, watch, and practice good water polo. There is an old sport's adage that says "You will play the way you practice". It is not enough to just practice skills; you must practice them correctly. Read everything about water polo that you can get your hands on, watch as many good players as you can, and listen to what good coaches and players say. Try this at one of the next games you go to see. Pick the best player in the game and for a quarter watch every move that person makes on and off the ball. You will be surprise how much good water polo you can learn doing this.

In summary let me say that if your goal is to become an excellent player then your legs and core will help to get you there but your brains will keep you there. Good luck and remember in your quest to become an excellent water polo player the journey is just as important as the destination.

ADAM WRIGHT

INTERNATIONAL/CLUB: One of the most experienced members of the Senior National Team with nearly 15 years of involvement… Threat at both ends of the pool with tough defense and good scoring ability...Scored four goals for Team USA in the 2005 FINA World Championships...Scored a goal against Russia at the 2004 Olympic Games...Scored in six games and led Team USA with five goals at the 2003 World Championships ...Netted four goals at 2003 U.S. Cup...Had four goals, including three in one game, at the 2003 French International…First became involved with the National Team in 1997.

PROFESSIONAL: Spent the 2005/2006 season in Sicily, Italy playing for Nuoto Catania….Played for Dynamo in Moscow, Russia in 2004-2005 with U.S. teammate Ryan Bailey.

COLLEGE: Named collegiate All-American and All-MPSF athlete in four straight seasons at UCLA...Was a member of the 1999 and 2000 UCLA Bruins National Championship teams....Led the Bruins with 27 assists in 1999.

HIGH SCHOOL: Played at Wilson High School in Long Beach, Calif., under current National Team Coach Ricardo Azevedo...Was named the 1995 CIF Division I Player of the Year...Member of the 1994 Division I CIF Championship team...Awarded High School All-American honors in three seasons...Notched 309 career goals at Wilson.

PERSONAL: Favorite foods include sushi and Mexican...If he weren’t playing water polo, he would pursue baseball...Cites his parents, brother and Klaus Barth as his biggest influences…Loved traveling to Cuba and Hong Kong with water polo.

INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION HIGHLIGHTS:

2005 FINA World Championships, Montreal, Canada, 11th place
2005 FINA World League
2005 ASUA Cup Mexico City, Mexico, 1st place
2004 Olympic Games, Athens, Greece, 7th place
2004 Torneo di Napoli, Naples, Italy, 3rd place
2003 FINA World League Super Finals, New York, NY, 3rd 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
2000 UPS Cup, Los Alamitos, United States (USA “B”), 6th place
1999 World University Games, Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 4th place

(Biography and Photograph provided courtesy of USA Water Polo)

Attacking a Press Defense: Perimeter Players by Alison Gregorka

Game Strategy

  1. The first priority is to get the ball to the center
  2. The second priority is to earn something positive from the attempt to get the ball to the center

Position Responsibilities

  1. Perimeter
    1. Must be a threat to drive
      1. If no drive, the threat still needs to exist
    1. The threat can create opportunities
      1. Release, pass, or shoot
    1. Earn something positive from the threat to drive
      1. Defensive player drops hips into a vertical to semi-vertical position
      2. Defensive player plays farther away
    1. Must control the water close to the goal
      1. Perimeter player in position to receive a pass for a center entry pass
    1. Get the ball to the center
      1. Center Entry passes are wet and directly on the Center’s hand
  1. Center
    1. Gain and maintain ball side position

Important Press Attack Fundamentals

  1. Pressure Passing
    1. Center Base Position
      1. Sitting on a swivel chair
      2. Shoulders slightly out of the water
      3. Back slightly hunched
      4. Chin pointing towards chest
      5. Elbows raised to shoulder level
      6. Hands sculling at chest level
    1. Snap to the ball
      1. Right handed players snap to the ball with the left shoulder snapping into the defensive player’s chest and the right hand moving to the ball
      2. Left handed players snap with the right shoulder and left hand moving to the ball
      3. Snap to the ball with the palm of the hand facing the ball
    1. ¼ turn away from the defensive player
      1. It is very important that when turning the body and the ball go together
      2. Create open passing lane and separation from the defensive player
    1. Rotate unto back into a semi-horizontal position
      1. It is very important to follow the ball when rotating into a semi-horizontal position
      2. Rotate into a semi-horizontal position by following the direction of the ball after the ¼ turn (not the direction of the snap to the ball)
      3. Complete rotation with a breast kick to separate from the defensive player
      4. Maintain open passing lane and separation from the defensive player
    1. Ball over head away from the defensive player
      1. Elbow slightly bent
      2. Off hand sculling
      3. Shoulders square and out of the water
    1. Use breast kicks to maintain separation from the defensive player
      1. A breast kick is more powerful than an eggbeater kick and will create a greater separation from the defensive player

Pressure Pass Base Position

Semi-horizontal position and the ball overhead using a breast kick with the elbow slightly bent, off hand sculling and the shoulders square and out of the water

  1. Drawing a Foul: Same steps as Pressure Passing except on ¼ turn the defensive player fouls
    1. Center Base Position
    2. Snap to the Ball
    3. ¼ turn away from the defensive player
      1. Body and ball go together
    1. Draw foul and absorb the contact
      1. Keep head and shoulders out of the water
      2. Keep legs pumping
    1. Rise up quickly with the ball
  1. Cross Over Release: An effective release when the perimeter press defense is grabbing
    1. Start with 2-3 quick and choppy strokes
      1. Strokes will release the defensive player’s grab
    1. Next (ball to the right) grab the defensive player’s left elbow with your right hand and pull
      1. Ball to the left pull with left hand
    1. Next with your left arm use a Cross Over stroke to the defensive player’s left shoulder
      1. Cross over stroke up and over the defensive player’s head
      2. Pull and Cross Over until your right hand is in your left arm pit
    1. Release defensive player elbow and move into center base position
    2. Snap to the ball when receiving the pass
    1. Either pressure pass or draw foul
    2. Either next perimeter pass or center entry pass

Master the Fundamentals

It is important to practice these three fundamentals as much as possible.  Also, go through each of the steps, don’t rush through or miss a step.  We practice for hours on these three fundamentals and we still slow down and go through each step, so that in a game we will be able to execute when the time comes.  Each of these fundamentals is broken down into steps or building blocks; start with each step and slowly add the next step. That is the best way to learn and ultimately master the skill.  For example pressure passing.  Start by learning the center base position, then add the snap to the ball, then add the ¼ turn, then add rotating unto a semi-horizontal with a breast and the ball over head position by following the direction of the ball, and then add more breast kicks to maintain separation. From there you can start to do laps, start center base position go simultaneously through all the pressure passing steps and add one to three breast kicks in the pressure pass base position;  then reset to center base position and repeat for the rest of the lap.  From there add a defensive player

Threat to Drive

When playing against a press defense the threat to drive has to exist.  The press defense becomes more effective when the offense is not a threat to drive.  Drives can create opportunities to release, pass, shoot and earn exclusions.  Remember the role of the perimeter players against a press defense is to get the ball to center.  All drives must have a purpose.  For example; drives can create an open space for another perimeter player to release for a possible center entry pass or another perimeter pass to get the ball in position for a center entry pass.  All our drives start with cutting off the defensive player (gaining inside water). By cutting off the defensive player the offensive player has now gained an offensive advantage and the defensive will be forced to react.  The defensive player started with an advantage and now the offensive player has the advantage.  From this advantage many positive situations can occur for the offense.  The threat to drive can create the same situations.

ALISON GREGORKA

Alison GregorkaINTERNATIONAL/CLUB: Helped the U.S. Team to gold at the 2004 Junior Pan-American Games and the Junior World Championships in 2005.

COLLEGE: Sixth on the team with 17 goals for the season ... Played in all 29 games for the Cardinal ... Helped the team to second-place finishes at both the MPSF and NCAA championships ... Earned Academic All-American and MPSF Academic All-Conference honors ... Scored one goal in the MPSF championship final versus UCLA (5/1) Had a goal and one assist against USC in the MPSF semifinal (4/30) …. As a freshman in 2004, contributed to Stanford's third-place finish at the NCAA Championships ... Scored 12 goals for the Cardinal.

HIGH SCHOOL: Named Most Valuable Player of the Michigan State Tournament, Michigan's Water Polo Player of the Year and First-Team All-American in 2001, 2002 and 2003 ... Third-Team All-American in 2000 ... Member of 2001 U.S. Youth National Team and 2003 U.S. Junior National Team ... U.S. Junior Team took second place at the Junior World Championships in Calgary, Canada ... Captain of water polo squad during her senior season ... Four-year letter winner on the swimming and water polo teams ... Captained the swimming team during her junior season ...Swimming Academic All-American in 2003 ... Swimming All-American in 1999 ... Competed for the Great Lakes Water Polo Club.

PERSONAL: Daughter of Dave and Joan Gregorka ... Has 3 siblings, Brad (23, also played water polo), Andrea (16) and Brian (16) ... Began playing water polo when older brother started playing… Urban Education major ... Enjoys music, laughing, movies, sledding, wearing costumes, kickball, snowboarding, and playing in the ocean.

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 Junior World Championships, Perth, Australia, 1st place
2004 Junior Pan American Games, San Salvador, El Salvador, 1st place
2003 FINA Junior World Championships, Calgary, Canada, 2rd place
2002 Junior Pan American Games, Boca Raton, FL, 1st place

(Biography and Photograph provided courtesy of USA Water Polo)