Jim Solum
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Volume 7 Number 7 May 1, 2015

The road to success is not doing one thing 100 percent better, but doing 100 things 0ne percent better.




                        NO KICKOUT CALLS

  •              Driving Away From the Goal
  •              Hand On the Ball
  •              Slow Arm Strokes, No White Water
  •              Slows and Floats
  •              Using the Referee to the Player’s Advantage 

The driver must learn to manipulate the referee so he or she can get the kick out (exclusion foul) called on the guard.  A driver who cannot generate kick outs is of little value to the team.  Drivers generate 50-percent of all of the kick outs and 6-on-5’s.  The fate of the driver is in (the competent or incompetent) hands of the referee.  The skilled driver uses the referee to his or her advantage.

When the driver has inside water he or she must decide to shoot the ball or to go for the kick out (exclusion). If the driver is open, the driver should shoot the ball.  When the driver is tightly covered, the driver must go for the kick out. Once the driver is committed to faking the kick out, it is up to the referee to make the decision to call or not call the kick out.    The referee is your partner – use him.

The referee looks for inside water, hand off the ball, rapid arm strokes, white water, and sinking.  When the driver does not give the referee these kick out elements, no kick out results.  Below is list of the do’s and don’ts.  The word kick out, ejection and exclusion have the same meaning.

                                   KICK OUT CALLED:              NO CALL:

                                   Inside water                                 Drives away from goal   

                                   Hand off the ball                          Hand on the ball            

                                   Rapid strokes, white water         Slow arm strokes/no arm strokes         

                                   Stops and sinks                            Slows down and floats 

The driver that stops moving, stops churning the arms and creates no white water and looks like a floating statue.  This driver will not get the kick out called no matter how badly he or she is being held by the guard.  It is not enough for the driver to be held by the guard to get the referee to call a kick out.  The driver must look like he or she is being held to the referee.  Convincing a skeptical referee may require some superb acting on the part of the driver.

The driver must show the referee he or she is being held by continuing to drive.  There is a giant difference between being held by the guard and showing the referee the driver is being held by the guard.  Move to get the whistle and fight to get the call from the referee.  Never give up.



 The driver cannot get a kick out by driving away from the goal.  The driver must drive toward the goal to have an offensive advantage.  The driver, swimming scared and towards the gutter, is not rewarded by the referee.  The driver also cannot score swimming diagonally away from the goal post.  The driver must have the courage to go to goal and score.  Fight the fear.  Go to the goal.  The referee rewards courage.

A favorite shot of the inexperienced driver is the drive to nowhere.  The driver pulls out of the drive towards the goal, makes a left turn, rolls on the back, takes an unbalanced shot from a bad angle with the guard’s hand in the driver’s face and the goalie tightly covering the left corner of the goal.  This is a fear shot.  It is a bad shot with no chance of scoring or getting a kick out.


The referee looks to see if the driver has his or her hand on the ball.  Four bad things happen when the driver holds on to the ball.

            Referee will not call a kick out

            Ball-under offensive foul

            Goalie steals the ball

            Hard to shoot   

The main reason the inexperienced driver holds on to the ball (besides fear) is he or she does not know the left foot must be forward to support picking up the ball from underneath.  When the driver wants a kick out, the player must let go of the ball. If the referee sees the driver’s hand on the ball no foul will be called.  The ball is not a life raft!  The ball is a tool.  Letting go of the tool to get a kick out is the logical decision for the driver.

It is important to note that the driver must drag his or her the hand over the top of the ball to place backspin on the ball so the ball rolls back to the driver.  A ball without backspin drifts away from the driver and into the hands of the goalie.  A ball let go by the driver without backspin is pushed away from the driver by wave action.  Never lose possession of the ball!  No kick out foul is called when the goalie is holding onto the driver’s ball.

A drill to practice letting go of the ball is to have the driver spin 180-degree on the 4-meter line with the guard on the driver’s back.  The driver lets go of the ball with backspin and the ball rolls back to the driver. Never throw the ball on a spin move.  Have the hand on the ball at all times. 


It is natural for the driver to stop moving the arms when he or she is grabbed.  Do not do it!  The driver must be trained to continue moving the arms even harder when the swimsuit is held.  The referee can see that the driver is not making forward progress when the arms are churning and calls a kick out.  If the driver’s arms stop churning, there will be no help from the referee. The referee believes the driver stopped due his or her own will. Stopping the arms by the driver is to be avoided at all costs.  In addition, taking long slow arm strokes is treated by the referee the same as not taking any arm strokes.


When the guard’s hand is grabbing the swimsuit, no shot is possible.  It is all over. It is time for the driver to switch gears and instantly stop, sink and get the kick out.  It is useless for the driver to believe that he or she can carry 120-170 pound guard to the goal and score.  A driver gains nothing by slowing down and floating face down in the water.  The held driver has only one choice: get a kick out on the guard.  Move underwater and win; float and die.  Be mobile or be mediocre are the two choices. Fight the holding guard by using intelligence and set up the guard for the kick out. Move and get the kick out.  Do not become a floating statue in the water.

 Going for the kick out when it is impossible to score may seem like a simple concept. It is not.  This is a difficult emotional decision for the driver. The driver has to admit that shooting the ball is not possible. It is a sign of emotional maturity to select the correct course of action.  The driver goes for the kick out even when the shooter’s ego is telling the driver to shoot.


 Use the referee’s hand to make up for the guard’s hand in the swimsuit. 

 The experienced driver beats the guard by using the referee.  To get a kick out requires three people: the driver, the guard and the referee.  The driver must never forget that he or she is putting on a performance for the referee.  A poor acting performance by the stationary driver results in no kick out being called.  The driver must learn to own the referee and get the referee to call the driver’s game.  Reading the referee and giving the referee what he or she wants is necessary for the driver to excel.

Some referees call a kick out anywhere in the pool.  Other referees call a kick out when the driver is in the frontcourt offense.  Still other times, the referee only calls kick outs on the 2-meter guard who fouls the center. Occasionally, a referee calls a kick out for light guard contact with the driver. The next minute the guard climbs over the back of the driver and no call is whistled.  Referees are an inconsistent bunch. Get used to it.

The mature driver accepts that most but not all exclusion situations result in an exclusion call.  That is life.  The good driver does not get every call.  The driver, no matter what is called by the referee, continues to drive with the ball.  The driver goes for the goal.  The driver goes for the score.  If it is not possible for the driver to score, get a kick out.  Make the referee work for you and have him call a kick out on the guard.  Sometimes, after the driver fakes the pull back, no kick out is called.  The driver resumes driving and shoots the ball.  Keep moving.  Never give up.  Keep driving to the goal.

 Two Kick Outs are as Good as a Natural Goal

 The extra man scores 50-percent of the time.  The driver must remember that two kick outs equals a goal (a 6-on-5 goal).  Whether the driver scores the goal or the team scores the goal during a 6-on-5 is immaterial.  A goal is still a goal for the team.  In some games, no outside shots go in, the 2-meter player is scoreless and the drivers have all of their shots blocked.  In this type of refereed game whatever team has the best 6-on-5 (created by driver kick outs) wins the game.  Drivers win negative games by creating 6-on-5’s.  It is important for the game of water polo for drivers to drive and be involved instead of watching the 2-meter player take all of the shots.

The drivers can get ten kick outs during the game.  The team with the most 6-on-5’s usually wins. Usually, ten kick outs results in five 6-on-5 goals.  It is important for the water polo team for the driver to be both a shooter and a kick out artist.  The driver who gets kick outs can score for the team without ever shooting the ball.

 When to Shoot and When to Fake the Kick Out

Referees are very unpredictable characters.  Yet they have god-like power over the life of the driver.  The driver must decide whether to shoot the ball on the drive or to go for the kick out.  This is a critical subject for the driver.  If the driver believes the referee is not going to call a kick out (no matter how hard the driver is fouled on the drive) the driver must shoot the ball. The driver notices that the referee calls a lot of kick outs during the game.  The driver, if he encounters a difficult shooting situation (tight guard on the driver’s back or the goalie coming out), immediately sinks underwater for the exclusion foul.  The driver must read the referee’s intentions and style.

The driver must know what type of referee he or she is facing: a no-kick out “natural” referee or a “negative” 6-on-5 creating referee.  A natural referee never calls a kick out and it is a waste of time to fake the foul and not shoot the ball.  These types of referees want “natural goals” and not 6-on-5’s.  The driver facing this type of referee has to shoot the ball.

The reasoning behind the “natural goal referee” is he does not want to take away the advantage and a probable goal (that’s right!) from the struggling and slowly sinking driver.  When the driver is not aware that this type of referee never calls kick outs or penalty shots, all attempts to get a kick out are futile and wasted energy.  Shoot or die shooting is the rule.

Negative referees call many kick outs during the game.  The driver does not have to carry the guard to the goal and shoot the ball under tight pressure.  The game is dominated by extra man situations. Six-on-five goals are considered “negative goals” because one team is down a man for a short time and no natural shots: drives, outside shots or 2-meter shots are taken.  The driver sees how the game is being called and decides whether it is better to shoot or go for the exclusion.  Adjust and thrive or die.

Counterattack Exclusion Fouls

The quickness of the referee to call the exclusion foul varies according to the length of the counterattack and the referee’s mood. During the counterattack, the referee uses quick, medium and late whistles. A quick whistle for a kick out comes early in the first seconds of the counterattack between 2-meters and 6-meters away from the 2-meter player’s goal. Usually the foul is called on the former 2-meter player who is holding the counterattacking player.  A medium whistled kick out is called at mid-tank and is the result of the driver ducking under the guard. A late whistle by the referee occurs towards the end of the counterattack from half tank to the frontcourt 6-meter line and is caused by a pull back by the guard.

A few drivers will give up and slow down or pull out of the counterattack if they do not receive a kick out by half tank.  This is a serious mistake.  The referee calls an exclusion anytime and anywhere in the pool.  Do not wait for the whistle; command and force the whistle.  Some referees unfortunately are “asleep at the whistle” until far into the counterattack.  A few referees even hold their whistle until the counterattacking driver is inside the 5-meter line so a penalty shot can be called.  No matter what the referee is not calling, the driver keeps driving to the goal.

Many age group and high school drivers “carry the guard” from the 7-meter line to near the 5-meter line and turn away from the goal at the last second instead of driving the last meter for a penalty shot.  The inexperienced driver swims away from the penalty shot area because the driver did not realize the referee was waiting until the driver reached the 5-meter line to call a 5-meter penalty shot.  Never stop driving to the goal because the early foul is not called.  It may be a late whistle for a penalty shot.

Post Up Driver at 2-Meters

Many coaches have a driver post up at 2-meters to stymie a sloughing defense.  Since the 2-meter players are quite recognizable to the defense, they immediately trigger the dropback zone defense.  A smaller player, a driver, can drive to the 2-meter line and set up without creating sloughers.  The driver can turn the driving guard for a kick out or shoot the ball on the new and inexperienced 2-meter guard.

The only problem with a driver playing at 2-meters is the player’s emotional stability.  The driver is not used to the heavy fouls that the 2-meter offensive player receives during the game.  Many temperamental drivers get quite angry with the hard fouling of the 2-meter guard and the referee that is idly standing by.  Hard fouls is the name of the game at 2-meters.  The driver has to be able to absorb the foul and take the punishment.

A few drivers are so hotheaded and emotional that they sometimes get excluded for brutality on the 2-meter guard!  Sometimes, the driver displays vocal disrespect to the referee, which results in a misconduct foul and an exclusion.  If the driver cannot be cool, calm and collected at 2-meters, he or she should not set up as a post up driver.  Some drivers are psychologically unsuited for a temporary post-up center position.

Inconsistent Referees

 A referee may love you and then leave you.  Some referees will favor a driver for half of the game. Then suddenly, the referee does not call any more kick outs for the driver for the rest of the game.  In this situation, the driver must be ready to shoot the ball. The driver may have a “ticky tack” referee at one end of the pool that calls a kick out for the slightest contact with the guard.  The “physical” referee at the other end never calls a kick out.  Referees are an inconsistent bunch.  Accept it and move on.  The driver is not going to change the referee.  Bad calls and no calls are part of the game.  Adjust to the way the referee calls the game and win.

Another example of referee inconsistency is penalty shots.  Each penalty shot situation is a different situation for the referee. In the first half of the game, no penalty shots are called. A driver goes for the shot with a guard tightly covering and is forced to take a difficult shot. Then, in the second half of the game, penalty shots are called when the guard barely touches the back of the driver.  The referee was just being his or her usual inconsistent self.

The player should expect the worse in refereeing.  The driver should be happy when the game is called at an average level.  The driver, in any case, has to adjust to the way the referee calls the game.  The referee never will adjust to the how the driver plays the game.  Adjust or lose.

Offensive Fouls on Picks

 The pick is a 2-man offense where one of the drivers “picks” the guard and frees another driver to drive to the goal.  Picks work when the driver does not grab guard in an obvious manner.  A picking driver who swims toward the guard and grabs both of the guard’s shoulders above the water is called for an offensive foul.  The same offensive call comes when the driver grabs both of the guard’s elbows and holds them above the water.

When the guard uses the body to set the pick no foul is called.  The driver can position the body in front of the guard for a screen or turn the back into the guard’s back and bump the guard’s butt with a bump.  In rare situations, the driver grabs the guard’s hips to prevent the guard from moving and the referee cannot see the underwater hold.  When picks are done well, many open men are created.  Poorly performed picks result in numerous offensive fouls.  There are no bad picks, only bad players.

Keep Cool In Spite of Bad Calls

Getting emotional with the referee and showing displeasure (! #$?#%) does the driver little good.  A referee has a long memory and never calls in the driver’s favor again.  The immature referee looks for any instance where they can call a kick out against the driver!  Never anger the referee.  Take the bad call with a calm face and move on.  The angry player has to keep his father (the referee) happy.  Referees will call misconduct exclusions against an out-spoken player.

The combination of an immature and emotional referee with an immature and emotional driver is a recipe for disaster.  Do not hurt your team!  The driver must remember that referees win the game and not the players.  Keep the referee happy and good fortunate follows.  Argue with the official and misfortune follows. It does not matter what the driver does.  The sad truth is: It only matters what the referee calls.  Follow the referee rules during the game and win.  Do not follow how the referee calls the game and lose.  The referee is more important than the rule book.  Rule books do not blow whistles.

At half time, the player does not go up to the referee to show the referee scratches on the back or black and blue marks on the skin.  The referee does not care.  The referee is not a judge or a priest.  Do not expect justice or pity to be given. The driver is supposed to be a man (or a woman) and take it.  Talking to the referee by the athlete does not do any good.

The referee takes the player’s advice on the driver’s battle scars as a public humiliation in front of an audience of the referee’s officiating ability.  The referee will get even with the player by calling offensive fouls or not blowing the whistle for the kick out even when the driver is held underwater.  Never anger a referee.  No offense, no matter how skilled, can overcome an angry official.  The team wins with the official.  The team loses with the official.

The driver is cool, calm and cruel as he or she takes a detached surgical approach to the game.  Emotion has no place in the game.   Emotional players lose games.  Unemotional players win games.  The driver has to have the maturity to keep quiet (shut up is a more appropriate word) during the game and continue playing no matter what the call.

The driver does not moan or whine after a bad call.  A bad referee will not start calling a great game based on the driver’s “great advice.”  A bad referee instead begins making more bad calls against the verbal driver and the team.  Loose lips sink ships and lose water polo games.  This is a rule that driver must memorize and apply in every game.  A driver who is arguing with the referee is not playing the game.  Move the arms and not the lips is a good rule to follow.

In conclusion, no matter what happens during the game, no matter how bad the referees, the strategy for the driver is to continue driving and moving forward.  Never give up.  Drivers are born to drive.  Drive and thrive.  Keep moving forward and eventually a good call will come.  The referee pays off movement by the driver if the driver continues driving to the goal.

Copyright 2015 by Jim Solum

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