The Manual for Coach and Player

Table of Content

About Authors

Pete Cutino (1933-2004)

He was one of the most respected and well-known water polo coaches in the country.

During his 26-year tenure as the head men’s water polo coach at Cal, Cutino compiled an impressive 519-172-10 career record as the Bears captured eight NCAA titles. His last team in 1988 won a school record 33 games enroute to a second straight national championship. Cutino was a four-time Pac-10 and NCAA Coach of the Year (1974, ’75, ’83, ’88) and was awarded the Master Coach Award – the highest honor given to an aquatics coach. In 1999, the Peter J. Cutino Award was established in conjunction with the San Francisco Olympic Club, in his honor, presented to the top male and female collegiate water polo players in the nation.

While at the helm at Cal, Cutino coached 68 All-Americans, six Pac-10 and NCAA Players of the Year and five Olympians, including current Cal head coach Kirk Everist.

In addition to his coaching duties with the Bears, Cutino also spent time as the head coach of the U.S. National team (1972-76), the U.S.A. Olympic team (1976) and the United States team at the World University Games in Yugoslavia (1987).

Cutino graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1957 and earned a master’s degree in education from Cal Poly in 1959. While at Cal Poly, he was a three-time water polo all-conference selection. Prior to taking over the Cal program in the fall of 1963, as both the men’s water polo and swimming coach, Cutino was the head water polo and swimming coach at Oxnard High School. While at Oxnard, his swim teams compiled an impressive 64-8 record and five county championships in the early 60’s, while the water polo team went 80-12 during his stint.

When Pete Cutino died in 2004 at age 71—along with friends, family, local and national sports and community leaders—some 1200 of his former players attended his memorial service.

Dennis Bledsoe:

As a player: Played at Fresno State College, Graduated 1963. MA also From Fresno State

Was Capt. of Swim and  Polo teams, MVP on polo team & All-League in Polo..

Played with San Francisco Olympic club during the late 60s.

Coaching: Clayton Valley High School Swim team1966 thru 1968, Then 1970  thru 1996,then 2010 &2011

Head coach at Fresno State University Men swim and Polo Teams, (1968-69)  1969-Cal Berkeley-Asst. to Pete Cutino-2nd NCAA Water Polo Tournament.

Clayton Valley High-Started Polo at the High school-Head Coach 1970 to 73, and 1982 to the present 2010-

Concord Water Polo Club, National Champions. 1972. this was an olympic year. Tournament was called Olympic Trials.

Co-author(Waterpolo for coach and player)

Named Coach of the year-Mt. Diablo Unified School Dist.- 2007 (included all sports, not just polo)

Named Calif North Coast Section Honor Coach in Water Polo- 2003

Have been coaching polo and or swimming from 1966 until the present, 2011. (except no coaching Fall of 1979 thru spring of 1982)

Conditioning and Drills

Prior to each day’s conditioning work, some warm-up exercises should be employed. A set distance of swims should be required each day, for example, reverse 200 yard individual medley, etc.

Approximately twenty percent of practice should be used for passing in deep water. If it is possible, use one ball for each set of two players. Begin with short passes first until the arms warm up, then throw longer until passes cover approximately twenty yards. Do not throw long passes until the arms are warmed up.

fig. 1-1

We do not recommend the use of all drills in each practice. The following drills are possibilities from which to choose.


Swim a two to a four hundred yard I.M. in reverse order. This places the butterfly at the end of the swim.


Butterfly armstroke using a flutter kick. This is a very good conditioning drill. The head should be held up and out of the water. Other kicks may also be employed.


Breaststroke using a quick turnover.
Head up.
Variation — Use an alternating kick (eggbeater).


Use 6 or 8 lines for most pools. Upon command the first man in each line should begin sprinting. After 4-8 strokes, another whistle blast will stop the swimmers. On the third blast they again sprint; at this time the second men in line begin sprinting. Continue this process until all men have reached the opposite end of the tank. Repeat as many times as desired.


Arrange the team in lines. The first men in line sprint on the first whistle, head up. On the second whistle they quickly change direction and sprint back towards the starting point. Continue for six repetitions. On the last whistle they sprint to the opposite end of the pool.

Variation: The second men in line begin on the third whistle and so forth until all have reached the other end.

When a player is swimming in one direction and wants to change and go the opposite way, the following method can be employed:

  1. Pull his trailing arm under water hard and vigorously.
  2. Bend his legs and pull them under his body.
  3. Just after the trailing arm pulls and the legs whip under they begin to extend and kick in the opposite direction.
  4. The lead arm is thrown hard over the water and in the direction desired.
  5. A vigorous kick and pull is executed and the maneuver is complete.

FLAG DRILL (follow the ball)

All team members should be in deep water and treading. When the coach exposes the flag, all men sprint in the direction it points. When the flag is pointed in the opposite direction, forward or backward, the players change direction and sprint again. Repeat this process for as long as desired. A ball may be used instead of the flag.


Arrange the team in as many lines as the pool facilities allow. On the whistle the first man in each line sprints with the head up. On the next whistle he flips to his back and continues forward doing the backstroke. On the third whistle he flips back to freestyle and continues I() the end of the pool. (Number 2 man begins on second whistle.)


Arrange the team in lines. Each man swims the length of the pool i n a zigzag fashion. The head should be held high and the feet should he kicking white water at the surface. As the change of direction is executed, a vigorous scissor kick should be employed. When turning left, the right arm moves over the water, and in the new direction the left pulls hard under the surface. Same mechanics as change of direction. A ball may be used in this drill.

Any time a player is dribbling the ball or, for that matter, any time he is sprinting, the legs and feet should be kicking vigorously at and above the surface. This not only provides a good leg drive, but also serves to protect the player by keeping defensive men at a distance.


Swim the breaststroke in a vertical position keeping the chest high; place emphasis on the chest high and out of water. It is best to use the alternating kick or eggbeater. Be sure the feet are kicking down and the body position is vertical.


Begin in a supine (on the back) position and hold the feet and chest out of the water. Using hand and arm movement the player should propel himself toward his feet one length of the pool. This is a very good arm exercise as well as a change of pace. (Something different)

fig. 1-2


From a prone position, kick very slowly, just hard enough to maintain body position. Then propel one length of the pool toward the feet, holding the head up. This drill is a good follow-up to the reverse supine pull. Competition may be used as an interest factor.


From a position on the side, hold the top arm out of water and emphasize the scissor kick. The scissor is essential to quick movement in the water. Scissor sprint to the end of the pool.


  • overarm side stroke
  • use alternate sides

Arm high is good for pump and swim skill.


Half of the team should be on each side of the tank. On command the men on one side sprint to within three feet of the opposite side, change direction and sprint back. Then the men on the opposite side of the pool will do the same.


  • do the above and vary the strokes
  • walk (eggbeater) to the other side and sprint back (crawl)
  • walking, use hands out of the water
  • clasped over head
  • arms parallel over the water
  • elbow to elbow
  • walk straight ahead, walk sideways, backward


It is very often good to end or begin practice with sprint work. The players should use the same stroke used in the game. (Short strokes, fast turnover, head up, and ride high in the water.) It is important that the players use a high elbow technique of recovery, especially when dribbling the ball. The high elbow recovery virtually eliminates the problem of slicing underneath the ball. Calling out the first three finishers is useful in creating incentive.

fig. 1-3 and fig. 1-4


Use lines. The first man in each line will sprint the length of the pool, the second man in line should hold on to the sprinter’s ankle or suit. Repeat as many times as desired. Competition may be set up.

Example: The first men in line drag their partners to the other end of the pool. At that point they trade positions and swim back. The first team back wins.

Relays may also be used.

KICK SPRINT (kick, swim)

Begin with a flutter kick, arms extend forward. On the whistle use the arms and sprint full speed, emphasize the first four strokes, strong scissor kick is imperative. On the next whistle flutter and glide again. Repeat for the length of the pool. This is a good drill to help develop an ability to start quickly, essential in the game of water polo.


Inverted butterfly, or double arm backstroke with either a dolphin kick or a flutter kick. Use of the dolphin kick with this stroke is especially exhausting. This should not be a daily drill, but should be used as a change of pace—something different. (It’s fun to do.)


All players should “walk” a required distance each day, 100 to 400 yards. Goalies should do more. This skill is a frog or breaststroke kick done one leg at a time. The player should lean forward in the water, holding his legs at about an 80-degree angle under his body (as though sitting on a chair tilting forward). Do not trail the legs.

The hands can be used for support. The legs should be under the body in order to give good support (knees in line with the chest). If the legs and feet are behind, the individual will have poor support in his kick, and will be unable to hold a position when challenged. He will also lack explosive kicking power.

Players, goalies in particular, should strive to develop a good enough kick to expose their swim suit when a vigorous kick is employed.

Hint — Use a kick board between the legs for people who have problems learning the kick.


Divide the team into even lines at the end of the tank. On the first command the first men in each line begin an eggbeater kick and “walk” toward the other side or end of the pool. The hands should be out of water and clasped over head. The players should be facing the direction in which they are traveling.

fig. 1-5

Variations include:

  1. “Walk” sideways in both directions, left to right and right to left.
  2. “Walk” backwards.
  3. Using the hands for support.
  4. One hand under for support.
  5. Elbows in the water and hands out (beginners).
  6. Upper arm against the ears and hands straight up in the air and clasped.
  7. Upper arm against the ears and hands clasping the opposite elbow with forearm on the head.


Use lines at the end of the pool. On the first command the first man in each line rises as high out of the water as possible, using hands and legs. On the second command he sprints, freestyle, to the other end of the pool. Continue until all team members have reached the opposite end of the tank.


  1. Come up, walk forward, sprint.
  2. Up, walk sideways, sprint.
  3. Sprint on first whistle, up on second, sprint to end of pool on third.


This is done on a 50 metre or yard course. Keep the hands in front and kick freestyle. Concentrate on keeping the head as high as possible and creating white water with the feet. Five to six laps can be done with a rest of ten to fifteen seconds per lap.


In most pools there are ladders along the side. Find one from ten to fifteen yards from the end. Draw an imaginary line across the pool and use this as the stopping point. Sprints are initiated two yards from the end wall. Begin in layout position and sprint to the ladder at the opposite end of the pool. Use at least six lines. As soon as the ladder is reached, turn and set for the sprint back in the other direction. When the last person is in, set them off again. A set is 4 to 6 laps. Do two to three sets. No rest between laps. Usually there are two groups; this allows one group to rest when the other is working. fig. 1-6

fig. 06fig. 1-7


This drill is very similar to the previous one. Pick a distance of about thirty metres. Lay out and on the whistle sprint hard halfway, then at half speed until the whistle is blown. Turn and sprint halfway again. This continues for six to eight turns and is done two to three times. fig. 1-7


Sprint two or three laps (one of which is under water). Take ten to fifteen seconds rest between each lap. Do three to four times.


Partners swim the length of the pool, alternate cutting under and in front of each other. Use as many lines as facilities allow.


Passing is a very important phase of the game and should be emphasized in all practices. The ability to execute good passes, both short and long, is often the difference between winning and losing. One characteristic that outstanding teams possess over other teams is that of pinpoint passing.

We feel it is imperative that each player be able to execute good passes under varying conditions. The individual coach can structure passing drills that are most beneficial to the particular team involved.

We feel that approximately twenty percent of practice time should involve passing. Passing and shooting are easily combined.



Place the hand under the ball, lift to clear, bring it back behind the head, and pass.

fig 2-8

Pressure and Give

Place the hand on top of the ball. Depress it slightly so that when hand pressure is released the buoyancy of the ball will pop it clear of the water and into the hand. Be careful not to use too much pressure. This skill is a lead-up to the pop and push shots.

fig 8-9


Place hand on top of the ball, roll the hand left or right and the ball will roll clear and into the hand.

fig. 2-10

ROLL fig. 2-10

Pressure Roll

Place hand on top of the ball. Apply pressure, as in pressure and give, and at the same time roll the
hand to the side. This is a quick, positive and efficient way to pick the ball up.
Grasp and Pick Up

Grab the ball as though picking up a baseball and throw it. (Only for giants.)

fig. 2-11


Beginning with the ball behind the head, the right-handed thrower should:

    1. Point the left shoulder at the target; the left hand can be used for support.
    2. Begin the throwing motion by moving the left arm and shoulder to the left. The right shoulder and arm then act as the end of a whip and have momentum.
    3. Lead with the right elbow. Arm should be in approximately a 90-degree angle. As the elbow passes the right ear the hand should be flat enough to support the ball without grasping it.

fig. 2-12

fig. 2-13

fig. 2-14

  1. Follow through with a hard and forceful throwing movement of the forearm and hand.
  2. Follow through. The arm should end up straight and pointing at the target, fingers relaxed.

It is very important not to eliminate this last phase of the throw. The wrist should snap hard as the ball is released. It is a good practice to follow through until the arm slaps the water.


An individual who has the correct throwing motion and a very weak shot probably collapses the wrist and does not have the fingers over the top of the ball. The back of the hand should be close to parallel with the arm as the ball is being thrown (just prior to release).

Having the weak shooter throw against a wall is very good. Ask him to rotate his finger tips over the top of the ball as he releases, do not allow the fingers to be placed under it. This should help cure most weak passers and shooters.

fig. 2-15


The key to catching the ball is relaxation. The individual must accept the ball, and give with it. A good method of learning to catch is to:

  1. Point the arm and fingers at the oncoming ball (stretch toward it) as the ball reaches the hand.
  2. Begin moving the hand and arm back with the ball.
  3. Contact the ball as soon as possible (touch it) but do not attempt to control it until it passes behind the head.
  4. Fingers and arm must be relaxed and not stiff.

Most individuals who have trouble catching the ball usually hold their arm and hand too rigid as the ball approaches and attempt to control the ball immediately.

As skill improves the individual may begin controlling the ball sooner.

fig. 2-16


Passes should be solid and authoritative. The lob pass, or weak slow pass, has little use in water polo. Most passing should be quick and solid. Dry passes should be thrown in a low trajectory and be received just above head level. Wet passes are those hitting the water, out of reach of the opponent. Most passing should be dry, with wet passes thrown to a breaking or sprinting man.



Any movement to the left, usually with the ball (right-handed player). Wheel or Draw

Any movement to the right, e.g., receive a cross face pass, wheel right and shoot.

As the pass comes, usually approaching from the left side of a right-handed shooter, the arm should be slightly bent. As the ball contacts the hand the momentum of the ball should be continued by pulling the right arm around and back and, at the same time, the body should turn to the right. ALWAYS keep the legs under the body for support, DO NOT lay out on the back. The left arm and hand are used for support. We refer to this particular move as a wheel. Wheel right is receiving a pass in the right hand, wheeling and passing or shooting.

A circle drill may be used to practice this skill as well as many other drills, both shooting and passing.

fig. 2-17


Drills for ball handling, conditioning, and specific situations (two yard plays, etc.) are extremely valuable to all teams. Usually the more inexperienced teams devote more practice time to drills and basic skills than do the more experienced. The more experienced teams usually concentrate more on control scrimmages and specific situations because they already possess the needed ball handling abilities.

In this section many drills will be presented. The most adequate to use may be ascertained only by the coach, based upon the needs of the team. Select those best suited to your team’s needs and abilities.

Short Passes

Generally, passes should be short. Often long passes either go astray, or give the defense time to maneuver for an interception. Short, quick and accurate passes will provide much better results over the course of a game.

Cross Court

Cross court passing should also be a general rule. Throwing down the middle of the tank, or in a straight line downcourt (parallel to the pool), requires much more accuracy and perception. Cross court passing helps to utilize the total pool area, spread the players, and relieve pressure or the danger of stacking up in the middle. Cross court passing aids in executing ball side drives which are very important. The team that is used to this type of passing will be much more successful at moving the ball into drivers than the team that does not concentrate on the skill.

Pool Balance

Pool balance, or maintaining the same number of men on both sides of the tank, is very important in water polo. This helps to eliminate bunching, or stacking up on offense. It also keeps the defense from taking an extra lead in anticipation of going on offense. If the defense does not know where a pass will be next, they cannot chance leaving their man. fig. 2-18

fig. 2-18


Eye-to-eye contact is very important. Only the team that has been together for a period of years, so that each man knows what his teammates’ moves will be, should deviate from this principle. Do not pass to a teammate unless you see his eyes and he sees yours. Adhering to this principle will eliminate many lost and stolen passes.

fig. 2-19


Pass Under Pressure

This is a very important skill to possess. The objectives of the drill are to:

  1. Provide competition in reaching the ball.
  2. Defend without fouling.
  3. Get off a good accurate pass to a driving teammate while under pressure.

The ball is put in play by a face-off or it is thrown into an area of the pool where two men will have to swim for it. The individual gaining control first, becomes the offensive man. The remaining man is on defense and should press hard, allowing no good passes.

In another area of the pool are two more players. One is designated, before play, as the offensive man. He and his defensive man do not fight for position, but do move around in order to force the
passer to know where and to whom he is throwing. Continue passing back and forth, alternating offensive and defensive men.

Circle Drills

    1. Three balls—A circle of five to eight players is formed. Fewer the better, depending upon facilities. Using one ball they pass it in one direction, changing direction on the whistle. Players should use both hands and try to move the ball as quickly as possible. After a short while another ball is added, and finally a third is added. This drill forces the individual to pass accurately and quickly, for if one individual is slow or makes a mistake, the entire drill must wait for him.
    2. Wheel right and spin left—(right-handers)—First the ball will be passed in a clockwise direction. Upon receiving the cross face pass the right-handed individual should wheel to his right and pass the ball to the next man. At all times keep the legs under the body; do not lay out on the back. On the whistle the direction of passing changes to counterclockwise. Upon receiving the pass the individual should spin to his left and pass.
    3. Two men in the middle—Two men should he back to back in the middle of a circle. Two balls are used and the middle men keep both hands out of the water to receive passes. The circle should move in a clockwise direction. The middle men continue passing to new individuals. On the whistle the middle men pass to outside men in the circle and trade positions with them. The circle may move in either direction. It is an excellent drill for the eggbeater kick.

fig. 2-20

  1. Spin and bounce—Begin the drill with a ball in the right hand and on the water. Keeping the body vertical and high, spin in place and bounce the ball about six times as a full circle is turned. Use the left hand for support as the legs execute an eggbeater kick. Switch the ball to the left hand and repeat in the opposite direction. This is an excellent ball handling drill for players of all levels. Use of this skill is very often needed in games.

Pop and Tip

When converged upon by more than one opposing player, loss of the ball can often be avoided by flipping it up in the air and then tapping it back up until a pass can be made, or the ball can be controlled. The skill of bouncing the ball on finger tips is a good one to possess.

Drill — Swim half of the length of the pool bouncing the ball on the finger tips of one hand. At midpool sprint the remainder of the length.

Converge and Tip

Use five players per group. Two men close in on the man with the ball. He flips the ball up and tips it at least three times, then tips it to the fifth man. The defensive men should reach for the ball but not 100-percent because they know where it will be going. fig. 2-24

fig. 2-21

fig 2-22 & 2-23

fig. 2-24

Two Hand Passing — Especially Goalies

Divide the team into pairs facing each other about five yards apart with one ball for each set of two, and pass continuously for one minute. The hands should not touch the water. Repeat the drill as many times as feasible. This is also a very good leg developing exercise. (See “Catching the Ball”, this chapter.)

Eggbeater Passing

Arrange the team in pairs. Each set of partners facing each other will start at the end of the pool. Using the eggbeater kick and keeping both hands out of the water, use short passes back and forth and “walk” the length of the pool. The next set may start as soon as the way is clear or on the coach’s command. Distance between the passing players can vary; however, it is usually best to maintain a short distance. fig 2-25

fig. 2-25

Layout Pass and Roll

When attempting to pass under pressure, the offensive man often must roll to his back and pass over the defensive man. This is accomplished by placing the throwing hand under or on top of the ball, rolling to the back, and turning toward the passing arm. Vigorous kicking must be used while passing. Often the offensive man has no open man to pass to, and he must roll back over and continue swimming with the ball. It is essential that good control of the ball be maintained at all times.

Use as many lines as the pool will allow. The first men in line dribble toward the opposite end of the tank; the second line of men are guards and should follow at the hip. The offensive men should roll as though to pass, then roll back to the front position and continue. The guards should attempt to contact or block the ball whenever possible. As the end of the pool is reached, the men trade positions and repeat the drill back to the beginning point.


1. The ball may be thrown to the line and continue until the entire team has reached the opposite end of the pool.
2. The third man in line trails the first two by one to two yards. The offensive man rolls and passes over number 2 to the third man. The ball is passed back to the first man immediately upon reception.
The first man then rolls back to the front position and continues to the end of the pool.

Three Man Pass and Swim

This is a drill of continual motion and involves layout passing. Three men are used. Each man swims back and forth in his own area. The drill is done within a ten to twelve yard distance.
Number 1 begins dribbling the ball; as he dribbles, number 2 begins moving in the other direction.

After they pass each other, number 1 rolls and does a layout pass to number 2. Number 3 started swimming just after number 2 did, and should go between numbers 1 and 2. As number 3 passes number 2, 2 rolls and passes to him. Number 1 has turned and is coming back in the opposite direction. After he and number 3 pass, 3 rolls and passes to him. Number 2 has turned and — continue for as long as desired. fig. 2-26

fig. 2-26

Close and Spread

Two players begin passing about six feet apart and gradually spread out to a distance of twenty yards. Use both hands. After they have -reached a distance of fifteen or twenty yards, a goal of 30 to 40 passes without a miss can be set.

Middle Man

This is done with three players a distance of five yards apart, total s ten yards. The ball travels from one of the outside men to the middle man to the outside man and back to the middle man, and so on. One must use right and left hands and take the ball directly from the side and across the front. Each man should be in the middle from three to five minutes.
Four Man Square

Four players form a square.

With one ball they pass it first in one direction, then on the whistle change directions. Players should use both hands and try to move the ball as quickly as possible.

Variation — Clockwise one whistle, counterclockwise on the next
and free choice, diagonal, etc., on the next.

fig. 2-27

fig. 2-28

Six Feet Apart and Two Hands

Position players about six feet apart using both hands to pass. Both of the players’ hands should be out of the water at all times. Players should try to ride as high in the water as possible. A goal of 80 to 100 passes without a miss can be set.

Pass and Go Drill

Number 1 passes to number 2 and immediately (while passing) breaks for a short distance. Number 2 holds, then returns the pass and sprints. Continue for one minute.


Shooting ability is often taken for granted and not emphasized as it should be. Shooters should be aware of the goalie’s position in the goal. They should also have good balance and position in the water prior to shooting. For most shots the shoulders and arms should be free to move. For good shooting it is essential to have this balance and position.

fig. 3-29

Most good shooters will list concentration on the target as a major factor in the success of the shot. All the shooter’s attention should be focused on the shot to be taken; nothing should distract his focus. Faking the goalie is important in shooting. The shooter should not stare at the exact target. If the shooter can fake the goalie out of position or at least cause the goalie to be unsure of where the ball is going, his probability of success will be much greater.

Approximately 20-percent of daily practice time should be devoted to shooting. It is very often possible to combine passing and shooting.


Weak shooters should rotate the fingers forward and almost on top of the ball. Most weak shooters collapse their wrist and shoot with the hand under the ball, rather than behind it. See the difference by throw ing against a wall. It should rebound faster when the fingers are rotated forward.

fog. 3-30


On overhand shots always shoot down. This helps eliminate over the top shots, helps add power, and also results in a better scoring percentage. Even when shooting a high corner shot, the feeling of shooting down should be emphasized. This tends to maintain the fingers in the proper position to execute a hard shot.

fig. 3-31


Rebound boards are very effective and important to most polo programs. They are inexpensive and allow the team with a minimum number of goals to still practice accurate shooting skills. They may be situated anywhere around the perimeter of the tank so they can be out of the way of busy areas. The board may be painted in any manner desired. However, most coaches prefer one of two styles: The first is to simply paint an outline of an actual goal. The other is to paint a human figure on the board, thus lending more realism to the shooters’ practice shots. The areas most difficult for the goalie to defend should be the target areas on the board. These include the corners and above the head.

When rebound boards are used, players find it very difficult to shoot accurately. They ‘must then concentrate on gaining strength and quickness when shooting at the boards. Passes should be taken as quickly as possible and thrown as hard as possible, be careful not to create bad habits such as twisting the wrist. When shooting at the goal, players should try to shoot as quickly and as hard as possible, but much emphasis must be placed on accuracy. Players many times have a tendency to shoot to one side. This should be pointed out and the individual should try to develop his shots to the other side of the cage as well. While shooting, if the shooter sees that the goalie is playing off to one side or going up tcoo soon, the shooter should tell the goalie so he may correct himself.



There are five basic drive-in shots: the pop shot, push shot, screw shot, pump and swim, and RS shots. With all the shots mentioned, one should continue driving hard until after the shot is taken.

Pop Shot — The pop shot is executed by a player who is in the process of dribbling the ball toward the goal. Without stopping, the right-handed shooter should lift or tee the ball slightly out of the water with the left hand and draw it toward the right shoulder. As the right arm recovers, the ball its popped up just clear of the left hand and struck with the fingers off the right hand as the shot is made. When executing the shot, several things should take place. First, the body should ride as high in the water as possible while dribbling and shooting. This requires a good leg drive and a high kick. The shooting arm, should be completely clear of the water. It is essential that the elbow does not drag. The palm should be turned to face outside, or to the right with the thumb down. Contact the ball with the fingers and not the palm of the hand. Drive through the ball, allowing the arm to completely follow through. Players often use this technique to pass the ball. Do not slap the ball.

fig. 3-32

fig. 3-33

Push Shot — The push shot is done by placing one’s hand on top of the ball, depressing it slightly, and allowing it to rise. The ball will slightly clear the water. At this point the shot is executed just as in the pop shot.

fig. 3-34

fig. 3-35

Screw Shot — This is an underwater movement with the shooting arm. Here one drives in just as in the prior two shots. The player places his shooting hand under the ball and supports it just clear of the water. He then draws the ball back to his shoulder and executes a push type shot. This is a very deceptive move. As the shooter gains proficiency, it becomes hard for the goalie to anticipate the shot. He an not see the shooting arm and its movement until the shot is taken. to contrast, the pop and push shots are fairly easy for the goalie to defend against. Emphasis must be placed on driving in fast and releasing the ball quickly. Drills may be done with or without a man guarding.

fig. 3-36, 37, 38, 39

Pump and Swim — At various times during the course of a game the hull should be picked up and held out of the water as the man with the ball continues to advance. Proper execution of this skill involves use of a strong scissor kick and a modified pulling motion with the bottom arm. A good drill for this is an arm high side stroke. The body should be positioned almost on the side. The hand holding the ball should always continue pumping back and forth so the opponent will not know when the pass or shot is going to take place. Occasions necessitating this skill are when opponents are closing in and may possibly steal the ball, when a shot is imminent, and when a fast break is taking place and the man with the ball is about to be challenged. It is important to maintain good speed.

Very often players become overly anxious to shoot when open and in front of the goal. They tend to shoot from too far out. When an open shot is available the correct procedure is to pick up the ball in shooting position, pump the arm, and fake with the ball. Walk in, using the eggbeater kick and supporting the body with the other hand, to about the six yard line and shoot from that point.

fig. 3-40

Rear Back Shots — RB’s — This is a shot where the man drives from halfcourt into the four to eight yard line, rears up and back, receives a dry pass and shoots an overarm shot. It is most important to use one’s legs and non-shooting arm to get as high out of the water as possible. In this maneuver the legs should be bent and pulled under the body (very quickly), then extended under the body enough to support a high position in the water. The shot should be thrown as quickly and as hard as possible, in order to catch the goalie off balance.

If the shooter is guarded in front, a sidearm shot is often very effective and not expected by defensive men. The sidearm shot is difficult to learn and it is not advisable to spend too much time with it.

fig. 3-41 to 44

Wheel RB’s — Receiving a cross face pass with the far hand is hard to learn but is a necessary skill. When a right-hander receives a cross face pass, he must keep his legs under his body at all times. This is hard to master. As he receives the pass and wheels to the right, his legs must remain in position. After the wheel the player is in good position to either shoot a hard shot or pass effectively. He should be leaning toward the goal. MOST IMPORTANT — do not allow moving to the back during the wheel.

fig. 3-45

Other Shots

Layout Shot — This shot is done from a backstroking position and usually takes place as the shooter is crossing in front of the cage from right to left, or with the outside arm the shooting arm. A cross cage shot is best when possible (shoot to the opposite corner).

fig. 3-46

Hole Layout — When guarded from behind, turn toward the shooting arm, use a sculling motion with the off hand, flutter kick hard, and move quickly from the guard.

fig. 3-47

fig. 3-48

Backhand Shot — back to the goal. — Pick up the ball, normally by top pressure or by bringing the hand up under the ball (more deceptive). The arm and shoulder must be clear of the water. As the ball comes off of the water, lead with the upper arm and elbow. The arm should bend to about a 90-degree angle. When the upper arm is in line with the shoulder, whip the ball in by straightening the arm and following through.

fig. 3-49

Over Shoulder Shot — This is a surprise rather than a power shot because the guard and goalie will generally be looking for a sweep shot, backhand shot or a pass. The shooter places his hand directly under the ball and quickly shoots the ball directly over the shooting shoulder. Do not throw the head back and into the defensive man; do not use the shot very often. It is easy to block when expected.

fig. 3 -50 and fig. 3-51


Offensive Tip Shot By Two Yard Man Off Free Throw — A man in the scoring area can splash water with one hand; the pass should go to the opposite hand for the tip.

Backhand Lob — If the goalie is out of position and the offensive man with the ball is skilled in a backhand lob—execute.

Penalty Shots — Two to three players on the team should be chosen to shoot the penalty throws. After workout is over, each should practice about ten with a great deal of concentration. During the game one player should not shoot more than two, or possibly three, shots in a row, as the situation presents itself. One man may have shot two in a row, so another man should take the shot. However, if he just made a fullcourt break, he may be too tired to shoot effectively.

The best area to shoot to is the low corner because the goalie will be on his way up and likely be above a low shot. Do not look to the area you are going to shoot to; look straight at the middle of the cage or the goalie’s body, not his eyes.

Long Shots — All field players should spend time daily shooting from eight to ten yards out. The purpose is to help develop accuracy and power in overhand shots.

fig. 3-52



When learning the drive-in type shot the following drills are valuable:

fig. 3-53

Three Line Drive-ins — (for all but RB shots) — No goalie is used. Drive in, shoot from approximately the four yard line, retrieve own hall and throw it back to the next man. fig. 3-53

Two Line Drive-ins — Same as above; a defensive man may be used a desired. He should trail at the driver’s waist.

Single Line Drive-ins — Use a goalie, shoot from the four to six yard lane. A defensive man may be used quite effectively in this drill.

Pop Shot — Swim the length of the pool using the pop shot every five fig six strokes, pass back to the next man and continue the drill. When all in the line have reached the end of the pool, repeat in the other direction. Use as many lines as the facility and number of players dictate.

fig. 3-54

Drive-in Flys — Drive-in shots with a guard at the hip. If the shooter misses, he swims fifty yards butterfly. If the guard does a poor job, he swims fifty fly. If the goalie misses three or four out of ten shots, he goes fifty fly. INCENTIVE DRILL.

Pump and Swim Sprints — A good drill to use in learning the pump and swim skill is to arrange the team in equal lines. The first man in line swims the length of the pool with the ball in hand and pumping—all the way.

Variation Dribble the ball for five strokes, pick it up and pump, put the ball down and repeat until the end of the pool is reached. The coach may utilize a whistle with this drill if desired.

Rear Back Drills — Sprint in to the six yard line, rear back, receive the pass from the right side and shoot. Move to the passing spot, pass, then return to the line.( fig. 3-55)

fig. 3-55

Wheel and Shoot — Same as preceding drill, except pass will come from the left and shooter will wheel and shoot. fig. 3.56

Both drills can be initiated by a pass from the shooter, before he breaks, to the passer, then sprint and take the shot.

fig. 3-56

RB Off of Two Yard Man — The driver takes the ball from halfway, swims into the four. Just after he starts swimming, another man goes behind him. When the first man reaches the four, the second man should be on the six to eight. The first man turns and throws a ball to the second man who does an RB and shoots from there.

Two Yard Man Drive-ins and RB—or Two Yard Man Feed RB’s — In this drill the two yard man sets himself. One man about eight yards out passes the ball in to him and drives for an RB shot. This is most important to a team’s offense and should be done with a great deal of care.

Rapid RB’s — This is a varied form of the regular RB where one takes o series of four passes as quickly as possible and shoots. His total should add up to about 20 to 24 shots at a time. This is also good conditioning for the goalie.

Two Line RB’s — In the drill the driver rears back, receives the pass, shoots, then becomes a retriever for the next shooter. Next he becomes the passer and then back into the line on the opposite side of the pool. As soon as a shot comes from one side of the pool, the man on the other side goes. This results in one shot at a time, and in fairly rapid succession. A good goalie drill. fig. 3-57

fig. 3-57

Wheel and Shoot – Two Lines — The ball begins in line on the right olds. O1 swims diagonally across the pool and toward the opposite goalward. After crossing center pool, O1 rolls to his back and should yell for the ball. The pass comes from O3. O2 sprints to the right side of the pool mid times it so that he crosses just behind O1. As O1 receives the pass, O2 should yell for a pass, receive, wheel and shoot. O2 should be sure the legs are under the body, do not shoot from the back.

Join the line on the opposite side. fig.3-58

fig. 3-58

Getting By — This can almost be considered a conditioning drill. One man, the offensive man, starts about halfway. Another man, the defensive man, waits about two yards away. The object is for the offensive player to get around the defensive man and in good position to shoot either an RB or drive-in shot. This drill has a tendency to become quite rough and caution should be taken to see that it does not get out of control. The offensive player should not be too aggressive, otherwise a foul will be committed. A feeder should be used, the shooter becomes the feeder, and the feeder rejoins the line.

Full Length Swim and Shoot — This drill is done only when players start to take it easy when they shoot. One must swim the entire length of the course, pick up the ball on the two to four yard line, and shoot past the goalie. This is done 15 to 20 times. Those missing more than two to three times are rewarded with a two hundred yard butterfly.

Drive and Shoot — Full Court — (reaction and chaser) — This is a good drill for condition, driving, and defense. Make the drill a contest between X’s and O’s. The first team to score ten wins. O1 breaks, O3 passes to O1, X2 chases O1 who shoots at the end of the drive. After the shot X2 changes direction and becomes the offensive man, as O1 chases X3 receives the pass from the goalie and passes to X2 who dribbles and shoots. fig. 3-59

fig. 3-59

Semi-Circle Shooting — All six men in the semi-circle have a ball. Beginning on one side, each man shoots in turn. As the prior shot hits the net or goalie’s hand, the next man shoots. fig. 3-60

Variation 1. Place eight men facing each other in front of the cage. The passers face the goal and the shooters have their backs to the goal. Numbers 3 and 4 receive the pass, wheel (draw) and shoot. Numbers 1 and 2 spin and shoot. Each shot follows the other in quick succession, as in the first drill. This is good for shooting, passing, catching and the goalie. Ten or twelve players may be used. fig. 3-61

Variation 2. This can also be done using one ball and passing it around. Whoever wants to, shoots. If a player misses, he must chase the ball. If the shot is made, the goalie gets it.

Variation 3. Each man has a ball and passes come in succession to numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 in order. Numbers 1 and 2 should spin and shoot. Numbers 3 and 4 wheel, or draw, and shoot. This drill requires the goalie to move laterally and to stay up for a period of time. fig. 3-632

fig. 3-60 and fig. 3-62

fig. 3-62

Cross, Wheel and Layout — Number 1 should cross just in front of number 2. The pass should go from the man behind number 2 to number 1 who receives the pass, wheels right, remaining in good position to shoot, and then passes to number 2 for a lay back shot. fig. 3-63

fig. 3-63

Dribble Option — Two men set up on defense at the four yard line and in front of the goalposts. Two offensive men position just outside of the defensive men. The driver then drives with the ball. A defensive man may or may not be used on the driver. If the defensive men collapse on the driver, he passes (flick pass) to the open man for the shot. If the defense does not collapse, then the driver shoots. fig. 3-64

fig. 3-64

Variation — Have three offensive men go in together (becomes 3-2). This drill is an excellent game situation exercise.

Screen and Feed — The first man in line throws the ball to the two yard man, who is guarded: He then drives toward the two yard man. If the driver’s guard is on his left side, then the driver will screen him off and go right. The two yard man feeds the driver at this point. The driver then shoots. Go the opposite way if the guard is on the right side. If the two yard guard switches, the driver should be aware to pass the ball right back to the two yard man for a shot. fig. 3-65

fig. 3-65

Wing Pressure Feed — This drill is excellent for teaching the passer to pass accurately under pressure. One man is pinned by a guard at the side of the pool, or near the outer edge of the playing area. The first man in line drives in, receives the pass (after calling for the ball) and executes a drive-in shot. A trailing guard may be used on the driver. The driver becomes the new guard and the passer moves into line. If a defensive man is used, he moves into the driving line and the passer moves into the defensive line. fig. 3-66

fig. 3-66

Drive, Hook and Shoot — The first man in line should drive the center, and at about three yards in front of the cage, hook left. When executing the hook, pick up the ball and with a sweeping or swinging motion turn left. This arm movement usually brings the goalie up. The goalie will then settle and begin following the driver laterally. At this point ht. is vulnerable to a shot. Two types of shots are usually used in this situation. A backhand or a modified push shot with the outside arm. The shot should be quick, a surprise to the goalie and made with as much power as possible. The preferred shot is the outside arm push.fig. 3-67

fig. 3-67

fig. 3-68

fig. 3-69

fig. 3-70

fig 3-71

fig. 3-72

Lob Shot — When shooting a lob shot, fake to the inside corner, then push the ball into a lob to the far corner; the ball must drop.
When coming in to shoot, the player comes up high, watching goalie. I If the goalie comes up, shoot low; if not, lob or shoot by the goalie’s head.

Hint — When a single player is approaching the goal on offense and is in possible position to shoot, always go toward the opposite goalward. This provides a better angle. Also the goalie must move laterally in order to follow the driver. fig. 3-73

fig. 3-73

Individual Defense

We feel that the most important phase of water polo is defense. An effective offense will most often generate from a strong defense. In the modern game of water polo most successful teams use a tight pressing man to man.

The defensive man should keep constant pressure on the offense. All passes should be blocked or hindered if possible. Good pressure also may force the offense into mistakes in movement, as well as in passing. It is most important to be aware of the exact position of the ball at all times. This practice is a must for good anticipation.

Anticipation is the key to playing “heads up ball.” All players should attempt to foresee and take advantage of all situations. Constant pressure causes opponents to hurry and often throw poor passes. This is the moment in which anticipation most often provides successful results.

All players should be trained to break toward their offensive end the instant the ball changes hands. Keeping the eyes on the ball, anticipation, and breaking as the ball changes hands, or before it changes, are important. Read the situation. If the ball is in the air, and it appears as though the defensive team should gain control, this is the key time to initiate the fast break. A one-half body length lead may very often result in a score.


In a tight pressing man-to-man, each individual must maintain pressure. If one man lays back and does not constantly press, the defense will probably fail. It is essential that each man does his job. This requires much of the individual. Each man has to discipline himself to this defense. All players should be made aware of, and understand, the purposes of the defense. They should be taught all aspects of the individual techniques, as well as team defense. (Covered in Chapter VII, Game Situations.)


The ball changes hands by: intercepted pass—missed or blocked shot —free throw awarded opposition-45-second or one minute turnover.

Forwards must assume defensive positions between the opponent and the  goal, thus cutting the path to the goal. This requires anticipation and if successful:

  1. Discourages backcourt drives and breaks,
  2. Forces the passer to turn his back on the person he wants to pass to and
  3. Enables teammates to steal poor passes—bait pass and get into passing lanes.

Stay in front of the two yard man

  1. Push him to the two yard line so he may be double teamed by the goalie.
  2. Contest all passes and force passes outside scoring area.
  3. Get jump on man, if ball changes hands.
  4. Always swim the hole man to your offensive area. He must follow. This will help nullify his offensive effect. The key man to initiate backcourt drives and get hole man out of scoring area.
  5. Eliminates that position or hole type game for opponents.

Keep pressure constant. Constant pressure is the most effective defense there is. If there is enough pressure, a team will not be able to bring the ball up-court and the clock will run out. If the pressure is good enough, the other team will begin to make desperation passes which most times can be picked off and turned into an extra man situation for your team and probable goal. One must be extremely careful to apply enough pressure, but not to foul because this gives I hem a free pass up-court.

  1. Block passes, keep eye on ball as well as the man you are guarding.
  2. Hinder passes.
  3. Discourage offensive breaks.
  4. Stops attempts to score.

ANTICIPATION IS THE KEY—because it enables one to foresee and take advantage of present and future situations.

PRESSURE CAUSES OPPONENT TO HURRY—thus it helps create had passes. (make mistakes)


  1. Call out your opponent to your teammates before the whistle. Be sure all men are covered and no one is unguarded.
  2. Make sure every man has an opponent before captain gives ready command.
  3. Get to your man as quickly as possible and as tight as possible
  4. Challenge the man with the ball immediately. Do not give him a target to pass to.
  5. Force the opponent to sides of the pool—never let him drive down the center. Protect the center.
  6. Head up at all times. Play position. (Stay between man and ball as much as possible.)


When the ball enters the defensive half of the pool, play between the man and the goal. When the ball is not in the defensive end, then play beside, or in front of, the offensive man. fig. 4-74

fig. 4-74


This is a most effective means of picking off an opponent’s pass Many times a man passing from his own backcourt will look down court at his teammate, turn back around, and then throw without looking. Between the time the man looks and throws, if the defensive man moves in the lane between the two players he can, many times pick off the pass.

fig. 4-75


As soon as your team gets the ball, your two yard man has to swim down and set up. None of the other players are required to swim down every time; thus sometimes it is a good idea to help him out. If his man is breaking out of the hole on an exchange of the ball and you dire in a position to help out, do so. This is not, however, an excuse for the two yard man to let his man go free every time.


In a situation where there are two opposing players and only one defensive player, it is up to the goalie to call which man he wants to shoot. Most times he will call the man with the ball. This is because the man swimming in with the ball will probably be more tired and it gives the goalie more time to set on him.

The defensive man may stunt, fake at the ball carrier, to try and slow him down, but he should then cover his man so there is no question as to whether the man with the ball can pass. The goalie should he set and know who will shoot; the goalie should not be off balance.


It is very important that the defensive players always cover any free men behind them and closer to their goal. It is no excuse to say “It was not my man.” Leave your man and cover the man farther back; there is a good chance someone will pick up your man.


There should be one man on each side of the penalty shooter in case of a rebound off the goalie or cage. The man on the shooting side should cut in front so the shooter does not get the rebound. fig. 4-76

fig. 4-76


Before the game begins, the guard should be aware of which hand his opponent shoots with and what type of shots he takes. If the forward is right-handed, then the most likely shot is a sweep. This is effected when the forward scoops the ball up in his right hand an keeping his arm straight, twists his body to the left and, in a whip like motion, his arm and hand follow as the shot is made.

The defensive man should make every effort to maintain a position in front of or beside the two yard man. If the defensive man is forc into a rear position, he should have his right hand on the shooter’ right hip, and tuck him in close. The defensive man’s body should no be vertical, but at about a 45-degree angle. The left hand should be i the air. The right can be used to push the ball away. If the forward can shoot with either hand, and he moves the ball to his left hand, the guard should switch from left hand up to right hand up. The guard’s left hand then should contact the left hip of the forward.

fig. 4-77

Control two yard man

In actual competition the best place to play defense against a two yard man is in front of or beside him, attempting to cut off all passes. The guard must, in order to effectively front the two yard man, pressure the offensive man to the point that he is inside the four yard line. Long passes over the head of the two yard man may then be taken by tin. goalie. Short passes can be cut off and intercepted by the two yard guard. If the guard does find himself behind the two yard man, he should Id pressure him out past the six yard line and out of effective shooting range. If the guard and two yard forward are pressing for position, the guard should give some resistance, but allow the forward to move inside the four. As he moves inside, the guard should rotate in front of the 4 forward. fig. 4-78

fig. 4-78

Swim out two yard man

The two yard guard is the key man to initiate backcourt drives and vet the two yard man out of the scoring area. Get the jump on the two yard man when the ball changes hands, and drive to the opposite end “I the tank. Note: Always swim to the offensive area so the two yard man must follow. This will do two things. It will result in a man up situation, and it will force the two yard man to swim, thus pulling him out of position and very often cause him to tire and become ineffectual the a shooter.


Eighty to ninety-percent of the passes to the two yard forward come from the right wing. The defense should attempt to completely stall these passes and force the offense to pass from areas they are not used to passing from.


One method of stealing the ball from an offensive man is to make him think the guard is on his right by hitting his right arm and contacting the right side of the offensive man’s body. At the same tin the defensive man should be moving left. The offensive man, thinking the defense is out of position, often will sweep the ball to his left at begin to dribble. At this point the steal is made.

fig. 4-79

BLOCK AGAINST A BACKHAND SHOT (If guard is out of position)

When guarding a two yard man, or anyone in good position to e cute a backhand shot, the most important objective of the guard is restrict the movement of the shooting arm. Getting a hand on the b is most often not possible. The guard will often have his hand and forearm under the shooting arm of the forward. In this situation when the shooter begins executing the shot, the guard should elevate arm and contact the shooter’s upper arm with his forearm. This contact will lessen the power in the shot and deflect the movement of the arm up. The flight of the ball should be over the goal.

fig. 4-80

BLOCK AGAINST A LAYOUT SHOT OR PASS (Lunge block, right-handed shooter)

The guard should have the left hand in the air and the right hand In contact with the forward’s right hip. As the forward rotates his body, turning right and moving into the layout position from a back to the goal position, the guard’s right hand should slide from the right hip to the left hip (allow the man to twist) and press down; keep the 14 hand in the air. This defensive maneuver is a lunge block. If the tight hand holds and stops the twist of the center forward, the foul will be obvious.

fog. 4-81

fig. 4-82


To a front position — Front two yard man

With the right hand near the forward’s left hip, begin a twisting move and spin or turn to the left until rotated in front. An alert forward can stop this move by maintaining position and moving his body into the guard. The spinning move must be done quickly and initiate when the forward’s arm is down.

Hint — To roll right—give the forward reason to believe movement will be to the left, get the forward moving in that direction, the quickly rotate to the right.

DUCK UNDER — from guard behind position

As the forward extends his right arm, the guard should duck under the outstretched arm and move into a front position.
The last two defensive moves are not often accomplished against a outstanding player who is aware of the situation. However, world class players may be caught unaware once or twice in a game; therefore these are good moves to know.

HAND FIGHTING — the driver

When a man is attempting to drive down the center of the pool t] guard should provide resistance. He should not allow the driver to in the direction he desires. The guard should give the driver a path least resistance, or an area to swim to. The guard can guide the drive to either side by turning and slightly facing in the direction he wish the driver to take. The guard should position his body so that his hips are high in the water and square to the driving man. The hands should continue moving; when the driver moves into the stabilized guard, the hands are used as guides. Don’t give ground—guide him the side. This is hand fighting. Do not attempt this with the h: down or the driver will move easily by.

fig. 4-83

CUT UNDER – Stop the driver

If a man is driving and the defensive man is not ahead enough to guide him, then if possible he should be stopped. While swimming full *peed and side by side, the defensive man should cut under and slightly in front of the driving man. This will effectively eliminate the drive and cause the offensive man to move to the side. The move to cut under should be made wren the offensive man’s near arm is beginning its recovery phase. If he continues his stroke, he will foul. He must then change his course or back off. If not slightly ahead, be careful not to ut under because a foul may be called for impeding the offensive man. I I the offensive man dives or cuts under and in front, the defensive man should raise up his hand and chest.

DO NOT FOUL – then attempt to regain position and apply pressure as soon as possible.



After a failed shot, immediately cover the offensive guards (me closest to goal and most likely to receive the pass from the goalie A very tight man-to-man should be used here. The purpose is to forc the pass back to the goalie and slow or stop any fast break attempt This technique also allows the deep guards, those in the opponent’ offensive area, to play loosely and possibly steal a poor pass. fig. 4-87

fig. 4-87


When a backcourt driver has the advantage and lead, for example a two yard guard leaving his man, he will pass and go. The man he passes to must be covered so tightly that he cannot pass back to a free man. This practice will stop most fast breaks. fig. 4-88

Be careful not to foul. This is the time when the offensive team will be over eager and likely to rush and make a mistake. Now is when anticipation is most important. If a mistake is made, a counterattacking score is available.

fig. 4-88


If a screen or pick is executed, the best method of maintaining good recoverage is for the man being moved out of position to call a switch. It s usually best for the defensive man to stay with his man unless he is w a position where he must switch. Attempt to fight through screens. Elimination of as many switches as possible will result in fewer defensive mistakes.


If a weak defensive player ends up covering a strong offensive player, then a switch should be made. In order to be effective at switching and minimizing mistakes, all defensive players must play “heads up” and be alert.


X1 momentarily holds 02 as X2 covers 01—play “heads up,” play high, and communicate. (talk) fig. 4-89


  1. Defensive principles that become offensive principles
    • Take advantage of:
    • In other words, “Anticipate!”
  2. Take two yard man length of pool
  3. Hips up, if down the defender is easier to drive off of. See “Hand Fighting” in this chapter.
  4. On a free throw protect against the back door, protect the middle, watch out for quick short passes, ride high—hands at surface ready to move.
  5. Against a two yard man keep the hips high—don’t over commit—tuck him in tight, control him, push him out.
  6. When ball enters defensive half of pool, play between man and goal.
  7. Hand fight with hips high and square to the driving man.
  8. Eighty-percent to ninety-percent of passes into the hole come from right wing.
  9. Backcourt drive (after your failed shot). Pass usually goes to wing. Cover wing tight so can’t pass to breaking guard—force pass back to goalie, or force the offense to retreat.
  10. Good position can produce a stolen ball. During a drive they are in a hurry and vulnerable, throwing to sound.
  11. If a man dives under, back (raise up) with hands up; then pressure.
  12. Backhand shot—arm to elbow stops it.
  13. Beginning of game—be aggressive, let the other team know you’re there.
  14. When hand fighting, keep the hips and body between the man and the cage.

    fig. 4-90

  15. Do not follow the offensive man; if the defensive player begins following, he will be ineffective.

Goalie Play

The goalie is the most important player on the team. A mediocre team that has a good goalie will win games that a team composed of good players and fair or poor goalie will lose.

The goal guard has the responsibility of directing the team in both its defensive and offensive efforts (mainly defense). He should call out plays if a team uses them and should always let the defense know where the ball is. The team should be attuned to his voice and respond to his calls and directions. In situations where the opposition has a fast break and man-up situation, the goalie should call and tell the defense where to go and whom to cover. For this reason a man with leadership qualities is most valuable.

The specialized position of goal guard requires learning particular skills. Therefore, an effective practice for a goalie must be planned, specific, and to the point.

Many coaches simply put a man in the goal, tell him to use an eggbeater kick and block shots. There is far more to the position than this. A goalie must be able to support his body with only his legs. Learning the eggbeater kick is thus very important. This is important for all polo players, but especially goalies.

Goalies should begin each practice session with a lot of swimming and walking (eggbeater). The use of a weight belt is a very good technique. A minimum daily warm-up for experienced goalies should include 100 to 400 yards of eggbeater walking (depending upon the individual) with the hands out of the water. Use this only for condition work; spend most drill time working on practical situations with the hips up and working on quick reaction to all shots.


Selection of a goalie is most important. He should have leadership qualities, be able to support his body in the water without use of the hands (eggbeater), have quick reflexes, be tough, have good lateral movement and quite possibly be the best athlete on the team. Keep in mind he is more important than any one field player. All of these qualities in one man are hard to find.

MENTALThe goalie should always be aware of the total situation in the tank. He especially has to constantly know exactly where the ball is. He must be aware of situations that may develop and alert his teammates when needed.

Figure 5-91 and 92

Figure 5-93 and 94

Goalies should attempt to play out of the cage. This helps cut down the shooting angle or areas of the goal available to shoot to.

The goalie should not commit himself until the shooter is committed; do not react to fake and feint. Wait, do not be over anxious. Reactions are better when moving up. Wait until the shooter makes a move to shoot.

As a general rule the goalie should play out of the cage and be aware of cutting down the angle. Because goalies differ in physical size, proportion, and reaction ability, there is no hard and fast rule.

Two hand stops are also the ideal. Again, this is up to the individual and his particular abilities. The big man may do better with one-hand stops irt the far corners. fig. 5-91 fig. 5-92 fig. 5-93 fig. 5-94


Very often a goalie tends to be an additional problem to the coach as well as to himself.

A goalie must have confidence in his ability to stop shots. The coach must be aware of his particular problem if he has one. If the goalie loses self-confidence by missing pre-game warm-up shots, instruct shooters to go easy until he is blocking well.

If he becomes easily over-excited before games, do not include him during any discussions designed to psych-up a team. Play down the game to this individual.

In short, all men must be treated as individuals if the most success is to be attained.

The goalie, especially, must be well analyzed by the coach. He must handle this man as an individual.

Goalie throwing head


When attempting to block a shot, the goalie should use two hands and the elbows should be pulled together close enough so that a ball can not squeak through. Keep hands and arms roughly parallel. As a shot strikes the goalie’s hands, he should give enough to absorb the the ball so that it does not rebound back into the field of play. The goalie should not attempt to catch the ball because the result is very often a score between his hands or arms. As the ball strikes the goalie’s hands and arms, he should absorb the shock and drop the ball in front of him, then pick it up and be ready to pass. The hands hook slightly so the ball will not bounce up and in.

Whenever attempting to block a shot, even if a shot is to the extreme side of the cage, the goalie should still attempt a two-hand stop. The effort to get the far hand on the ball serves to help moveine goalie’s entire body faster and farther in the direction he desires. A key to this lateral movement is throwing the head toward the ball.

When blocking a shot, the goalie’s body should move up and forward. This leaves him in position in case the shooter regains the ball and shoots again. If the goalie moves up and back, he will be off-balance and out of position for a second shot.

Goalies should always analyze the other team’s shooters and know what shots they use as individuals. Most players tend to use the same shots and to shoot to the same area of the goal. Without fail find out which players are left-handed and alert the rest of the team.

The more a goalie practices stopping shots, the more experienced he becomes. The goalie should try to prevent all shots from entering the cage.


Radius Drill

Shoot fifteen quick shots at the goalie, give him time enough to drop it, quick pass and out. All shots should be where the goalie can reach them.

Quick Drill

Goalie’s hands should be placed by the ears. Do not throw too hard. Goalie should reach across and stop with both hands. Shots should be fairly close to the positioned hand.

Half Board

Goalie holds one half of a kickboard vertical in the water. With hips at the surface, use an eggbeater kick and push the board quickly the length of the pool. Do as many times as desired. Head should be held up. This drill involves the approximate playing position of the goalie. Can take place of, or augment, walking work.

Around the Cage

Begin on one side of the goal, come up using an eggbeater and touch the top of the cage while moving laterally across the front. Continue on around in a semi-circle in front of the cage and repeat the same drill. Continue as long as desired. Do not put the hands in the water when moving around.

Semi-Circle Shooting

Four to six players form a semi-circle around the cage, four to eight yards out. The ball is passed around and must be shot on the third pass. (See Chapter III.)

All six men in the semi-circle have a ball. Beginning on the outside, number one, each man shoots in turn. As the prior shot hits the net or goalie’s hand, the next man shoots. (See Chapter III.)

Variation: Place eight men facing each other in front of the cage. The passers face the goal and the shooters have their backs to the goal. Numbers three and four receive the pass, wheel (draw) and shoot. Numbers one and two spin and shoot. Each shot follows the other in quick succession, as in the previous drill. This is good for shooting, passing, catching and the goalie. Ten or twelve players may be used. Both drills require the goalie to stay up and move laterally for a period of time. (See Chapter III.)

Back-to-back — (leg developer)

Backs together, eggbeater and push. Begin on the midcourt line; the winner is the first to push his man into the four yard area.

Across the top

Face the goal and walk from one side to the other with the hands I ouching the top of the goal (side to side).

Head Drill

Block easy shots with the head. This aids in learning to go toward he ball.

Lob Shot

When taking a lob shot, watch for the inside fake prior to the lob.

Loose Ball Sprint

The purpose of this drill is to practice going out of the cage and after the ball. Use as many goalies as there are available. (If only one or two goalies, then use field men to help.)

The man with the ball throws it between two men and over their heads so they must swim after the ball. The first man to the ball wins and returns to do the same. Continue.

Incentive: Provide extra walking or swimming for men that lost five in a row. Or, after two or more men win five times, have a four out of seven competition to determine the winner. fig. 5-96

Fig 96

Lateral Shooting Drill

The purpeue of the (kill is to practice lateral motion by the goalies. ( a 11(1 ( )” have I hree halls each and alternate shooting at the corners. Slielii uhetild be one half speed or less. Goalie should go after the ball with Iwo hands. fig. 5-97

Fig 5-97

High Corner Lateral Drill

The purpose of this drill is to practice movement to the high corners. Goalies face each other. Number one will say “right” and both go the same time. Try to stay together. They will then come back and go left. Number one should try to set a rhythm. Repeat ten times. fig.5-98

Fig 5-98

Reaction Drill

The goalie should reach for one corner as if to block a shot, then back quickly to the center as number one shoots. The shot should be about half speed. After the shot he moves to the opposite corner, back to the middle and continues. fig. 5-99-102

Fig 5-99-102

Board Travels

The goalie should position himself under the one metre board. The goalie begins on one side, eggbeaters up and touches the side, moves quickly (lateral) to the front, touches, moves quickly around and to the el her side. Continue for as long as desired.

Stretch Drill

On the whistle, goalie reaches as high as possible. Lunge.

Block and Pass

Block the shot and quickly pass to a moving teammate. fig. 5-103

Fig 5-103

Dark Room Drill — (reaction)

This drill can easily be done in a bedroom or any room where total darkness is possible. Two people are required. One is positioned next to a light switch and has a ball. The other player is positioned six or more feet away. The man with the ball throws it toward the goalie and at the same time turns on the light. The goalie is to react and stop the ball.

Other Drills

See other sections of the book, mainly Chapter III.


    1. Shots close to the ear—move elbows and upper arm up, not the hands (no time).

      Fig 5-104

    2. Protect the strong side—especially less experienced goalies should protect the half of the cage most likely to receive the shot. Let the weak side go.

      Fig 5-105

    3. Hands at surface at all times.
    4. Maintain hips high position when ball is in defensive half of pool.
    5. Do not come up too soon; maintain better balance and possibility of getting a hand on the shot if on way up.
    6. Always watch the ball.
    7. Pass to free man farthest from goal—(yell his name)—look downfield—don’t be short-sighted. If shot is from left, goalie should generally look to the right to pass.
    8. Quick passes—key to offense is quick pass from cage—do not force it. The goalie should be one of the best passers on the team as he is called on to make so many different passes.
    9. Always check your position in the cage (use opponents’ goal).
    10. Do not flinch or close eyes during a shot.
    11. Shooter coming from the side will usually shoot at near corner. This is the strong side. See Figure 5-105.
    12. Know who all left-handed shooters are.
    13. Do not slap or swing at ball. Arms stay in line with the body.
    14. Move up and forward not up and fall back.
    15. Most shooters fake at least once, don’t commit, watch the ball.
    16. shot—reach with the left hand (shot from goalie’s left). Use right hand for support. Keep eye on ball, pursue ball, it often floats in. Don’t lean back too soon; this leaves you open to hard shot.

      Fig 5-106 and 107

    17. Practice coming up and lunging to corner with both hands (upper corner).
    18. Throw head to side attempting to cover.
    19. Psych—shooter misses open shot, let him know it.
    20. Two hands—always try to get two hands on the ball, hands together, fingers spread, take ball down, do not try to catch.
    21. Shooters are nameless. Pay attention to the ball, position, and blocking, not who is shooting.
    22. Penalty shot—exhibit self-confidence—watch ball, not shooter’s face. Ball up, come three-fourths out of water. On whistle lunge up and forward (cuts down angle). Do not attempt to catch—ifcan’t get two hands on ball, other hand coming over helps you move farther to one side.

Fig 5-108

  1. Strong side—overprotect (side ball is on).
  2. RB’s—up when shooter catches, don’t commit on fakes, move when ball leaves hand of shooter. Watch ball.
  3. Backhand—watch ball only, not man, don’t jump or hop around, react only to shot.
  4. Sweep—watch ball only, not man, don’t jump or hop around, react only to shot.
  5. Drive-in—move back into cage about one foot more than normal. Shooters usually time shots by distance from goalie. As driver approaches, move back out. Will throw shooter’s timing off. Most shooters shoot between the two and four yard line. Know which hand they shoot with and be able to predict when they will shoot. (One of the easier shots to block.)
  6. New shots—when working on defending a new shot, do it at half speed.
  7. Tell the team members when doing a good job. Team should also tell the goalie (boost ego).
  8. Leaving cage—go after the ball only if sure will get it. Otherwise opposition may score.
  9. Receive ball from one side, feed it out the other side (not always—a general rule).
  10. Warm up—with shots that are easy and close. Then take harder shots. Helps warm up body and gain confidence prior to game.
  11. Goalie must be balanced and able to recover from movement at all times.
  12. Be alert to come out and pick up overthrown passes.
  13. The goalie can practice head blocks and gain general awareness of body position by bouncing the ball on his head. (Get the body moving in the correct direction.)
  14. One of the best ways to develop the goalie is be sure he faces as much shooting as possible. This should occur each day.

Individual Offense

The ability to react correctly to each situation is one that involves many skills and most often takes a number of years to learn. A beginning player who attempts to learn and master all offensive, as well as all defensive, skills will only meet with frustration. It is most advisable to learn and be able to do a number of skills; however, the player should concentrate on only one or two at a time. After he becomes proficient in a skill, such as one particular shot or driving move, then is the time to begin concentration on mastering others. (One step at a time.)


Dribbling is most effective when the stroke is short and quick with a rapid turnover. The elbows should be held high during the recovery phase and the hand carried low and close to the water. The purpose of high elbows is for protection of the ball. A straight arm recovery often slices under the ball and results in a loss of advantage or of the ball itself. A good leg drive should be maintained at all times.

Fif 6-109

Fig 6-110


When a player changes direction, a strong scissor kick is needed. A swimmer turning left while dribbling the ball should pick it up with the right hand and, using a swinging motion with the right arm, place it in front of his left shoulder. At the same time, the upper body turns in the new direction. At the time the ball is picked up, a strong scissor kick should be used. The ball will seldom be thrown in a new direction and approached, but should be kept by the player as he changes direction.

Fig 6-111-113


Situate the team in equal lines. The first man begins swimming full speed while dribbling the ball. On the sound of the whistle, pick the ball up in the right hand and place it in front of the left shoulder in the new direction. At the same time the legs have executed a strong scissor kick. Continue left to right and right to left. fig. 6-114

Fig 114

Do not throw the ball in front and swim to it (cradle it around).

Variation — Use the same drill with a trailer or guard swimming at the offensive man’s hip. Remember to dribble with a high kick; this keeps the defensive man back and gives the offensive man better speed, body position, and protection. When the end of the pool is reached, either repeat the drill back to the starting point, or pass the ball the length of the pool to the next man in line.

Spin and Bounce

Another good drill in learning to change direction quickly is the spin and bounce drill which is covered in Chapter II. This skill is important to possess and is needed most often when a player is converged upon and he must move the ball out of the way quickly.


An important skill to possess, both offensively and defensively, is that of slicing under a swimming opponent in order to stop his progress or to gain a position of advantage. This skill is most often used when two opposing players are sprinting for a loose ball, working for good position, or in face-off situations. To cut under and in front of a man, the player swims as close to his opponent as possible, submerges his head and upper body just enough to get under the arms and upper body of the opponent, and then moves under and in front. The opponent will then be forced to pull back or risk being called for a foul. This move should be made when the opponent’s near arm is beginning its recovery phase. (See Chapter IV.)


  1. Partners swim length of the pool and alternate cutting in front of each other.
  2. Practice face-off situations, concentrating on cutting under the opponent and blocking him from the ball.Note: Cutting under can easily be a foul.


A method of turning other players is first to be aware of the defensive player and his position. When he least expects it, dip the shoulder and turn quickly. Use a sculling motion with the hands and a strong eggbeater kick. Continue pressure until the desired objective is accomplished.

Fig 6-115, 116, and 117

Turn Man Inside (for four yard line)

If the guard positions himself in front of the forward at the four yard line, the forward could turn and move to the side approximately two strokes, roll to a back position and move toward the goal. Get a high shot. fig. 6-118 fig. 6-119

Fig 6-118 and 6-119

SWEEP SHOT — Right Hand

Use a strong eggbeater kick in order to maintain a high position in the water. The shoulders must be clear and free to move. The shot is executed by picking up the ball and using a straight arm. The upper body begins the slinging motion by vigorously twisting to the left; the arm and hand follow. (Much like crack the whip.)

Fig 6-120 and 6-121

TURN AND LOB — From a Two Yard Position Almost a Blind Shot

Turn the guard to the right and move him toward the goalward. If the goalie follows, two shots may be taken:

  1. Wrist flicks backhand lob to the far corner (hard to learn). (See Chapter III.)
  2. Roll to a layout position and lob to the far corner.

A power shot would be ineffectual at this point because of the guard and goalie positioning.


As though attempting to execute a sweep shot to the left, turn the defensive man in that direction, control the ball with the right hand. If the guard, in his efforts to stop a sweep shot, moves out of position, shoot a backhand. fig. 6-122
Normally the backhand is not a good shot to use because it is easy for the guard to block. fig. 6-122

Fig 6-122 and 6-123


An offensive man is in control of the ball and a defensive man is between him and his objective. The offensive man should pick up the ball and bait the defensive man, draw him toward the ball (hold it out a little). As the defensive man moves toward the ball, the offensive man (if right-handed) keeps the ball just out of reach of the defense. Using a semi-straight arm, draw it back, use a sweeping motion. The less experienced defensive man will tend to go after the ball with his right hand. As he follows the ball back, the forward should place his left hand on the defensive man’s side and help him by. At this point the ball should be flipped in the direction the individual desires. The right arm and hand continue the flipping motion and move in an overarm motion as the freestyle stroke begins. Move past the defensive man and go (draw him out of position and go).

Fig 6-124, 125, and 126

Draw and Go Defense

The guard should not go after the ball. He should stay squarely in front of the offensive man. If he reaches for the ball at all, it should be with the left hand (when guarding a right-handed passer).


Often defensive men will stop the offense from driving down the center of the pool toward the goal. The guard will attempt to move the driver out of the center. In this situation there are several methods of maneuvering around a guard.

Side and Rotate

Swim into the shoulder of the defensive man, applying pressure into him. If he does not return pressure then swim by and drive. If the defense applies pressure into the driver, the driver should spin or rotate in the opposite direction and around (get ball side). If rotating from the defensive man’s left to right side, the offensive man should lead with the right arm, moving clear of the water. The left hand should enter the water close to the defensive man as he moves by.

Driving Corkscrew

Drive straight into the defensive man. To move to the defensive man’s left side, begin a corkscrew motion to that side. The first move should involve the right hand entering the water near the side of the defensive man. The left arm moves over the water in a backstroke move, much like continuing the spin in “Side and Rotate.” Continue the twisting until past. A hard leg drive is important.

Waist and Rotate

Swim into the defensive man. If the driver wishes to go to the defender’s right, place the left hand near the defensive man’s right side or back, spin or rotate to the right, leading with the right arm over the water and around (just as in the first move of the driving corkscrew). This works especially well if the defensive man does not keep his hips up.

Hesitate and Go

Drive until just out of reach of the guard. Fake to get the guard moving one way, then drive in the opposite direction.

Fake RB and Under

To drive to the defensive man’s left, swim into his left shoulder. Use quick strokes but do not pull with power, let the water go. Rear up quickly as though to receive a pass. If the defensive man comes up to block any attempted pass, quickly slide under the guard’s left arm and drive. This move should give the driver a half a body length lead on the defensive man.

Blind Side Drives

When the guard turns his head to see where the ball is, drive. Guard will usually be behind. (See Chapter VII — “Blind Side Drive.”)

Fig 6-127, 128, and 129

Hooking in Front of the Goal (with or without the ball) (See Chapter III.)

Drive into the three or four yard line, hook left, as in change of direction drill, and then into a backstroking position. The legs must be carried high and kick white water. This helps keep defensive men away.

Three hooking moves follow:

Hook (to left) — As the right arm enters the water and extends in front, pull it under water and swing the left over and rotate or roll into the back position (twist to the right). If the individual is dribbling a ball he should control it with his right hand. If he does not have the ball, he is in position to receive a pass. If guarded and in control of the ball, this is the preferable method of rolling. The shooting arm is not exposed to the guard during the roll as it is in the next method. (Roll after hook is complete.)

Hook and Back — As the right arm finishes the stroke, turn or roll toward the right shoulder. Right arm will swing over the water and backward to a position on the back. If one is guarded, or dribbling a ball and maneuvering for a shot, this is not the prefered method of turning onto the back position. If the guard positions himself correctly, he will most often be able to contact the right arm as the forward rolls, nullifying any position attempt at a score.

Hook, Push and Shoot (See also Chapter III) — When the driver has a slight lead on the defensive man, scoop up the ball and change direction to the left (about three yards out). At the same time place the top of the right foot against the defensive man and scissor kick while cutting left. Use a high flutter kick on all drives.

The shots which may be taken off of all the hooking moves are:

  1. Backhand
  2. Overhand — After the driver hooks, he continues a vigorous kick and spins to his back, left arm over the top. Do not let go of the ball with the right hand. Spin toward the right shoulder; then the shooter is in position for an overarm layout shot.
  3. Forehand flick or push — (with left hand) Instead of a right-handed backhand shot, place the left hand under the ball; without prior warning movement flick or push it into the lower corner of the cage. This shot is hard for the goalie to anticipate. The arm should stay under water when executing the shot. It is easy to fake in this shot, either with the head or body.Note: This is a good shot to use if the guard is still tight on the driver and restricting his movement. He is usually looking for a right-handed shot. The other shots would be unsuccessful in this situation.

Hooks, Comments (types of shots) — In the driving hooks all shots tend to place the goalie at an increased disadvantage. The goalie will usually come up and expect a shot as the driver is executing his hook move, mainly because the driver will have the ball in his hand and be using a swinging or sweeping motion as he turns. The goalie will then come down, and follow laterally. It is at this point the shot should be taken, especially the backhand or forehand flick.



To pass a defensive man who is swimming beside the offensive man, synchronize the stroke with the defensive man. Then, in the course of stroking, place the hand or wrist over his hand. This will tend to inhibit his initial movement and provide a slight lead for the offense.

Keep Away

One method of using most skills involved in water polo and working on open water play is by playing keep away. The player’s main objective is to break to open water and enable a teammate to pass. All other
aspects of the game should also be emphasized, e.g., guarding techniques and body position.


  1. Take 20 to 50 shots at end of practice, 5 at a time.
  2. Inside driving — If the driver does not have ball side, he should drive to the two yard area, hook and set a wing.
  3. Crosscourt passing helps produce ball side drives and pool balance.
  4. RB — Rear upper body up, just prior to the rear pull legs down hard. You need them under. (Pull knees to chest.)
  5. Backhand shot — Poor percentage shot.
  6. Pop and tip — Another skill that is used very infrequently but which is most effective is the pop or bounce and tip. When a player is converged upon by more than one player the ball is popped up in the air. As it is popped up, the attacking players will swing at the ball at water level. As the ball comes down, the offensive man tips it back up, or passes or shoots it, and repeats until he can control and shoot or pass. The defensive men tend to sink slightly just after the initial attack, thus allowing the offensive man to retrieve or tip his popped up ball. (Refer to “Pop and Tip” in Chapter II.)

Chapter VII: Part 1

Game Situations

All teams should have the ability to react positively to offensive and defensive situations that develop in a game. The best way to learn how to react in situations is to face them. Situations may be set up during practice and repeated over and over until the reaction is immediate.

Communication between players is very important. All players must be aware of possible situations and they must be ready to react correctly to the moves of others. If each player can anticipate what his team mate is going to do, then communication has taken place.


Two Men — Always have two men sprinting for the ball. When there is no ball holder and the referee is throwing in the ball, he very seldom gets it exactly in the middle of the pool. With two men sprinting, you can cover more water. Also, if two opposing men reach the ball at the same time, it has a tendency to squirt out to the side; with two men sprinting, the second man has a chance of getting the ball. If two opposing players reach the ball at almost the same time, but your man is only a little ahead, he need only tip the ball to the side to his teammate instead of turning around to throw.

Swim Don’t Reach — A sprinter should swim all the way to the ball. Many times a man attempts to reach underwater for the ball and is slightly short. If the opposing player had swum all the way to the ball and knocked it to one side, then thrown it back, his team would have control.

No Backhands — Do not use a backhand to throw the ball back b( cause too often control of the ball is lost.

Sprint Plays

These are plays which may occasionally work, but the utmost caution should be taken to never force the ball. If there is a chance that the ball may be lost, do not pass it. The team should begin setting sequential hooks to move the ball downcourt

Wedge Play — The front two men must swim extremely close together. The shot comes from the man directly behind them. Also the hooks on I he side must go extremely deep and come back fast as a safety valve for the man receiving the pass from center. These two men serve to drive the defense deep, as well as require a defensive man to cover. The shooter should not receive the ball too early or the defense will co lapse on him. fig. 7-130

Fig. 7-130

Crossover Play — The shooting man must be sure to cross over his own players’ feet. The pass must be most accurate. This play is for a left-bander. It can also be used on the other side for a right-handed player.
Note: This may be used as a fast break move, a play after an op-
ponents’ goal (AAU), or a sprint play. fig. 7-131 , 7-132

Inderwater Play — A team must be quite sure it will get the sprint or the result may be a six on five advantage for the opposition. In this situation, number five receives the pass from the sprint man. Number Iwo goes under water just behind mid-court and comes up at about the six or eight yard line. If undetected, he should receive a pass from number five for a shot. fig. 7-133

Pass and Go — One of the most effective uses of the pass and go comes off of the sprint. The man who receives the ball from the sprint is in a perfect situation for this move because the defensive player is swimming atbeim and at a fairly rapid speed. As he is attacked, he passes forward and breakD; he should have a body length lead. Other men must clear the center as he drives.

Fig. 7-131 and 132


The importance of the goalie is very seldom emphasized beyond the sprint. If the players have not succeeded and they have not made good enough hooks to make a sure pass, the man with the ball should throw it back to his goalie. Many times he can see different situations which may be developing and throw it to the proper man.

Fig 7-133-135

Fig. 7-136


The object is for one offensive man to swim his defensive man into a second offensive man. He should go so close the defense can not stay with him unless he fouls. This should then free the first offensive man. This move may be used at any point in the pool to free a man. (Also known as a screen.) fig. 7-134, 7-135, 7-136

Pick Defense

The defensive man X2 should attempt to fight through the screen. If this is not possible, X1 must be alert enough to switch and play very tight on O2. X2 then is responsible for O1.

Pick or Screen Number One

O1 swims toward O2; O2 moves into X2 as tightly as possible as 01 moves by; O2 momentarily screens X1 if he is not already screened off. fig. 7-137

Fig. 7-137

Defense — X1 do not allow O1 swimming freedom: block him, get in his way. If O1 gets by X1, then X2 should momentarily hold both O1 and O2, thus allowing X1 to recover.

Pick or Screen Number Two

O2 jumps out, pass must be quick with low trajectory. X2 is screened and X1 is out of position. fig. 7-138

Fig. 7-138

Defense — Do not allow O1 movement; X2 stay between O2 and ball. Do not allow offensive movement. Keep the hips up.

Fig. 7-139

Defense — X1 block O1; do not allow movement. X2 be ready to switch off if O1 moves—will have to be quick to reach him.

Two Yard Pick

O1 should swim up and set a screen for O2. O2 breaks toward the left goalward and as soon as he is past O1, breaks in the opposite direction. One of the men should be open. fig. 7-140

Fig. 7-140

Picks may be executed in many instances and many different ways. The players must improvise and be aware of situations and must practice these often.


Place guards and forwards in front of the cage, as in one of the above situations. Walk them slowly through a screening move; repeat it at half speed, then full. Repeat with several different defensive positions. Then without instruction, place guards and initiate play. Do not tell the forwards what to do; they should execute a screening move.


This is an offense to be used when there are just a few seconds left and there is a chance to lose the ball; or if an extra man is on the way in. O1 or O4 throws a high lob to O6 or O5 who follows the ball in or tips it in. (Desperation move.) fig. 7-141

Fig. 7-141


Fake Drive and RB

A man in front of the cage and in driving position should fake a drive by swimming into the defensive man. The stroke should be quick, almost thrashing; put little power in the stroke. Usually the defensive man will begin to back up slightly. At this point the driver should rear up for an RB. The pass must be quick and on the hand for a shot.fig. 7-142

Fig. 7-142

Defense — Maintain position in the water, hips high and hand fight the faking driver. Do not give ground. As 01 rears back, scissor kick and hit the upper right arm with the left hand (right-handed shooter). Do not drop the hips.

Corner Throw

All men must move. This will tend to distract the defense. The most ideal situation is for number one to break around and in for a tip shot. If that move is unsuccessful, the pass can go to number two who executed an RB move as do numbers three and four. fig. 7-143

Fig. 7-143


In this situation (two guards inside), O2 can execute a layout. A good pass is required. The feet should be at the surface kicking. fig. 7-144

Defense — X2 maintain close (tight) position to O2; do not allow 02 to get his hips up. If O2 moves, X2 should stay tight (glue).



When in front of the offensive cage and a whistle blows, all offensive players should be ready to receive an immediate low trajectory pass (at ear level or lower) and shoot quickly before the defense adjusts. All men should be ready to pop out to receive a pass. Very often only a foot is needed in order to succeed. fig. 7-145, 7-146, 7-147, 7-148

Fig. 144

Eye-to – eye contact is not necessary in quicks because all players should be expecting a pass. No pass should be a surprise.

All offensive players in shooting territory must be trained to have both hands at, or above, the surface of the water immediately upon any whistle and expect a pass. The passer should not have to look around, but should be aware of all positioning. Very often a pass to the obvious or closest man is not the correct move. Do not forget: fooling the goalie is a big part of the score. Examples:

Fig 146 - 148

Very often X2 will have his attention on O3 attempting to sag and plug the shot. O2 is then open and becomes an unexpected receiver because of being farther away. This situation occurs quite frequently and is often not taken advantage of.

Defense — Be alert to any situation immediately upon hearing the whistle. In their offensive end most fouls are called against the defense. Hands must be at the surface and expect all or any offensive men to receive a quick pass. Defense must cover super tightly (immediately).

Drill — Quicks

The coach should control the ball from the side. There should be an even number of players in front of the goal. Three offensive and three defensive, or four offensive and four defensive, etc. Have the players move around in the scoring area between the two and eight yard lines. Blow the whistle, show the flag, call a foul on one of the players (not a real foul, just arbitrary) and throw the ball to the offended man. He should immediately pass for a quick. The pass will usually be low trajectory and solid, no bloopers. Continue for as long as desired. Either color may be called; this will cause the players to be very alert.


Leave the ball in the water and with the players, blow the whistle, show the flag and call a foul on white 4. The man he was guarding should immediately pass for a shot. If he does not have the ball, a teammate should pass him the ball as soon as possible. In this situation a pass right back (referred to as a “right back”) to the teammate is a good move. Continue, allowing both teams to be on offense.

This action requires riding high in the water and keeping the hands at the surface. It is a great leg conditioner.


Head Up — and

  1. Eliminate swimming past ball because head is in the water.
  2. Be able to spot and intercept passes.
  3. Get jump on the opponent and loose ball.
  4. Help teammates by advising.
  5. See free man.
  6. Be aware of referee’s call and flag color.
  7. Can allow switching.
  8. See when ball changes hands.
  9. Locate man who may be free.


Hooks could quite possibly be the most important part of a team’s offense. A team must have the ball in the offensive end of the pool to score. Setting a series of hooks enables a team to move the ball downcourt easily. In setting a hook downcourt the player must be sure to drive all the way to the two or three yard line and then hook back at an angle greater than 90-degrees. Hooking at an angle greater than 90-degrees is important so that the defensive player does not have a chance to play in the lane. fig. 7-149

Fig. 7-149

Pass and Go

This move works best when you have the ball ready to make a pass. You can roll from your stomach to your back, or already be in this position, when the man comes at you. As he reaches up to try and block your pass, he is off balance. You must be making your throw to the RIGHT to be most effective. After you have thrown you move your left hand to his right side, push and duck under his right arm. If he does grab you, a loud yell will bring it to the attention of the referee and probably result in a foul.


Keep in mind –

  1. Penetrate to the two
  2. Constant motion
  3. Commitment
  4. Good pass
  5. Be alert
  6. No shot from side of the pass
  7. Look at inside two men
  8. Move the goalie


On fast break attempts the main object is to put one of the defensive men in a two on one situation. In a six on five situation three men penetrate to the two yard line, the next three to about the five or six. One man should be open. Pass the ball to the open man and shoot. Be aware of goalie position, maybe another pass would be better because of his position. Be aware of the sixth defensive man coming up court. The same idea applies to four on three, three on two, and two on one. fig. 7-150, 7-151

Four on Three

Two men drive into the two yard line as quickly as possible and the other two split the remaining guard at about the four or five yard line. The guard will be forced to take one of these men and the other should be open. Many teams make the mistake of flooding all four men as fast and as deep as possible. This results in four men on the two yard line and no one really open. The outside two men will be in a poor percentage shooting area. fig. 7-152, 7-153, 7-154

Fig. 7-150 - 153

Fig. 7-154

Defense — The defense men on the four yard line should feint and attempt to delay a shot until help arrives. Do not allow an uncontested shot unless the goalie calls it. In most situations the goalie will call the man he wants to shoot. Once the goalie calls his man, the four yard guard should not dance back and forth between the two offensive men. If the goalie prepares to guard against one shooter, and he is surprised by a pass, he will be out of position. fig. 7-155, 7-156


Fig. 7-155 and 156

Chapter VII: Part 2

Game Situations

Three on Two

Use the same principles as four on three. Two men go deep. If one of the defense shifts to take the ball the goalie will be out of position. If not, the middle man has the open shot. fig. 7-157,7-15

Fig. 7-157 and 158

Defense –

  1. Force a right-hander to shoot from the right side. Goalie guards the strong side.
  2. If opponent has dribbled all the way down the tank cover wing men and let goalie take him.


Three on two in front of the cage. Rotatation is moving clear in order to receive a pass. This occurs very often on free throw situations. fig. 7-159

Fig. 7-159

Man Advantage Drills

When a team has a man advantage, then an immediate effort should be made to drive deep into the offensive end of the pool and isolate one man so he will be free to take an unobstructed shot. Good drills are two on one, three on two, and four on three. fig. 7-160, 7-161, 7-162

Fig. 7-160-162

Ball may start in any line. It is usually best for a wing man to control the ball and drive down until he is challenged. When he is challenged, someone should be open for the pass.

Full Court Four on Three — A good drill, and a good series to put in most any offense, is the following fullcourt four on three. It involves fast break immediately upon the ball changing hands. When on defense and there is a turnover, the man closest to the opponents’ defensive goal should immediately sprint toward that end, always looking back over his shoulder for a pass. The wing men should move to the outside edge of the playing area and drive. The pass can go to any member of the team that is driving. The best spot to pass to a wing man and especially a right wing who is left-handed (find one). He drives until challenged; when challenged, a pass goes to the man left open. fig. 7-163

Fig. 7-163

Fig. 7-164

It is easier for right-handed players to shoot when receiving a pass from their right side. Passes from the left necessitate a wheel or draw move.

Since most players are right-handed, it is important to begin most fast-break passes from the right side of the pool and with a left-handed player initiating the scoring play. Use two trailing guards in the drill. If the score is not quick then it is too late. The wing men should penetrate deep and into the four yard area. The purpose is to isolate one of the defensive men into a two-on-one situation. fig. 7-164

Early in the play pass to the right wing. If he is covered, then hit the open man. Swim high and pass high (high polo). Then all that is needed is a one yard lead.

Begin and continue the drill by passing to the right wing. When the defense adjusts and plugs up the effort, then pass to a different man.

Make the defense adjust.

This is a simple, direct offense that utilizes quick short bursts of speed. It is not mandatory that the swimmers be fast (quick). The drill is fullcourt and very good defensive and offensive practice for teams of all levels.

Six on Six — Six on six, blue and white. Blue on offensive and one defensive man is told to hold back, giving blue the opportunity to be a man up under game conditions. After a lead is gained, white man may go. After the attempt, blue will go toward the other goal and continue. Can be done with four or five field men.

This is a fullcourt drill and very similar to the prior four on three drill. This is a good conditioner for those involved.


Methods of attacking a zone regardless of whether the offense is a man up or not are basically similar. However, the minute changes in attack are very important.

There are two major things the offense should accomplish in its attempt to score. First, the pass to a potential shooter should be a crosscourt pass. This will leave the goalie out of position because he does not have time to move laterally and cover the new man. Secondly, you need an open man to shoot. All passes to potential shooters should be crisp and solid; no bloopers—they allow the defense to recover.

Do not shoot if the goalie is in position and is prepared (unless penalty time is almost up). A blocked shot often results in a fast-breaking counterattack and a score. Ideally all players on the right side of center goal should be left-handed. All shooters to theleft side should be right-handed. fig. 7-165

Fig. 7-165

Three Three Zone Offense

The best shooters should go on the outside wings; defense will usually have their strongest guard on the hole position. Pass the ball around the perimeter and from corner to corner. Keep the goalie moving laterally, and eventually someone will be out of position. Watch the middle for a quick low trajectory pass and a shot. Offensive 6 should be a good strong left-handed shooter, 04 the team’s strongest right-handed shooter. Very often against a zone, defensive 1 and 2 will sag into the middle and offensive 1 or 2 will be open for a pass and shot. The goalie will also be out of position. fig. 7-166

Fig. 7-166

Pass would come from the opposite wing — 04 to 03 or 06 to 01


01 drives across, O4 swims around the side, pass is from O5 who receives ball from O3. If left-handed, work from the other side. fig. 7-167

Screen and Shoot

06 screens X1, 01 breaks around and receives pass from 05 and shoots. fig. 7-168

Quick Shot

O1, O2, or O4 break or pop quickly and shoot. O4 RB, O1 and O2 a quick layout shot (jump out). fig. 7-169

Fig. 7-167 - 169

Defense Three Three Zone

In a zone defense it is important to always play position. Do not go
to sleep or be baited out of position. Play your area. Definitely protect
the center, X4, X5 and X6 ready to break offensive. fig. 7-170

Number 1 protects corner of cage.
Number 3 protect opposite corner of cage.
Number 2 and goalie protect center.
Numbers 3, 4 and 5 move and pressure ball.
Hands should be up and moving back and forth

Fig. 7-170


Man Up, Opponents with the Ball (usually after a shot by the team that is one man short).

One man guards goalie and cuts off the angle, all others press man-to-man and be ready for a 45-second or one minute turnover to offense. Or allow time for others to cover a man. fig. 7-171

Fig. 7-171

Penalty Throw Defense

Defensive men take inside position on sides of shooter. Key man is beside shooter’s shooting arm. His responsibility is to screen that man by moving between him and the goal immediately after the shot and prevent rebound scores. Guard on the other side screens his man from the goal. X1 turns and goes to initiate defense. fig. 7-172

Corner Throw Defense

Passer is O2, X1 positions between 0′ and the ball, X2 stays and is ready to break offensively. Goalie moves over and covers O2. fig. 7-173

Fig. 7-172 and 173

If the hole man has position X1 covers one side, X2 moves away from O2 and double teams O1, X2 is ready to break offensively. fig. 7-174

Fig. 7-174

Goal Throw Defense

Attempt to freeze the ball in the goalkeeper’s position. Tight man-to-man in goalkeeper’s half of the pool, no pass should be allowed.

Fig. 175

Guards farther away from the goalie can afford to play more loosely and be ready for a steal. fig. 7-175

Defense in Front of Cage

Play a tight man to man so a quick pass is impossible. Watch the passer before and after the pass. Be alert for push-offs.

Tread water higher than you normally would.

Protect the center of the pool and cage area by having your body in position. Force the offensive man outside.

Goalie Defense

If the defense is a man down on a fast-break, the goalie should call the man that swam the hardest and furthest to guard or call. A right-handed shooter who is on the right wing position is a good person to call also.

Guards Facing a Three on Two

Guards in position and facing a three-on-two or man-up situation should ride high in the water (walking) and be extra alert when being approached. Keep hips high; be ready for lateral movement.


Key Off of Two Yard Free Throw

If the opposition has a free throw, the defensive man is the key for a fast break. He either drops off (1) or doubles on the hole (2) man, then goes. fig. 7-176

Fig. 7-176

Follow the Sluff

If a defensive man sluffs, then follow him. Make him worry about you. Force him to pick you up. This is very important for a driving offense. fig. 7-177

Fig. 7-177

Free Throw RB in Hole Area — (two men in)

The outside man should swim into the defensive man until he begins to move backward, then rear up for pass and shot.

In most free throw situations the passer will pass outside to an open man. At times a quick pass to an alert teammate being guarded by a sleepy type will result in a score. When in front of the cage always have hands at the surface or above, ready for quick action; both offense and defense.

Fig. 7-178 - 180

Goalie Signals

Goalie can signal his center forward (hole man) as to what side the hole guard is on, for a quick shot.

Score vs. a Sluff

O1 should hold the ball out and bait X2. As X2 goes for the ball O2 should move it to the right to pull the sluffer over, then pass to O2 who breaks and takes a wheel shot (RB). fig. 7-181

Fig. 7-181

To defend this, the sluffer should not follow the center forward’s draw or baiting move.

Two Yard Man Play

Fixed position — Lock in to a front position, move the ball in and out. Shoot if open.

Lateral movement — Work with drivers, pass ball in and out, move laterally back and forth and feed drivers, do not worry about shooting unless the guard is completely out of position.

Crosscourt Passes

Most passes should be crosscourt when possible because perception is better than on passes
straight downcourt. It tends to spread the defense and stop sagging into the middle.

Passes Outside Then In

Most passes should go outside, then in; pass to a wing position (outside) then into the driver of two yard man (inside). Purposes are the same as in “Crosscourt Passes.”


Depends upon quick reaction to turnovers, poor defensive position and alert play.

On all fast-break attempts it is best to have a left-handed shooter on the right wing.

Two Yard Man Feed

When the two yard man feeds a driver and screens for him, the two yard man should shift with the driving man. fig. 7-182

Fig. 7-182

Blind Side Drive

Drive if the defensive man looks away.

Fig. 7-183 - 185

Chapter VIII

Play Systems – Part 1

Many teams are overly conscious about patterns; many Olympic eamsns do not use them. More important than a pattern is to swim with quick bursts of speed, always move toward open water and stay at least two yards away from your teammates. A beginning coach, team, or player will be better off to use this open spot style of water polo until more of the fundamentals of the game are learned. More organization may be introduced after the players learn proper defense, ball handling techniques, and other general aspects of the game.

Most successful American teams use a center driving type of offense, such as the figure eight, which will be discussed. We believe this is a good offense to graduate into as the player’s skill and knowledge improve.

If a center forward is used, he should be ideally a quick starter, and fast. This player should have the ability to gain a body length lead whenever necessary. Under ideal circumstances he should also be strong and big. If a team has no one that fits all the mentioned attributes, then adjustment must be made, depending upon the make-up of the rest of the team. An individual having the ability to hold a position is probably the most important.

Offenses are many and varied. The most appropriate type of team offense depends upon the caliber and abilities of the individual players, the knowledge of the coach and his ability to coach the offense. The best team offense in the world is useless if the players are not ready to attempt it, or if the coach does not understand the offense well enough to coach it well.

An overwhelming number of fine teams do not use an intricate team offense or pattern. As a matter of fact, a team is usually better off being as simple as possible. If a team and the coach understand the fundamentals of the game, the next most important aspect is to think as a unit; know what the other players will do before they do it.

The number one thought in the minds of the players and the coach must be the team, its movement and success. At this point do not concentrate on individual skills. Be aware of all teamwork aspects of the game. The player should think as though he is a cog in a big machine, not as a lone potential hero.

If a team concentrates on learning individual skills, the result will probably be a poolfull of excellent individual movement and your goalie seeing a lot of action.

This section will present several patterns which are considered valuable by the authors. The remaining offensive information will be presented in the form of hints. wing. All passes should come down one side unless plugged up, then use crosscourt passing.
fig. 8-188


The opportunities for a fixed play are few. After a goal has been scored, or setting up a counterattack from a penalty throw, are two times when the total team is involved.

Double Y

The purpose of this pattern is to advance the ball quickly into offensive water. This is a system of sequential hooks, so movement should never stop. It is usually done after a missed penalty shot or when there is time to set up. The theory and practice of hooks in sequence can and should be used any time a team wishes to advance the ball.

    1. The man closest to the cage drives several strokes downcourt and hooks back for a pass from his goalie (all team members begin driving for offensive end as soon as the ball changes hands). fig. 8-186


Fig. 8-186

    1. As the pass is thrown, the man closest to the midtank hooks to the side; the first man receives the ball, rolls and passes to the midcourt wing who is still moving out. Wings should not stop movement; helps elude the defense. The halfcourt man takes the ball, continues swimming, rolls and passes to the deep wing (on two or three yard line). fig.8187


    1. The deep wing hooks as the ball is in the air and approaching the halfcourt man.


  1. A center driver begins a drive as the ball approaches the deep

The closest player to the offensive end should drive the center, hook to a wing, feed the next driver, then swim up the side and out. He should prepare to drive again. Two yard man may be used as a feeder. fig. 8-189Fig. 8-187 and 188

Fig. 8-189

Straight Line Flare

On the goalie’s signal every other man moves in the opposite direction and wings are set in sequence. One moves, then two, then three, then four. In theory this is very similar to the Double Y. The ball can come up the same side, or move in a crosscourt pattern. fig. 8-190

Fig. 8-190

Fig. 8-250

Squeeze and Go

This is one of the systems used by the Cal team. Number 1 moves between 2 and 3 and breaks to the side of least resistance. Number 4 breaks to the opposite side as 1 clears the screen.

Goalie has the option of passing to 1 or 4. Number 1 will probably receive the pass. In a twenty-five yard tank number 5 should break away from the ball, leaving the passing lane and center clear. As number 1 receives the pass from the goalie, number 6 moves to receive a pass from number 1. Numbers 2 and 3 execute a cross (pick) and drive down the center. Number 6 feeds the open driver. In a thirty metre tank number 5 should move to the
opposite side and help advance the ball. fig. 8-191

Fig. 8-191

Backcourt Sprint

The drivers should be in good condition, have speed, and be good shooters. The major problem with this method is that the eventual shooter has sprinted the length of the pool. fig. 8-192

Hook and Circle

Bring the ball down one side; if the team is unable to advance the ball, then the individual team members should circle and try the other side. This method allows the best shooters to stay in the offensive area. fig. 8-193

Fig. 8-192 and 193

Double X

The purpose of this play is to get a quick shot with little time left. After a penalty shot or time out, all men should be positioned in the tank. fig. 8-194

The two yard man may shoot or preferably feed the driver. fig. 8-195

Fig. 8-194 and 195


Figure Eight

The figure eight is a breaking and center driving offense. The drive toward the goal may

begin from the center or outside wing position. The purpose of driving is to create a one

on one situation and it is the driver’s job to beat or defeat the guard and score. Screening techniques may and should be employed at times in an attempt to free the driving man for an open shot. The driving man should penetrate inside the four yard line before cutting or hooking to a wing position. This helps move the ball deep into the opponents’ territory. As he breaks to a deep wing position, the pass should be thrown. As he reaches the ball and rolls to pass, the next driving man should be on his way; the pass will go to him. Very often the first or second man through will not be open In shoot. If no pass can be made into the driver, the ball should be cleared out to the backcourt and another pass made into a deep breaking wing. Do not pass predominantly to one side of the pool; use both sides. All drivers should drive to the two yard line. If they do not, stop practice
and walk them through it.

Pool balance should be maintained. If the first driver breaks to the right, then the second man should break left. An attempt to break on I he same side of the pool that the ball is on should also be made. (Get between your man and the ball, then drive.) This is referred to as “ball side,” (get ball side). If the ball stays on one side of the tank, then obviously if this rule (drive ball side) were strictly adhered to, all players would end up unbalanced and in one half of the pool. fig. 8-196

Fig. 8-196 and 197

In order to avert this problem and spread the defense two things should occur. fig. 8-197, 8-198

1. Move the ball around the perimeter, i.e., cross court passing, and,
2. Drive and hook away from the ball if pool balance is needed. fig. 8-199

Fig. 8-198-199

Two Yard Man — A two yard man or center forward may be used in this offense, especially in a large pool. The forward should try to stay in front of the center guard and likewise the guard should attempt to “front” the forward. If the center forward is plugged up and is of no use, then he should join the pattern and another man becomes the center forward.

The main job of the two yard man in this pattern is to feed driving men and set screens. fig. 8-200

Of course he may also shoot if the opportunity avails itself. If the defensive man plays on the side, then the two yard man should pressure into him and clear the working area. Drivers should almost be nose up on the two yard man before they hook.

Fig 8-200-201

If the center forward sets up in the two-to-four yard area and is fronted (guarded in front) by an opposing guard, he should move out to the side and receive the pass there. This provides maneuvering room, especially if the guard appears to be stronger and more determined than the center forward. Ideally the two yard man should move out and join the normal flow of the team’s offense. In the figure eight offense the center forward can move back to the hole again after driving. If the team operates with one shooter who acts as a two yard man, then after releasing to the side, he may move back into the hole area.
fig. 8-201

Fast Break — During a fast break the first man into the forecourt should break to the side (hook) and receive the pass from the side and possibly be open for the shot. If not, he too should penetrate to the two yard line and hook. Crosscourt passing should be used, when possible.

If the second man down the tank is covered, then the motion initiated should continue. He should move to a wing position and at the same time another man from the backcourt should be breaking down the center. This is when the team involved with a figure eight offense continues the same movement. If another type of offense is used, then move into it immediately if the fast break has no positive results.


Fig. 8-202

Stalled Offense (stacked up) — If the offense is stalled and there is no motion the deep wings should move out and one at a time begin driving. Do not drive until the prior driving man has completed his drive and move. fig. 8-203

Fig. 8-203

Balance — Always maintain pool balance—most teams tend to stack up on the right side. fig. 8-204

Usually a stalled offense occurs when players are all on one half of the pool and there is little or no movement. If someone does try to move or drive he only runs into his own teammates. To get a stalled offense moving and regain pool balance one player must drive through and hook to the weak side (away from the ball) (Fig. 8-205), followed by another doing the same until balance is regained. An alternate maneuver consists of one player moving to the weak side (wing) and driving away from the ball, followed by two more players (Fig. 8-206). A signal or term should be chosen and any time the offense is stalled the team should call it out and attempt to rebalance and get the drives going again. Do not worry about scoring until balance is regained.

Fig. 8-204

Ideal pool balance is depicted in figures 8-207 and 8-208.

Fig. 8-207-209

After motion is regained, the two yard man should lock in again. He is the key to relieving the stall. He should swim out to the weak side number 1 and call for a driver to come across, number 2 (Fig. 8-209).


Chapter VIII

Play Systems – Part 2

Against a Sluff — A sluffing defense can also stall many offenses. To heat a sluff number 1 or number 2 pass the ball to a near wing. The two yard man breaks to the same side the pass went to and should in turn receive a pass. Immediately after the first pass number 1 and number 2 cross (pick) and drive. Number 3 should have an open man to pass to. The sluffing man will now be cleared out. If no shot is taken, the middle is clear for offensive play.

Fig. 8-210-211

Variation For Figure Eight — If a team has members of unequal ability, and if they get burned in a swimming game because of some slow men; if all the players do not handle the ball well and if they lose the ball too often, then use the better ball handlers in the offensive end. Keep two men around halfcourt. Their job is to set hooks and make themselves open for passes out to halfcourt. This provides an outlet for the forwards to pass to when under pressure.

Two men are major drivers and two men alternate at the two yard position. This provides at any given moment one two yard man, three drivers and two pressure relief men that do not drive. These two men also protect against counterattacks. fig. 8-212

Fig 8-212

Initiating the Offense — Initiating the offense from the defensive end after an opponents’ goal or foul against the opponent takes place. Each individual should, whether breaking or working for position, move toward the center of the pool (in line with the goalies). fig. 8-213

Fig. 8-213

General rules for this follow:

    1. The closest man to the opponents’ goal breaks deep (two yard if possible) and sets a wing.
    1. Timing must be correct; cut for the wing when the midcourt man receives the ball—he can’t wait, and he needs to pass to a moving target.
    1. Break to the same side the goalie puts the first pass on (as Double Y).
  1. Refer to following. fig. 8-214

Fig. 8-214

If the team does not, or will not, set good hooks and do them properly, then use drills to force it. This must become habit. Use drills for practice.

Wing Drills:

1. Use three lines. The outside two set wings (more than 90-degrees). The middle man drives in and sets a deep wing (two yard). Ball comes from the line then to the deep wing. The driver goes to the same side the first pass is on (while the ball is in flight). Driver starts just slightly before the wings. fig. 8-215

Fig 8-215

2. Use two lines. Each line does the same thing only on opposite sides of the pool. The object is to set wings. Two men go at a time or alternate, i.e., after man in right line hits midcourt, then the man in the left line begins. Hooks can be made at certain specified areas or on the coach’s command. fig. 8-216

Fig. 8-216

3. Begin on whistle, hook on whistle, second man in line begins when first man hooks. A ball can be used. fig. 8-217

Fig. 8-217

Drive, Hook, and Pass Drill: The first man in line drives the center and sets a hook and wing. It is preferable that he be guarded. The second man in line passes to the wing man and drives. The wing man hits the driver on the way in. The driver hooks and wings with the ball and throws it back to the line. Repeat for as long as desired. 8-218

Fig. 8-218

Wing and Drive Drill: On the whistle the three men begin. The pass goes to the midcourt wing. The middle man, number 2, drives the center to the two yard line and sets a wing. Goalie passes ball to number 1 wing. Number 2 will feed number 3 as he drives. If goalie passes to number 3, then number 1 will drive for the shot. fig. 8-219

Fig. 8-219

Scrimmage Hints:

    1. Three second scrimmageThis is a good method of forcing movement, pass and go, defense and heads up play.Use a regular scrimmage situation. However, each player may control the ball for only three seconds. The team controlling the ball for one minute wins. Time only counts when the ball is in the offensive end.
    1. Reaction scrimmage — 4 on 4 or 6 on 6 (maker’s take)This scrimmage helps to develop quick reaction to offense or defense. A normal scrimmage situation is set up. The team that scores immediately becomes the offensive team going in the other direction. The goalie should immediately put the ball in play to take advantage of quick openings. If a shot is taken and missed, the defense immediately becomes the offensive team.
    1. Winners out (halfcourt)The team scoring retains possession of the ball until it is lost. The purpose is ball control and successive goals. A fullcourt scrimmage can also be used.
  1. Counterattack scrimmageIn order to prepare to face a counterattack, one team should play offense and anticipate a counterattack. After the initial attack the ball is turned over to the opposite goalie. Continue for as long as desired.

Box Pattern

For Use in a Small Pool — This offense uses two men back. They break into the offensive area only if there is a good opportunity to score. If they do break, someone else must come back and cover the open position.

Attempt to get the ball to the right wing number 1; he takes the ball to the two yard area and attempts to pass to the center forward moving across. Continue the basic pattern and break clear. Never limit players to the pattern if an opportunity comes. fig. 8-220

Fig. 8-220

Left forward may receive the ball and reverse the flow; he is the key, especially if there is a left-handed shooter on the team.

If the center opens up, a guard may break. This should not become a habit.

The box pattern offense is used in other countries; however, it has seen little use in the United States. This offense does have possibilities. In a small area it will help keep the defense spread and give the man moving across the center a chance to work one-on-one. It presents an offense not familiar to most defensive players.


When selecting a team defense, the personnel on the team must be considered. For example, an extremely slow team will not be able to use a fullcourt, tight man-to-man defense. They would be beaten by fast breaks from the backcourt. The slow team may desire to play a loose man-to-man and pick up tight in the offensive end of the court. They may decide to use a zone defense. It is the author’s feeling that by far the best defense to use presently is usually the tight, pressing fullcourt, man-to-man.
As soon as the ball changes hands, it is imperative that each man jump immediately in front of an offensive man. Do not allow the offensive man the opportunity to break downcourt (cut him off). fig. 8-221A

Fig. 8-221 A

Tight Pressing Man-to-Man

If a fullcourt press is used, each man must do his job; one man can not let down. The passing lanes must be covered. A passing lane is the area between the passer and the receiver. Cut off the pass and the lane has been plugged up. Generally when the opposing goalie has the ball, the team defense should be extremely tight on all men the goalie can pass to, cut off all passes. If a pass is made, press so hard that the individual must pass back to the goalie. Defense men in the offensive end of the tank may play more loosely and gamble for a stolen pass. (Fig. 8-221 B) In this situation if a guard that should be tight on a man relaxes and allows a pinpoint pass, the men playing loosely could be burned and be scored against.

Guard Positions

The defensive man’s arm should extend between the man and the ball. If a pass comes, the hand is already there. It also discourages passes. (Figs. 8-221 B and 221 C)

Fig. 8-221B abd 221C

Remember (Man-to-Man)

    1. Put extreme pressure on outside men.
    1. Force a poor pass. It can possibly be intercepted. fig. 8-223
    1. It is best to allow the inside defense men to sluff and relax. fig. 8-222
    1. Slight sag on opposite side from the ball is desirable. fig. 8-223
    1. When a man drives, hand fight and give him a way to go; give him a path of least resistance. Do not allow ball side drives. Do not follow your opponent; once this happens, the individual defensive player is beaten. Make the offensive player fight for all the ground he gets. fig. 8-224
    1. If the ball is lost, immediately sprint into the defensive half of the tank. This will tend to eliminate fast-break and man up situations.
    1. As the offense moves into the forecourt, pick them up. At this point the defense is the same as in the tight man-to-man.

Fig. 8-224

Zone Defense

Zone defenses are mentioned in the prior chapter. However, an effective zone defense must have a good goalie. The defense is designed to force long, outside shots. We do not recommend zones for most teams. If each player is not properly schooled and does not play his position almost perfectly, then the sharp offensive team will simply take its time, pass the ball around and take a shot when the opening presents itself.

When a shot is stopped and taken by the goalie, the two wing guards flare out to receive the pass. The ball should advance just as described in the Double Y.


    1. Lefty — When organizing and beginning the season, coaches should attempt to find a left-handed player for the right wing position. This is especially important in fast-break situations. It is much harder for right-handed players to handle the ball and shoot effective shots from the right side of the pool. It is much easier for a left-handed shooter to execute hard shots from this position. A left-handed player in this position also helps maintain pool balance.
    1. Driver should bear into the defensive man, then hook.
    1. Driver should attempt an RB if the guard plays in front and fights. (If close enough to the goal.)
    1. Two Yard Man — as a feeder always be ready for a return pass right back) and immediate shot. Guard tends to relax.
      1. Use two yard picks when anyone in the scoring area has a free throw.
      2. Two yard man when feeding a driver should move with him. fig. 8-226
      3. If two yard man does not have position, he should move out and join the pattern.

Fig. 8-225

    1. Two yard pick — Number one should swim up and set a screen for number two. Number two breaks toward the left goalward, and as soon as number two is past, number one breaks in the opposite direction. One of the men should be open for a pass. fig. 8-227

Fig. 8-226

    1. Use wing picks at any point in the pool to free men.
    1. Wings are needed on both sides of the pool to relieve pressure and spread the defense. (Halfcourt wings essential.)
    1. Deep man drive into the two yard line before setting the hook.
    1. Need wings on the two yard line before the hole man locks in.

Fig. 8-227

    1. Do not float on the wings. Start in the center; move out and continue movement.
    1. Do not move up and down the outside. It fouls up wing sets. Move up the outside and down the middle.
    1. If a body length lead on a man, during a break set a wing if none are set. Need to advance ball first. If wings are set go in.
    1. Know where the ball is at all times.
    1. When breaking look over each shoulder.
    1. Eye to eye contact before any pass.
    1. Advancing the ball:
      1. Need wide wings at halfcourt. Goalie needs a target. Opens middle for driving and movement.
      2. Do not stack up in the middle. Continue movement; do not clog the center. If one defensive man can guard two people, then move to open water.
      3. Fill outside wings if empty. Always need them.
      4. Continual movement means men will be open for a pass. Do not sit and watch—move some place.
    1. Backdoor — Drive on non-ball side once in a while (to a ball side position). fig. 8-228, 8-229
    1. Stalled drives — If stalled along side, use a pick to free the man rather than continuing drive. fig. 8-230
    1. Don’t sit on outside wings; move up to midcourt, drive, hook, etc.
    1. After opponent goal, move to center and over midline—when official puts ball in play, break to wings.
  1. Wet pass—tightly covered man should receive a wet pass.

Fig. 8-228-230


    1. Pressure (tight) on outside man, force a poor pass. A good pass into the hole or inside is the outside guard’s fault. It is best to allow inside defense to relax.
    1. No gross fouls inside the four. If opponent has lead on a drive-in, percentage is with allowing the shot. Try to stop it—don’t foul.
    1. Path of least resistance. Give it to driver, no ball side drives.
    1. Man-to-man — Demand tight, slight sag away from ball is O.K.
    1. Do not follow your opponent; once you do you are through.
    1. Front hole — If the hole man is in front and pressing for position on the four, give in to him. When he reaches the four, let him go and rotate in front—then be tough, nose to nose.
    1. Control scrimmage — Give one team ball on offense. When they lose it, give it back. Ball goes to goalie. Working on defensive skills, tight man to man, cut off passing lanes, etc.This is good because players think they are working on offense; actually coach is working on defense. If you have two coaches, one work the defense and the other the offense.
    1. Defensive work the day prior to the game will sharpen defensive attitude and anticipation.
    1. Cut off passing lanes, i.e., stay between your man and the ball where possible. Helps to pick off passes and harass.
    1. Two yard guard keeps hips high, don’t over-commit.
    1. Front all two yard men.
    1. Call out your man prior to game. Entire team should do this.
    1. On lost sprint do not wait in backcourt for them to set up; move in fast and apply pressure.
    1. Play position — Force drivers outside. Face him square. Hand fight him. Eggbeater up and ride high.
  1. Protect against a back door.


Chapter IX

Preparation for the Specific Game


A faster team is not necessarily a team with exceptionally fast swimmers. The necessary ingredients are anticipation and quick starting.

Upon loss of the ball, immediately sprint or jump to a defensive position between the man and the goal; the faster the man, the more room he must be given. In the offensive end of the pool each individual must play tight (when in the scoring zone). At this point speed is not as essential as quibkness and alert play.
Use a sagging man-to-man — press the ball carrier tightly and try to force poor passes. Sluff off at other positions, and look for the steal. Protect center of pool, force wing drives instead of center drives, take a short cut. fig. 9-231

Fig 231

Keep two or three men back at halfcourt. If one of them advances and drives, someone else must immediately cover his position.

Always swim their hole man out if they have one.

If being beaten on drives, then get the hips up, hand fight, be tough, stay between the man and the goal, give a path of least resistance.

Play a zone defense. This requires a very good goalie and a lot of practice.(Presented in Chapter VII.)


Press a more experienced team—frustrate them.

Put your best guard on their best man. If the guard is good enough to control him, this

may stall their offense enough to discourage them.


Plug him up, especially if he is their major scoring threat. Put your best guard on him.

Front him, push him back to the two or three yard line. Then the goalie can help double team. (Fig. 9-231A) This requires a tough, relentless guard. I

Fig 231A

The only way the hole man should feel any freedom is if he moves out of the hole area.

Then be nice to him; he may like it there and not want to go back.

If the hole man is tougher than the guard and controls the front position, then othermembers of the team must sluff in and help. (Fig. 9-232) The men away from the ball sluff in.

Fig 232

Sometimes, if the defensive team has a good goalie, the man at center front can play a zone and everyone else plays a switching man-to-man and keep all men in the scoring area covered. (Fig. 9-233)

Fig 233

When number 5 has the ball leave him.

Play a zone.

Hands must be at the surface and ready to help block shots.


Play a zone. This very often will foul up their attempts to clear the middle.

The center man number 5 directs traffic. (Fig. 9-234)

Follow advice under faster team and more experienced.

Be especially hard-nosed about hand fighting and forcing weakside

Hips up on hand fighting.

Fig 234


Play your normal game; however, take a few long shots and see what happens. If the goalie is aware of long shots, then eliminate them and work for the normal close-in shot.


Play your best game with whatever defense appears to be best. Attempt a long shot at times during the game if open.

Be careful when instructing the team to use long shots. Everyone tends to want some of this type of action and from all over the pool. Hard to control.


Play a disciplined game; be deliberate.

DO NOT take just any open shot. Be sure the goalie is out of position. This results from crosscourt passing.

Taking a one-on-one shot against the goalie is O.K.

Do not shoot poor percentage shots. You will only lose the ball. Poor percentage shots are corner shots (Fig. 9-235), long shots and shots that are blind (backhand).

Fig 235


Play your normal game.

When hooking, move all the way to the side.

If using a driving offense, use the two yard position infrequently.

If using a two yard man, use only three drivers. Keep two men back.

This will help keep the middle open.

Two men back watch for fast break.


DO NOT psych out the team by emphasizing the size of the pool. Subtle references to the “English Channel” could be humorous, but devastating.

Play a two yard man, use him as a feeder, not a shooter. He must control the ball and his guard.

Set sequential hooks when bringing the ball downcourt. Do not overdo the fast break.
Players from small pools tend to psychologically tire when in a big pool (they think they are tired).

Practice in a big tank if possible.

When setting hooks do not go all the way out to the side.

Timing will be different because of added swimming. Be aware of this. Set up the offense then begin driving. Take your time.


You have a player you must use and the other team switches their best man (shooter) on and scores.

Do not have this man play a guard position. Play him as far in the offensive end of the tank as possible. Teach him to pop in front of the opponent before the ball changes hands.

His teammates should be aware he is not the best at stopping shots and should switch with him any time he is on a good shooter.

Tell him he is a fabulous forward and you hate to see him wasted in the defensive end


Chapter X

Weight Training

Weight training should be an integral part of the water polo program on all levels. The type of program one can offer depends upon available facilities and time. However, a general weight lifting program should be used at least three times a week. The circuit should include at least ten stations and many more than that if there are facilities. There should be stretching and flexibility as well as strength work. The individual should do three sets of ten exercises at each station with some rest between each set. The last exercises in the set should be extremely hard or impossible to complete. When the individual gains sufficient strength to complete all ten contractions or exercises in each of the three sets, he may increase the weight at that station.

As mid-season approaches, more repetitions can be added and possibly less weight. Follow the same set-up at each station; do three sets of exercises with ten to twenty repetitions in each set.

In late season, lessen the weight and maintain the same number of repetitions; this will help maintain strength and tone. If the program has been one of five days a week, cut to three. Approximately two weeks prior to the major effort of the season, i.e., league tournament or national tournament, lay off of the weights entirely. This should give each individual enough rest so that he should feel very strong in practice. This in turn should help instill more self-confidence and result in a fine effort. Some individuals feel they must stay on the weights or they will lose strength. If they have a strong opinion, then psychologically they will be better off staying with the weights.

Use any type of weight workout that creates resistance. If complete facilities are available, universal gym, Exer-geni, and floor weights, then a full weight program can be used. If these facilities are not available, then weights can be made. There are various means of making weights. Coffee cans with cement in them and a pipe for the bar are very usable. Plastic bottles filled with cement with broomsticks for bars are good. Surgical tubing, makes very good resistance equipment. It is inexpensive and can be purchased atany medical supply. The tubes come in any diameter and strength desired.

The following circuit is used by one of the local colleges and is it thorough program. A few people are beginning to ex peri men I with weight training six days a week and two times each day. We prefer the one-a-day method.

    1. Rocker push-ups, finger tip roll back and forth
    2. V-ups (jackknife)
    3. Jump and bring knees to chest—leg drive
    4. Rocker flutter — arms move in a vertical plane back and forth

Fig 236

    1. Bent arm pullover
    2. Pull downs — behind neck, sit
    3. Pull downs — front, standing
    4. Military press — sit
    5. Breaststroke pulls — rows face down, bench, curl the weights up — barbells
    6. Back kick — leg machine
    7. Pulls — wall pulley or surgical tubing
    8. >French curl — sit and pull over head — bent arm

Fig 237

    1. Bar dips
    2. Curls — sit dumbbells, elbow against knee
    3. Oblique — bench press machine or dumbbell
    4. Wall pulley or tubing — fly pulls
    5. Fly cross overs — lie on bench, arms extended to sides, pull to over chest position — straight arm.

Fig 238

    1. Wrist curls — throwing, breaststroke
    2. Reverse flyers — opposite to fly cross over — use high rep and light weight. Help eliminate tie up
    3. Leg lifts — leg machine. Helps stop knee problems
    4. Finger tip push-ups


  1. Hurdle — sit
  2. Pancake — sit legs 45 degrees
  3. Feet under hips, lean back
  4. Inner leg stretch — sit, put soles of feet together, press kneeE. out
  5. On back — hands close together, lean back

Fig 239