30M vs 25M

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30M vs 25M

Postby WolfWigoSB » Mon Jul 22, 2013 1:15 am

Since I just finished playing SR nationals at 30M 30 second shot clock I would like to put down my thoughts on the difference between the games just played and the games of the past college season.

All of my players as well as every other player in college I happened to ask at Sr Nationals - quite a few well respected players from different MPSF teams - think that 25M is more exciting to play, more enjoyable and better for the spectators. The comment many players independently made was "I can't believe I even played water polo when it was 30M/30S - this sucks."

Why do they feel this way? Well I have trained at 25M recently and just played at Sr nationals 30M so I can relate my experience as well, since most people commentating on this board probably have not have actual experience in the water doing both at a high level. There are a many reasons:

The shot clock - even the TOP teams at SENIOR Nationals - are getting into the front court with 9-12 seconds on the clock. Slow swimming down the pool for 18 seconds with no chance of scoring and they about 5-7 seconds (because you have to retreat and not drive, take any risks or do anything else at the end of the shot clock or you will get countered) of an actual attack, and then another 18 seconds of boring swimming down the pool. This is not fun for the players and not interesting for the spectators. In the big games there is no counter attack so really absolutely nothing worth watching during this transition time. This does not include when there is an offensive called or quick shot when the % of time swimming in the middle of the pool goes even higher than 80%. ALL other successful sports have a transition time MUCH less, there is a reason for this. It is literally like playing basketball on a football field. How will kids at JO's do this - since USA WP changed to this format? If the SR players cannot do this - I dare you to go watch 18U boys at JO's on the 4th day - they will be dead tired and arrive with 8 seconds on shot clock - any lower level teams will not even have that - swim down the pool, dump ball swim back, dump ball. I watched UCI - a very well conditioned team - dump the ball 5 times in first quarter alone against NYAC, because they had no time to literally do anything in the front court - exciting stuff... In basketball (a wildy popular sport last time I checked) the transition is 2-4 seconds leaving 20+ seconds in front court.

You are dead tired after swimming down and back - and you literally do not have the energy to make the spectacular exciting plays you can do when you do not have to swim so much. Would you rather see more action in front of the goal with players getting out to their suits or see player swimming 70% speed down the pool. Any rational person will want to see action in front of the goal. As a player it is MUCH more interesting to be on offense for longer and fresher to be more active and make great plays.
In scrimmage training I personally have so much more energy to be active on offense, post players up/attack 5M line for foul shoot/ turn someone on wing and shoot from a further range. At 30M many times you are just too tired to even think about shooting from 8M. Only at the Olympic level where players train 6-9 hours a day is the game barely palatable. Why do we want a sport where you are doing ironman training to just be able to compete and survive? Teams have to swim 5K/day just to stay competitive. They hurt their shoulders and get burned out, and it is not fun. Tony A famously says how he hates swimming, like most players - yet he swims and swims in training non stop - like all players on the Sr team and top college teams. Read John Wooden - they never trained more then 1.5 hours/day - total! Basketball is a sport that requires conditioning - Why are we torturing our players - burning them out and injuring them. Every water polo player would rather work on shooting or 6/5 or passing or zone or anything than swimming. I played 6 games this weekend and did not make 1 spectacular play - had some goals - but nothing that would make an ESPN highlight reel. When I play 25M - I typically have 2/3 per scrimmage session - really. I am in great shape and did not have the energy to do anything exciting.

The fans enjoy 25M much more - We invited 50 people who had not seen water polo and did half at 20M and half at 30M. Not ONE person thought 30M was better and most thought the question itself was a joke because it was so absurd. It is so much more natural for the transition time to be less. Every parent I asked during the college season thought it was much more exciting at 25M. So if it is much better for the players - FACT - and much more enjoyable for the fans - FACT - why would there even be a debate you may ask? Many top players in the world - Kasas, Benedek, Tempesti....list goes on think this way - who stands in the way? FINA

Some people thought before college went 25M that:

A) game would be more physical - Proven wrong - game was exactly the same because 5 seconds less boring swimming and 5 seconds less shot clock. James Graham from UOP did all the statistics to verify this.
B) There would be no counter attack - you have the same counter attack opportunities as you had at 30M - even though there are few to start with. James also documented this. Watch Serbia play, tell me how many counter attack goals they give up - 1% of their total goals last time I checked. We have many Top USA coaches now coaching Serbian style - which is play very conservative - dont even counter yourself and NEVER give up a counter goal even if it means VERY boring water polo and taking no risks on your own counter or in front court. Coaches are paid to win, not make the game exciting.
C)Our players will not be ready for international game if they play 25M. False - if you know anything you would know that the USA weakness internationally is front court vertical game - at 25M - you get more training of that skill and less swimming (our strength) so it is actually better for us! As a player I can tell you you probably need a week to make the adjustment as a high level player back to 30M if you are a Olympic level player.

So for the .001 percent of all players to be ready to play in the Olympics - All other college players and college club players must play this absurd 30M game with all swimming and no front court? Absurd.

Other stupid recent rule changes like the fact you do not keep the ball on the tip out even make for more transition time and less front court. At least in the past you got to actually get a corner throw and new clock.

The game is MUCH different than when I was in college - and much different for players 20 and 40 years before me. WORSE!!

Many 18U coaches I talked to are dreading having to play the 30M at JO's because they have all seen that at that level the game is awfully boring - kids cannot even make it to the front court after first few games. USA Water polo please change JO's back to 25 - let ODP do 30M if you want to torture them - those kids who will "maybe" go to the Olympics. Please believe me - EVERY kids would have a much more enjoyable tournament if the course was shorter!

But in EUROPE this is how they do it - Newsflash for anyone not in the know - sport is dying in Europe - I cannot tell you how many Europen coaches have contacted me wanting to come to US for a job b/c no money in Europe anymore. TONS - There is no fan base - b/c sport sucks to watch - only rich guys buying players and when they lose interest they move on all the players leave and go on to next club who found a rich guy to back them. NO one watches game - THE ONLY PEOPLE WATCHING WATER POLO ARE A)Family, friends, Nationalistic or affiliation pride. IF YOU HAVE HUNGARY PLAY SERBIA IN ITALY NOONE GOES TO WATCH. In each country you will only have the home team get fans. No one cares to watch the game unless they have a vested interested. In other exciting sports people watch for the excitement of the game as well. So yes, Stanford/Cal gets a lot of fans at big splash - try trying to fill AVERY with a random UCLA USC game - no one would go unless it was NCAA championships. The foreign players on my team at nationals are begging me to come to USA for a job opportunity.

Game was always 30M - why do you want to change it?

Yes, but also when course was made - you had 2 forwards , 2 mid, and 2 D - then you had 3 and 3 set up. Once a turnover you threw ball down and there was instant action. Now you much wait for all players to swim down. This idea is not new - in 1995 it was experimented to change to 25M - unfortunately despite being superior the FINA group - politically blocked the change. Other rule changes have made more and more transition time - less front court. Again, would you want to watch basketball played on a football field? That is literally what you have in water polo

For the people at FINA and other older generation - the game currently is their legacy of changes - it is too hard for them to admit they have made the game much worse - Estiarte hates the changes - that is probably why is is involved in soccer now instead of anything to do with water polo. They are still in power making the changes and decisions.

Coaches, players, referees, parents - please think about this. I love our sport and want to make it the exciting game I know it can be. It is not exciting at 30M/30S shot clock. It is way better at 20M and better at 25M. Give me a reason why 30M/30S is better - I would love to hear it, since I have been talking about this for 7 years and have yet to hear 1 good reason (aside from the crappy reason that we should follow FINA). In the meantime there are many more compelling reasons for 25, like the fact that for every 50M pool there are 100 25yd pools. Polo in every pool - (usa water polo motto) - maybe it should be possibly polo in 1 in 100 pools. Not even getting into the fact that more colleges might add water polo if their facilities actually could accommodate the sport. I m dead tired from the games and cannot write more but feel but after seeing once again firsthand how much worse and boring the difference is from a players perspective I felt the need to write this.

Last thing the ego aspect. When I was on national team I thought it was great that water polo players train so much and are so physically fit. I was proud of it. Looking back it is the wrong mentality. I did not start playing water polo when I was young to swim for 2-3 hours a day and lift weights endlessly. I played because I enjoyed the passing/shooting/teamwork aspect of the game - similar to soccer/basketball etc. If there was an alternate sport - (waterball? ) where you
Unfortunately if no one watches your sport who cares how fit you are. At the Olympics all the top commentators were not impressed with water polo and trashed it. They called it "barbaric" and "uninteresting". On twitter when it was announced wrestling was being cut water polo was one of the top sports people mentioned to cut instead. No one thinks basketball players are wimps b/c they don't run a marathon on monday (the water polo equivalent of swimming 5K on a monday which most teams do, lifting tons of weights. Tell any basketball player to run 26 miles for training - i d like to see his/her response. All of my teammates from college do not play water polo anymore - why? once you have a job and kids there is no time to do the training necessary to compete (unless you are a water polo coach - maybe) . Why do we want a sport where we are literally pushing people away. All those friends swim, and play basketball recreationally but none play the sport that they grew up playing and excelled at. Yes we have some masters players - but nowhere near what the #'s should be.

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Re: 30M vs 25M

Postby polo68 » Mon Jul 22, 2013 12:01 pm

My son is totally not looking forward to 30M/30 sec at JO's. Wolf is dead right about this. The 8-10 seconds of front court is correct, I have timed it. The game is becoming more and more boring, and the 30m format is just ridiculous. Shame on USAWP for this policy. Get the egos out of the way and restore the sport.

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Re: 30M vs 25M

Postby polomaman » Mon Jul 22, 2013 12:51 pm

Thank you coach for expressing what a lot of parents of water polo players are thinking. Our kids love this sport, but they are burning out and they are tired of always being sore. The conditioning is over the top for young kids, we need to restore some sanity and balance to the sport.

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Re: 30M vs 25M

Postby gametime » Mon Jul 22, 2013 2:55 pm

I could not agree more! The sport is dying and changes need to be made if we are to reverse that fact. I did not play polo because I wanted to swim 5k at practice. I played because I loved "playing" the game, that is offense, defense, 6on5. 25M has been more exciting to watch in my opinion and allows someone washed up like me to jump in and still enjoy the game. Thanks for the write up coach.

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Re: 30M vs 25M

Postby wpobserver » Mon Jul 22, 2013 4:31 pm

WolfWigo, very insightful and persuasive arguments for a 25M course. But is anyone with the authority to do something about it listening?

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Re: 30M vs 25M

Postby klazs » Mon Jul 22, 2013 4:35 pm

Great post!! The 30 m course seriously hurts the clubs that lack depth. By the end of tournaments they are physically unable to keep up with the deeper teams.

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Re: 30M vs 25M

Postby mbaywaterpolo » Mon Jul 22, 2013 4:40 pm

I've heard from many top players that I know that one of the big issues with American water polo is we are too focused on the counterattack at the high school level, and even college sometimes. Then, when we get to the international scene our players don't have the same half court abilities (shooting, passing, etc.) that other countries do.

Reducing the size of the pool is the best idea I've heard to make water polo more exciting. Nobody wants to see counter attacks. They're boring. Water polo should be about water polo, not about swimming.

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Re: 30M vs 25M

Postby Art Vandelay » Mon Jul 22, 2013 4:46 pm

Well said! Nice to hear from someone that has actually PLAYED the sport AND coached it at the highest of levels. Most people that make the comments and decisions on these topics don't have that kind of background. In fact, they have very little to zero playing or coaching experience. The players and coaches need to be making the decisions. Again, nice to hear the perspective of a 3 X Olympian, current national champion and successful college coach.

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Re: 30M vs 25M

Postby ephpolo » Mon Jul 22, 2013 9:10 pm

I agree that a shorter course makes for a more interesting game. A longer shot clock would do the same. When I played (mostly at 25 yards, occasionally at 30 meters), the shot clock was 35 seconds.

But I don't understand why shortening the course by 5 meters would radically change swim training. Does a player who has to swim 25 meters with each transition need a lot more swim training than one who needs to swim 20 meters?

And why is 5,000 meters per day of swimming considered necessary to train for a series of 20-25 meter sprints?

Dante has been eloquent about why distance swimming is poor preparation for polo players. Other coaches must think differently.

Wolf's "playing basketball on a football field" analogy makes some sense, but soccer players do play on a field as long as a football field, and I don't think many soccer teams train by having their players run laps for more than an hour a day. I don't think lacrosse players or field hockey players do, either.

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Re: 30M vs 25M

Postby ephpolo » Mon Jul 22, 2013 11:20 pm

mbaywaterpolo wrote:Nobody wants to see counter attacks. They're boring.

Are you serious? For folks not terribly familiar with water polo, counter attack goals are probably the most exciting part of the game. Maybe direct shots out of center are more exciting. Most of the rest of the game? They don't really understand it, and it looks like a lot of wrestling with random whistles.

We all hate the fast break in basketball, too. The Showtime Lakers? Most boring team in NBA history!

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Re: 30M vs 25M

Postby Doru Roll » Tue Jul 23, 2013 1:07 am

Funny how those same teams who swim 4-5 thousand meters five mornings a week and train in 30m pools, along with running 10k three times a week, jumping rope for 15-20 minutes daily and strength training the other four days when they're not running, somehow manage to consistently beat us. Weird...

Water polo has been played in 30m pools since 1932. It all started for practical reasons: at the time the longest indoor pool with a self-supporting roof they could build was 33m long. Subtract 1m at each end for the goal and another 0.5m for the box and you have a 30m course. You could find just one 50m outdoor and another 33m indoor pool in many large European cities well into the 1970s, particularly in Eastern Europe. That's why the 50m free was not introduced into the Olympic program until 1988.

A little more water polo history: the TWPC proposed a number of changes at the FINA meeting in Rio in February 1994, aimed at: a. Creating balance between countries by allowing more pools to meet water polo requirements; b. Speeding up the game and increasing the number of counter-attacks; c. Creating more action in front of the goal, and d. Making the game more spectator-friendly and a better product for TV. This is what they proposed:

1. Reduce the size of the field to 25 X 16 meters
2. Reduce of the number of players from seven to six
3. Use a smaller ball
4. Immediate re-entry of an excluded player
5. Substitution of a player permitted at any time
6. Direct shot on goal from outside seven (7) meters from a free throw
7. Refereeing without flags
8. Coaches of teams in possession of the ball allowed 2 timeouts of one (1) minute each per game.

The changes were tried out during the Junior Worlds in 1995. The first four were deemed not to improve the game appreciably and were rejected by the FINA Congress in 1996. The last four were ratified for adoption after Atlanta.

ephpolo wrote:... Are you serious? For folks not terribly familiar with water polo, counter attack goals are probably the most exciting part of the game. Maybe direct shots out of center are more exciting. Most of the rest of the game? They don't really understand it, and it looks like a lot of wrestling with random whistles...

And probably the easiest to understand since it's the same idea in all team sports. Something to remember for those who want to improve the game.

On a personal note: by the time I started playing water polo in 1973 I had already been swimming competitively for 7 years. I thought swimming was terribly boring and wanted to quit, but when I started playing I finally saw a purpose for all that training and actually started to like it. I don't understand people who say you don't have to focus on swimming in order to excel at water polo. I guess they prefer a static, center-centric game with no drives or counters. Water polo? What water polo? Just put a 6'-6" monster at center and go for the 6-on-5 every time. Sweet...

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Re: 30M vs 25M

Postby Apghrenegade » Tue Jul 23, 2013 5:49 am

Great feedback, Wolf. Hard to get a more hands on assessment than the one provided. My thoughts are efforts at rule changes need to be narrow and focused, maybe just 3 at the most in one round of change lobbying. My suggestions for the 3:

1. 25 meters has huge support and needs to be pushed through some major national governing bodies first. Maybe we can combine with Aus and do it at the same time. Or even 3 or 4 national governing bodies at the same time: Hungary, Serbia, Aus, and USA. That then puts the FINA committee in the position they need to be placed in.

2. Add 5 seconds to the possession clock. More time to attack means less conservatism from the attackers, and that means a more exciting attacking game.

3. Call a first mutual wrestling foul at center forward with or without the ball as a regular foul with free throw from the point of the foul. This can be both a rule and specific ref interpretation instructions. I think a highly predictable foul from center with free throw from center, early in a possession, will restore some creativity in set offense. The subsequent treatment of return passes to center forward can be treated as they are now. This is a compromise between 'let the big folk bash it out' and create a predictable foul event which promotes plays and attacking on set offense.

In the meantime, we have the right national coach to address our well known weaknesses in the vertical offensive game...as Wolf and many of us know very well. No matter what happens with the rules, we need to aggressively address the key weaknesses.

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Re: 30M vs 25M

Postby oldschool » Tue Jul 23, 2013 9:04 am

No issues with the first two suggestions you made, but the last one is not practical. What your basically saying is after the counter opportunity dies give the center a free pass to start the offense.

The rule I have promoted is bringing back dead-time ejections. In my opinion that would be something that would increase the dynamic nature of the set offense.

I also like the idea of letting the excluded person return immediately. Not sure how that would play out, but seems interesting.

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Re: 30M vs 25M

Postby Doc » Tue Jul 23, 2013 10:07 am


If you really are old school then you must have played Apghrenegade's suggested rule 3? What didn't you like about this rule? I loved that rule because it quick started a team's offense and created many drives and a lot of picks.


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Re: 30M vs 25M

Postby Justafan2 » Tue Jul 23, 2013 1:35 pm

ephpolo wrote:
mbaywaterpolo wrote:Nobody wants to see counter attacks. They're boring.

Are you serious? For folks not terribly familiar with water polo, counter attack goals are probably the most exciting part of the game. Maybe direct shots out of center are more exciting. Most of the rest of the game? They don't really understand it, and it looks like a lot of wrestling with random whistles.

We all hate the fast break in basketball, too. The Showtime Lakers? Most boring team in NBA history!

It doesn't stop counter attacks they just get to the point faster. As a parent of a collegiate athlete Wolf is correct. The 25M game is better and more exciting. It is too bad the international governing board rejected it.

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