- The Pre-game Routine - 12/01/2016
- Fundamental Technical Elements and Exercises by Terry Schroeder - 12/01/2016
- Training in the Off Season - 12/06/2014
The Split Eggbeater in Water Polo
The split eggbeater is an interesting concept. Most age groupers learn to do the egg beater kick by having both legs down below them. When I was learning I was told to get myself in a position like I was sitting in a chair. I think that this was OK as far as learning the basic concept of using an “eggbeater” (one leg at a time manner) kick to keep your head above the water. However, as a player and now as a coach it has become very clear that this position of sitting in a chair, rarely, if ever happens in an actually game. Therefore, I believe that it is very important for us as coaches to teach our players the proper body positioning for the eggbeater kick. In my opinion, this would be what I call the “split eggbeater” position.
So what do I actually mean by the “split eggbeater”? In this position one leg is down below your body (the support leg) creating energy to keep you up in the water. The other leg (the driving leg) is either out in front of you or behind you depending on what on what you are doing in the water. This driving leg is creating energy to drive you forward (penetrate) or drive you back into a defender
For example, if I am right handed player penetrating forward with the ball as a shooter or as a passer – my left leg would be below me performing an eggbeater kick (this is my support leg). This leg is going to be responsible for keeping me up in the water – think about the physics – if I am doing an eggbeater kick properly the leg below me will be propelling me up in the water. My other leg, the right one will be behind me (this is my driving leg) driving me forward. Once again, think about the physics involved, this leg behind me will be creating energy to drive me forward in the water.
A second example, would be if I am playing the center position (on offense). With the guard on my left shoulder, I will be sealing him off with my left arm. My left leg will be down below me (the support leg) and my right leg will be out in front of me (the driving leg). Now I have one leg that is keeping me up as the guard tries to push me down and one leg that is driving me back trying to make sure that I am holding my position as close to the 2 meter line as I can. If the defender were to jump to the other side – I would roll over my hips and get into the split eggbeater on the other side with my right arm sealing the guard off and my right leg would drop down below me (the support leg) to keep me up in the water while my left leg will be out in front of me (the driving leg) driving me back into the guard.
A third example of where the split eggbeater is used would be on the perimeter. If I am on the perimeter with the ball and the defender leaning on me I will also end up in this split eggbeater position. Basically, I will always have one leg up (the driving leg) and one leg down (the support leg) and I can roll over my hips and switch at any time. Even on defense on the perimeter I should always be in this split eggbeater position. On defense in a “hips up” position I would not recommend that both legs are up equally near the surface of the water. One leg will almost always be down lower in the water while the other leg is up closer to the surface of the water once again utilizing a split eggbeater. This will create a more balanced position in the water.
As a player becomes more skilled he/she can adjust their legs accordingly and get higher in the water by bringing the driving leg down a bit while the support leg keeps doing what it was already doing. You should be able to adjust without ever missing a beat. A player may also adjust the support leg up more to create more energy driving them forward or back into the defender.
Putting the skill into action
Here are the options on the perimeter.
- Get higher in the water by dropping your driving leg slightly and letting that leg also participate in the support process. This leg does not drop straight below you or you will no longer be driving (penetrating or driving the defender back). Think about when you are shooting the ball. The driving leg will be working hard to provide energy to create a more powerful shot.
- Go faster as you penetrate by bringing the support leg up behind you slightly and using both legs to drive you forward Once again, you are not bringing that support leg up as high as the back leg because than you would not have any support (energy) keeping you up in the water.
Here are the options at the center position.
- If the defender is playing very heavy and pushing you down you can bring your driving leg down under you more so that both legs are participating in keeping you up higher in the water. This driving leg still should be out in front of you slightly to help you maintain your position on the 2 meter line.
- If the defender is really pushing you out than you can bring your support leg up into a position to where it is helping to drive you back in the water. Once again, you need this leg to be lower in the water so that you have some support to keep you up in the water.
Here are some drills to help players develop and understand the “split eggbeater”. Performed correctly, these drills will help your players learn how to use their legs and body position better in the water.
- Practice penetrating with the ball going across the pool (10 – 15 meters) keeping the ball high with the elbow out of the water on all these drills)
- Do some laps working on keeping the ball higher (more support energy)
- Do some laps trying to penetrate with the ball quickly (more driving energy)
- Add angles – so that you have to learn to use your legs to drive you forward at an angle (simulating moving away from the defender as you penetrate)
- Centers match up with a center defender and push them across the pool (10 – 15 meters).
- Do some laps where the defender is really pushing down and the center has to drop his/her driving leg and use both legs to keep him/her up in the water. You will see how if one leg is not used to drive the defender back the players will stay in one place. The object of this drill is to be able to push the defender back even when you are being pushed down hard by the defender.
- Do some laps where the defender is pushing hard against the centers back and the center has to bring up the support leg and really drive the defender backwards.
- Do some laps where the defender mixes it up and now the center has to adjust to driving the defender back or keeping the defender up.
- Perimeter drills
- Have the perimeter player with the ball ready to step out and make the pass to the center. This is also a very important part of the split eggbeater. When the legs are in the proper position you will have a leg to step out on to and separate from your defender.
- Have the defender really pushing down on the offensive player so that the perimeter player is forced to adjust his/her leg position to hold up the defender more. In this scenario the offensive player still has to be able to get one leg out in front of him/her more so that he/she can step out over that leg to make the pass with proper support.
The split eggbeater is a very important skill that every player should learn. Each and every player in this game needs to learn how to use body positioning and leg support to their advantage during the game. The bottom line is that learning how to perform the split eggbeater can help you to become a better water polo player.
The Water Polo Skill of Sculling
This month we will look at another important skill that all players in our sport need to become expert at. This skill is sculling. For many young athletes this is a difficult skill to learn. In this skill the athlete must learn how to use his arms and legs in a less traditional method. Sculling requires the athlete to use his arms to push water – driving the body backwards while laying feet first in the water and the legs are moving in a bicycling motion – grabbing water and helping to pull the body backwards.
The correct body position for this skill is to be laying (stomach down) slightly on your side in the water. Your body will be turned approximately 35 – 45 degrees in the water. You are in a feet first position (meaning that your feet are out in front of you and you are going to be traveling in the water with your feet first). One leg is lower in the water and one leg is up close to the surface of the water.
As stated above the legs are moving in a bicycling motion and the athlete is trying to “grab” the water with the feet and legs in order to help pull the water moving the body backwards in the water (feet first). The arms/hands are also working to help propel the body backwards over the legs. The arms are moving in an “egg beater” type motion and trying to push water with each stroke of each arm/hand. As the arms do this “egg beater” type motion the hands are catching water and almost throwing water out in front of you to help propel you forward over your feet.
The best way to practice this skill by getting his/her body in this laid out position in the water and attempting to move as streamlined through the water as possible. I would recommend breaking this skill down and practice by focusing on your legs first and then come back and focus on your arms/hands. First, get yourself into the proper sculling body position, and try to propel yourself as fast and as streamlined as you can through the water with the focus on your legs only. The arms can be moving but only in a support mode. Do this exercise over both your left hip (left leg lower in the water) and over your right hip (right leg lower in the water). After you are feeling good about your legs now go back and focus on your arms and hands.
Once again, your legs can move in a support mode in this exercise. Try to move as fast and as streamlined through the water with the focus on your upper body movements. Really try to scoop and throw the water with your arms and hands to help propel your body backwards in the water.
One other exercise to practice sculling with the focus on the arms/hands is to hook your feet into the gutter of the pool while laying face down in the water. Now try using only your arms/hands in a sculling motion to lift your upper body out of the water by scooping and throwing the water down. You can do this exercise for 15 seconds on/15 seconds off. It is pretty intense work on your arms if you really try to push your upper body out of the water.
Once you are feeling like you have your arms and legs working together in this sculling motion continue to practice it and you will become more and more efficient in moving backwards in the water. It is imperative that you learn how to be proficient at this skill over both hips. Most athletes feel more comfortable sculling over one hip. Once you feel good about how you are moving over your strong side then try to switch and practice sculling with the other hip/leg down. In a game you will need to be able to scull backwards over each side.
Sculling backwards is used primarily for moving backwards in the water when you are guarding a driver/attacker who is moving at you in the water. It is important in this driver defense mode that you are able to move backwards in the water without swimming (at least initially).
This is a fundamental skill that you can practice by yourself. The best way to practice this skill is simply to do it. Lay in the water (face down) with your feet out in front of you and begin sculling and move across the pool with your left leg lower for one lap and then your right leg lower on the next lap. After you are feeling pretty comfortable then add a switch over your hips every 4 – 5 meters. When you switch over your hips try to resume the sculling motion right away so you never lose your power in the water.
After you feel you have the basics down and you want to challenge yourself a little more, you can put a driver/attacker in the water with you and have them swim at you to one side or the other. If the driver swims (drives) to your right then you will lay out in the water with your left leg down and the right leg up at the surface and scull backwards while the driver moves at you. See how long that you can stay up with the driver with your sculling skill only. Then have the driver/attacker swim to your left and drop your right leg down and left leg up while you scull backwards and attempt to keep up with the driver for as long as you can. For now, don’t worry about the driver being able to swim faster then you can scull. For the time being just try to keep up with the driver for as long as you can.
To become a more advanced water polo player one must be very good at sculling backwards in the water. Sculling by itself is critical to learn and apply in the water especially as you defend against a driver moving at you. Next month we will build on this skill. Sculling backwards is the used in all the jumping skills. Next month I will explain how the sculling skill is really the precursor to all the jumping skills.
On a side note, the Men’s National Team has began training full time for the Beijing Olympics and all of these basic skills that I am discussing and explaining on this web page are a integral part of are training drills. If you get a chance come by and observe one of our practices or better yet come out and watch one of our games to see these skills in action.
Jumps in Water Polo
The USA team is presently in Serbia training with one of the best teams in the world. We are training at the Partizan club in Belgrade, which is where the national team trains. I have been amazed at what I have seen here. This is a water polo factory here. Kids start playing and training in water polo when they are 8 or 9 years old. The pool here is used all day long. We had practice last night from 7 – 9 pm and immediately after we were done another water polo team (it looked like the 16 year old team) was coming in to use the pool from 9 – 11 pm. We have gone over to the pool at all times during the day and have seen teams in there all day. In talking with Igor Milanovich who was one of the all-time great players for Yugoslavia back when I played and is now the club president of Partizan, he told me that they have about 400 kids of all ages in their club. In Igor’s words they “run a water polo camp here 365 days a year.” Wow!
I have sat and watched and this is what I have noticed above all else. All the age groups are practicing good fundamental skills. The youngest kids (8-9) year old were doing a simple passing drill for 45 minutes. The kids were line up into two groups. The kids on one side had the ball. On the coaches first command the kids would pick the ball up from underneath, cradle the ball and turn their left shoulder (if they were right handed) and turn their heads towards the person they were about to pass to. On the second command the kids would pick the ball up behind their heads and get their arm into the ready to pass or shoot position with their balance slightly forward. On the third command the kids would elevate while staying on balance and then make an accurate pass to their partner as they followed through perfectly. Even though I could not understand the language, I could tell by the coach’s actions that he was stressing balance in the water and strong leg support to the kids. He was carefully watching each kid while they passed and correcting bad form at this young age. The young kids were building good habits and it was obvious that the simplest of skills (passing) – one we often take for granted by letting our teams talk and socialize during passing drills – was of the utmost of importance. As I watched many of the older teams come in it was quite obvious that each one of these kids had gone through this school and had been taught the fundamentals of passing. I have watched these younger teams practice for the last three days and I have not seen each of these teams focus on the fundamentals of legs, balance and body control.
The beauty of most of the drills I watched was in there simplicity. For example, out of a two man passing drill the 16 year olds did a shot blocking drill. This drill consisted of one player shooting the ball at the second player. The “shot” was controlled and aimed directly at the opposing players arm. The player that was shot blocking started the drill with his shot blocking arm/hand up and in front of his body. . He was in balance with one leg slightly behind the other but with his upper body squared up to the shooter. As the shooter shot the ball into his hand he knocked down the ball and controlled the shot. After about 15 rounds of this the shooter began to move the ball around a little more so that the shot blocker had to react and still try to control the shot as much as possible. The last phase of the drill had the shooter attacking and the shot blocker engaged in moving at the shooter (using a big breaststroke kick) and still trying to maintain his balance and control the shot. They were teaching the skill of shot blocking which is one of the areas that our USA team is trying to improve on. This is an essential skill and how much time do we as coaches devote to it? I would say that most of us have not broken it down this simple. Most of us have not spent enough time just working on the mechanics of the skill.
Shot blocking is incredibly important. In order to be good shot blockers we need to understand our responsibilities. Do I have strong side or cross cage? Normally teams will try to funnel the ball to the middle of the cage to help the goalie out. So if I am playing at the X2 position (guarding the 2 man on the perimeter) then my responsibility is to try to take away the near side or strong side shot. I want the shooter to shoot the ball cross cage. The center defender is responsible to help with a cross cage shot from this position and the goalie is left with the center of the cage. Even if I fully understand my shot blocking responsibility I still must have good balance and body position to make a successful field block.
We are privileged to be here training with the Serbian team. They are one of the best teams in the world. We will train with the Serbians for the next week. Already, I have seen enough to know that we are on the right track in getting back to stressing the fundamentals of this game to our players. This needs to begin as early as possible. The more we all join in this mission the better off our sport will be in the future.
Water Polo Jumping Skills
A few months back, I wrote about sculling and how everyone in water polo needs to be able to do this skill effectively. Sculling is the base from which we will do our first three jumping skills. Let’s review sculling very quickly. The correct body position for this skill is to be laying (stomach down) slightly on your side in the water. Your body will be turned approximately 35 – 45 degrees in the water. You are in a feet first position (meaning that your feet are out in front of you and you are going to be traveling in the water with your feet first). One leg is lower in the water and one leg is up close to the surface of the water. The legs are moving in a bicycling motion and the athlete is trying to “grab” the water with the feet and legs in order to help pull the water moving the body backwards in the water (feet first). The arms/hands are also working to help propel the body backwards over the legs. The arms are moving in an “egg beater” type motion and trying to push water with each stroke of each arm/hand. As the arms do this “egg beater” type motion the hands are catching water and almost throwing water out in front of you to help propel you forward over your feet.
Once again, there are three different jumps that begin in this sculling position. They are a jump to a swimming position, a jump to a shot blocking position, and a jump to a lateral lunge towards 2 meters. In all of these jumps it is important to utilize what I call “coiling and springing”.
Here is how this works. As you sculling and preparing to jump your leg closest to the surface (the outstretched leg) will “grab” the water and this time instead of recovering and staying in the bicycling motion you will allow your body to be pulled over your legs. As your body comes over the legs you will pull your legs in towards your hips. This is the coiled position. You are now like a loaded spring ready to explode into your next move. Obviously, you do not want to stay with your hips down or underneath you – in fact, you are rotating over your legs with the legs slightly to one side or the other. As soon as your have rotated over your legs then you will spring forward or out of this position with a big breaststroke kick. As I mentioned earlier you can spring into a swimming motion (like you are playing driver defense) or you can spring into a shot blocking position or a jump towards the ball. To maximize the distance that you can jump you will need to utilize this coil and spring concept.
These jumps can all be practiced on your own in the water. Go through the motion very slowly and try use good technique before utilizing the skill. Remember that you want to develop good habits. Have your coach watch you from the deck and make sure that you are doing the skill correctly. Once you have the skill down, then you can begin to challenge yourself to see how much distance you can cover on your jumps. This is called your range. The best water polo players can cover the most distance on these jumps. These jumps are all critical to playing good defense.
Another very important type of jump occurs on the 5 man defense. These jumps are from the X1 and X3 position and now you are jumping into a shot blocking angle. You will still utilize this concept of coiling and springing. However, now you have to think about defending the post position as well. So you are no longer in the sculling position. On these jumps it is helpful to practice with another player to make the skill as game like as possible. You will set your self up like you are guarding the post on the 5 man defense (you can be at either X1 or X3). You are controlling the post and perhaps even thinking about shot blocking the near side shot from the perimeter. Think about where your legs are as you are doing this. Remember a fundamental skill that we talked about months ago – your body will follow your legs. So as you are preparing to jump out and take your shot blocking angle you must get one leg out towards where you want to jump (remember the split eggbeater – this will allow you to continue to guard the post man or to shot block while you are preparing to jump. When you are going to jump you will gather water with the outstretched leg to pull your body towards that leg. Then you will coil your legs underneath you and immediately spring into your jump with a big breaststroke kick. Immediately you will begin to eggbeater and get into a shot blocking position to cover your proper angle on the 5 man defense. It is extremely important as you get yourself into a shot blocking position that you are balanced in the water. Your best chance of shot blocking occurs when you are balanced in the water.
Finally, one other type of jump occurs at times when you need to be prepared to jump either in or out. Perhaps you are coming down the pool on counter attack defense and your team is down a man. You are find yourself stuck in the middle between two players that you must try to cover. You need to be prepared to jump towards either player. In this situation you can’t really be in a ready position with one leg out (ready to jump out over one leg – because you would be limited to jump only one way). Instead, you must prepare your body in a hunched position. Your eggbeater is working very strong and your body is tight and you are coiled and ready to spring (think of a cat ready to spring at a mouse). In this position you are ready to jump either way. So when the pass is made to either player you can explode out of this hunched position towards the player with the ball. This takes some practice. Once again, have your coach watch you from the deck to help you with the mechanics of this move.
When you feel comfortable with all these jumps you will notice your defensive game improving greatly. Once you have these skills down you can now practice them with some resistance to improve your range. You can practice the first three jumps with a resistance band. Or you can practice any of the jumps with a weight belt. I would highly recommend beginning with a light belt and making sure that you are able to do the skill correctly before moving to a heavier belt. The last thing that you want to do is to practice the skill incorrectly.
Practice these jumps and have fun with them. As you get better at them you will see you game taking off to new levels. Next month, I will discuss a critical skill which I call the in and out skill. This skill will win championships and gold medals for your team.
As always, if you have any comments or questions feel free to email me at [email protected]. Our USA team continues to work very hard and we are spending a great deal of time in every workout improving our fundamental skills. I would highly encourage each and every one of you – coach and player to do the same.
Fundamentals – Legs, Legs and More Legs
In the past, I have written about the importance of strong legs in the game of water polo. I have even said that the players with the best legs are the best players – whether you are talking about high school, college, club or international. I still believe that this is very true. With less than three months to go prior to the Olympic Games in London, we are doing everything we can to get our team ready. Leg drills are a critical part of our training. Here are three different drills that you can do on your own to build your legs for the next level. I would recommend that each one of you buy a heavy ball (2-3 kg) and a resistance band (medium resistance). The ball and the band can be adjusted for the level and age of the player. Of course, if these are readily available at your school or club you may not have to buy either but in my opinion, you don’t want to be limited to pool times and equipment restrictions. If you have your own it is easier to get into a pool on your own and do some extra leg work. Trust me, this will make a big difference in your game.
Here is the equipment you will need to perform these three drills – A heavy ball (2-3 kg), a resistance band (medium strength) and any pool wall in deep water
I am going to begin with the heavy ball exercises. Before, you begin with the heavy ball, I would make sure that you spend 10 – 15 minutes to properly warm up your legs. Swim a few hundred yards, then do 4 x 50 flutter kick over and breaststroke kick back. Then do 4 x 50 horizontal eggbeater and finish your warm up with 5 minutes of vertical eggbeater with a few jumps over your hips. Now you are ready for the heavy ball. With the heavy ball held over your head do 6 x 100 (broken at each 25 with 10 second rest). Walk forward the first lap, then facing sideways the second lap and sideways the third lap (face the same direction for lap 2 and 3) and finish with forward walking the fourth lap. Try to really make sure that you are on balance as you walk forward and sideways. If you want to make this a little tougher then go hands straight up with the ball over your head on the second half of each lap. Take an extra 30 second rest after each 100.
After the 100’s, do a 50 easy and stretch out your legs to prepare for the next drill with the heavy ball. Here is a great drill with the heavy ball to help your athletes learn to find and keep their balance in the water.
Hold a heavy ball ( 2-3 kg) over your head for 10 -15 seconds and then with a hard breaststroke kick drive yourself forward one meter. As you dive forward hold onto the ball and push the ball out in front of you also. You should now be face down in the water with the ball out in front of you. Immediately recover your balance with a strong core and an eggbeater kick to regain your position and return to the starting position. You are purposely forcing yourself out of balance and working to find your balance as quickly as possible. Repeat this drill pushing the ball out in front at the 2 o’clock, 4 o’clock, behind you at 6 o’clock, behind and to the side at 8 o’clock and then in front and to the side at 10 o’clock, and finish with back straight in front of you at 12 o’clock. Make sure that you begin with 10 – 15 seconds overhead each time and that you begin with a big breaststroke kick and then regain your balance with your core and eggbeater kick. This is great drill for finding your balance in the water and learning to go from an off balance position to a balanced position by using your legs properly. Once again, after completing this drill do 50 – 100 easy horizontal eggbeater to loosen out your legs.
The second exercise or drill involves a resistance band (medium strength). The resistance should keep you at half tank – so if needed you can double up the band to provide the necessary resistance. Before beginning the band work I would recommend the warm up series for your legs. Once you are ready for the bands belt up. Begin with forward resistance at moderate resistance for 5 minutes. You should be at an approximately 45 degree angle with your body – arms in front -legs driving from behind. I like to do this with your hands out of the water so it is just pure leg work. After 5 minutes go easy for one minute to stretch the legs then turn around and repeat for 5 minutes going backwards. Once again, loosen down for a good minute.
Now you are ready for some real work. Exercise #1 Forward eggbeater with the band to moderate resistance hold for 10 seconds then perform a butterfly jump (both arms out of the water with a big butterfly stroke) move out and forward with the stroke and then hold your ground for 10 seconds. Perform a second jump and try to move out even further with more resistance. Hold another ten seconds and perform a third jump – trying to move yourself out even further with more resistance. Finish with 10 seconds holding your ground. Rest 30 seconds and then repeat for a total of 8 x 3 jumps holding after each jump.
Rest for 2 minutes then turn the band around and move out with backwards resistance.
Exercise #2 Backwards eggbeater with moderate resistance – hold for 10 seconds then perform two backstrokes with elbows bent trying to grab water and move to a point of increased resistance. Hold your ground for 10 seconds and perform two more backstrokes to grab water and move to a place of more resistance. Perform one more series of two backstrokes to move out even further. Hold for ten seconds and then rest for 30 seconds before repeating. Repeat 8 x 3 double backstrokes.
Rest two minutes and prepare for exercise # 3. Reverse the band again and move out to forward resistance at moderate strength. Hold ten seconds then jump out and forward with first your left and then your right arm. Hold your ground for ten seconds and then jump again out and forward (left and right). Hold and repeat one more time. Rest 30 seconds and then repeat for 8 x 3 double jumps out and forward. Rest for two minutes.
If you have done these exercises properly you should be pretty spent. This is meant to be very difficult. This is a great drill for your legs.
If you still feel that you have a little left in the tank, then I will give you one more very good drill with the bands. Move out with resistance sculling on your side (legs facing out away from the band attachment)- when you reach moderate resistance rotate over your hips and jump out into a shot blocking position. Hold for a few seconds and then return to your side and the beginning sculling position – hold for ten seconds and then rotate over your hips and jump out again into a shot blocking position. Repeat for three jumps. After completing the three jumps rest for 30 seconds and then repeat 8 x 3 jumps. Then rest for 2 minutes. This is a great exercise to improve your range (the distance you can jump out over your hips into a shot block). It is super important for playing defense in a zone or 5 man. Make sure when you do this exercise that you make yourself jump out over your right and then your left hip.
Finally, if you have no heavy ball or resistance band you can always work your legs by using a pool wall in deep water. After warming up your legs begin this drill by pushing against the wall with a strong eggbeater kick (both hands on the wall). Push hard for 10 seconds then push off against the wall and rotate over your hips and jump out into a shot blocking position. Hold for three seconds then jump back over your hips to resistance against the wall. Hold ten seconds and then repeat with a rotation over your hips and a shot blocking jump. Repeat for a total of three jumps. Rest for 30 seconds and then repeat this exercise for 8 x 3 jumps. Once again make sure that you are performing these jumps alternating over your right and then left hip.
After the shot blocking jumps you can do the same drill using the wall for resistance and then jumping out over your hips to a lateral jump (as if you were going to jump back towards the center in zone to steal the ball). Repeat for 3 jumps then rest and repeat 8 x 3. Once again, jump over both hips.
All three of these drills are great for building leg strength and explosiveness. I would only do one of these drills on any particular day. Each drill is very difficult on its own and if performed correctly will work your legs enough for one session. For anyone that is serious about this sport I would suggest finding time in the off season or on an off day to do some extra leg work. Or just stay after practice on occasion and get an extra 20 minutes of leg work in. The rewards go to those that put their investment of time and energy to improve.