Jim Solum
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Volume 6 Number 5 April 1, 2013

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

How to Teach Shooting: Part I

No one wants to hear about theory.  Just give me the ball and let me shoot.  Bad throwing technique just happens—it is simply bad luck.  Bad technique, however, actually represents bad theory.  The shooter does not understand the theory behind throwing the ball.  It is a thought before it is a shot.  One cannot teach technique unless one also teaches theory.  Theory and practice go hand and hand. In this month’s article we will concentrate on one drill and discuss the theory, dry land demonstrations, wet demonstrations, homework drills and the actual shooting drill performed in the water to illustrate to the coach how the player should shoot the ball.

THEORY

At this moment in time, the major theory in American water polo is the “Big Four.” The shooter kicks up with the legs, has a vertical back, points the left shoulder and slaps the hand on the water.  In Europe, they teach the “Big 20.” There are 10 basic lower body fundamentals and 10 basic upper body fundamentals for throwing the ball.  That is quite difference 20 fundamentals for throwing versus 4 fundamentals (read the Shot Doctor’s 1st article).  The US player knows 80-percent less about shooting than the European.  When US coaching of throwing fundamentals is compared with European fundamentals, there is a vast gap in knowledge.

How did this lack of knowledge on throwing technique come about?  The American pitchers are the best in the world.  Yet the American men water polo shooters are 8th in the world.  With so many talented baseball pitching coaches in the US, some of them should have become water polo coaches.  They did not.  Swimming and water polo are unique sports and there is no crossover to terrestrial based sports.  The only way the American coach was going to learn the European throwing technique was to play in Europe or be coached by a European in the United States.  Only about a 25 Americans play in Europe.  And when they return, they do not coach.  In addition, clubs cannot afford the cost of a high level European coach to coach the age group and high school kids.  Furthermore, at the high school level, the European coach has to be a credentialed teacher and a college graduate, which eliminates almost all of them.  So…where do we get the knowledge?  Water Polo Planet, ODP, books and clinics and other coaches and players.  Knowing the “Big 4” is simply not enough in the modern world.

Before we can begin, the parent, player and coach have to be grounded in throwing theory.  Throwing theory has to be based on physics and reality.  The shot is math and mechanics—not magic.  For far too long coaches have had crazy ideas about shooting that have destroyed players throwing motion and shoulders.  No one ever questioned him (usually it is a male) on why he or she did these shots or drills.  The parent and player have to know that some of the ideas of the coach are 30 to 40 years old and are now obsolete.

For those of you that have patiently read through all of the author’s monthly “The Shot Doctor” articles for the past 5½ years, the following discussion on theory and drills is old stuff.  For the occasional reader that has “dabbled” in sporadically reading “The Shot Doctor” articles, the depth and biomechanics involved in the Drill Articles will come as a surprise.  The author suggests as a “make up read,” the reader read the five articles on “Smart Legs Parts 1-5” and the six articles on “Left Hand and Right Leg Parts 1-6.”  This will help the reader catch up on the latest shooting theory.  The author, will continue over many months with the Drill Articles.  He will explain some things that are not clear but will not backtrack and go over every point made in the last half decade.  All of the drills are based on sound theory that is practiced in Europe.  There are no weird drills.  The Drills fit into a structure the author calls the S4 system.  Strong legs, sustaining legs and smart legs and smart hands.  The player’s legs and hands are the foundation of these drills.

THE THEORY BEHIND ANY DRILL

  • Sport-specific
  • Functional
  • Duplicate the throwing motion
  • Duplicate the speed of the throwing motion
  • Develop Strong, Sustaining, Smart legs and Smart hands, S4 system

If a coach reads any sports book on throwing, he or she finds that drills must be sport-specific, functional, duplicate the throwing motion, duplicate the speed of the throwing motion and develop the legs to be strong, sustaining and smart and to have smart hands.  The drills have to be focused on the sport, exercise the correct muscles, replicate the form and speed of the movement and develop the legs and the hands.

The drills have to be sport-specific and oriented towards in the water throwing. The legs throw the ball.  What does that term mean?  Soccer drills do not work in the water.  Also some baseball drills do not work in water polo.  For example, we go to the weight room to develop strong legs.  We bend and we straighten out our legs.  However, the eggbeater kick is a semi-circular kick that uses rotation.  The football drills of push and pull do not duplicate the rotation motion of the legs.  To develop strong eggbeatering legs, the player has to be in the water doing eggbeater.

The drills have to be functional for throwing.  A simple question: What are the muscles that make the legs rotate during the eggbeater?  Few coaches know the answer.  Are the muscles of the eggbeater the Quadriceps and Hamstrings muscles?  Do we bend and straighten out the legs when we do the rotational eggbeater kick?  The answer is no.  The Hamstring Curl exercises and Quadriceps Extensions do not make the rotational eggbeater kick.  Then what muscles do make the eggbeater kick?  The hip muscles, the internal hip rotators—gluteus internus, gluteus medius and tensor fascia latae; the external rotators— gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, 3 obturator muscles, gemelli muscles and the piriformis.  The range of motion of hip rotation or eggbeater rotation is 80-degrees—not 360-degrees.  Also, there is no foot rotation.  The hip muscles rotate the leg that has a foot attached to it.  The drills that exercise these muscles on dry land involve rotation—medicine ball side to side tosses.  The in the water drill, the rotational drills are the eggbeater.  All of this information was found in Google search.

Therefore, since the legs are the shot and the eggbeater kick is the legs, the coach does not know the range of the eggbeater motion, what muscles create the eggbeater kick and what drills to do to strengthen the hips.  And, the coach has a mythological belief that the foot rotates by itself. A dry land demonstration of the lack of rotation of the foot around the ankle is to stand, place the thumb on the hip joint and try and move the foot without moving the hip.  Nothing happens.  The typical dry land drills for the eggbeater kick are not sport-specific, functional nor to they duplicate the eggbeater kick motion.

 To duplicate the function of throwing a ball on dry land.  The player throws a light medicine ball at a Mikasa rebounder net.  A throwing drill should involve throwing.  It is sport-specific, functional and actually uses the muscles involved in throwing the ball.  Another example, is throwing a heavy ball in water polo practice strengthens the muscles that throw the ball.  These two exercises develop the muscles of throwing but at a slower speed than the speed of the actual throw.

The drills have to duplicate the speed of the throwing motion of a water polo player.  Therefore, the player needs to throw the ball for at least 45-minutes in practice to duplicate the speed of the throw.  The coach should not get sidetracked on this subject.  For example, does a bench press with its slow motion duplicate the motion of the shot?  The answer is no.  The bench press exercises the Triceps muscles that straightens out the arm for throwing the ball.  However, the speed of the bench press lift is hundreds of times slower than the speed of the right arm moving forward to shoot the ball.  The world’s record for a man throwing the ball is 60 mph (96.5 km/h).  That means that the shooter’s hand was moving at 60 mph for the ball to move that fast. The player’s two arms lifting a barbell do not move at 60 mph or even at a 3 mph swim stroke!  The rule for training is: Train slow, be slow.  Train fast, be fast.

S4 TRAINING SYSTEM

  • Strong Legs
  • Sustaining Legs
  • Smart Legs
  • Smart Hands

Coaches and players have heard for over 50-years that the legs are the shot.  You need to have strong legs to play water polo.  What does this term really mean?  Does it mean I have big muscular legs like a weightlifter?  Or does it mean something entirely different.  “The legs are the shot” is almost a mythical term that no one knows what it really means?  The legs provide most of the power to throw the ball.  Leg power is transferred to the hips and from there the force is transferred upward through the chain of the body to the right arm to throw the ball.  But is having muscular legs enough?  No, it is not.  It is not even half of what the term really means.  The shooter’s legs provide power but also stability, vertical motion, lateral motion and speed.  The legs of the water polo player have to be strong and explosive, capable of rapidly lifting the shooter high out of the water.  The legs have to be strong enough to sustain the shooter’s vertical height out of the water for at least 3-seconds. Also the shooter’s right leg has to be “smart” enough to reposition itself many times through the entire range of motion of the whole body’s to balance out and sustained height out of the water.

The third part of “strong legs” is smart legs—the correct use of the right leg to balance out the shooter.  The player’s right leg has to be educated to move through many different leg positions to stabilize the player catching and shooting the ball.  Ever heard of right leg education?  Nope.  We have been erroneously taught for 50-years that both legs balance out the shooter.  That is not true.  The Hungarians believe that 70-percent of the power for the shot comes from the right leg.  Furthermore, the author believes that 100-percent of balance comes from the right leg repositioning itself to stabilize the player. The player’s left leg only points and pivots and has limited leg movement.  In European theory, as seen in the table below, the duties of the left leg are vastly different than the duties of the right leg.  The right leg is the most important leg in shooting.

Left Leg Right Leg
Fixed Mobile
Points  Balances out
Pivots Shoots the ball

The forth part of the S4 training system is smart hands.  That means not only a smart right hand but a smart left hand.  The theory states that the left hand and arm are more important than the right hand and hand and arm.  It is said that the left arm is the third leg of the shooter.  The right arm and hand only throws the ball.  The left hand and arm have over 20 uses such as elevating the shooter, stabilization, sustaining height out of the water, snapping the torso forward, rotating the body, balancing out the body, faking and many more.  There is no shot if the left hand and arm are not used.

Right Arm Right hand   Left Hand
Moves forward Catches the ball  Elevates
Puts spin on the ball Rotates the body
Snaps the torso forward
Balances out, 16 other things

The player’s right arm only holds the ball up in the air and moves it forward.  The right hand has a more complex job and releases the ball.  The release of the ball is rather simple for the low tech shooter, it is complex for the highly trained shooter.  The trained right hand has to able to put four different kinds of spin on the ball: backspin, topspin, diagonal spin and sidespin.  For the shooter’s right hand to be able to place these different spins on the ball the hand has to smart, sensitive, flexible, dexterous and be able to do an index finger release, a 2-finger release (index finger/middle finger), the standard 3-finger release (middle three fingers make final contact with the ball), a middle finger only release for a lob and a ring finger release for 4-spot/EU 2-spot entry pass into 2-meters.

THEORY BEHIND THE DRIVE-IN DRILL

The first drill really seems illogical: driving drills make great legs for the outside shooter.  For almost all coaches, driving drills are used to warm up the shooters after conditioning.  Kind of a swim and shoot drill.  However, the coach has to look and see what a specific type of driving drill works the shooter’s legs.  Obviously, driving towards the goal with horizontal legs and flutter kicking feet does not teach the outside shooter anything useful.  The driver driving in different directions, moving the legs from the horizontal prone to the horizontal supine (on the back) to the vertical and then repointing the left foot so it fakes the ball at the right corner of the goal and shoots the ball at the left corner of the goal does.  The coach can see that a proper outside shot oriented drive-in drill is quite beneficial for the outside shooter.   The driver’s constant leg positioning changes transfer over to the outside shot.

When we look analytically at the outside shot, there is little movement by the left leg and some movement by the right leg.  When we compare the driver specific drill left and right leg gyrations where the legs are moving from horizontal freestyle to backstroke to the vertical there is tremendous leg movement.  None of this gigantic leg movement is possible when the shooter is vertical in the water.  When leg changing drive-in drills are done, it allows the shooter’s legs to explore all sorts of movement that is not possible in the vertical outside shooting position.

DRY LAND DEMONSTRATON

Athletes are a skeptical bunch.  They have developed a specific technique for throwing the ball and they are not going to change it.  It works, so why fix it!  The purpose of the dry land demonstrations is to enlighten our boys and girls into the fact that there is vast unknown world of throwing technique that they know absolutely nothing about.  The dry land demonstrations below will convince the player that these new concepts work.

Right Leg Swing Controls the Body   Stand squarely to wall swing the right leg back 90’, angled body appears
Right Leg makes the left foot and shoulder point   Drill above creates left foot/shoulder point
Right leg controls the length of the arm cock   Stand square, arm overhead, move the arm straight back
Right leg controls the vertical back   Sit in chair with right leg forward which lies the player on his back; stand
behind the chair, the right leg straight back and the torso tilts forward
Left-Right Left Foot Point   Player points the left foot right corner and then point the left foot to the left corner.

WET DEMONSTRATION

  • Right Leg Swing Controls the Body
  • Right leg controls the length of the arm cock
  • Right leg controls the vertical back
  • Point the left foot at the right corner of the goal and shoot, then at the left corner and shoot

Right Leg Swing Controls the Body

In the water, the player faces the goal squarely and swings the right leg back 90-degrees.  The left side of the body responds and the left foot point and the left shoulder point appear.  The left shoulder point is entirely dependent on the position of the right leg.  Move the right leg under the hips and the shoulders are square to the goal.

Right leg controls the length of the arm cock

The player faces the goal squarely and tries to make a long arm cock without rotating the hips.  The right arm moves back slightly.  Swing the right leg 90-degrees back and the long arm cock appears.  A square shooter cannot have a long arm and has a weak shot.  The coach can have the players shoot square to the goal and angled to the goal so they can see the difference that leg position has on the power of the player’s shot.

Right leg controls the vertical back

The player positions the vertical right leg under the hips then moves the right leg straight back with the knee slightly bent with a split eggbeater and the torso tilts forward.  The player moves the right leg forward of the hips and the player falls over on the back.  The back does not control the back.  The position of the player’s right leg controls the position of the back.  The player’s right leg is supreme and controls the body.

Point the left foot at the right corner of the goal and shoot, then at the left corner and shoot

The player has an angled body with the left foot forward and the right leg straight back and points the left foot at the right corner of the goal and shoot.  The player can add a pump fake.  Then the player moves the left foot to point at the left corner of the goal shoots the ball.

HOMEWORK

  • Right leg swing in front of mirror
  • Left to Right Left Foot Point
  • Right Leg Swing

Player stands squarely in front of a mirror and swings the right leg back.  The left shoulder point and left foot point appears.  The player’s right leg controls the left side of the body.

Left-to-Right Left Foot Point

The player stands in front of the mirror with the left foot forward and right leg way back and moves the left foot to point at the right side of the mirror while he or she pump fakes with the right arm.  The player moves the left foot to point at the left side of the mirror.  This drill illustrates that wherever the left foot points the right hand follows.  The right hand does not aim the ball.

Homework is important for our student-athlete.  There is only so much time the coach can devote to fundamentals training.  And there is only so much time the coach can devote to teaching an individual.  The individual has to take responsibility for his or her learning outside the pool.   There are a number of homework drills that can be done to complement each drill.  The first is to practice in the bedroom doing the drive-in drill.  Next the player stands in front of the mirror and practices faking to the right with the left foot pointing to the right and then changes the left leg to point the left foot at the left part of the mirror.  Practice this drill a 100 times in front of the mirror.  Learning is repetition and not brilliance.  Practice, practice and more practice teaches the player the throwing motion.

DRILL

Diagonal free, back, and vertical and point drill

01

The driver drives on his or her stomach with the ball either dribbling or walking with the ball (palming the ball and stroking with it) from the 2-spot (above the left post) from the 6-meter line at a diagonal to the right post.  Once the driver is on the 2-meter line and the right post he or she backstrokes back with the ball at a diagonal to the point at the 4-meter line (see Figure 1 and Figure 2).

02

The driver drops the legs to the vertical, points the left foot at the left corner of the goal and does one gigantic pump fake and may or may not throw the ball.  Then the player reverses direction and points the left foot at the right corner of the goal and shoots the ball at the right corner of the goal.  Wherever the left foot point the ball follows (see Figure 3 and Figure 4).

The player has moved from the horizontal prone doing freestyle to the horizontal supine doing backstroke, moves to the vertical and then moves the left foot twice.  In this drive to a vertical shot the player has radically changed the position of his or her legs many times.  This information on leg repositioning transfers over to the shooter taking the vertical shot.  The dry land and wet demonstrations and homework prepares the player to understand leg positioning when shooting.  This drill MUST be done at full speed to get the most out of this sequence of events.  To be fast you must train fast!  To get the player’s fast twitch muscles to fire, the player has to move quickly.  Throwing a ball in practice during a drill is not a marathon-like slow motion activity—it’s quick.

CONCLUSION

This single drive-in drill teaches the driver/outside shooter how to reposition his or her legs in a rapid transformation from the horizontal to the vertical to mobile vertical.  To be successful doing this drill the player has to know that the right leg controls the left side of the body so there can be a left foot point.  In addition, the player begins to understand that the left foot point aims the ball and not the right hand.  The rapid and radical change of position of both of the player’s legs, particularly the right leg educates the player’s legs that there can be a wide range of movement in the legs.  The leg movement is not simply the eggbeater kick and the scissor kick to a shot.  The legs have to be educated by dry land and in the water demonstrations, shooting and homework so the legs can learn to balance out the shooter so he or she does not drop the ball or flub the shot.  It is the player’s legs, and not the right arm, that is the master of the throwing motion.

How to Teach Shooting: Part 2

01

The left foot aims the ball and the right leg aims the left foot.

In the first article we covered how a drive-in drill could be used to teach leg positioning for the vertical shot.  In this month’s article we look at how the R.B. or rear back shot can be changed from an explosive leg catch-and-shoot shot from a right wing pass to one that utilizes strong legs, sustaining legs, smart legs and smart hands.  In Hungary men’s water polo, they recruit very tall men to play water polo.  Like in basketball, tall is in.  In USA women’s water polo, they seem to prefer women that are 5’10 (1.8-m) or above.  One of the problems with very tall people is balance.  The Hungarians solved this by developing awkward passing and catching drills.  The drills force the player’s right leg, left leg and left hand to balance out the shooter to prevent him or her from falling over and dropping the ball or worse, throwing the ball over the cage.

All shooters would like to have everything as static as possible.  He or she would like to use the same left leg/right leg positioning and shoot from the point with a pass from the right wing or right flat for all of eternity.  However, water polo is a dynamic and ever-changing game that forces the player to improvise.  This is never more so than when catching the ball and shooting the ball.  This month’s drill is a highly mobile R.B. drill that forces the shooter to have strong legs, which sustain his height for 2-seconds out of the water and move smartly.  The R.B. shooter radically moves the right leg to readjust to the catch and balance out then readjust, and moves the left foot point to shoot.  The coach commands are simple: R.B. up, turn left to catch the ball, shoot at the left corner.  We will find that though the command is simple; the mechanics of the Bad Angle R.B. Shot are not.

THEORY

The S4 theory is based on the whole body of the shooter being involved in the throwing motion.  The shooter’s right leg, left leg, hips, torso and left hand and right hand are involved in the process.  The myth that only the right arm throws the ball is dead.  Whole bodied shooting reflects the reality that the whole body of the shooter throws the ball.  A right arm-only shot throws the ball at 15 mph (25 km/h).  No one has ever seen a baseball or a softball pitcher just stand there with his or her legs together and only throw the baseball or softball with the right arm.  In no other sport does anyone believe in the right arm-only throwing motion.  Drills have to reflect reality.

02

In the Bad Angle R.B. Drill the shooter swims four strokes, stops, turns around 45-degrees to face the passer who is on the shooter’s extreme left and catches a pass thrown behind him.  Then the shooter turns to face the goal, points the left foot and shoots at the right or left corner of the goal.  This drill forces the shooter to catch a bad pass in an awkward body position and then reposition the legs, balance out, sustain the height out of the water and then shoot quickly and accurately without a fake.  In this drill, there are all of the components necessary for making a great shooter (see Fig. 1).

DEMONSTRATION

  • Square and Weak
  • Catch and Spin

Players are a real skeptic bunch.   Talking to them does very little.  They need to see things visually and then experience the movement to be able to learn.  Athletes are not people that learn by reading or listening—they learn by seeing and doing.  They can see that the right arm moved and the right hand released the ball.  Therefore, based on this flawed reasoning, only the right arm and hand are involved in throwing the ball!  The best dry land demonstration is to have the coach stand squarely facing the wall with the feet together and try and throw the ball with only the right arm.  It is a very slow throw.  Next, the coach puts his left foot forward, right leg back and pushes off with the right foot which rotates the hips and the arm moves forward and the ball is released.   It is a much harder throw when the whole body is involved in the process of throwing the ball.  Follow this demonstration with a pass coming from the extreme left and the coach moving to catch the ball and then face the wall.  Ask the players what legs moved and did the right arm move the body so it could catch the ball? The players sit stunned and not knowing what to say.  No one has ever asked him or her about what are the mechanics of catching the ball.

03

This lack of knowledge continues as the player does not even know what part of the body aims the ball.  Does the right hand aim the ball?  The right hand was pointing in the direction of where the ball went—so the right hand must aim the ball, right? Wrong!  The shooter’s left foot aims the ball.  The rule is: Wherever the left foot points, the ball follows.  The coach must patiently explain the mechanics of the shot to the players over and over again (see Fig.2).

DRY LAND DEMONSTRATION

  • Point the Left Foot
  • Locked Left Hip
  • Right Leg Controls Length of Arm Cock
  • Short Arm Cock and Square Posture

Point the Left Foot

The left foot aims the ball is the first drill.  Everyone on the team seems to believe that the right hand aims the ball.  The players are standing and asked to throw an imaginary shot at the extreme left.  Automatically, the players point the left foot to throw the ball to the left.  Then ask the players to throw an imaginary ball to the right and they all repoint the left foot to the right and throw.  The coach then has the players lock the left foot forward and try and throw to the extreme left.  The right arm cannot throw the ball across the body.  The extended left leg in the left foot forward position locks the left hip and prevents rotation so the right arm cannot throw across the body.  The left foot has to reposition the body so the right arm can throw to the extreme left.  This demonstration graphically shows to the players how little the right arm can do.

Locked Left Hip

The second dry land drill illustrates to the players that the left leg cannot be locked in the forward position if he or she wants to shoot at the left corner of the goal from the point.  The players face the wall with the left leg and foot forward.  Then theplayers are asked to throw the ball to the extreme left.  They cannot.  The left leg cannot be high in the water and fixed if the hips are to rotate the left leg to the left.  The demonstration teaches that the left hip rotate the left leg and the right hip the right leg and the rest of the body.  A high positioned and extended left leg locks the hip joint and prevents left foot from point to the left corner of the goal or wall.

Right Leg Controls Length of Arm Cock

The right arm is fairly inflexible at the shoulder joint in extension.  The player stands up and lifts the right arm straight up and from that position (without moving the hips or bending the back) extends the right arm as far back as possible.  This is about 4-inches (10-cm).  The question that the coach asks is how is a 24-inch arm cock made if the right arm only moves back 4-inches?  Silence.  The players have never thought about it.  Then the coach has the players move the right leg way back and rotate the right hip and suddenly a long arm cock appears.  Amazing!

Short Arm Cock and Square Posture

The next dry land drill has the players standing squarely with the right arm straight up in the air and realizing that a square body with the feet, hips and shoulders parallel the wall makes a short arm cock that has no power to throw the ball.  As the right leg moves back, the power of the shot increases. This is a revelation for the age group boy or high school girl.  The longer the arm cock, the greater the distance that force can be applied to the ball for a high velocity shot.  The right leg position controls left side of the body: left foot point, left shoulder point and the left hand position.

IN-THE-WATER DEMONSTRATION

  • Freeze the Right Hand
  • Square with Right Arm Up
  • Left Foot Point Aim
  • Left Hand Rotates Left Foot
  • Hips Rotate Both Feet
  • Straight on and Turn Left
  • Point Right/Left and Shoot

Freeze Right hand.

After the shot, the player freezes the right hand as soon as it hits the water.  The right hand is directly above the left foot after release of the ball.  The shooter has to freeze the hips to stop the forward motion of the right leg and the body automatically turns to the left to go into the follow-through stage.  The follow-through stage is the stage where the body stops.  The cocking stage is where the body and right arm are cocked; the acceleration stage is where the body throws the ball.  The shooter can clearly see that the right hand follows wherever the left foot points.

Square Body with Right Arm Up

Same drill as the dry land demonstration.  The shooter tries to throw the ball from a square to the goal body position.  Then have him or her swing the right leg way back and the long arm cock appears.  The left hand assist in rotating the right leg back.

Left Foot Point Aim

The player moves the left foot to shoot at the left corner. Then the player moves the left foot to point at the right corner of the goal. Finish with the player pointing the left foot at the right corner of the goal and trying to throw the ball at the left corner of the goal.  There is tremendous movement of the left leg to make the player aware of how the left foot has to be repositioned to shoot at the right corner or the left corner of the goal.

Left Arm Moves Left Foot Point

The player is center cage with the left foot forward and pointed at the middle of the cage.  The player’s right leg is way back.  Do not allow the player to be square to the goal.  The player’s right arm is up in the air with a ball in the hand.  The player cannot move in the water.  The player holds his or her left arm wide and sweeps to the right to turn the body so the left foot points at the left corner of the goal.  Then player resets and points the left foot at the middle of the goal.  Then the player uses the left arm to sweep to the left to point the left foot at the right corner of the goal.

Straight On and Turn Left

  • Point the left foot at right corner 
  • Point the left foot at left corner

04

The Straight On and Turn Left drill repositioning the left foot to point to the extreme left.  The player is above the right corner of the goal and catches a standard pass from the right wing.  Then the player repositions the left foot to point at the left corner of the goal and shoots (see Fig. 3).

Point Right/Left and Shoot

05

The Point Right/Left and Shoot drill teaches that the left foot controls the direction of the ball.  The player picks up the ball at the point with the left foot pointing at the center of the goal.  Then he or she moves the left foot to point at the right corner of the goal.  The player finishes by moving the left foot to point at the left corner of the goal and shoots the ball.  A pump fake can be added to increase the difficulty of the left foot movement.  A pump locks in the shooter’s position in the water and “glues” the left leg into bonding with the water.  It is much harder to move a set left leg than a mobile left leg.  This is a critical drill as the player realizes the left foot point aims the ball and not the right hand (see Fig. 4). 

06

To increase the degree of difficult switch corners and have the shooter start with the left foot pointing at the left corner of the goal and then repoint the left foot at the right corner of the goal using the left hand.  The second drill starts with the ball already in the shooter’s hand (see Fig. 5).

HOMEWORK

  • Mirror Drills

The player faces a mirror with the left foot forward and the right leg way back and moves the body 45-degrees to the left catch an imaginary ball.  Then the player rotates back to face the mirror and throws and imaginary ball or soft fabric ball at the mirror.  The second mirror drill is for the player to spin left, catch the ball, spin to the right, and then points the left foot at the right side of the mirror.  Repeat the drill but this time the player spins and points the left foot at the left side of the mirror.  The player has duplicated all of the movement involved in Bad Angle R.B. (except for the left hand movement).  In addition, the player is learning that wherever the left foot points the ball follows.

The second mirror drill is for the player to step-back at a 45-degree angle to the left to catch the imaginary pass.  The player notices that both feet face the imaginary passer.  To shoot at the right corner of the imaginary goal, the hips rotate both of the feet to point to the right. The body does not move, only the feet.  Repeat several times until the player realizes the hips move the feet.

The third drill is used when the player still does not understand that the hips move the feet. Use last month’s drill where the player stands in front of the mirror with his or her right hand on the hip joint (wiggle the leg to find hip joint moving) and tries to rotate the right foot without rotating the right hip.

DRILL: BAD ANGLE R.B. SHOT

  • Drive
  • Turn left, Catch
  • Spin right, Point left
  • Shoot at left corner

07

There are two Bad Angle R.B. Shot drills: a right corner shot and the advanced left corner shot.  The right corner shooting drill is very simple—catch a pass from the right, turn and shoot. The R.B. left corner shot is more difficult and involves tremendous movement of the right leg and left hand.  The coach begins teaching with the left corner R.B. drill.  Once the players master the drill, the left corner R.B. drill is taught.  The left corner R.B. drill requires the player to master the skills of the left hand and right leg motions (see Fig. 6). 

The player drives the point (center) from the 7-meter line, stops at the 4-meter line, turns 45-degrees to face the passer at the extreme left.  The passer is located outside the left post on the 6-meter line.  The ball is passed high and hard to the R.B. shooter.  If the player is young, a softer and more lob-like pass is thrown.  With younger players, the player is allowed to stop dead in the water and catch the ball while in a static (non-dynamic) position.  The high school or college player catches the ball while in the air, sustains the height and spins to face the goal.  The R.B. shooter remains high in the air during the entire shot.  The shooter uses the left hand to assist in rotating the body through these two extreme rotations.

The beginning shooter of the right corner R.B. turns 45-degrees to the left to catch the ball in the air.  He or she quickly shoots the ball at the right corner without faking or sinking.  Both of the Bad Angle R.B. Shots are based on momentum and are time-sensitive.  The R.B. shooter has about 1-second to catch and shoot before he or she sinks.

The correct technique for the left corner R.B. shooter is to drive to the 4-meter line at full speed, stop with a forward high left knee and the right leg extended straight back, turn to the extreme left 45-degrees by using the left hand to sweep water and by then swinging the right leg to the extreme right so the left foot points at points at the left corner of the goal.  Body rotation is a combined left hand/right leg action.  On the other hand (no pun intended), the right arm only holds the ball up and the right hand only keeps the ball from falling in the water (see Fig. 9).

08

At the youth/beginner level, the R.B. right corner shooter faces the passer, catches the ball and then turns and shoots. In high school or college, the ball is passed medium hard and direct to the shooter’s R.B. left corner shooter’s hand.  Catching the ball at a 45-degree angle aim the left foot at the right corner of the goal.  Then the right leg does not moves 90-degrees and 1-meter to the left.  It is a much more difficult and advanced shot is to shoot at the left corner of the goal, which requires right leg movement to reposition the left foot to point to the left corner(see Fig. 7).

09

The left corner shot requires the shooter to move the right leg almost 90-degrees or 1-meter so the left foot can point at the left corner.  The right leg controls the left foot point.  If the shooter wants to move the left foot 90-degrees to point at the left corner of the goal then first the right leg must move 90-degrees.  For the shooter that does not know any theory at all, the concept of catching a bad angle pass and shooting at the left corner of the goal is beyond his or her comprehension (see Figs. 8, 9). 

10

Left Hand Motions

  • Sweep Left–to face passer—45-degrees left
  • Sweep right—to turn towards left corner—45-degrees to the right
  • Pull past left hip–to finish pointing left foot at left corner
  • Pull down–shoot at left corner

The left hand during this radical 90-degree spin to the face the left corner of the goal has three hand positions.  It is held wide and sweeps the left hand to the left as the hips rotate to swing the right leg wide right 45-degrees to catch the pass. Then the shooter’s right leg moves 90-degrees right from the catch spot, the left foot points at the left corner of the goal. The shooters footwork and legwork are now set.  Then the shooter’s left hand repositions itself close to the surface and points at the left corner, pulls down to elevate the shooter and begin the shot (see Fig. 9).

Conclusion

The left hand, left foot and the right leg control the shooter’s body position during the Bad Angle R.B. Shot.  The R.B. shot uses a radical change in right leg and left leg positioning and left hand positioning to be able to rotate the shooter’s body to the extreme left to catch the ball and to the extreme right to shoot the ball at the left corner of the goal.  In addition, the player becomes aware of how the left hand facilitates body rotation.  The Bad Angle R.B. Shot forces the player to master the theory and how to coordinate the right leg, left foot point and the left hand technique.  When the Bad Angle R.B. Shot is mastered, the player becomes a great shooter. So the moral of the story is the left foot points at the goal and the right leg points the left foot.

EACHING SHOOTING PART 3 SPIN MOVES

The coach teaches the spin move, a weakside 180-degree spin around the guard for inside water to the left with varying degrees of success.  A lot of players do not know the basic mechanics of the spin move and are stopped by the guard or worse yet have an offensive foul called against them.  Interestedly, the 2-meter offensive player and 2-meter defensive player are the best at spin moves.  What happened to the drivers, one may ask?  Why does the driver have a difficult time learning how to spin around the perimeter guard?  The answer is very simple and lies in the fact that 2-meter players are involved in rotational movements and drivers are not.  The 2-meter guard spins around the 2-meter offensive player every time to front the center.  And the center takes 2-meter shots that are rotational shots: the backhand shot and the sweep shot.  The backhand rotates the body to the right for a backhand and to the left for a sweep shot.  Rotational movements by the center and the center guard are requirements to play either position.  For the driver, however, rotational movements are a new motion.  The driver is not used to making moves in the vertical nor rotating around the guard.  The driver is used to being horizontal in the water and flutter kicking and swimming straight ahead.

There are five 180-degree spin moves that the coach teaches to the players. There is the standard weakside spin move towards the right corner.  And there are four reverse direction or strongside spin moves that the player uses to spin towards the left corner of the goal.  The position of the guard determines which direction, right or left, the player spins.  When the guard is overplaying the right shoulder—spin to the left/the right corner of the goal; when the guard is overplaying the player’s left shoulder—spin to the right/the left corner of the goal.  The player never spins into the strength of the guard, i.e., guard overplays the player’s left shoulder so the player spins into the guard’s body on the left.  Misreading which side to spin to, results in the guard stealing the ball or getting a ball-under foul called on the player.  For this article we will concentrate on the weakside spin to the player’s left towards the right corner of the goal.  Next month in Part 4 the reverse strongside spins will be discussed.

THEORY

  • Rotation, Rotation & Rotation
  • 90-degree spin move
  • 180-degree spin move

The spin move seems like it is a “natural move” that anyone can do but in fact it is not a simple move.  The spin move is a skilled move that requires specialized training.  Few players can figure out a spin move without training.  The theory behind teaching rotation is different than teaching driving.  Driving is a horizontal swimming movement and a spin move is a vertical rotational movement.  It is not a “natural move” for the driver to drop his or her legs, grab the ball and grab the guard around the waist and rotate the body 180-degrees for inside water.  The average player knows only two vertical leg positions: eggbeater and the scissor kick.  This limited knowledge of the driver is not enough to be able to do a spin move correctly. The average player makes many mistakes: he short-spins the 180-degree spin move by grabbing the wrong hip or he leaps high out of the water, pushes off the guard’s shoulder and tries to lunge forward.  The weakside 180-degree spin move fails due to the driver not understanding the theory behind the move.  Below in Figure 1, the player grabs the wrong hip (the right hip) and only spins 90-degrees (see Fig. 1).

02

It is logical to assume (if you are a coach) that to leap high in the air is not going to allow the offensive player to spin around the guard. We copied the spin move from basketball.  In the spin move, the basketball player has both feet on the ground to spin around the defender.  The basketball player would never consider jumping up in the air to spin around the defender.  However, in water polo, our age group and high school players think that the way to spin around a guard is to jump straight up in the air!  The next obvious question for the reader is to ask why the water polo player jumps up in the air to spin around someone (see Fig. 2).

03

The player’s lack of leg education is the answer for our pole vaulter.  The young player only knows two vertical leg motions: eggbeater and the scissor kick.  If it is not the eggbeater kick then it must be the scissor kick (which elevates the player).  When this move fails, the player assumes that the left hand must be used to push down on the guard’s shoulder neck to so the player can lunge past the guard.  The average player is mystified when the move fails, and cannot figure out WHY he or she always has an offensive foul called on the spin move.

The concepts that the driver must learn are difficult: be vertical, rotate the body, use the left hand for leverage and swing the right arm to rotate the body and use the tactile senses of the back and left hand to locate the underwater hip leverage point.  The eyes cannot be used to guide the player—the player uses the back and the left hand in the spin move.  The player has to use the use the back to rub against the guard to sense where the guard is located—tight or loose.  Then the player’s left hand has to find where the guard’s waist and right hip are located so he or she can grab it as a leverage point to spin.  It is easier for the average player to locate the guard’s shoulder visually and push off.

04

The three major rules of the spin move are: The legs remain in the water and are wide a part so the player can rotate to the left—The left hand position on the guard’s body must be in the proper leverage point to spin.  And—The ball cannot be lifted straight up high in the air in order for the right arm and ball to rotate around the guard.  In simple word, one cannot go up in the air for the spin move to be effective.  All of the player’s movements must contribute to the player moving in a semi-circular direction around the guard (see Fig. 3).

DRY LAND

  • Leg Positioning
  • Left Hand Positioning
  • Right Arm Positioning<

05

The coach begins the demonstration by jumping up in the air with a guard behind. Naturally, all the players can see that the coach did not spin around the guard. Then the coach demonstrates the proper leg positioning to spin around a guard using a weakside spin to the right corner.  The coach shows how the player’s right leg steps-out and then he moves the right leg to the extreme left, towards the right corner, to spin the body.  The coach continues and demonstrates that the correct placement of the player’s left hand is not on the guard’s shoulder but on the waist and right hip.  Placement of the player’s hand on the guard’s nearside left hip only allows for a 90-degree turn (see Fig. 4). 

06

Placement of the player’s left hand on the guard’s opposite hip, the right hip, creates a leverage point where the player can rotate 180-degrees around the guard.  The coach finishes the third demonstration by showing that if the right arm and the ball go straight up in the air the player cannot rotate around the guard.  The correct position of the right arm is be locked and extended, pinching the ball in the fingers or palm the ball between the palm and the forearm and to rotate in a level position, across the water with the ball an inch (2.5-cm) above the imaginary water.  The right arm follows the right leg as the player’s body rotates to the left and the right corner of the goal with a lot of help from the left hand.  A special dry land drill for the boys is to push off of another player’s shoulder and jump straight up in the air.  The rest of the players can see that this is “dumb move” and does nothing. Dry land practice allows the players to watch and easily duplicate the spin move.  However, it is a different matter, when the players jump into the pool (see Fig. 5).

IN-THE-WATER DEMONSTRATION

  • Leg Positioning
  • Left Hand Positioning
  • Right Arm Positioning
  • Tactile Training

07

The coach moves the earth-bound players into the water to demonstrate how the spin move works in the real world—the aquatic world.  Of course all of the players have nodded their heads that they completely understand the dry land demonstration of the weakside spin move.  Naturally, the players have forgotten what they have learned once their bodies hit the water.  The coach must remember that the weakside spin move is a complex series of movements because the players will not.  Players learn by doing and not by listening.  The dry land talk is necessary for the players to understand the concept mentally of the spin move.  Once the players get in the water and have to do it physically, it gets complicated.

The coach has a player and a guard in the water without a ball.  The player first places the left hand on the opposite hip or the farside right hip of the guard.  For many players lowering the left hand away from the guard’s shoulder and finding the guard’s waist and right hip is difficult.  The players have never had to feel their hand behind their back to find the guard’s waist and farside hip. Once the left hand is positioned on the farside leverage point then the player can step straight out with the right leg in what is called a step-out.  At which point, the player has the right elbow locked, the right arm close to the surface of the water and swings the right arm to the left towards the right corner of the goal.  The momentum of the right arm movement rotates the player’s body around the guard 180-degrees so he or she has inside water and is facing the goal (see Fig. 6).

There are three parts to the in-the-water demonstration: legs, left hand and right arm positioning.  Failure in any of the three parts dooms the spin move.  Failure of the spin move by incorrect spin mechanics results in the player having the ball stolen, a ball-under foul, only spinning 90-degrees or the referee calling a contra foul for player leaping high in the air (making it look like a push off).  The players see in the in-the-water demonstration that dry land “knowing” is not the same as in the water “doing.”  Ideas and movement are two different things when it comes to athletes. Side note: High school boys push off the guard’s shoulder and girls do not.  It seems that the girls realize that this is a wasted move and choose not to do it.  The boys, on the other hand, have to be dealt with a strong hand by the coach, as they will continue to shoulder push off during the spin move for their entire career unless stopped.

HOMEWORK

The player can perform spin moves at home in front of a mirror or alone in the water before practice begins.  The best place to do homework is in the pool with or without a partner.  The player must practice spin moves until it becomes “muscle memory” or more accurately a permanent neural pathway in the brain.  Once the player has successfully memorized the spin move, no further practice is necessary.  In reality, this a simple move.

READ THE DEFENSE

  • Read Position of Guard’s Chin
  • Guard on Right Shoulder—Spin Left
  • Guard on Left Shoulder—No Spin
  • Find and Grab the Right Hip

08

Unless the center or driver reads the defense—the spin move is useless. What is meant by this statement is the player must read the position of the guard that is defending him.  This is a mental activity and it involves the tactile senses.  It is not a technical activity.  The offensive player spins in the direction that is opposite of the guard’s position to get inside water.  For example, if the guard overplays the player’s right shoulder, the spin is to the player’s left, towards the right corner of the goal.  Simply put: Guard’s chin on player’s right shoulder—spin left.   When the guard is overplaying the offensive player’s left shoulder, (guard’s chin on left shoulder) no weakside spin is possible (see Fig. 7). 

09

Once player knows that he can spin to inside water, he must “find” and grab the guard’s farside right hip leverage point to spin 180-degrees.  In Fig 8, the player incorrectly grabs the guard’s nearside left hip and only spins 90-degrees and does not get inside water.  The player has to “feel” where the guard’s body and right hip are positioned to be able to spin successfully (see Fig. 8).

DRILLS

  • Leg Positioning
  • Left Hand Positioning
  • Right Arm Positioning
  • Holding Position
  • Drag and Roll the Ball

10

The weakside spin move is basically one drill—spin around the guard—repeated over and over again with perfect technique.  After a few weeks the players learn how to do the weakside spin move to the left and the right corner of the goal and it only needs to be practiced occasionally.  The weakside spin move, however, is the offensive move most likely to result in a contra foul being called on the offensive player.  When the player does the spin correctly he or she has inside water; done incorrectly, a contra foul results.  While this is a simple move, the use of the back and the left hand to locate and position the player’s left hand correctly on the waist and the farside hip takes practice.  Water polo for the average player is a visual game and not a tactile game.  The player must learn to develop his or her hand skills to be able to feel the position of the guard in the water and accurately grab the right hip or waist of the guard.  The players must move his or her hand from pushing off the guard’s shoulder to moving the left hand down 24-inches (60-cm) without using the eyes to find the guard’s farside right hip.  It is not easy for the players. That is why it must be practiced over and over again to develop perfect technique (see Fig. 9). 

11

The spin move drill requires the player and the guard to be guarding each other tightly so the player can spread the legs apart and step-out to the ball with the right leg.  The guard may want to impress the coach in practice and have his/her hips high in the air, but this defeats the purpose of teaching the offensive drill.  The guard needs to drop his/her hips to the vertical so the offensive player can grab the guard’s waist and/or farside right hip and spin.  Dummy defense is what the guard is told to play.  Once the guard is snug on the offensive player the offensive player steps-out with the right leg to spread a part the legs so they can rotate easily (see Fig. 10).

12

Then the left hand technique is used as the player reaches around the guard’s back and grabs the middle of the guard’s back at waist level or the right side hip as a leverage point for the swing move.  No leverage = no 180-degree spin.  The player spins to the left without a ball to master this important spin move mechanic.   The player should turn 180-degrees around the guard for inside water.  If the spin is 90-degrees the coach knows the player grabbed the guard’s right hip.  When the spin is 120-150-degrees the coach knows the player’s left hand was not near the guard’s farside right hip.  The leverage point where the player grabs the guard’s waist determines the amount of spin.  No matter how much effort the player puts into a left hip leverage point he or she is only going to spin 90-degrees.  The leverage point or some call it the grab point IS the spin move (see Fig 11).

13

The right arm positioning technique is next after the leg positioning and left hand mechanics are completed.  The average player wants to scissor kick with the legs and lift the ball straight up into the air.  Jumping straight up in the air with the legs is not a spin move.  This upward body motion cannot work to spin around the guard.  The player must have his or her arm level with the surface of the water with the hand pinching the ball in the fingers or palming the ball.  The player with/without the ball and without a guard practices spinning in a half circle.  Once the concept of rotating the body 180—degrees is mastered the guard is added.  The player is instructed to grab the guard’s right hip or right side of the waist and spin with the ball around the guard.  The first impulse of the player is to dip the left shoulder to aid the spin, which automatically lifts the right arm and ball out of the water.  In this elevated arm and ball position the 180-degree spin becomes a 0-degree to 90-degree spin.  And the ball is knocked out of the player’s hand by the guard.  A toy top cannot spin unless it is vertical and level.  The player’s shoulders must be level to spin (see Figs. 10, 12).

The player’s right arm must be level with the water.  The elbow is straight and locked and moves arm swiftly across the surface of the water.  The speed of the arm swing is the speed of the spin move.  When the player slowly swings the arm, the spin is only 90-degrees and the ball is usually stolen by the guard.  For the player to have a fast spin there must be a fast moving right arm.  Some players will bend the arm in half when spinning and only move 90-degrees.  The right arm must be straight for a full and a fast spin move.

HOLDING POSITION

  • Move to the Vertical
  • Scull and Eggbeater Hard
  • Keep the Guard Behind

14

Once the player has spun around the guard, the player must hold position to protect inside water.  The beaten guard will immediately attempt to regain inside water by swimming around the player.  The player must make a “wall” with his or her butt by moving the body in front of the guard.  The spin move player should never get inside water and then immediately lose it by not protecting his or her position (see Fig. 13).

DRAG AND ROLL

  • Hand in front
  • Slowly roll hand over ball
  • Ball rolls backward over the waves to the hand

The drag and roll ball technique solves the problem of the ball drifting away after the spin move for the center or driver. The force of the spin move makes a large wave that carries the ball away from the offensive player.  The drag and roll technique prevents the ball from drifting away.

15

16

There are a number of mistakes that the spin move player makes when trying to finish the shot. Some players throw the ball on the spin move and the ball is stolen.  Another is to spin with ball underwater for an automatic ball-under foul. However, when the player has correctly held onto the ball and the player lets go of the ball after the spin (as he is supposed to) the ball is carried away by a wave.  When the player puts backspin on the ball, the ball spins in one place on top of the wave that is taking it out towards the goaltender.

The only technique that returns the ball to the original position after the spin is the drag and roll technique, which rolls the ball back to the player’s hand when a special hand technique is used. There is a big difference between a ball backspinning on top of a wave and a ball rolling backward over several waves. To get the hand in FRONT of the ball as spin is almost completed, the player lunges forward which allow him to place the hand in FRONT of the ball and SLO-O-O-W-LY drag the hand backward.  The ball slowly rolls back over the waves to the player’s hand for possession.  The spin is done at 20 mph (31 km/h) and the hand drag at 1 mph (1.6 km/h).  The spin and the lunge are two separate moves done at light-speed so they appear to be the same move. As a result, the player spins, fakes the kick out, sinks, and the ball rolls back to the player’s sunken body for an exclusion on the guard (see Fig. 14).

This is the final and the most important part of the spin move is:  Keeping possession of the ball by the offensive player!  Many referees will not call an exclusion foul on the holding guard if the offensive player does not have possession of the ball.  A ball that floated away and is now located half way between the goalie and the offensive player.  The offensive player does not have possession of the ball—the pool owns the ball!  A spin move that loses the ball is a worthless effort. The drag and roll technique should be practiced at every practice until the players memorize this critical hand skill in ball handling.  It is a crucial technique.

Conclusion

The weakside spin move to the left towards the right corner of the goal is a necessary move for the frontcourt offense when the center is covered and allows the drivers to create offense.    With the spin move, no longer are the perimeter players just sitting idly by, unable to pass the ball into the double-team center.  The driver can now spin his or her guard and go on offense.  The elements of the weakside spin move are: read the defense, the right leg step-out and positioning, the left hand grabbing the guard’s right hip and the right arm being low and straight.  The driver does not push off the guard’s shoulder and jump high into the air as this is creates a foul.  After the spin move is completed it is vital for the player to retain possession of the ball by using the drag-and-roll technique.  Properly performed, the spin move adds a new offensive dimension to the frontcourt offense.

TEACHING SHOOTING PART 4

01

In last month’s article we covered the standard weakside spin move towards the right corner of the goal.  This month we look at three strongside reverse spins and one over the top spin move.  The strongside reverse spin moves are done when the guard overplays the offensive player’s left shoulder and has his or her body offset to the extreme weakside shoulder of the offensive player.  All moves by the offensive player to the weakside right corner of the goal are stopped.  However, the knowledgeable player will adapt and spin towards the strongside shoulder, the right shoulder and the left corner of the goal to become free.  The guard is completely out of position to defend against a move to the strongside shoulder and the left corner of the goal.  The addition of a strongside spin move forces the guard to play “even up” and play behind the offensive player.

There have always been water polo players that have done strongside spin moves on their teams.  However, it was not until 2006 that men’s college teams whole-heartedly begun using strongside spin moves as the guard overplayed the offensive player’s left shoulder to prevent the weakside spin move.  Soon strongside spin moves became a nation-wide move.  There are three reverse strongside spin moves that are used to defeat the guard who overplays the offensive player’s left shoulder.  In addition, there is a center shot out of a strongside spin.   Spin moves when done properly should not result in offensive fouls. In the strongside spin the offensive player does not grab the guard’s waist or farside hip to spin and therefore there is no contact and no contra foul should be called by the referee.

READ THE DEFENSE

  • Guard on left shoulder—spin right—strongside spin
  • Guard on right shoulder—spin left—weakside spin

02

The strongside spin move cannot work if the guard is expecting it and is positioned on the offensive player’s right shoulder.  The only time the offensive player uses a strongside spin move is when the guard is overplaying the player’s left shoulder.  The read of the guard’s positioning is critical for the offensive player to select the correct type of spin move.  The strongside spin move prevents the guard from overplaying the offensive player’s weakside spin move to the left.  Now the guard cannot set up to exclusively block the weakside spin move.  The guard has to play behind the offensive player and cannot shade one shoulder or the other.  In this neutral guarding position, the offensive player can spin to the left (weakside) or right (strongside) the guard (see Fig. 1).

DRY LAND

The coach demonstrates that the right hand is pinching or palming the ball and swings the right arm and right leg to the right to face the imaginary goal.  The left hand does not grab the right hip or any part of the guard’s  body.  Add a guard who is overplaying the coaches left shoulder.  The coach may even have the guard put their right hand on the coach’s left shoulder for more realism.  The players can see the rotation of the coach’s body.  However, once, they get into the aquatic environment, the players immediately forget what they learned.  A terrestrial demonstration does not carry over into the pool.

A reverse strongside spin does not use any hand hold on the guard’s swimsuit.  Only the weakside spin move uses the offensive player’s left hand to grab the guard’s farside right hip as a leverage point to spin.  The strongside spin can only be done if the guard overplays the offensive player’s left shoulder and is totally out of position to defend against a spin move to the right.  The left hand swimsuit hold makes the weakside spin move; the guard being out of position makes the strongside spin move.  Reverse strongside spins are becoming quite common as the guards assume that every spin move is going to be a weakside spin to the left.

IN THE WATER

03

In the pool, the guard overplays the offensive player’s left shoulder to prevent the weakside spin move to the left.  With the guard completely out of position to defend a spin move to the right, the offensive player pinches the ball or palms the ball and spins to the right for inside water.  Practice having the guard in a neutral position and then move to the offensive player’s left shoulder to force the offensive player to “read the defense.”   The correct move is for the offensive player is a strongside spin to the right to get away from the guard.  The rote player only does a weakside spin to the left, cannot adjust to the dynamic game of water polo.  He or she will continue to do a weakside spin into the guard without thinking about the consequences.  Reading the defense requires the offensive player to be able to improvise to gain the advantage over the guard (see Fig. 2).

HOMEWORK

The player stands in front of a mirror and does a strongside spin to the right without a guard.  Next, grab a brother or sister (a parent will also do) and have the person over play the player’s left shoulder and spin to the right.  For a complete read of the defense, have brother or sister switch from shoulder to shoulder so the player has to respond and spin to the right or left. When facing the mirror it is easy to see what side the defender is on.  For a greater degree of difficult, the player turns their back to the mirror and feels what side the defender is located on.

DRILLS

The strongside drills are simple.  With a guard, the stationary offensive player spins around the defender who is overplaying the player’s left shoulder.  The guard plays dummy defense with the hips down and has to play slowly.  Guards that play “smartly” ruin the drill because they know that it is a spin move to the right. Practice for 10-minutes a day until the strongside spin move is mastered.  The coach needs to have the spin done with perfect technique and speed.  A slow spin is the result of poor technique.  Slow spin moves are squashed by the guard.  In a game, the players have to be reminded that when the guard is overplaying their left shoulder, they are wide open to spin to the right.  Players can get very conservative in a game and forget to read the defense or to use a strongside spin move.  The coach needs to practice both spins, weakside and strongside, during the practice so the players become accustomed to the both types of spin moves

REVERSE STRONGSIDE SPIN MOVES

  • Over the Top Spin Move
  • Hand on Top of the Ball Spin Move
  • Hand Underneath the Ball Spin Move
  • Center Spin Move to a Shot

OVER THE TOP SPIN

  • Hand on top
  • Legs underneath
  • Kick up
  • Arm swings back
  • Flip onto back, turn on stomach

In the over the top move, a women’s move, the driver palms the ball and lunges straight into the guard’s right shoulder, becomes free, and has inside water.  This move does not work very well with males as the guard quickly snuff out the move.  The technique for the over the top spin move is to place the right hand on top of the ball and pinch it or palm it.  Palming the ball gives the player more control and she is less likely to drop the ball.  The player leans forward, gets her legs underneath her hips and scissor kicks up hard and flings the right arm back for momentum.  The woman lands on her back just past the guard’s right shoulder.  Then driver flips on her stomach and drives away leaving the guard vertical and dead in the water.  There is no swimsuit grab with this move. 

HAND ON TOP OF THE BALL

  • Hand on top of the ball
  • No grab point on swimsuit
  • Right arm swings to right with right leg
  • Inside water

04

This is the standard strongside spin move for spinning around the guard to the right for inside water.  The player reads the position of the guard to see that the guard has overplayed the offensive player’s left shoulder anticipating a weakside spin move towards the left.  Once the player has established that the guard is overplaying his or her left shoulder, the offensive player spins to the strongside, away from the guard’s hands (see Fig. 3). 

HAND UNDER THE BALL

  • Hand underneath the ball spin
  • Spin to the right with the ball close to water

This is a variation on the spin move with the hand under the ball and not having the hand on top of the ball.  The player grabs the ball underneath and spins to the strongside.  The guard that is used to seeing the driver place his or her hand on top of the ball is surprised and is beaten to the strongside for inside water.  The fundamentals for the hand under the ball spin move are the same as the hand on top spin move.  Very few players use the hand under the ball technique for some reason.  It is a deceptive spin move that seems to work every time as the guard has never seen this type of spin move before.

CENTER SPIN AND SHOT

  • Hand on top of ball
  • Spin Right
  • Right shoulder/right foot face goal
  • Fake and shoot from right shoulder point

Fig 4

06

07

The strongside spin move to face the goal for a center presents a problem.  The center’s right foot and right shoulder are facing the goal after the spin.  The center is used to the left foot pointing at the goal when shooting.  The center needs to learn a right foot shot to score.  This is not a unique situation in water polo as it would seem.  The right post player (US-3, EU-3) has same right foot/right shoulder body position in the 6-on-5.  The righthander (US-1, EU-5) passes the ball into the right post for a right foot/right shoulder tip-in shot.  For the center shot after the strongside spin move, the right footed center keeps their right hand on the ball, raises the arm up in the air, uses a forearm shake fake and throws the ball over the goalie’s head.  The goalie does not expect a shot from the center and is unprepared to block the shot (see Figs. 4, 5, 6).  

Men doing a strongside spin usually sink underwater and get an exclusion foul.  A man’s body does not float and he takes advantage of this lack of buoyancy and sinks to the bottom of the pool.  Women, on the other hand, float.  The woman center completes the spin and is high in the water.  The referee does not call an exclusion.  The referee is not a women player and does not realize that women float even if she is held.  He (usually it is a he) does not realize that a strongside spin results in a right foot forward leg position that makes it difficult for the center to shoot the ball unless the guard has her hands up instead of holding.  For comparison, the weakside spin results in a left foot forward leg position, which is the normal leg position for throwing the ball.  Players shoot with their left foot forward, just as baseball pitchers throw with their left foot in a forward position.  The women were in a quandary as the spin move was a nice move with no possible shot.  So they invented a right foot center shot to use with the strongside spin move.

The women centers adopted a 6-on-5 post shooting move where the post shooter’s right shoulder was facing the goal for a 1-spot to 3-spot pass to a shot (EU 5 to 3).  A spin to a shot has the center’s right shoulder/right foot shot has the center palm the ball on top and do one or two in the air fakes and shoot the ball over the goalie’s head.  The center’s left shoulder is used to bump (shoulder push off) the guard’s chest for extra separation from the guard. The right arm is vertical and the ball is held high with a fake or two.  The forearm fakes shake the forearm back and forth a couple of times to gain momentum to release the ball and score.  The center right foot  shot is in widespread use among the top high school and college women water polo players. Boys and men can also take this shot.

BACKHAND AND SWEEP SHOT PASSING DRILL

  • Rotation is Rotation whether Spin Move or Backhand

08

The coach should have the team practice backhand shot passes and sweep shot passes to help the player perform the spin move better.  When the coach looks at a strongside spin move he or she should also see that it is a backhand without a shot.  When the strongside spin move was introduced, the first players to adopt the spin move were centers. The drivers took much longer time to adopt the spin move.  The backhand shot is a body rotation to the right; the strongside spin move is a body rotation to the right.  One lets go of the ball (backhand) and the other one (spin move) holds on to the ball.  To help with weakside spin moves, the coach has two players practice throwing sweep shot passes to each other.  Body rotation is body rotation, whether it is to the right or left side.  The drivers need to be able to move in the vertical with their legs down and rotate their bodies to do a spin move.  Swimming horizontally is not enough.  The centers have been doing spins for their backhand and sweep shots for years.  It only takes seconds to teach a center how to do a spin move; about a week for the driver (see Fig. 7).

Conclusion

There are three reverse strongside spin moves, over the top, hand on top and hand underneath.  These spin moves are used by the offensive player to get open on a guard that is overplaying the player’s left shoulder anticipating a weakside spin to the left.  The offensive player reads the defense, the guard’s chin position on the offensive player’s shoulder.  Guard’s chin on right shoulder = a weakside spin.  The guard’s chin on the offensive player’s left shoulder = a strongside spin.  In addition, when the center does a strongside spin he or she needs to move into a right shoulder/right foot shooting position and shoot the ball over the goalie’s head.  Because women centers float this is an easier shot for them.  For the men, they must kick hard to regain a shoulders out-of-the-water position for the right foot shot.

In the final analysis, the use of the strongside spin move enables the offensive player to take advantage of the guard’s attempt to stop the weakside spin move.  The offensive plays spins to the strongside and scores.  The guard now has to play in a neutral position on the offensive player and not overplay one side or the other.  With the guard in this neutral position the offensive player can now spin in either direction.  Adding the strongside spin move to the team creates many more inside water drives in the frontcourt offense and makes the offense more mobile and unpredictable.

EACHING SHOOTING PART 5

01

How to get water polo players to jump high out of the water has long been a question on a coach’s mind.  High elevation out of the water with power from the legs transferring into the right arm is the shot.  For all intents and purposes, the water polo shot is basically a leg shot.  The legs throw the ball—not the right arm.  Hard quick kicking legs make a hard quick shot. There is no such shot as a pure quick hard right arm only shot. Most players are unaware of this fact.  They have lazy legs and do not want to put out the effort to jump high out of the water. As a result of the weak leg kick, they have weak shots. In other sports, such as basketball, the player not jumping high in the air would be unthinkable.  Can you imagine, a flat footed lazy-legged NBA basketball player missing a slam-dunk by only getting to the bottom of the hoop due to lack of effort?  How about a women’s volleyball game where the players in front of the net do not get above the net to spike or block the ball.  Or a diver just walking off the diving board flat footed for the dive.  Not one of these sports would tolerate the lazy leg athlete and water polo should not either.  Leg acceleration must be taught for power and elevation.

The origin of water polo is swimming.  You have to be able to swim to play water polo.  In swimming, the legs are not as important as the arms.  Everything in swimming is devoted to arm strokes and arm technique.  Because women’s legs float, the women do not have to kick as hard as the boys and they do not.  Because a male’s body has less fat content, their legs and body do not float.  The males must kick hard with their legs to keep from sinking.  When the swimmer gets to the water polo season he or she is still hypnotized by “the arms are the stroke and therefore in water polo, the arms are the shot.  Neither of these concepts is true.  In the women’s case, they have lazier legs than the men.  In no other sport, do women have lazy legs excerpt in swimming and water polo and most men are not too far behind!  The slam-dunk drills were designed to force the water polo player to kick the legs high and hard to reach maximum elevation out of the water.  The legs are the shot. This concept must be drilled into the head of every water polo player.  The legs generate most of the power to throw the ball.

THEORY

In the S4 training method the player must have strong legs, sustaining legs, smart legs and smart hands.  These jump drills contain strong explosive leg exercises, sustaining leg training where the player is up in the air for 2 to 3-seconds, smart legs where the right leg makes adjustments for turning and a smart left hand that helps turn the player’s body while it is in the air.  Some drills such as the simple slam-dunk drill only work on strong and explosive legs.  Most of the drills contain all four parts of the S4 training system.

Leg acceleration is the key to having the water polo player taking an elevated shot with a good sustaining base.  Strong legs and sustaining legs (legs able to sustain the shooter’s height out of the water for 3-seconds) are the foundation of shooting.  Weak legs = a weak shot; strong legs = a strong shot.  Players that are weak shooters and passers have weak legs.  They do not have a “weak arm.”  A strong right arm means the player has two strong legs.  The right arm does not throw the ball, the legs throw the ball.  The emphasis on right arm throwing instead of leg strengthening and leg positioning technique dooms the potential great shooter to mediocrity.

Slam-dunk drills are the primary drills used to develop explosive high elevating legs.  The right arm does not elevate the player—the legs do.  In a slam-dunk drill, the player jumps as high as he or she can jump up into the air with the ball and then crunches the abdominal muscles and slams the ball down in the water.  This is an explosive leg movement.  The player with lazy legs cannot get their chin out of the water.  The coach can quickly see the players that have weaker legs and the players that are not trying to kick hard.  It is that obvious to the coach.  The coach needs to spend more time strengthening the legs of the weak leg players.

The first of the leg acceleration drills or jump drills is called the standard slam-dunk.  It is the first drill taught and maybe the last drill they perform as players.  The player swims with the ball, picks it up on top, pushes the ball down to gain extra power and leaps high in the air using the scissor kick.  If the player cannot pinch the ball with the hand then the ball is palmed between the hand and the forearm.

DRY LAND

It is difficult to demonstrate a slam-dunk on dry land.  The coach has his or her hand on the ball, jumps up and throws the ball down on the deck.

IN THE WATER

The player swims a few strokes, picks up the ball on top, pushes the ball down a little and leaps high in the air by taking one big scissor kick.  Once airborne, the player has the ball high over his or her head and then crunches the abs and slams the ball down into the water.

DRILLS

  • Swim 4 strokes
  • Leap Up
  • Slam ball
  • Do not skip it
  • Swim 4 stokes and repeat

02

It is important that the abdominal muscles first snap the torso forward and then the right arm follows to throw the ball.  The slam-dunk is a great drill for strengthening the abdominal muscles.  This amounts to a sit up in mid-air.  Players with weak legs and weak abdominal muscles barely get the neck out of the water and only lift the ball over their heads.  The ball slam into the water is also very weak.  The slam-dunk drill can be done as a lap swimming conditioning exercise, but do not allow the players to skim the ball 3-meters away so they do not have to do as many slam-dunks.  When the drill is done by a strong player it is an awe-inspiring sight.

A dry land abdominal exercise is to stand on a bench with a 10-pound (4.5 kilos) inflated rubber medicine ball (men) or a 5-pound (2.2 kilo) med ball (women) and raise the ball over the head and then slam it straight down into the deck. Crunch the abs first and then move the arms.  This is not an arm exercise!  The medicine ball should bounce right back to the player’s hand.  Another drill us a plyometric sit up where the player lies on the back with a 10-pound or 20-pound (9 kilos), sits up and throws the ball with both hands to a partner.  These are dynamic drills that duplicate the motion of the shot (see Fig.1)

Slam-Dunk

  • Hand on top of ball
  • Push down on ball
  • Leap high in air
  • Slam ball on water

03

This is the first drill of many slam-dunk drills.  The player needs to master this basic move first before moving on to more advance slam-dunk drills.  None of these drills are particularly complex or difficult to do but they require 110-percent effort.  The slam-dunk player swims 3 to 4 strokes, picks up the ball on top, and pushes the ball down a little for added lift and leaps high in the air by taking one big scissor kick.  Once airborne, the player has the ball high over his or her head and then crunches the abs and slams the ball down into the water (see Fig. 2)

Slam-Dunk 90

  • Leap up
  • Turn 90 to left
  • Slam ball

After the basic slam-dunk drill is learned a twist is added to the drill.  The slam-dunk develops strong and explosive legs, but it can be used to teach sustaining legs and smart legs too.  In the S4 system of teaching shooting, the player has strong legs, sustaining legs, smart hands and a smart right leg.  The player swims, picks up the ball, leaps in the air, holds it, turns 90-degrees to the left and then slams the ball into the water. The player is forced to use the left hand and the right leg to make the 90-degree turn in the air.  This is a fantastic drill!  If time is a problem, do slam-dunk 90’s over the standard slam-dunk.

Slam-Dunk Freeze

  • Leap up and hold 3-seconds
  • Slam ball

The player leaps up and holds it 3-seconds and then slams the ball down.  This forces the player’s legs to not only have explosive legs that can leap high in the air but legs that can sustain that height in the air. When the player is in the air he or she changes to an intermediate eggbeater kick consisting of a high knee motion with rapid small eggbeater kick circles to stay up.  The regular slam-dunk uses a strong scissor kick to leap into the air.  The intermediate kick does not appear until about 1-second has passed.  Because most leg drills never practice sustaining leg “hang time” that long in the air, this intermediate leg kick is almost never practiced.  The intermediate eggbeater kick is the leg kick of champions.  The intermediate kick is the difference between the average shooter who is only airborne for a second and the great shooter that is airborne for 3-seconds.

Slam-Dunk 180

  • Leap up
  • Spin 180-degrees
  • Slam ball

04

The player leaps up high in the air with the ball and then spins 180-degrees and slams the ball down in the water.  Girls and women due to their wider hips cannot spin more than 180-degrees.  Interestingly, girls age 12 and under can spin 360-degrees due to narrow hips (see Fig. 3).

Slam-Dunk 360

  • Leap Up
  • Spin 360 and slam

This is a boy or man’s drill.  The women’s hips are too wide and create too much drag in the water to allow the woman to rotate 360-degrees.  However, 12-year old girls with their narrow hips can spin 360-degrees.  The player leaps up and spins 360-degrees and slam-dunks the ball.  Younger players, players with weak legs or heavily muscled players may not be able to completely spin in a circle. The author had an elite male water polo player in high school that was 6’1 (1.85 meters) and 155-pounds (70-kilos) who could actually spin 360-degrees twice in the air.  When he got to college and added 20-pounds (7-kilos), he could no longer spin twice in the air.

Ballerina Slam-Dunk

  • Ball on water, body square
  • Step-back with right leg
  • Swing right arm back and slam

This is a combination of a rotational drill and a leg acceleration drill.  One part of the drill teaches body rotation using the left hand to sweep to the left and the right leg is taught to swing to the extreme right in a straight back leg position with the knee slightly bent.  Once the right arm is fully cocked back over the straight right leg then the player leaps up and slams the ball down in the water.

Slam-Dunk 4X

  • Leap up, turn left 90-degrees
  • Turn to left 3 more times
  • Slam ball

The player leaps up in the air, holds it, and turns four 90-degree turns in the air.  The drill forces the player to sustain his or her height out of the air for 3-seconds.  After the player has finished his or her last 90-degree the ball is slammed down in the water.

Slam-Dunk Slow 4X

  • The player does the same 4X drill but slowly on the coach’s whistle.  This drills really works the player’s legs.

Slam-Dunk 2-Step

  • Leap up and step-out right with right leg
  • Step-back with right leg and slam

The player leaps up in the air, steps-out to the right with the right leg and then swings the right leg straight back and slams the ball down on the surface of the water.  This drill develops strong, sustaining legs and a smart right leg.

Slam-Dunk 3-Step

  • Leap up and step forward with left leg
  • Step-out to right with right leg
  • Swing right leg back and slam

The player leaps up with the ball high over his or her head, steps-forward with the left leg, steps-out to the right with the right leg and then swings the right leg straight back and slam-dunks the ball.  This drill teaches sustaining legs and smart legs.

Serbian Straight Arm Slam Dunk

  • Player has ball high and elbow locked
  • Crunch abs and slam

This is a great drill for the girl or woman who drops her elbow when throwing the ball.  The player is stationary, and holds the ball high over her head with the elbow locked.  Then she elevates, crunches the abs and then slams the ball into the water.  The emphasis is on crunching the abs and snapping the torso forward and using the right arm.  For a girl or woman that is used to dropping the elbow this is almost an impossible drill to do.

Grab and Slam

  • Grab top of ball
  • Arm high above shoulder
  • Spin and slam ball

The player is stationary, has the ball behind but within reach of the hand.  The player’s hand is above the ball, he or she grabs the top of the ball, turns the hips and slams the ball down in the water. The player’s arm goes straight up over the top of the shoulder and he or she does not side arm the ball. This is a hip speed drill and not a leg acceleration drill.  The faster the player can pick up the ball, spin and slam-dunk the ball indicates how fast the hips are rotating.  The better players use less time and are quicker at slamming the ball into the water.  A great drill for developing a quick rotating body in the water.  It shows that hip speed is ball speed.  Rotation is the major power generator during the throw.  Straightening out the elbow into extension or flexion of the abdominal muscles to flex the torso forward creates nowhere near the power that hip rotation does.

The coach can time the ball pick up to when the ball hits the water to see how much time it takes for the player to accomplish this task.  Times vary with elite high school boys and girls from 0.50 to 1.00 seconds. Usually the girls have slower times than the boys but not always.  Never allow the player to cheat and use a side arm motion as this ruins the drill and gives the player a quicker time than he or she deserves.  This drill can be done with or without a stopwatch during practice.  The author times the drill a couple of times a month.  This shows the players how quickly the hips rotated to throw the ball. Timing the drill will give you a baseline to refer back to when evaluating player’s progress.  The players need to understand that hip rotation is the shot.

Grab and Slam-Dunk

  • Grab top of ball
  • Arm high above shoulder
  • Spin, leap up and slam ball

After the coach has timed his or her players, the coach can increase the degree of difficulty of the drill by having the player grab the ball quickly, spin, kick high out of the water and then slam-dunk the ball.  The drill requires strength, hand and leg quickness and body control.  Dynamic drills where the player is moving rapidly in the air and trying to stabilize are great drills.

Cage Slam-Dunk

  • Player on 1½ to 2-meter line
  • Ball in line with shoulder but arm’s length away
  • Push down on ball. Leap up and forward.
  • Touch ball to underside of crossbar and slam

05     

The player lines up on the 2-meter line (closer for girls and age group) with the ball to the side.  The player pushes down on the ball for lift, pulls underwater with the left hand, scissor kicks and lifts the ball high in the air above the head.  The player lunges forward and touches the ball to the underside of the crossbar and then, only then, slams the ball into the water inside the goal.  A dolphin kick at the end helps the player’s glide.  In a wall mounted goal there is not much space and the player stops immediately.  If not, he or she hits the back of the goal (see Fig. 4).

The coach cannot let the player use the right arm to throw the ball at the goal.  The player lunges to the crossbar with the right arm stationary above the head.  Once the ball reaches the crossbar the player’s ab crunch the torso forward to slam the ball into the water.  As in all slam dunk drills the abdominal muscles supply 90-perecent of the power for the slam-dunk.  For those that cannot quite make it to the crossbar, let them move closer to the goal. Another technique is for the player to take two underwater pulls and a small extra scissor kick for extra power to reach the crossbar.

The cage slam-dunk is the ultimate slam-dunk drill.  The coach can see how high the player is getting out of the water by seeing the ball touch the crossbar.  The coach can see if the legs sustain the player to the goal.  This gives the coach a true visual gauge for measuring and evaluating the strength of the player.

Conclusion

In concluding, the coach uses the 14 leg acceleration slam-dunk drills to force the players to kick high and hard with the legs, increase leg explosiveness and to elevate the player high in the air for the pass or shot.  Freeze slam-dunks and turn slam-dunk work on sustaining legs and developing smart legs and a smart left hand.  These are all simple to perform drills but they require 110-percentage effort from the player.  If the coach continues one or two of the drills as part of the conditioning he or she will soon see the players getting much higher out of the water and shooting at the high corners of the goal.

TEACHING SHOOTING PART 6

01

The coach wants to optimize his or her practice time by practicing as many drills and skills as possible in 90-minutes to 120-minutes.  The beat are drills are a 2-in-1 drill or a 3-in-1 drill where two or three skills are combined in one drill so that time is not spend doing two or three separate drills.  The increasing complexity of the drill forces the player to think and be aware of multiple situations as opposed to the old swim to half tank, roll over and catch the ball and then swim to the downcourt wall.  Mindful drills, such as 2-in-1 drills, are skill drills engage the mind and force decision-making and problem-solving.  A 2-on-1 drill using this concept might be a weakside spin move, take one stroke and then fake the kick out.  A 3-in-1 drill might be to duck under, fake the kick out and then swim in and take an off the water shot.

Four Critical Parts 

  • Accepting Contact
  • Spin Move
  • Holding Position
  • Faking the Kick Out

ACCEPTING CONTACT

  • Rub shoulders
  • Bear into the guard
  • Guard on driver’s back
  • Break the hold

Combination skill drills are better use of pool time and the coach’s time rather than the old one-subject mindless swim and catch drills.  The drill should require skill, engage the mind and force decision-making by the player.  For example, a spin to a kick out may seem to the coach a simple command but it is not to the player in the water.   A spin move with a kick out requires the player to execute the spin move, wait, take a mindful stroke and sink for an authentic looking ejection foul.  The player cannot just do a spin move and take off into the wild blue yonder.  The player has to wait a split second, reset the legs, feel the guard on the back, take a huge stroke and sink underwater using a specialized kick out technique.  All of these actions require skill, control and feel.  Skill, control and feel lead to mindful decision making.  Intelligent decisions making is what the coach wants every player to have, but, it is an elusive skill set, one that is hard to impart to the players.  Some coaches will call it “experience” but the author calls it “training.”  Below is a list of the four critical parts of the driving game.

Four Critical Parts

  • Accepting Contact
  • Spin Move
  • Holding Position
  • Faking the Kick Out

ACCEPTING CONTACT

  • Rub shoulders
  • Bear into the guard
  • Guard on driver’s back
  • Break the hold

02

Before we get into any advanced moves, the coach has to teach physicality to the players.  Players have to rub shoulders with the guard, duck under the guard and push off to be successful as a driver.  Girls in particular do not like physical contact nor do age group kids under 12 years of age.  Water polo is a contact sport played in a small tank that is a quarter of the size of football field. The first drill is to bear-in to the guard when swimming down the pool and force the guard to move over.  Next put the guard on the driver’s back at the 4-meter line with the driver having the ball and have the driver take an off the water shot with heavy defensive pressure. Another drill is to fight through the hold with the guard holding both arms of the driver.  The driver must break free and drive away. The player must learn to accept physical contact in the pool, if the player is to be successful.  The new player does not jump in the water wanting to have close contact with the guard.  The player has to be trained to adapt to physical play.  The player accepts contact on the drive, in the center position and on the perimeter in the frontcourt offense (see Figs. 1, 2).

Drills for teaching physical contact are bearing in, guard on the driver’s back in front of the goal, holding position, ducking under,  arm and leg push offs and eggbeatering against a player.  There are many drills that the coach can use to get the player used to contact.  In the event that the coach fails to teach the player how to enjoy contact, the athlete will fail.  It is a critical step in the development of the player to teach physical contact to the players on the team.  As we will see in the following moves, contact is the name of the game.

DUCKING UNDER

  • Rub shoulders
  • Time guard’s stroke
  • Duck under rubbing guard’s underside
  • Lift Head and Shoulders

03

04

The rubs shoulders and bears into the guard so he or she is close enough to duck under the guard’s body.  The driver times the guard’s stroke and ducks under when the guard’s arm is in the air.  The driver ducks in close to the guard’s body rubbing the chest and the belly.  Do not dive too deep or the guard will swim over the driver’s body.  Immediately after ducking under the driver lifts his/her head and shoulder up out of the water to establish position on the guard.  The driver can shoot or fake the kick out from this inside water position on the guard (see Figs. 2, 3). 

SPIN MOVE

  • Guard on player’s back with legs dropped
  • Left hand grabs the guard’s right hip
  • Right hand grips the ball and swings
  • Driver spins 180-degrees

05

The spin move is used by the 2-meter person or the driver to spin around the guard 180-degrees.  It is a very useful tool to use against a guard who is too tightly defending the center or driver.  At 2-meters the guard has their legs down and on the perimeter in the frontcourt offense the guard has the legs down when the perimeter player has the ball and his or her back to the goal on the 7-meter line.  The spin move creates inside water for the player with the ball.  From that point, the player can shoot or fake the kick out.  Whichever situation has the greatest possibly of success (see Fig. 4).

06

The technique for the spin move is to be tightly covered by the guard and have the ball.  The offensive player wraps the left arm around the waist of the guard and grabs the guard’s right hip or the small of the back.  The ball is pinched in the hand or is palmed between the hand and forearm.  The legs are widely separated in what is called a split eggbeater. The right foot is in front and the left foot is back.  The right arm is straight with the elbow locked and is swung just above the surface of the water.  Do not swing the ball up in the air. Having the ball high in the air only slows and limits the amount of rotation around the guard from 180-degrees to 90-degrees.  Due to the slowness of the high armed spin move, the guard can recover and knock the ball down and steal the ball.  The spin move is a lighting fast move.  It is not a slow-motion muscle move. The left hand/right hip hold acts as a pivot point to spin around the guard.  After the spin is completed the player lets go of the ball so he or she can drive or fake the kick out (see Fig. 5).

07

The best method for controlling the ball after the spin to prevent the wave from the drifting the ball away from the offensive player is to do the “drag and roll” technique.  For example, the player does a spin move into a kick out.  As the spin is almost completed, he or she lunges forward and puts THE HAND IS IN FRONT OF THE BALL AND SLOOOWLY DRAGS THE HAND BACK OVER THE BALL.  The ball, instead of doing a rapid backspin and staying in one place as the wave moves it away from the offensive player, now slowly rolls over the waves and back to the hand of the player.  The referee sees the player sink and the ball rolling back to the place where the sunken offensive player is located.  The driver was held by the guard (it appears) and has possession of the ball.  That is all the information the referee needs to call the exclusion foul on the guard (see Fig. 6).

In some cases the guard is very alert and puts both of the hands up.  It is hard for the referee to call a kick out when this happens (but a lot of times they do anything).  The offensive player then switches to a “shoot first” mode and immediately moves into a quad kick to the guard’s legs or pushes off the right bump of the guard, gains separation and swims away with inside water.  The knowledgeable and well trained offensive player always has a technique for any situation that he or she faces in the water.

HOLDING POSITION

  • Vertical body
  • Legs and hands churning
  • Keep guard behind

08

The player cannot allow the guard to get around the stationary driver.  This “holding action” is one of the hardest moves to do.  The driver has stopped short of the 2-meter line and is waiting for the ball to arrive.  This 1 to 2-second wait can seem like an eternity to the driver.  The guard on the other hand is desperately attempting to get around the driver and regain front water.  If the guard stays on the back of the driver, and the ball arrives, he or she is going to be kicked out by the referee.  To prevent losing position to the guard, the driver uses a technique called holding position or conserving water to hold his or her position in the water.  The driver drops the legs to the vertical and begins fiercely eggbeating in place with the hands sculling strongly.  We have seen goalies do this when the shooter attacks the goalie who has blocked the shot and is holding position with the ball with the guard on their back (see Fig. 7).

A drill to practice is to have the driver swim four strokes and then hold position, continue swimming four strokes holding position down the pool.  The driver elevates high out of the water and kicks and sculls furiously to hold position without a guard.  This is a great cardiovascular and a leg strengthening exercise skill drill combined into one drill.  Next add a guard who tries to get around the stationary driver.  If the guard gets too rough the coach calls a kick out on the guard.  Though it is a drill, the coach cannot condone teaching the guard how to get 20-second ejections.  This is also a good drill for teaching the guard how to be firm and press with the hands up so it is satisfactory defense that does not cross the line. To increase the difficulty of the guard a shooting drill is done with the driver swimming to the 2-meter line with the guard on the driver’s back, the driver holds position and the ball is passed from the right wing high and dry in front of the driver’s face.  The driver slaps the ball into the goal.  This “Hold and Slap” works particularly well with girls and women.  The guard is in a precarious position where he or she can only go after the ball and not the shooter’s arm.  Most guards do not have this precision in their hand skills and knock down the shooter’s arm before the ball arrives and receive a 5-meter penalty call.  Another move is to hook the left foot on the guard’s hip, grab the ball and turn to the left.

FAKING THE KICK OUT

09

  • Lunge, Stop, Push Up, Bend
  • Lift up both knees to stop
  • Left hand stops next to left hip
  • Huge right arm stroke, right hand stops at right hip
  • Both hands push up to sink the driver
  • Bend back and neck back

10

The driver has only three skills needed to be successful at his or her position: get inside water, shoot and get the kick out.  The good drivers get half of all of the 6-on-5’s during the game.  Usually, 50-percent of the 6-on-5 opportunities result in a score.  In a 10-9 game, 5 of the goals are scored from the 6-on-5.  The driver has read the defense and realize when he or she is not open, and cannot shoot the ball.  The driver wisely fakes the kick out.  Getting the ejection on the guard is a skill that all drivers need to possess (see Figs. 8, 9). 

For the girls and women that have bodies that float, it is harder for a female to get an ejection called by the referee.  Because she is floating on the surface of the water and not on the bottom of the pool, it does not appear to the referee that she is being held and pulled back.  For the males, who are essentially a motorized rock—sinking is easy.  Without doing anything the male will sink to the bottom of the pool.  To aid the driver in “earning a kick out”, a technique was invented to allow drivers to get the exclusion call on the guard.”  The guard usually has his or her hands down in the water while swimming.  The driver simply takes advantage of this detail and presents the referee with what looks like a hold and sink by the guard who has both hands underwater.

11

The technique for faking the kick out is complex.  The driver has to be able to do four things simultaneously: pull the knees up, take a stroke with the left hand and leave it next to the left hip, take a huge right hand stroke and bring it next to the right hip, bend the back to move the head backwards and sink.  The driver suddenly lifts the knees straight up to stop the drive.  Then the driver uses the two hands technique to sink.  The driver’s hands do not break the surface of the water.  At the same time, the driver bends the back which also moves the head back.  Do not throw the head back or the driver will get called for a head butt.  The driver’s sudden stop, sinking, the arching of the back and the head moving backward indicates to the referee the guard grabbed the driver’s swimsuit.  This event is not true of course but it works for the kick out (see Fig. 10).

Conclusion 

The player learns how to accept physical contact with his or her guard by rubbing shoulders and ducking under.   Then the player learns how to spin the guard 180-degrees.  This progresses to learning how to hold position in the water with the guard behind on the back.  Finally, the player learns how to fake the kick out on the guard. All of these moves are “physical” and require the player to have a position sense in the water and to have smart hands and feet.  The player has to know where the guard is in the water in relation to the driver so he or she can duck under and not completely miss the guard, or grab the guard’s left hip instead of the right hip and only spin 90-degrees instead of 180-degrees.  The player learns how to realistically fake the kick out so the referee calls an ejection on the guard.  All of these moves appear to be simple but they take time to master.  This is an art form not a P.E. class. Learning in water polo is based on repetition.  The coach has to go over and over the same drill repeatedly to get this concept into the player.  The teaching of specific driver drills to the player is difficult.  Anyone can swim downcourt on the counterattack but few can master the concepts of advanced driving.  The coach has to be patient and the players will learn these individual skills.

TEACHING SHOOTING PART 7

01

Part 7 is a continuation of Part 6’s focus on multiple driving drills and the insight necessary to fix all of the mistakes the players make when performing the drills. The next series of moves we will look at are the techniques and drills that teach the technique that are used by the driver to get open and hold position against the guard.  Some of these moves are ducking under, a duck under bump, a quadriceps kick and five off the water shots as the Boyer push off shot, the rollout shot, rollout and backhand shot, hold and slap shot and the Russian slam-dunk shot. All of these moves require the driver to have a position sense in the water of where they are in relation to the guard, know where the contact spot is on the guard, and how to use the forearm, leg or foot correctly with the proper amount of force.  In the beginning these moves will not be done properly because the driver is afraid of rubbing shoulders with the guard, does not know where he or she is in the water and misses the contact spot completely on the guard or uses too much force and sends the guard flying across the water.  With time, the player learns where he or she is in the water, where the contact spot is located on the guard and how much force should be applied to the guard’s body.  However, in the beginning, it does not look like any of the players on the team are going to learn.  The coach has to have the confidence that in time, the drivers will eventually figure out the various driving techniques.   The driving skill set is different than the hand and arm skill set of the overhand shot.  It may take weeks or a month but eventually the players learn all of these moves.

MANUEVERS SHOTS
Bump Push Off Boyer Push Off Shot
Quadriceps Kick  Rollout Shot
Duck Under   Rollout & Backhand Shot
Wigo Bump   Hold and Slap Shot
Russian Slam-Dunk

TECHNQUES FOR GUARD POSITIONS

Guard On Back Side by Side Swimming Guard on Shoulder
Bump Push Off  Duck Under Boyer Push Off Shot
Quadriceps Kick Wigo Bump Rollout Shot from Leg Hook
Slam-Dunk  Rollout Shot from Hand Grab
Leg Hook

BUMP PUSH OFF

  • Guard tight on driver
  • Push off guard’s right bump with right foot
  • Separates and is open

02

The spin has succeeded and the driver has inside water but the guard is tight on the driver’s back.  Do not despair because the bump push off is here.  When the offensive player is holding position in the vertical, the guard’s legs are also vertical.  The guard’s pelvis has a large bump where the top of the pelvis comes forward and then down to connect to the pubis symphysis.  Image a skeleton and see two large round plates on top of the heads of the thigh bones called the pelvic bones.  The rounded part of the plate facing the driver’s foot is the “bump.” The offensive player places the foot on the bump, pushes off and swims away.  There is nothing the guard can do.  The bump push off knocks down the legs of the guard and gives the driver an extra second or two of time.  The coach can only do the bump drill for one lap before the guards wise up and back away from the driver’s foot. The practice guard knows the push off is coming and anticipates the push off and backs away.  The guard will put up with it for one lap and that is it. It is not a painful push off but a forceful one that physically moves the player.

In Eastern Europe, the game is practiced by doing the bump drill or similar drills over and over again. To the Eastern Europeans, the learning theory is if you do same drill a thousand times, the player will master the skill.  If you have not learned it after 900 times then you need a 100 more repetitions because you have not done it a 1,000 times yet. And of course, if you do not learn it after a 1,000 times then do it another 1,000 times.  As one can see, the European player is motivated to learn the drill as fast as possible.   For the American player doing it 10 times in a row is sometimes asking too much (see Fig. 1).

                                           
QUADRICEPS KICK

03

The driver is stopped with the guard on the back in front of the goal at the 3-meter line.  This is a very good guard and all of the tricks that the offensive player has tried to get open have not worked.  The driver switches to a quadriceps kick by kicking the guard’s thighs with the heels of the foot.  This is a two-foot operation.  The quad kick causes instant pain but no injury to the guard.  The guard immediately backs off and gives the driver a free shot at the goal for a second.  The coach allows the driver to do this action softly with the feet once in practice to the guard.  The coach needs to explain to the high school boys what the meaning of the word softly is. Doing the quadriceps kick more than once in practice causes the guard to back off the driver during the drive (see Fig. 2). 

DUCK UNDER

04

05

The driver needs to get inside water on the guard during the counterattack or the drive.  The technique for doing this is called ducking under after bearing into the guard’s shoulder.  The driver ducks his or her body under the guard’s body to get an advantage.  Then the driver’s head and shoulders pop up and the driver has inside water with the guard tight on their back. The driver fakes sinking with the guard on the back, and the referee calls an ejection on the guard.  The technique for ducking under is to time the guard’s stroke so the driver can slip his or her body under the guard’s body.  The duck under move cannot be too deep or the guard continues swimming and the driver is “playing submarine” in the pool.  The driver has to rub shoulders with the guard so he or she can duck under from a short distance away.  If the driver is 12-inches (31-cm) away from the guard’s shoulder, the duck under move fails because the driver’s body only goes half way under the guard (see Figs. 3, 4). 

WIGO BUMP

06

Ducking under the guard creates inside water and positions the guard on the driver’s back.   The Wigo bump was invented to disabled the guard after ducking under the guard.  The driver ducks under the guard, spreads the legs wide and eggbeaters hard and has the arms scull intensely.  This action provides a stable base for the driver to snap his or her butt up into the guard’s stomach.  The effect of the Wigo butt bump is to knock down the legs of the guard for a second or two.   Then the driver decides to go for the shot or to fake the kick out.  The Wigo bump is a very effective move.  The team practices by swimming a lap without a guard and stopping every 4-5 strokes and then snapping the buttocks up in the air.  Then add a guard and do the drill for real.  For the high school players the first time the team practices Wigo bumps, it is pretty funny to them.  However, with time, this becomes a normal drill.

Care must be taken that the driver is rubbing shoulders with the guard so when he or she ducks under the guard the buttocks slips under the guard’s belly so the butt bump hits the center of the guard’s body.  If the driver is not rubbing shoulders with the guard when he or she ducks under the guard, the Wigo bump will fail.  With the driver’s body only half way under the guard’s body, half of the driver’s buttocks hits the guard’s side and the other half of the driver’s buttocks hits the air.

Having shoulder separation between the guard and the driver makes it impossible to fully duck under the guard’s body.  The driver SHOULD NOT DO THE WIGO BUMP WHEN IS SLIGHTLY AHEAD OF THE GUARD.  When the driver is slightly ahead of the guard, the driver’s body is positioned to bump the guard’s face for an offensive foul.  If the driver is slightly ahead of the guard the Wigo bump cannot be done.  The driver has inside water and is open!  The driver has to be aware of his or her body position to do the Wigo bump correctly.  If the driver is not rubbing shoulders with the guard, something is wrong with the driver’s training.  A hesitant driver, afraid of contact, destroys the drill and the move cannot be done (see Fig. 5).

These are the three basic fundamentals that the driver must master if he or she is to succeed as a driver: bear-in, duck under and the Wigo bump.  If the driver does not learn these three basic fundamentals he or she will not become a driver.  All the drills in the world cannot help the driver who is afraid of contact with the guard.  The coach does not let the driver progress into shooting drills, spin moves or faking the kick out drills if the guard cannot do the “Big Three.”  Advanced moves cannot be done correctly by the driver if the basic fundamentals are not learned.  All of the shots require the driver to have physical contact with the guard and push the guard out of the way so the shooter can take a Boyer shot, a Rollout shot or a Russian slam-dunk shot.  Driving is a contact sport.

Boyer Push Off Shot

07

08

The driver drives to the 3-meter line with the guard on the left shoulder.  The guard is tight and the goalie is ready.  The driver pushes off the guard guard’s ribs or hip bone, steps-out to the right and takes a Boyer shot at the high right corner of the goal.  If the goalie has taken away the right corner of the goal then the driver moves the right foot forward and shoots cross-cage at the left corner of the goal.  Moving the right foot forward allows the shooter’s body to rotate to the left for a left corner shot.  If the shooter has the left foot forward then the hips cannot move and the shooter must shoot at the right corner of the goal. To demonstrate this fact to the players on the deck, the coach has the left foot forward and tries to turn his or her body to the left.  The coach then changes to a right foot forward position and easily turns to the left. The driver “reads” the goalie’s positioning to determine where to shoot the ball and which foot should be forward (see Figs. 6, 7).

Rollout Shot

09

10

The driver has the guard on the back or on the left shoulder and is on the 4-meter or 3-meter line.  The driver grabs the guard’s mid-waist or the right hip with the left hand and swings the ball with the right hand and turns past the guard’s body to rollout to the left.  The closest example is a side-by-side spin move into a roll onto the side. The left hand mid-waist/right hip grab with the right hand ball swing, provide the momentum to turn to the left and move past the guard. The driver rolls on the side and takes an overhand shot at the right corner of the goal.  If the shooter’s legs are not strong enough, place the ball in the water for balance, push down on the ball for thrust and then roll on the side for the rollout shot.  A player may use a dolphin kick to create separation from the guard.  A good rollout drill to practice is a stationary side-by-side drill with the two players with the driver grabbing the guard’s left hip and then turning with or without the ball.  Add a drill with the guard on the driver’s back and have the guard turn to the left with a leg hook or hand grab to the guard’s left hip for a rollout shot.  It helps the learning process if the players already know how to do a weakside spin move (see Figs. 8, 9).

Rollout Drive & Backhand Shot

11

12

The rollout maneuver has failed.  The driver could not lift the legs and roll on the side with the right hip up due to tight defense by the guard.  The driver still has a slight lead however that he or she can use to score.  The driver drops the legs to the vertical, puts the ball down in the water, brings the right foot forward so it faces the downcourt goal, and turns the back to the goal, thus cocking the body.  And shoots a backhand skim shot at the left lower corner of the goal.  In the event that the driver cannot drop the legs and turn the back to the goal for a backhand shot, an on-the-stomach forearm backhand wrist skim shot is used.  The ball is pinched in the hand, thumb is down and the arm is cocked on the surface of the water. The wrist and thumb turn inward as the arm moves forward to place massive spin on the ball so it can skim into the low corner.  Before practicing the forearm backhand the player has to be able to throw a backhand skim shot.  The two players throw backhand skim passes to each other to master the backhand shot.  To practice the forearm backhand wrist skim shot, the player places his or her hand on top of the ball, pushes it down in the water slightly, pinches the ball and twists the thumb under the ball for a skim pass to their partner.  This is a “body-less shot,” a forearm and wrist only shot without having the player’s legwork or footwork generate power. Lifting up the arm at the release causes the ball to dive into the water or be a weak backhand lob shot.  Pushing the ball deep in the water causes a backhand lob that goes nowhere.  If the shooter cannot master the backhand skim shot the rollout drive to a backhand cannot be done.  It is amazing as a coach, to see drivers that cannot function shooting with their legs in the vertical that is necessary for the backhand shot (see Fig. 10).

Hold and Slap Shot  

The driver drives to the 2-meter line, holds position and the right wing passer passes a high pass in front of driver.  The driver jumps up and slaps the ball into the goal.  The guard has to be careful not to blindly swing at the shooter’s arm or a penalty foul is called. The pass has to be high and hard to the stationary shooter for the slap-in shot.  No slow lob passes can be thrown to the shooter or the ball is knocked away.

Russian Slam-Dunk Shot

13

14

The guard is tight on the driver’s back and the driver is holding position on the 3-meter line.  It seems like the situation is hopeless for the driver.  But there is a new push off to a shot that can be used to score on the goalie.  The shot is called a Russian slam-dunk shot.  It adds a push off to the slam-dunk shot we practiced in Teaching Shooting Part 5.  With the guard tight on the driver’s back with the legs vertical, the guard is in a perfect position for the driver to use a transverse leg push off across the hips of the unsuspecting guard.  The driver places the hand on top of the ball, positions the entire lower leg across the hips and stomach of the guard and pushes off.  The force of the push off lifts the driver high in the air and he or she slam-dunks the ball over the head of the goalie for a goal (see Figs. 11, 12). 

THE EDUCATION OF THE GUARD TO PLAY DUMMY DEFENSE

The guard can easily mess up any of the drills and the techniques discussed above.  The guard has to be educated to play “dummy defense.”  That is to let the driver be successful in the drill.  However, the guard never wants to lose the “war” and fights to defeat the driver at every turn.  The coach has to instruct the guard to let the driver “win.”  The coach has to teach the offensive player how to do the drill and at the same time teach the guard how to play lousy defense.  The guard can mess up a drill in several devious ways:

Wigo Bump Guard keeps the shoulders away from the driver’s shoulders by moving away.
Or slow down so the driver is slightly in front of the guard and butts the guard’s face.
Duck Under  Roll on the back and backstroke away or drop the inside shoulder down to block.
Spin Move  Guard lifts up the hips so there is no hip to grab.  Moves to driver’s left shoulder to            
prevent the weakside spin move to the left.  Puts hand on the driver’s left shoulder
Bump Push Guard lifts up the hips so there is no bony bump to push off of.
Boyer Shot Guard gets ahead of the driver slightly so there is no body, ribs or hips for the driver to    
off of.  Guard turns sideways and there is no body for the driver to push off.
Rollout Shot Guard gets ahead of the driver and blocks the driver so he or she cannot roll to the left.

As the coach can see, the over-achieving guard can destroy any of the drills.  The defensive players have to be instructed quite forcefully by the coach to play dummy defense and let the offense win.  A competitive player on offense is also a competitive player on defense.  The worst guards at following the coach’s “dummy defense” are the best players. Good luck coach on getting the guards to follow your instructions!

Conclusion

The modern driver has six moves to get and keep inside water on the guard and five shots to score on the guard. The drills emphasize these techniques and shots. The driver sets up the guard, pushes off and drives forward, right or left to score. The driving game is not dead as some coaches have come to believe.  The driving game is alive and well.  Movement in the frontcourt is absolutely necessary to prevent the game from become a stagnant wrestling match.  The driver can get inside water by ducking under or Wigo bumping the guard.  Once he or she has inside water, the driver now has the choice of five shots or the faking the kick out on the guard.  The driver can choose to push off the guard’s bony bump to get separation or the driver can “soften up” the guard by kicking the guard’s thighs so the guard backs away.  Once the driver is on the 3-meter to 4-meter line the driver with good guard pressure is not doomed.  The driver can move laterally to the left or right to score.  The driver can do a Boyer shot to the right and score.  By moving to the left, he or she can use a rollout move to score. The modern driver has in his or her hands the ability to score or to get the ejection at any time during the drive.

Teaching Shooting Part 8
Overhand 5-meter shot

01

The 5-meter foul shot has evolved into a vital part of the game.  Teams that can shoot 5-meter shots win games; teams that cannot shoot 5-meter shots lose games. The old pass the ball into 2-meters, do not drive and go for the 6-on-5 shot strategy is what the game had become.  The rule makers saw that the game was stagnant and added the 5-meter shot to create more offense.   For some reason the age group and high school boys and girls have not attempted to learn the technique for shooting a 5-meter foul shot.  However, international men’s teams, a few individual international women players and almost no one else use the 5-meter foul shot extensively.  The purpose of this article is to teach the technique for shooting an overhand 5-meter shot.

When one looks at the 5-meter shot, it appears to be deceptively simple.  Get a foul, turn and shoot.  However, the technique involved is much more complex than it appears.  Most of the technique for shooting a 5-meter shot goes against what the shooter believes is “natural” and “intuitive.” In actuality, the shooter does not sink when he or she fouled, does not let the ball slip away, but uses all of his or her force to begin the shot with their back to the goal.  The shooter must aim the ball while blindly turning and maintains body control during this explosive throwing motion.  The question is how does one move quickly after being fouled and still be accurate with the shot?   The answer: is no one can take this shot without instruction.

The age group, high school and even college players have shied away from taking the 5-meter shot.  Women in general, have especially have shied away from the 5-meter foul shot.  This is true even though the Russian Women’s Senior National Team once scored five 5-meter goals against the US National Team!  Nowhere in the pool is a shooter allowed to take an unhindered shot at the goal, from 5-meters away from the cage without the guard clobbering him or her.  It would seem on paper that the 5-meter foul shot is  a golden opportunity for the shooter.  However, the shooter does not take advantage of this type of shot.  The question of why delves into the depths of how our shooters are trained to throw the ball.  We have been trained to take slow-motion power shots with a two pump fakes using all of our power to throw the ball.  The concept of quickness is not taught to our shooters.  Every now and then, a “natural born shooter” takes a quick wrist shot but this is not part of our throwing training program.  The 5-meter shot is a quick shot, but we do not have any players that can shoot quickly.  No quick shooters = no 5-meter shots.  Coaches need to train shooters to shoot the ball quickly. “Train Quick, Be Quick”; it is as simple as that.

HOW NOT TO SHOOT A 5-METER SHOT

  • Sink deeply underwater with no legs when fouled
  • Ball drifts a meter away after the foul
  • Shooter delays shooting immediately
  • Shooter looks twice at the goal
  • Shooter fakes the ball and then shoots

The above technique of the badly trained 5-meter shooter insures the he or she will never score from 5-meters. No one can sink deep underwater and expect to shoot quickly.  No one can shoot if the ball has drifted a meter away and the player has to swim after the ball to retrieve it.  Or worst, the shooter hesitates and does not shoot the ball immediately.  The shooter does not know their position in the pool and has to look over their shoulder several times to check where the goal is located.  And the shooter has always pump faked the ball to balance out his or her legs when taking an outside shot, they automatically reverts to faking the ball even though they know (maybe unconsciously) that this is a contra foul when shooting a 5-meter shot.  This combination of errors by the young age group, high school and college player prevents any of them from ever taking a proper 5-meter shot.

5-METER SHOT TECHNIQUE

  • Kick up into the foul
  • Flatten the torso when fouled
  • Drag and roll the ball
  • Explode up, turn and shoot

The shooter anticipates the foul, kicks up strongly into the foul, folds the torso forward, drags and rolls the ball back to himself, picks up the ball, and quickly turns and shoots.  The quickness of the shooter’s movement usually prevents the guard from getting the hand up.  These are the basics.  However, this is what rarely happens.

The Eastern Europeans have advanced way past this rudimentary level of shooting into what the author calls the triple option 5-meter shot: overhand, side arm and lean-over shots.  We on the other hand, have not yet mastered the basic 5-meter overhand shot.  For the shooters to be able to advance to next level of 5-meter shooting, the water polo player has to first lean the basic overhand 5-meter technique.

KICK UP INTO THE FOUL

  • Kick hard into the foul
  • Step-out with right foot forward

02

The shooter maneuvers his or her way to near the 5-meter zone.  The shooter knows exactly where the 5-meter cones are located.  It is second nature for the trained 5-meter shooter to stop just before the 5-meter line and then allows the foul or fakes the foul.  The shooter has to be sure that he or she gets the guard to foul them.  If the guard is not over-aggressive, the shooter has to convincely fake the foul.  A phony looking foul does not draw the official’s whistle.  The shooter has to be trained to create “real looking fouls.”  The reader should read The Shot Doctor “Teaching Shooting Part 7” to see the technique for faking a foul.  The shooter has to be trained to get the foul and work for it.  If the shooter never gets a foul called, there will be no 5-meter shot.

After the player has strategically located him or herself near the 5-meter line and drawn the foul, the shooter has to maintain position in the water.  This does not mean throwing the hands up in the air and sinking a meter or two underwater.  No quick shot can occur if the shooter loses their legs and is underwater.  In that case, the 5-meter shot is dead as the foul occurred.  The shooter anticipates the foul and drives hard with the legs to stay afloat with the right leg forward.  This may sound counterintuitive to the player.  How do I get the foul if I do not sink?  The answer is the official never looks at the player’s legs underwater— the official looks at the torso.  If the shooter’s torso is vertical, it is not a foul.  If the shooter’s torso is horizontal, it is a foul.  The next question for the unskilled 5-meter shot is how to do a differential movement—flopping torso and strongly kicking legs.  The average player has little control of his or her body.  The power shot is taken at 100-percent maximum speed by all parts of the body.  However, the 5-meter foul has the player’s entire upper body shut down 100-percent as it flops down on the water to draw the foul while the lower body kicks upward at 100-percent.  The player has to be trained to collapse the torso but kick up hard with the legs during practice.  The dual motion combination does not come “naturally”; it is a trained motion that takes practice.  Practice with the guard fouling hard on the shooter.  The shooter flattens the torso but continues to kick with the legs.  The players have never been trained to use two body speeds at the same time.

FLATTEN THE TORSO WHEN FOULED

  • Slap the torso against the water
  • Hands help snap torso down
  • Right foot forward, let go of the ball

03

When the guard fouls the 5-meter shooter to be, he or she immediately collapses the torso and has it hit the water hard.  This is not a soft torso collapse.  It is a hard torso collapse.  One, that convinces the official that it was a hard foul by the guard.  It is not of course, but the official can only assume that the offensive player’s torso is flattened to the surface of the water by the guard’s hard foul.  As stated above the player has to be trained to do this differential motion of kicking hard and folding the torso.  Failure to do this act means that no foul is called on the guard and no 5-meter foul shot will be taken (see Fig. 2).

DRAG AND ROLL THE BALL

  • As the foul occurs
  • Place hand in FRONT of the ball with an extra kick
  • Slowly drag hand over the ball
  • Ball rolls over the waves back to shooter

04

05

The guard tries to knock down the offensive player’s back and slap the ball.  The player has to get his or her shoulders high out of the water take the hand off the top of the ball or a ball under foul is called on the offensive player. As the foul occurs the shooter rolls the ball (slow backspin) so it comes back to his hand.

When the offensive player lets go of the ball the wave created by the guard slapping the surface of the water causes a wave that carries the ball away.  The best technique is the drag and roll.  The most common technique is to place backspin on the ball.  The reasoning behind this is that a backspinning ball should roll back to the 5-meter shooter’s hand.  This logic is flawed.  The ball does indeed spin in one place on top of the wave, but the wave with the ball spinning on top carries the ball a meter or more away from the 5-meter shooter.  The ball should not spin in one place.  The ball has to roll back a meter over the waves to the shooter’s hand.

The correct technique for having the ball roll back to the 5-meter shooter’s hand is the drag and roll technique.  The shooter lunges forward with a short kick, which positions the HAND IN FRONT OF THE BALL.  With the hand in front of the ball, the shooter SLOWLY ROLLS THE HAND OVER THE TOP OF THE BALL.  A roll is much difference than a spin where the ball is concerned.  The drag and roll technique has the ball roll back over the waves to the shooter’s hand for an immediate shot (see Figs. 3, 4)

The 5-meter shooter to be has to do three things: kick up hard with the legs, flatten the torso and roll the ball back.  Usually, the player can master the first two techniques but has a difficult time doing the drag and roll.  The player does not do the extra short kick and short lunge which results in the shooter placing the hand on top of the ball.  The result of the hand on top of the ball is a rapid backspin is placed on the ball so it remains in one place on top of the big wave from the guard’s foul.  The wave carries ball away a meter or more from the shooter’s hand.  Without the short kick to lunge the body to get the hand in front of the ball, there is no slow ball rolling back over the waves to the shooter’s hand.  The shooter-to-be, drew the foul but does not have possession the ball (and will not for several seconds) and the 5-meter shot is dead.  By the time, the player swims a stroke or two to retrieve the ball, time has run out for taking an immediate shot at the goal.

EXPLODE UP, TURN AND SHOOT

  • Kick high and hard with the legs
  • Grab the ball
  • Spin and shoot at high corner

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Assuming that the 5-meter shooter has drawn the foul, kicked hard with the legs to stay afloat and slapped the torso on the water and the ball rolled back to the shooter’s hand, the next part of the 5-meter shooting technique can be taught.  The shooter grabs the ball underneath or on top, kicks hard with the legs a second time, spins 180-degrees and shoots an overhand shot at the high corner of the goal.  Usually a righthanded shooter located on the point is going to shoot the ball at the high right corner.  Unfortunately, the goalie is aware of where the righthander is going to shoot the ball.  The 5-meter shooter has to beat the goalie to the corner with the ball with a quick shot.  A medium body speed shot with a slow release is blocked; a quick shot scores.  The difference between a medium speed 5-meter shot and a quick 5-meter shot is the efficiency of technique.  The difference between scoring and having the shot blocked is about a tenth of a second.  A player with good technique is quick; a player with poor technique has a slower body speed and release.  For the 5-meter shooter to have quickness he or she has to have strong legs that can absorb the foul and keep kicking.  A weak legged player cannot shoot a 5-meter foul shot.  The player has to explode upward with the legs at 100-percent.  The slam-dunk drills in The Shot Doctor “Teaching Shooting Part 5 covers how teach a player how to have explosive legs.  The coaching concept that doing slow repetition marathon-like eggbeater for 10-laps of eggbeater with a weight does not teach the shooter how to have explosive legs or how to create great height out of the water.  The shooter also has to have a vertical back.  The 5-meter shooter cannot be leaning away from the guard.  Once the shooter has explosive legs, a vertical back, then the shooter can turn and face the goal and shoot (see Figs. 5, 6, 7).
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The shooter quickly spins 180-degrees and shoots the ball.  The shooter does not hesitate, fake the ball or look over his shoulder a couple of times at the goal.  The ability to shoot quickly again requires strong and explosive legs.  The shooter has to maintain balance during the spin and stay stable in the air while throwing the ball.  The 5-meter shot is a high elevation shot.  It is not a neck-in-the-water shot.  Many times, the coach sees the unstable 5-meter shooter fall over on the back and throw the ball over the goal.  Any shot that goes over the goal is the result of the shooter falling over on their back from unstable right leg support.

An unstable shooter who cannot sustain height will attempt to throw the ball at the low corner of the goal to retain control of the ball.  The goalie, beaten on the shot, now sees the ball thrown at his or her hand sculling in the water!  Any goalie in the world can block a low corner shot thrown at his hand.  The 5-meter foul shot has to be thrown at the high corner of the goal.  A good drill is to demand that part of the shooting practice be high corner shooting.  Another part of the shooting practice should be one on one passing throwing 5-meter shots so the shooter learns to elevate, rotate and shoot.  In the beginning, passing practice is going to look horrible as the players fall over and throw the ball away.  Eventually, in a week, they learn to remain stable while turning and shooting.  Again, you are what you train.  Train high skill movement and one gets high skill movements.  Train players to do low-skill movements and you get low-skill movements.  One subject, that no coach wants to hear, is the bad shooter is the result of bad coaching.  Great teams have great coaches and bad teams have bad coaches.

DRILLS

Dry land drill

The coach can demonstrate on dry land the folding of the torso, the turn and the throw.

In-the-water drill

The coach has a player kick up and fold the torso into the water with a simulated foul by the guard.  The concept of kicking up hard while slapping the torso on the water will take time for the players to learn.  They have to master two extreme body motions at the same time.  The drag and roll technique takes time.  The coach has the player do a spin move and let go of the ball with the hand in front of the ball with a slow hand drag over the top of the ball.  The player will not extend the hand in front of the ball because he or she did not do an extra short kick to lunge forward after the spin move was completed.  The non-kicking player, hand can only reach the top of the ball and put a rapid backspin on the ball so it only spins in one place.  A drill to help to get the ball rolling is to have the player stationary and slowly drag the hand over the ball so it roll backward.  The drag and roll is a difficult technique to learn because the player does not want to make the extra short kick to lung forward after the spin move is completed.

Slam-dunk drills are done to get the player to have explosive legs that create great height out of the water.  If the 5-meter shooter is going to shoot over the guard’s hand, he or she must get higher out of the water than the guard’s hand.  The slam-dunk drills are found in The Shot Doctor “Teaching Shooting Part 5.”  The combination of slam-dunk drills and spin move drills creates the structure for the 5-meter shot.  The shooter practices with a partner spinning, drag and roll and then turn and shot-pass to a partner.  Shot-passing to a partner allows for 20-times more shot attempts than waiting in line for a minute each time to shoot at the goal.  The coach quickly sees that his or her players when they move quickly to throw the ball are unstable and drop the ball or throw the ball over the cage.  This does not happen in the power shot because the shooter is facing the goal and is taking a slow-motion shot.  Being stable at slow speed does not transfer over to being stable at high speed shooting.

In front of the goal drill

Move to the goal with a guard making a hard foul on the 5-meter shooter and see how the player’s legs hold up with a 120-170-pound guard load on them.  All 5-meter foul shots are thrown at the high corner of the goal.  Do not allow a low corner shot.  The high corner shot is the correct shot selection to score and it forces the shooter to have stronger legs.  After the team practices the 5-meter shot drills for a week or two, two players will master the shot.  For the rest of the players, the 5-meter shot drills teaches quickness, rotation and smart leg positioning for better overall body control.

CONCLUSION

As the coach can see, the taking of the 5-meter foul shot is not a simple shot— it is a highly skilled movement.  The 5-meter shot requires a player with strong legs, explosive legs, able to kick hard and fold the torso at the same time and drag and roll the ball back simultaneously, then quickly pick up the ball, turn and shoot at the high corner of the goal.  The shooter has to have strong legs to absorb the foul and at the same time explosive legs that can elevate the shooter to a great height.  At the same time, strong/explosive legs have to sustain the 5-meter shoot in the air to provide a stable base from which the shooter can make the shot.  Usually, a team has two players that can take a 5-meter shot.  The rest of the team never figures the shot out.  The coach has to find those two players and train them in the proper throwing technique to score the 5-meter shot.  Next month we will discuss the triple option 5-meter shot.  The fouled shooter has three choices: throw an overhand shot, a side arm shot or a lean-over shot depending on the position of the guard’s arm and the goalie’s position in the goal.

TEACHING SHOOTING PART 9
& The Triple Option 5-Meter Shot

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This article examines the new method for shooting a 5-meter shot.  The shooter has a triple option of using an overhand shot, a side arm shot or a lean-over shot.  This shooting sequence originated in the Serbia, Croatia and Italy around the late summer of 2010 and first appeared at the 2010 European Men’s Championships. The shooters had realized after 10-years of 5-meter blocked foul shots that the overhand shot was a simple shot for the guard to block.  Just put your hand up in the air in front of the shooter’s left shoulder point and he or she will throw the ball into guard’s hand.  The guard’s follows the rule: wherever the shooter’s left shoulder (and left foot) points the ball follows. To combat all of these defensive field blocks, the players added two more shots, the side arm shot and the lean-over shot (shooter lies on his side and shoots), to confuse the guard.  The shooter now can set up the guard, the goalie and select the best shot for the situation.  For example, if the shooter is at the point, the 3-spot, he or she can shoot to the right corner, left corner or over the top of the guard’s head.  The shooter comes up big out of the water and looks at the right corner of the goal.  If the guard puts his or her left arm up to block the right corner of the goal and goalie overplays the right corner, the player shoots at the left corner of the goal. Neither the guard nor the goalie anticipate this unexpected corner selection.  (See The Shot Doctor: Vertical to Horizontal Shooting Parts 2, 3).   

The triple option 5-meter shot requires knowledge of three shots, overhand shot, side arm shot and lean-over shot.    The vast majority of players have never done a quick wrist overhand shot much less a side arm shot or a lean-over shot from the field. Coach needs to train the shooter to shoot a wrist overhand shot, a side arm shot and a lean-over shot before teaching the 5-meter foul shot.  The foul shot is a high skill shot that requires extensive training.  For further help, the reader should read last month’s article, Teaching Shooting Part 8, which looked at the overhand 5-meter foul shot.  The reader should go to “Polo Articles”; click on “The Shot Doctor” and scroll down to the article before reading this month’s article.

In addition to the three shots, the coach needs to teach courage to the shooter.  The shooter needs to commit the guard with a fake.  That is to say, the shooter commits the guard by swinging the ball forward with the hand to make it look like an overhand shot.  The shooter’s forward movement of the arm causes the guard to leap up high out of the water and become frozen in the air.  The immobile guard’s arm now can be shot around to the right or left. Failure to move the right arm forward with the ball results in the shot being blocked.

FOUR ELEMENTS OF THE 5-METER SHOT

  • Elevation
  • Forward Arm Swing/Courage
  • Side Arm Shot
  • Lean-over Shot

The triple option 5-meter foul shot is composed of four elements.  The first, part is getting high out of the water using explosive legs to reach maximum height out of the water.  No high leap out of the water = no shot.  If the shooter has weak legs or lacks the intent to kick the legs high and hard, this shot cannot be done.  The second most important part of the triple option 5-meter shot is the forward arm swing fake.  The courageous shooter swings the ball directly at the guard’s outstretched hand and suddenly stops 6-inches (15-cm) in front of the guard’s hand. But this must be a smooth transition into the shot to avoid the contra foul for faking.

If the forward swing fake is effective, the guard will scissor kick high in the air and be “frozen” in the air, unable to move his outstretched arm to the right or left.  The shooter varies the shot selection by throwing at the right corner of the goal using a side arm shot; and throwing at the left corner of the goal and shoots a lean-over shot. A lean-over shot has the shooter lying on his or her side (see opening photograph).

EXPLOSIVE LEGS/ELEVATION FAKE

The offensive player has to have strong and explosive legs and that are able to lift the shooter high out of the water.  A low altitude drowning shooter cannot take this shot.  This is an all-out shot using maximum force to commit the guard and to shoot the ball.  Unlike the leisurely rhythmic pump fake to a shot sequence, this is NOT a slow motion body movement to a shot.  To commit the guard, the shooter has to be committed with the legs for the body elevation fake.  The guard reads the motion of the shooter upward to see how to respond.  An offensive player jumping up to where the guard can see the shooter’s hips convinces the guard the shot is coming.  The defender looks at the height out of the water of the offensive player to decide if it is a pass (player low in the water) or a shot (player high in the water). When the guard does not see a quick explosive motion from the offensive player, the defender waits on the shot with the legs eggbeatering and the hands wide to see what the shooter is going to do. The high body elevation is a fake.  There is more to faking than arm fakes.

FORWARD ARM SWING FAKE

  • Explode up with the legs
  • Swing ball 6” away from guard’s hand
  • Commit the guard into the air

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After the shooter’s explosive leg acceleration lifts the offensive player high in the air, the guard begins kicking hard to leap up in the air.  The forward swing fake completes the deal by swinging the ball right at the guard’s outstretched hand and forcing the guard to leap high to block the apparent overhand shot.  The guard’s arm and body MUST be fully extended to be locked in the air.  The shooter’s pinched ball stops 6-inches (15-cm) in front of the defender’s hand.  If the upward movement of the shooter’s body and the forward motion of the shooter’s arm are not convincing, the guard does not scissor kick and “lock out” in the air.  The guard, like the goalie, does not want to commit high as the body is locked in the air and unable to move anywhere else.  Practice this fake by having the guard hold the arm straight up without moving, have the player swing the ball, and stop just short of the hand.  For the weaker player with weak legs and abs he or she cannot stop the arm before it hits the guard’s hand.  The average player holds the ball way back in a cocked arm position and the guard and does not jump (see Figs. 1, 2)

SIDE ARM SHOT

  • Boyer step-out 30-degrees
  • ¾ arm position
  • Pinch ball with vertical fingers
  • Snap the right foot inward
  • Twist snap the vertical hand for sidespin
  • Curve right: soft foot snap-in
  • Curve left: hard foot snap-in

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Photograph by Deep Blue Media.eu and Inside Foto.it

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Photograph by Deep Blue Media.eu and Inside Foto.it

The side arm shot was discussed in Women’s Shooting Part 5 and the Vertical and Horizontal Shooting Part 3.  The author recommends to the reader to read these articles to get all of the information on side arm shooting.  In this article, the author will briefly go over the basics of the side arm shot.  Until recently, the side arm shot was a highly inaccurate shot that missed the goal by a wide margin.  If it was a side arm skip shot, the ball bounced way over the cage.  Because the side arm shot never scored, the coach banned the side arm shot.  A few male players were good at the side arm shot but the rest of the players were terrible.  The girls and women thought they lacked the arm strength to shoot side arm shot and never took the shot.  Advances in shooting technology make it possible for females to take side arm shots and side arm skip shots.  To be able to take a triple option 5-meter shot the shooter has to be proficient at both the side arm shot and the lean-over shot (see Figs. 3, 4).  

The technique that the side arm 5-meter foul shot shooter uses is to kick up high and hard for an elevation fake, swing the arm forward to lock the guard’s arm in the air and then step-out.  The shooter lowers the arm, snaps-in the right foot, uses a twist snap release and shoots the ball at the right corner of the goal.

A side arm skip shot positions the arm at a 90-degree angle, which causes the ball has to strike the water at a sharp angle and skip upward.  However, for the skim shot, the shooter’s arm drops lower, the ball is closer to the surface of the water, and the ball skims.  The shooter curves the ball to the right by softly snapping-in the right foot so the curved ball is “pushed” to the outside to the right corner of the goal.  To curve the ball sharply to the left, the right foot snaps in hard to “pull” the ball away to the farside corner.  For example, of pulling (curving) the ball to the left, is the shooter is at the 2-spot (EU-4), steps-out, the goalie jumps towards the right corner but leaves the left corner of the goal open for the sharp curve shot to score.

It is important to note that when the shooter is unconvincing on the leg kick up/arm swing fake for the side arm shot, the guard simply lowers the arm to the horizontal and blocks the side arm shot.  In the recent 2013 NCAA Women’s Semi-Final game between Stanford and UCLA, there were Stanford side arm shots galore flying at the UCLA goalie.  In the NCAA final, between USC and Stanford, the Stanford women did not know to elevate and arm swing fake the guard to commit them.  The USC guards simply placed their left arms out to the side and blocked all of the Stanford side arm shots.  The European men, a couple of years ago, discovered this fact when they had all of their new side arm shots blocked.  They learned to elevate to commit the guard and then shoot around the guard’s arm.

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The position of the shooter in the water also has a bearing on what type of shot is taken.  When the shooter is outside the right goal post, it is not impossible to take a standard side arm shot.  Instead, a right foot side arm shot is taken. The Boyer shooter moves the right foot slightly forward, which allows the shooter to turn the body to the extreme left to shoot at the left corner.  The goalie is locked on the right goal post and is out of position to block the shot (see Fig. 5).

LEAN-OVER SHOT 

  • Fall or lie on side
  • Arm high in the air
  • Overhand shot

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Russian shooting a Lean-Over shot at Dutch goalie.
Photograph by Deep blue media.eu/G. Scala

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Montenegrin player shoots around Croatian guard’s hand at 2010 European Championships. 
Photograph by Deep blue media.eu/G. Scala

The lean-over shot is discussed in the article in Vertical Shooting Part 2 and the author will go over the major points of the lean-over shot.  When the guard has the outstretched arm in front of the shooter’s left shoulder, it is foolish to throw the ball into the guard’s hand.  Instead, why not just shoot around the guard’s hand?  The lean-over shot was invented so the shooter had a shot to the left of the guard’s arm at the left corner of the goal.  The 5-meter foul shooter is positioned from the right wing, right post to the point position.  Do not have the shooter who is positioned on the left goal post or in the left wing shoot a lean-over shot as the ball with hit the left wall (see Figs. 6, 7).

DRILLS

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The first drill is a leg drill such as the slam-dunk to get the player to leap high in the air with the legs kicking high and hard.  For some players, getting high in the air is unheard of.  The rule is the greater the shooter, the greater the height out of the water.  Height out of the water is a fake, an elevation fake, which tricks the guard into jumping high in the air to block the apparent shot.   Low attitude shooters need to go out for scuba diving and not water polo (see Teaching Shooting Part 5).  Once the legs are established by the slam-dunk drills, the forward swing fake can then be introduced (see Fig. 8).

Forward arm swing fake drill

The forward arm swing fake is used when the guard’s hand is high in the air and blocking the path of the overhand shot.  The forward arm swing fake allows the shooter to commit the guard, hide the ball from the goalie and shoot a side arm or lean-over shot.

The arm swing drill has the shooter swing the right arm and ball forward and stop in front of the guard’s outstretched hand.  The shooter’s hand must be strong enough to pinch the ball and the player’s core muscles have to be strong enough to decelerate the player’s body.  Deceleration is stopping.  A player with weak back muscles cannot stop their body from moving forward.  A player with a weak core cannot do this shot.  The fearful player wants to hold the ball back in a long arm cock to keep the ball as far away from the guard’s hand as possible.  This ruins the 5-meter shot and telegraphs the shot to the guard.  The drill is to have the guard jump straight up and the shooter touches the ball to the guard’s outstretched hand and the shooter then moves to the right for a side arm shot or to the left for a lean-over shot.  The shooter has to have the courage to swing the ball forward to commit the guard or the 5-meter foul shot is dead.  Effort and courage are required for this part of the triple option 5-meter shot.

The coach has the players do sit ups, hyperextensions, balance sit ups and superman drills and plank exercises to strengthen their core muscles.  No core = no shot.  A good source of core exercises is Mike Reid’s articles on weight lifting in Water Polo Planet and Dr. Chu has written books on balance ball training.

Side arm shot drills

Boyer Drill

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The push off the wall Boyer drill is the main drill taught to the players.  The player is next to the wall with the left forearm against the tile.  The right knee is high, the arm is held high above the head and near the head, and the torso is cocked to the left with the right hip jutting out.  The player pushes off with the forearm and steps-out with the right leg and the arm held at a ¾-arm position.  Add a ball and repeat the drill.  Do not allow the player to have a horizontal right arm, as the right arm is the last part of the body’s cocking mechanism.  A horizontal right arm robs the player of the momentum that is traveling up the body from the legs and torso.  Another point is to make sure that the player’s right knee is high so when he or she steps-out the pelvis is level.  A low knee step-out causes the legs to cross, the right elbow to dip and the ¾ arm position becomes a vertical arm overhand position.  The shooter cannot shoot around the guard with a vertical arm.  The ball is released at the apex (maximum height) of the step-out.  Do not allow the Boyer passer to sink due to the late release of the ball.  When the shooter is not convincing in the elevation and arm swing fake, the guard needs to tell the shooter what he did wrong (see Fig. 9).

Skim and Skip Passing

In the one-on-one skim shot passing drill, the player has the arm positioned low.  For side arm skip shots the player’s arm is positioned a little higher for more angle on the ball hitting the water.  Players skimming and skipping the ball will make a lot of mistakes until they figure out the touch and timing of the side arm shot.  Finally, move the players to the goal, have the Boyer shooter at the point with the guard having the arm up and practice shooting around the guard’s arm to the right corner.  Goalies have to play “dummy defense” and not block any shots.  The skip point for the side arm skip shot is the invisible line drawn across the goal posts, the goal line.  The faster the skip shot the closer the ball has to be to the goal line.  Taking a side arm skip shot and using a 3-meter skip point guarantees that the ball will skip over the cage.

Right Foot Snap-In Drill

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The drill for practicing the right foot snapin is for the shooter to be positioned slightly inside the left goal post on the 5-meter line.  The shooter softly snaps-in the right foot using a side arm to shoot a high corner shot or a skim shot to “push” the ball into the right corner of the goal.  A hard right foot snap-in pulls the ball back to the left corner of the goal.  The shooter uses the motion of the right foot to change direction of the ball.  This is a new concept to the shooter and it will take some time to learn. Either the US 2-spot / EU 4-spot shooter does not snap-in the foot at all and the ball drifts outside the goal post or he snaps-in the right foot too hard and hits the goalie in the stomach at center goal.  The goalie, however, only sees the shooter’s arm movement to predict where the ball is going.  The shooter’s right foot snap-in motion is underwater and the goalie cannot see the right foot motion and therefore the direction of the ball (see Figs. 10, 11).

Lean-over shot drills

The 5-meter double option goes through the same steps to kick up high and hard and to arm swing the ball at the guard’s hand and then lies on the side and shoots the ball at the left corner of the goal.  The lean-over shot is not as complicated as the Boyer Side Arm Shot.  It does, however, require the shooter to learn how to shoot in the horizontal.  Of special concern is the hand position and touch on the ball for the skip shot and skim shot.  For the skim shot, the arm is moved to the extreme left of the shooter’s head with the hand twisting slightly inward lead by the thumb.  This wrist twist place more spin on the ball so it does not hit the water and die.  For the skip shot, the shooter has to use more power.  For the high school girl or boy they may not have enough power to shoot a horizontal skip shot.  In this case, the ball is thrown at the lower left corner of the goal.  A high corner shot requires more body control.  It greatly increases the degree of difficulty to require the shooters to throw at the high corner of the goal.  If a skip shot is taken, girls, women, and some high school males should use an index finger or 2-finger skip shot release to skip the ball (see Skip Shots 1-4).

The main drill is to position the shooter at the point, kick up, commit the guard with the forward arm swing fake, lean to the left, scull strongly with the left hand, and shoot.  Guards have a more difficult time recovering and moving to the shooter’s left to block the lean-over shot.  Again, the player has to explode upward with the legs and have the courage to swing the ball forward to commit the guard.  Much of the success of this technique for the lean-over shot is based on effort and courage.  Due to these two factors, there are only a couple water polo players on the team that are skilled enough to take the triple option 5-meter shot.

CONCLUSION

The players face many situations in a game.  The 2-meter player is underwater, the 6-on-5 cannot score and the outside shooters are afraid to shoot.  The only player left in the game that can score is the 5-meter specialist shooter.  The 5-meter foul shot can score up to half of the goals in a game.  The quickness of the 5-meter shot catches the guard and the goalie by surprise.  The referee gives the shooter a blank check to shoot the ball 5-meters away from the cage without being attacked by the guard.  However, the 5-meter shot has been under-utilized by water polo teams.  The 5-meter shot demands strong legs, a courageous forward arm swing fake and the ability to take an overhand, side arm or a lean-over shot.  The mental part of the game requires that the shooter be  positioned correctly in the pool. The shooter reads the defense to see what side of the goal that the goalie has left open and where the guard’s arm is located.  The triple option 5-meter foul shot is the secret scoring weapon for the team.

EACHING SHOOTING PART 10  
Teaching the Mental Game

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For the shooter there is more to learn about shooting the ball than the physical act of throwing the ball.  The mind of the shooter must be trained.  The shooter needs to learn how to read the angle to the goal he or she is on, the guard’s arm position and where the goalie positioned in the cage.  None of this stuff is physical.  All of it uses the brain as a mental tool to improve the tactical technique of the 5-meter foul shot shooter.   It is the shooter’s mind that throws the ball and not the muscles.

Shooting is not all about physical technique, which is only part of the shot.  The fact is, the mind leads the shot.  It is a thought before a shot. This brain training is called mental strength training. There is no such thing as a “creative heart” or an intelligent muscle. Creativity comes from the mind of the shooter. All the conditioning, weightlifting and shooting technique is worthless if the well-trained shooter throws the ball perfectly into the goalie’s stomach. The mental game must be developed as much as the physical game.  The shot is a mind/body motion.  As coaches, we have focused all of our attention on the physical and ignored the mental.  A heart does not throw the ball.  A bicep muscle does not throw the ball.  Only the mind reads the angle and the goalie’s position in the goal, not the cardiovascular system or the muscular system.  The legs do not throw the ball.  The mind throws the ball.

The tactical aspects of shooting are not discussed with the players.  Only when a player makes a mistake and does not score, will the coach teach the shooter.  This form of teaching (yelling at a mistake) is a negative form of teaching that may not be the best learning situation for the player.  Especially, for the male coach that is coaching females, negative coaching does not work very well with them.  The shooter should know beforehand what are angles and percentages for the 5-meter foul shot.  The perfectly thrown ball—at the wall—does not score.  The perfect shot needs a perfect read to score.

The average player has been taught: “just throw heat.”  The mental concept of actually thinking about where to place the ball in the goal is not taught.  It may even be beyond the limited thinking of the power-obsessed shooter.  There are a lot of “dumb shooters” in the age group and high school level but none are found at the college and international levels.  The question is why?  The answer is it takes brains to score and not muscle.  There are throwers and there are scorers.  To the high school boy with a power shot, his emotional survival seems based on how hard he can throw the ball at the goalie’s stomach or skip the ball over the goal.  The purely physical thrower does not advance past high school.  The purely physical thrower may not even make it onto to the starting lineup of his high school varsity team.  Poor shot selection and having all of his or her shots blocked precludes this type of shooter from graduating to a higher level and actualizing their potential.

If the water polo player were a pitcher, he or she would be deadly—and inaccurate.  All of their pitches miss the catcher’s glove.  The more power placed on the baseball, the more likely the baseball throw will not be accurate.  Some pitcher’s throws miss the catcher by 10-feet (3-meters).  Sounds just like a water polo player.  Power creates stability problems and hence accuracy problems.  In addition, the pitcher (male) who throws all of his pitches as hard as possible soon ends up in surgery with a destroyed shoulder.  Has any water polo coach ever told his or her players to take 5 or 10-percent off the velocity of the shot to improve their accuracy?  No.  Power, control and accuracy exist in baseball and softball but not in high school water polo.  Can the water polo coach learn about throwing from the baseball or softball coach?  Yes.  But, he or she does not make the effort.

02

When shooting a 5-meter foul shot the question that faces the shooter is “What angle am I on and what type of shot should I select.”  Each of the three angles the US 2, 3 and 4-spots or European 4, 3 and 2-spots (European numbers are the reverse of US numbers) require a different read of the angle to the goal and different shots.  The shot taken from the above the left post (US-2, EU-4) is a different read and shot than one taken from the above the right post (US-4, EU-2).  Increasing the difficulty of decision-making, the point shot from the 3-spot, the point, is a different read and shot than the right post or left post shot.  And to make matters more difficult, the shooter has to read the position of the guard’ right arm or left arm, to see if it changes the trajectory of the shot.  The shooter can have the correct angle, correct shot, and the correct read of the goalie’s position in the cage but can be stymied by the position of the guard’s arm.  “Just throw the dam ball” is not going to fix this situation. Brains—thinking, tactics and problem solving by the shooter has to be involved in throwing the ball.  The shooter cannot “muscle” the ball through the goalie’s body (see Fig. 1).

HIGH CORNER SHOT

  •   Ball in high corner of goal 

The shooter from the point spot in the pool has the greatest number of opportunities available to shoot at any corner of the goal.  The 5-meter shooter has several choices: the ball can be thrown at the right or the left corner of the goal.  The over-the-head goalie 5-meter shot is usually blocked by the goalie.  The shooter shooting at the corner of the goal forces the goalie to move laterally in the goal to the right or left.  Shooting at the high corner of the goal forces the goalie to jump high out of the water and move to the right or left high corner to block the shot. Therefore, high right corner or high left corner shots are the highest percentage shots for the 5-meter shooter.  Throwing the ball low at a goalie is usually a low percentage 5-meter shot that is blocked.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN WRIST SHOOTERS AND POWER SHOOTERS

  • Quick wrist release
  • Slower power shot release

The shooter’s “normal” 5-meter foul shot is to shoot at the high right corner.  If the goalie has seen the shooter previously use this shot placement, he or she sets up to block that high right corner of the goal.   Now, the factor of the shooter’s quickness of his or her release comes into play with the high right corner shot.  When the shooter is extremely quick at releasing the ball, he or she can beat the goalie to the corner even if it the goalie knows where the shot is going.  For example, we have all seen penalty shots where the smaller quick wrist penalty shot shooter throws the ball in the high corner before the goalie can react and move upward to the high corner to block the shot.  The quick penalty shooter motto is, “I pick a corner and shoot.  The goalie cannot beat the ball.”  The power penalty shot shooter motto is, “Delay and score.”

This quick release shooter’s motto is not true for the slower arm motion power shooter taking a penalty shot.  To combat the power shooter’s lack of quickness on the penalty shot, the power shooter delays the release of the ball. The power shooter slightly delays the release by starting the ball in the water, swinging the arm back and then moving the arm to the left before releasing the ball.  This extended arm swing motion delays the shot a tenth of second.  The goalie immediately jumps up on the whistle but the penalty shot power shooter shoots the ball a tenth of a second later under the high-out-of-the-water goalie’s arms.  The penalty shot example also applies to 5-meter shooters.

Age group and high school level goalies are not good at reading 5-meter shots and the well-placed shot of the quick 5-meter specialist and not-so-quick 5-meter shooter scores.  In college and internationally, the goalie has an idea before the 5-meter shot is out of the shooter’s hand where the ball is going.  Therefore, in age group and high school, a well-placed shot scores; but at the college level and above, 50-percent of the 5-meter well-placed shots are blocked.  The power shooters invented lateral 5-meter shots as the side arm and lean-over shots to increase their odds of scoring.  For the shooter to take a side arm or lean-over shot requires a nano-second delay in the release of the ball.  To get this slight delay the high and mighty fake was invented.

High and Mighty Fake

  • Leap Up
  • Swing ball forward within 6-inches (15-cm) of guard’s hand
  • Side arm shot or lean-over shot

03

04

There is a time during the game to shoot the 5-meter shot quickly without delay and a time during the game when a slightly slowed arm motion (less than tenth of a second) is necessary to get the guard to jump up in the air so the shooter can shoot to the right or left of the guard’s arm. The high and mighty fake shooter leaps up, pinches the ball, swings the ball forward within 6-inches (15-cm) of the guard’s hand, stops, and shoots to the right or left. This is not a hesitation of the arm but a “slowing down” of the arm and body by using the body to elevate high out of the water and the arm to move forward to buy extra time.  An arm hesitation is a delay of the shot and is a foul.  The player elevating his body high out of the water, and swinging the arm forward within 6-inches (15-cm) of guard’s hand and continuing the arm motion into a shot, isnot. There is a big difference between the two (see Figs. 2, 3). 

When the shooter is a quick wrist shooter who can beat the guard’s hand and the goalie, there is no reason to do the high and mighty elevation and arm swing motions. For the slower arm speed shooter who lacks the release quickness of the quick wrist shooter, a little deception is necessary such as a side arm shot or lean-over shot to score.  For example, a side arm shooter, who always takes a side arm 5-meter shot, finds that the intelligent guard holds his or her arm out to the side to block the shot.  To avoid being “read” by the guard, the shooter does a high and mighty fake and changes the shot.  For additional information read The Shot Doctor: Teaching Shooting Part 9.

SHOOTING FROM THE ANGLES

  • Point Shot
  • Right Angle Shot
  • Left Angle Shot
  • Left Hand is Up
  • Right Hand is Up

05

POINT SHOT  

The shot taken at the point is either a super quick shot or a “high and mighty fake” into a side arm or lean-over shot.  The quick shot is an overhand shot.  No high elevation body fake is needed such as a high and mighty fake.  For the shooter with a slower release the shooter needs to “buy time” to read the goalie and confuse the guard.  This is also true when the guard quickly puts up his or her hand to block the 5-meter foul shot. The 5-meter shot now becomes a “tactical shot.”  The tactical shooter sees that the guard on the point has put up his or her left hand to block the nearside shot at the right corner.  The goalie is positioned at center cage.  If the shooter can shoot around the guard’s hand, to the right or left, the ball will score (see Fig. 4). 

06
Photograph by Deep blue media.eu/G.Scala

When to Use the Point Side Arm Shot

The high and mighty shooter selects a side arm shot at right corner of the goal.  If the shooter wants a low corner shot, he or she lowers the hand near the surface of the water so the ball skims into the right corner.  If the shooter wants a high corner shot, the ball is skipped with the arm positioned at 45-degrees and slings down to 90-degrees at the release. The advantage of a high and mighty fake is the ball is hidden by the guard’s hand.  The goalie has no idea if the shot is a side arm or a lean-over shot.  By the time the goalie sees the ball, it has travelled halfway to the goal. The shooter’s unseen release of the ball (goalie’s outlook) makes the shot look like a lighting fast 100 mph (160 km/h) shot on goal. This is an illusion as the ball speed is the same but goalie does not see the ball until it is 2.5-meters away instead of 5-meters away (see Fig. 5).

When to Use the Point Lean-Over Shot

07
Photograph by Deep blue media.eu/G.Scala

When the high mighty body fake and arm swing fake does not convince the guard that shot is an overhand shot and the guard drops his or her arm to the horizontal to block the side arm shot, the shot is changed to a lean-over shot. It is useless for  the side arm shooter to throw the ball from a horizontal arm position into the guard’s horizontal positioned arm.  Once the shooter sees that the guard did not leap high out of the water and is dropping the arm to the horizontal, the shooter leans on their left side for a lean-over shot and shoots the ball at the left corner of the goal.  In this case, the ball is thrown at the lower left corner of the goal.  If the shooter can skip the ball, he or she can also take a 5-meter lying-on-the-side skip shot.  Again, the read is instantaneous.  There are no “slow reads” on a 5-meter foul shot (see Fig. 6).

RIGHT POST SHOT 

The 5-meter shooter is located above the right post in what is called the right flat, US-4 spot/EU-2 spot.  EU stands for European Union.  In such a location in the pool, the shooter has to be inside the right goal post to be positioned for an accurate shot.  The quickness of the shot leaves the shooter no time to correct mechanical aiming errors (left foot point).  The shooter’s body has to be aligned with the right corner of the goal with the left foot and left shoulder pointing at the right corner of the goal.  The shot is the overhand shot.  No side arm shot is available from the 4-spot (EU-2).  A side arm shot from above the right post throws the ball into the wall.  A lean-over shot is a possibility when the goalie is leaning towards the right corner of the goal and the guard’s left arm is up.  Do a high and mighty fake, lean to the side, and take a cross-cage lean-over shot at the left corner.

LEFT POST SHOT

The shooter is located above the left goal post in what is called the left flat, US-2-spot (EU-4 spot).  The shooter first tries to out-quick the goalie to beat the goalkeeper to the high left corner.  When the goalie has strong legs, light hands and is waiting on the shot, the shooter instantly changes to the high and mighty fake, and throws a side arm shot at the right corner of the goal.  When the guard has his or her right hand up and is covering the left corner there is no left corner shot.  The shooter steps-out and throws a side arm to the opposite corner.  The goalie may be located center cage but the guard’s arm is blocking the left corner.

POSITION OF THE GUARD’S ARM

08

  • Point Guard has Left Hand Up
  • Shoot to the side away from the guard’s arm
  • 1st  Choice: Lean-over shot
  • 2nd Choice: Side arm shot

09
10
Photograph by Deep blue media.eu/G.Scala

When the shooter is at the point and the guard has his or her left hand up to block the right corner shot the 5-meter shooter throws a lean-over shot at the left corner of the goal as his or her first choice.  The second choice is a side arm shot, if, and only if the shot is open and the shooter knows he or she can beat the guard. A good high and mighty fake hides the ball behind the guard’s hand, allowing the shooter to take either shot in this situation because the goalie cannot see the ball.  It is a judgment call by the shooter as to what shot is better (see Fig. 9).

Point Guard has Right Hand Up

  • Shoot to the side away from the guard’s arm
  • 1st Choice: Side arm shot
  • 2nd Choice: Lean-over shot

11

12
Photograph by Deep blue media.eu/G.Scala

13
Photograph by Deep blue media.eu/G.Scala

When the shooter is at the point and the guard has his or her right hand up to block a left corner shot, the shooter throws the ball at the right corner of the goal.  The rule is to throw in the opposite direction of the guard’s outstretched arm.  However, there are exceptions as in Figure 11, a lean-over shot with the guard’s right hand up.  In this situation, the shooter shoots to the same side as the guard’s arm (see Figs. 10, 11, 12).

SPECIAL 5-METER SHOT: MANN SHOT

  • Mann 5-Meter Shot  
  • Grab guard’s right hip/waist
  • Grab ball on top and turn 90’
  • Step-out and shoot

14
15

This is an aggressive 5-meter shot where the shooter manhandles the guard and creates free space to take the 5-meter shot.  In previous paragraphs, we discussed out-quicking the guard or using a deceptive shot such as a side arm or lean-over shot to deceive the guard and goalie.  The Mann shot, however, goes aggressively after the guard and pushes him to the side to shoot the ball.  The Mann 5-meter shot has the shooter grab the guard’s waist, step-out to the right and take a completely open shot at either corner of the goal (see Fig. 13).

As the guard fouls the shooter, he or she kicks up into the foul and grabs the middle of the guard’s waist, turns 90-degrees and steps-out to the right for the shot.  The shooter’s force of the turn may position him to side of the guard with some separation.  Other times, a little elbow or forearm is needed to create separation after the turn.  As a result of the spin, the guard is now located on the shooter’s left shoulder, and is a distance away from the ball. The shot can come from the above the right post, left post or the point.  The shot is an overhand shot or a side arm shot. The lean-over shot is not possible because the guard has been moved to the shooter’s left shoulder.  This is a pure power shot thrown from 5-meters to 8-meters away from the goal. The Mann shot is performed at lightning speed.  There are no clumsy slow motion muscle moves.  All the referee sees is the ball being shot.  This is a great shot at the age group and high school levels.

The drill to practice the Mann shot is go one-on-one with the guard fouling the back of the offensive player who grabs and turns.  This drill can be practiced as a 1-on-1 with guard passing drill or as a shooting drill.  All moves are done quickly.  The coach cannot allow slow moves, poor handwork or footwork.

Conclusion

The technical and mechanics of the 5-meter shot are important but the mental game of setting up the shot and corner location for the ball is just as important to scoring the shot.  Muscles and the heart do not score goals.  The shooter’s mind scores the goal.  Muscles and the heart do not think.  The physical aspect of shooting has to be balanced with thinking.  The shooter reads the position of the goalie in the cage and the position of the guard’s arm to select the correct shot and corner of the goal to throw the ball.  Specialty shots such as the 5-meter lob and the Mann 5-meter shot are used when the situation requires them to be thrown.  The shooter reads the goalie and selects the appropriate shot, such as an overhand, side arm or lean-over shot depending what spot they are on.   It is the coach’s duty to teach the tactical aspects of shooting and train the shooter’s mind to read the defense.  The complete and balanced shooter is trained in both M & M’s,—mechanics and the mind—the technical and tactical aspects of shooting.

EACHING SHOOTING PART 11  
Left, Right, and Rotate

00

The Big 5 is a simple method of teaching the water polo player to throw the ball correctly.  In the five rules, the essence of the throwing motion is found. Reduced to its basics all of throwing is Left, Right and Rotate.  For the beginning, coach or the seasoned veteran, the Big 5 covers about 80-percent of what is needed to coach the water polo player to the highest level.  For those readers who have read my articles for the last six years, I have covered a lot of territory and some of you may have forgotten some of the technical subjects and mechanics that I covered.  This article is a refresher course on the basics of what the shooter needs to know to throw the ball correctly.

BIG 5 

  • Point the left foot
  • Right leg straight back
  • Rotate the hips   
  • Tilt torso forward
  • Pull with the left hand

01
Photograph by Allen Lorentzen at mywaterpolopics.com

In this refresher course, we will focus on the basics of the throwing motion.  The simplest method of teaching shooting is the Big Five.  The shooter points the left foot at the goal, positions the right leg straight back with the knee bent, tilts the torso forward, pulls down with the left hand and rotates the hips to throw the ball.  The right arm motion is secondary to the Big Five and will not be discussed in this article.  The shooter’s whole body throws the ball, not the right arm.  The right arm is the last part of the body to move and is an effect of the body’s movement.  In fact, almost all mistakes are right leg positioning mistakes—not right arm mistakes.  For the last hundred years, we have been taught a system in the United States that did not make sense and produced some of the worse shooters in the world from a major country.  The coach that adopts the Big 5 will immediately see improvements in the throwing motion (speed and accuracy) of his or her water polo players (see Fig. 1). 

THE OLD BIG 4

  • Kick up with the legs
  • Point the left shoulder
  • Vertical back
  • Slap the hand on the water

In the past, American coaches relied on an outdated system called the Big 4.  The Big 4 system: Kick up, point the left shoulder, vertical back and slap the hand on the water was the teaching system of choice.  It was simple and easy to teach, but this system was poor in kinesiology and mechanically incorrect.  And most important to the coaches, it did not work.  Of the Big 4, three are incorrect and the fourth is partially correct!  The left foot actually controls the direction of the ball and not the left shoulder—a vertical back was dependent on the position of the right leg. “Slap the water” did not matter one iota to the throwing motion as it had nothing to do with cocking or releasing the ball.  Slap the water is part of the follow-through motion of stopping the player’s right arm after the ball was released.  The only part of the Big 4 that was correct was that the legs kicked up and lifted the water polo player out of the water.  How high out of the water was never mentioned because vertical height out of the water was never considered.  One could kick their legs and barely lift their shoulders out of the water and the coach would be satisfied.  The result of this incorrect thinking and coaching was to produce players that can barely catch, pass and shoot the ball.

Where did we go wrong? 

Water polo is a minor sport in this country and does not share athletes from other sports.  No one in football plays water polo or swims.  The same is true for basketball, soccer, track, baseball and softball players.  In the previous communist countries of Russia, Hungary, Croatia and Serbia all national teams were centralized in one spot with high level coaches, trainers and professors available to assist all sports.  USA water polo and swimming are sports played in isolation from the rest of the American sports world.  We have the 25-meter jungle to ourselves, which, is not a good thing. The latest technological breakthroughs that are found in the professional sports  transfer down immediately to the major high school sports, but is slow to filter down to water polo teams.  It would be accurate to say that water polo has the most uninformed coaches in the country.  All a player or parent has to do to prove this point is to ask a water polo coach if he or she has read a book on water polo.  The player or parent is stunned to find out that the answer is no.  Even reading articles on fundamentals from great coaches, on free sites such as articles in Water Polo Planet is not done.  For comparison, the average football coach reads six books on football a year.

BIG 5

The coach adopts the rule Left, Right and Rotate to teach the five basics to his or her water polo players.  The left foot points, the right leg is straight back and is supreme and the hips rotate the body.  A subset is the elevated right leg position tilts the torso forward and positions the left hand so it can pull down deeply.  A shot that hits the goalie or misses the goal wide is a left foot point problem.  A ball that has little power or goes over the top of the goal is a right leg positioning problem.  A powerless shot with frozen shoulders indicates no hip rotation.  Everything in throwing reduces to Left, Right and Rotate.

I. LEFT

POINT THE LEFT FOOT

  • Left foot aims the ball
  • Left foot is a pivot point
  • Left foot allows the cocking of the ball 
  • No left foot point, no body rotation, no power

Left Foot Aims the Ball

02

The left foot aims the ball.  Wherever the left foot points, the ball follows.  The left shoulder does not aim the ball.  The left shoulder point is the result and an effect of the left foot point.  It is safe to say that wherever the left foot points the left shoulder follow.  When throwing a rock or baseball/softball the left foot leads and points at the target or catcher where the rock or baseball is intended to be thrown.  Having the feet, hips and shoulders parallel the goal or square to the cage or pointing the right foot does not aim the ball.  Aiming the ball is critical in making a perfect pass and in scoring.  This is a crucial point that the coach must understand.  Failure to understand this critical point dooms all of the water polo players under the coach’s guidance.  Footwork is critical for aiming the ball.  All sports begin with setting the feet first before throwing the ball.  Footwork begins before handwork (see Fig. 2). 

Left Foot is a Pivot Point

Once there is a left foot point in the water polo player, the left foot can be used to rotate the body around this fixed point.  The left foot and leg are relatively fixed, but the right foot and leg are highly mobile.  The shooter’s body cannot rotate around the right foot to throw the ball.  The ice skater cannot rotate with both of his or her skates together on the ice.  The ballerina cannot rotate her body with both feet together.  The water polo player cannot rotate his or her body unless the legs are apart with the left foot forward and the right leg back.

Left Foot cocks the right arm

Without a left foot point, the right arm cannot be cocked.  The power to throw the ball comes from the length of the right arm extension when the ball is cocked.  If the right arm is cocked back 5-inches (12.7-cm), there is little power to throw the ball.  When the shooter has cocked the right arm back 24-inches (60-cm) the ball can be thrown at its highest velocity.  For example, a girl who is square to the goal with the feet together and shoulders parallel to the goal has a 5-inch (12.7-cm) long right arm extension to cock the ball.  The water polo player with the left foot forward and the right leg back can extend the right arm back 24-inches (60-cm).  The difference in ball speeds between the square girl (15 mph, 24 km/h) and the split leg, left foot pointing girl 30 mph (48 km/h) is 15 mph.  Having a left foot point not only aims the ball, lengthens the arm cock and allows the body to rotate to double the velocity of the ball.

No left foot point = no body rotation

Without a left foot point as a pivot point the body cannot rotate back to cock the ball or accelerate forward to throw the ball.  Rotation is the major motion in throwing.  No rotation or little rotation creates a weak shot.  Full body rotation creates a powerful shot.

DRILLS

03

Pointing

The player is in front of the goal points the left foot at the right corner and shoots.
Point the left foot at the left corner and shoot.
Point the left foot at left corner, fake, move left foot to the right corner and shoot (Fig. 3)
Reverse the drill: point at right corner, fake, move left foot to left corner and shoot.
Drive center, passer at extreme left, stop, RB up, turn 45-degrees, catch, shoot right
Repeat but catch the ball, turn and shoot at the left corner
Backstroke center cage, catch the ball, drop legs, point foot at left corner and shoot
Drive center, drop legs to vertical, point at left corner, fake, point at right corner and shoot

II. RIGHT

04

RIGHT LEG STRAIGHT BACK SLIGHTLY BENT AT THE KNEE

  • Right leg balances out the shooter
  • Right controls the left shoulder point and left foot
  • Right leg, in a sense aims, the ball by controlling the left foot point
  • Right leg straight back prevents the player from falling over on the catch
  • Right leg straight back prevents the shooter from falling over on the shot

05

This left foot thing may sound great to the coach looking for one answer to teach his or her students how to throw the ball correctly.  However, throwing the ball is not as simple as that.  The most helpful one subject concept is the right leg is supreme. The right leg controls the body and makes the left foot point.  There can be no left foot point without the right leg back, preferably straight back and slightly bent at the knee.  Unfortunately, we have been taught erroneously that the right leg should be under the hips.  When one looks at a water polo player from the deck, the right leg (and left leg too) are never under the hips.  Even in the eggbeater kick, the thighs, knees, calves and feet are in front of the hips—like sitting in a chair.  The danger of this belief is the right leg length creates the length of the arm cock.  When the right leg is actually under the hip, there is no arm cock.  The square shooter has the right leg (and left leg) under the hips.  If the player wants to throw the ball hard, he or she uses a long arm cock with a short right leg under the hips, falls over, and throws the ball over the goal.  The coach uselessly repeats the mantra “Do not throw the ball over the goal.”  However, without correct the coaching, the long arm/short leg shooter, will continue to throw the ball over the goal because the coach is addressing the results the problem and not the actual cause of the problem (see Figs. 4, 5).

06

The coach demonstrates this by having the athlete stand on the deck with his or her legs together with the feet, hips and shoulders parallel a wall.  The athlete raises his or her right arm straight up without moving the hips or bending the back and tries to move the right arm straight back.  The right arm moves back about 5-inches (12.7cm).  In the pool, this is what a square to the goal player looks like.  To correct the square player, have the player swing the right leg back as far back possible:  The left foot point and the left shoulder point appear and the right arm is extended back 24-inches (60 cm).  The player is standing on the deck or in the water is very stable because the right leg is under his or her long arm cock and the ball.  The right foot has to be under the ball to support the ball (see Fig. 6).

DRILLS

Right Leg Positioning

Pool Side Drill:  Passer on deck throws underhand pass, player in water kicks up, catches ball,  uses the left hand to swings the right leg straight back.  Sharp left shoulder point appears, chest is raises out of the water, blue water appears where right leg was.  Right leg is no longer visible in the split leg position.

Shallow Bottom Demonstration

Same drill as mentioned above.

III. ROTATE

ROTATE THE HIPS

Hips rotate the body

  • Hips can only rotate if the legs are split
  • Faster the hip rotation, the faster the shot
  • Slapping the hand on the water drill is useless

07
Photographs by Allen Lorentzen at mywaterpolopics.com

When one asks the water polo coach what rotates the body during the shot, the coach simply does not know.  The coach does not know because his or her theoretical knowledge is very limited.  The coach adheres to the Big 4 and fails.  Nowhere in the Big 4 is body rotation mentioned just “Kick up, point the left shoulder, vertical back and slap the water with the hand.”  There is simply nothing about body rotation in the training of the water polo coach.  The hips rotate the shooter’s body.  No hip rotation = no shot (see Fig. 7).

08

09

The quadriceps extend the leg.  The hamstrings bend the leg and the hips rotate the body.  What muscles make rotation of the eggbeater kick?  The eggbeater kick is produced by hip rotation.  Strong legs have great hip rotation.  It is a  myth that water polo player’s foot rotates around the ankle.  To prove this point, have the player stand on the deck with the hand on the right hip joint and try to rotate the right foot without moving the hip. The knees have about 10-degrees of rotation to the right and 10-degrees of rotation to the left.  The eggbeater kick is 80-90-degrees and not 360-degrees.  It so happens that the hips rotate back externally 45-degrees and forward internally 35-degrees, give or take 10-degrees, for a total of 80 to 90-degrees.  The foot does not spin around 360-degrees and the leg does not spin 360-degrees.  The old advice that the players have to practice eggbeater in the water and that dry land weight exercises do not work is true.  Unless the weight machine allows for hip rotation, the hips are not strengthened.  The Europeans solved this dry land dilemma by throwing medicine balls side to side to strengthen the hips.  A Universal Machine using the horizontal cable, grasp handle, elbow in side, arm rigid and rotate the body using the hip  muscles (see Figs. 8, 9). 

Slapping the right hand on top of the water is a useless drill that is used with girls.  Boys due to their narrow hips rotate the hips fast and as a result have a fast arm motion.  The girls with their wider hips and thus great drag in the water need to be trained to rotate the hips.  Because the girls do not naturally rotate the hips or if they do, it is weak, the resulting slow arm speed produces a slow arm motion and a slow shot.  Hip speed is arm speed.  Doing a drill where the girl raises up her arm and then slaps the water is foolish.  When hip speed is increased, arm speed is increased.

A square shooter will always have a slow arm motion no matter how many times she does the slap the water drill.

10

We have talked about Left, Right and Rotation as independent parts but the truth is the body is a chain, a whole body chain.  The shot is a chain reaction of limbs firing sequentially. The legs connect to the hips, the hips to the torso, the torso to the shoulders and the shoulders to the arms.   The body is a whip, with the power starting at the bottom and transferring and increasing in power as it moves from the base, the legs, to the tip of the whip, the hand.  The coach must teach the Big 5 as a whole body throw (see Fig. 10).

DRILLS

Dry land

  • Medicine ball drills
  • Universal Machine cable twist drill
  • Bounce ball against the wall, catch, swing the right leg straight back each time

In the water

  • Ricardo drill

In the Ricardo drill, the ball is placed in front with both hands forward, right hand picks up ball underneath, left hand sweeps to left, right leg swings straight back, ball is lifted overhead, and swung back in a very long arm cock and then placed back in the water and repeat.  It can also be done as a lap swimming drill.  Practice the drill 5 minutes a day or longer.  Begin practicing in shallow water first to master the movement and then move to deeper water.  To vary the drill, the players can pass in groups of two, pick the ball up twice and then pass the ball to a partner.  Girls will have the hardest time learning this drill.

IV. TORSO TILTS FORWARD

  • Torso tilts forward 15-30-degrees
  • Right leg position controls the back angle

11
Photographs by Allen Lorentzen at mywaterpolopics.com

The shooter’s right leg position controls the angle of the body, particularity the back angle.  Please forget about the legs (plural) control the body and the shot.  The right leg is supreme!  Almost all mistakes are right leg positioning mistakes.  For many water polo coaches this statement is hard to believe.  As a demonstration in the shallow water, the player has both legs under the hips and has a vertical back.  Have the player slide the right leg forward the player falls on their back.  Then the player extends the right leg straight back with the knee slightly bent and the torso tilts forward 15-30-degrees (see Fig. 11).    

Strong legs do not make a vertical back.  A strong right leg position does.  The position of the right leg controls the position of the back. It is the position of the right leg straight back, acting as a tripod that balances out the body.  For the player catching the ball, the right leg must be back to balance out the body with its tripod-like effect. When the ball hits the player’s hand, the force of the ball knocks the back backward.  The player’s back cannot, by itself, maintain verticality.  The position of the right leg makes the back vertical.  The old mantra of “Get off your back” is meaningless because control of the position of the back is a right leg activity and not under the control of the muscles of the “back.”   

DRILLS

Shallow bottom drill with right leg in 3 positions
Repeat in deep water and when shooting

V. LEFT HAND PULL-DOWN

  • Elevates
  • Rotates the hips to cock the ball
  • Rotates the hips forward to shoot the ball
  • Balances out the body along with the right leg

12

When the right leg is straight back and slightly bent at the knee with the left foot forward with the torso titled forward about 15-30-degrees, the left arm and hand is positioned so it can pull deeply.  Our coaches have never been trained to even consider that the left hand does anything!  The left hand is the only limb of the body to be moving during all phases of the throwing motion and the follow-through (stopping).  The proper use of the left hand by the player can make the difference between being a great shooter and an average shooter. The shooter, by pulling down hard with the left hand, creates great elevation out of the water.  The shooter, by pulling to the side, creates the long arm cock.   Pulling back creates great body rotation to throw the ball.  The left hand also helps to balance out the body by sculling (see Fig. 12).   

DRILLS

Lift right leg to horizontal, pull deeply with left hand and pass to a partner

Conclusion

The Big 5 are basics of throwing the ball.   The body moves in a Left, Right and Rotate series of motions.  The fourth and fifth parts of the Big 5 are Tilt Torso and Left Hand Pull, are all created by left foot point, right leg straight back and the rotation of the hips.    The left foot point aims the ball, is fixed and is a pivot point.  The right leg is straight back slightly bent at the knee and controls the left foot point, shoulder point and the tilts the torso forward.  Rotation by the hips is the major motion of throwing motion that provides the power to throw the ball.   The player’s left hand: pulls strongly for elevation, hip rotation, balance and to assist in rotating the hips.  The Big 5 of Left, Right and Rotate is the answer to understanding the throwing motion.

TEACHING SHOOTING PART 12
The Legs
Split and Kick

01

The coach has followed the Big 5 and its Left, Right and Rotate rules and now needs to add a further dimension to his or her coaching.  The rules Split and Kick High and Hard are added to enhance the Big 5 and make the thrower’s shot faster and more accurate.  Split the legs with the left leg forward and the right leg straight back and kick high and hard with legs for power and height out of the water.  It is a simple statement with deep meanings.   It is an easy rule to say by the coach but a difficult motion for the players to implement.  When the player splits the legs with the left foot forward and  the right leg back and kicks hard there is tremendous leg acceleration  and elevation.  The right leg back on the split legs provides the verticality for the shooter’s back.  The split legs allows for complete rotation of the hips.  With hip rotation comes power for the shot.  The left foot point aims the ball for an accurate shot.  Split and kick produces six improvements to the shot shown below.

  • Leg Acceleration
  • Elevation
  • Verticality
  • Rotation
  • Power
  • Accuracy

How does the statement Split and Kick High and Hard with the legs create six different subsets of actions affecting the posture of the shooter when throwing the ball?  If the player has strong legs, splits, and kicks, he or she will be able to throw the ball at their full potential.  The author’s golden rule is 90-percent of shooting is elevation and verticality.  If the coach gets his players to get high out of the water and have a vertical back just about everything is covered in the throwing mechanics necessary to be a great shooter.  However, in practice and in the game, most players are low in the water and lean backward at the release of the ball, whether it is an age group shooter or high school shooter.  Weak legs, a weak kick and weak leg positioning of the shooter creates the weak shot.

The difference between the college players and the high school players is that none of the college players are low in the water or falls on their back.  The difference is so startling that one would expect any coach to see the radical difference between the high school and college player and immediately implement “Split and Kick.”  However, very few coaches notice the difference and even fewer emphasize the legs in training.

02

When the water polo coach goes out to the track, he or she sees tremendous emphasis on strengthening the legs and footwork in football, soccer and track and field.  If the coach wanders into the gym, he or she sees basketball, gymnastics and volleyball players working hard on strengthening the legs and footwork.  The water polo coach then goes back to the pool and immediately starts developing the right arm of the water polo players!  The coach’s slogan is strong arm = strong shot. The coach is dead wrong.  The legs are the shot.  The shooter’s right arm is like the tail of the dog—which does not wave the dog.  The water polo player’s body waves the arm.  The duties of the two legs are quite different as are the subsets of leg actions affecting the shooter’s posture (see Figs. 1, 2, 3).

03

04

LEG ACCELERATION

05

The shooter generates his or her greatest power from the legs by kicking with both legs as hard as possible.  The golden rule is to kick high and hard with legs.  No player can have a stable base when shooting if the legs are not strong AND kick hard.  Kicking up hard to shoot the ball should be instinctual and not have to be taught.  However, almost none of the boys and girls kick the legs hard.  This reduced leg action is unthinkable in land-based sports.  Can anyone imagine a sprinter in track slowly coming out of the blocks at the start of the race?  Alternatively, would a basketball player weakly jumping half way up to the basket to slam-dunk the ball?  In the land-based sports, all of the athletes understand that the legs are everything.  This understanding does not extend to the water polo player (See Fig. 4).

In water polo, with its background in swimming, the players are  taught that the legs are not very important for generating power.  In swimming, 70-percent of the power comes from the arms; in water polo, 70-percent of the power comes from the legs and hips.  Players have not made the connection in their mind that a hard kick makes a hard throw.  This fact is especially true for girls and women, who have legs and bodies that float.  Because the woman’s legs float, it requires less effort than the males for them to kick up with their legs to throw the ball.  With the females, lazy legs is a universal theme in water polo.  Males (motorized rocks) sink and have to kick hard with the legs to stay afloat.  When coaching female water polo players, the coach has to stress kicking high and hard with the legs to generate the maximum force out of the legs to transfer energy up into the right arm to throw the ball hard (see Fig. 5).

06
Photograph 2010 Women’s European Championships by Blue Deep Media.eu and Inside Foto.it

It is interesting to note that females can lift the bottom of their swimsuit completely out of the water.  The college and pro level males, on the other hand, can only get the top half of their swimsuit out of the water.  The leg strength of a woman is 87-percent of a man of comparable size.  The combination of women’s longer legs and a shorter and lighter torso allows the female player to lift her the lower part of the body higher out of the water than the male.  The men, on the other hand, with their shorter but slightly more powerful legs are handicapped by carrying a longer and heavier torso.  The coach should never believe the female player’s excuse of “I am a girl, I am weak, and so I cannot jump high out of the water.”  The player should  know that the higher out of the water the harder the shot. 

DRILLS: LEG ACCELERATION

Slam-dunk drill

The best drill for teaching explosive leg kicking that lifts the player’s body high out of the water is the slam-dunk drill (see Teaching Shooting Part 5).  This drill forces the player to jump up high out of the water with the ball.  The player swims a few strokes and places the hand on top of the ball, pinches it or palms the ball, and scissor kicks straight up in the air.  The side of the swimsuit should be visible.  The buttocks appear when the player slams the ball straight down and falls forward.  This is a great functional drill for evaluating  the legs of all of the players.

07

This is the Number 1 drill to develop leg acceleration and is performed daily.  There are variations on the slam-dunk drill of exploding up and turning to the left 90-degrees.  Another drill is to explode upward, spin 180-degrees and then slam the ball.  Some of the males, with their narrower hips, can spin 360-degrees.  The females with their wider hips cannot spin more than 180-degrees if older than 12-years old.  Young girls can spin 360-degrees because their hips have not yet grown wider (see Fig. 6).

ELEVATION

When the legs kick high and hard and the left hand pulls down the shooter’s body rises high out of the water.  There is a maximum height out of the water, which is only attained during the vertical jump test.  The optimal height out of the water is the highest the water polo player can reach and still have a stable base to shoot the ball.

08
09

The player’s use of the left hand enables the shooter to add another 6-inches (15-cm) to their height out of the water and stabilizes the player in the air.  Water polo is a game played in the air and not in the water.  A demonstration to prove this point is to jump up as high as possible without using the left hand to create added lift.  The player does not jump very high out of the water.  Then try the drill again with the left hand pulling down and the player rises high out of the water (see Fig. 7, 8). 

10

The secret to high corner shooting is for the shooter to elevate with a high elbow for the ball to go into the high corner of the goal.  For the shooter to hit the high corner of the goal, the center of the ball and hand (release point) must be at least 30-inches (75-cm) above the water.  This is where the “High Elbow” command came from.  A high elbow also means that it is a high positioned ball.  It is easier for the coach to see the position of the elbow than to judge the height of the ball.  A low elbow means a low shot; a high elbow means a high corner shot.  Girls, because they float, usually have a high elbow.  Boys usually drag their elbow in the water due to laziness (see Fig. 9).

11
12

A leaning back or lying on the back boy trying to shoot at the high corner of the goal will always throw the ball over the top of the goal.  The ball can only travel in a straight line from two same height vertical points at 30-inch release point to the 30-inch high corner (76-cm to 76-cm) of the goal.  The ball cannot be thrown at an angle up in the air and then flatten out and go into the high corner of the goal.  The boy or girl has to be trained to realize when they are lying on their back, no high corner shot is possible.  All shots that go over the goal are the result of the male player (or female) falling backward.  The major flaw of the female player, on the other hand, is to be square, and to drop her elbow, which sends the ball over the goal.  See the illustrations above for the correct mechanics for a high corner shot (see Figs. 10, 11).

DRILLS: ELEVATION

Slam-dunk drills work for attaining great height out of the water (see Shot Doctor Teaching Part 5).  Drills that emphasize the left hand pull down along with the leg kick help.  The player has to realize that the left hand pull down is vital for great height out of the water.  A weak kick dooms the shooter.  The shooter has to have the intent to leap high out of the water.

VERTICALITY (RIGHT LEG POSITION)

13

Verticality is having a vertical back.  Get off your back is the popular saying that goes with the rule. This has been the favorite coach saying for over a hundred years.  The coach actually believes that a vertical back is the result of the player’s back and abdominal muscles keeping the torso erect.  This is true to an extent.  However, the real reason for the player having a vertical back is having strong legs.  Translated that means having a strong right leg position.  The player’s position of his or her right leg determines the angle of the back.  There is a difference between muscular legs and a correctly positioned right leg, i.e., strength versus positioning.    With the player’s right leg straight back and slightly bent at the knee, the right leg acts as a tripod to balance out the player’s body when catching or throwing the ball (see Fig. 12). 

14
15

In the illustrations above, the bad shooter is on his back with the ball aimed over the top of the goal.  At the release of the ball, the ball flies over the top of the goal.  In the player’s mind however, he can take a “magical shot” and cause the ball to bend down to go into the high corner.  This is a very common imaged fantasy for the shooter (see Figs. 13, 14).

DRILLS: VERTICALITY

The player can be vertical on the land with ease.  However, any extreme arm movement back causes the right leg to swing back to support the arm.  The same action happens in throwing in the water but the right leg must move further back to support the right arm because the body is less stable in the water.  The two genders approach dry land passing differently.  The boys s throw the ball around the deck all of the time.  The girls do not pass on dry land.  The reason is that dry land passing for girls forces them to extend the right leg back and rotate the hips.  The deck does not allow them to fall over safely as they do in the water.  Any dropping of the elbow on the dry land pass indicates that the player is not splitting the legs and rotating the hips.  The square passer compensates for the rotational power loss by dropping the elbow so she can shot put the ball by using arm extension.

In the water

There are not any drills, there is only recognition and critiquing of the player’s shot by the coach.  The coach has to be vigilant on never allowing a player to lie on his or her back. The coach has to have a visual record of the player leaning backward.  The coach uses the camera on a phone or tablet to film the shot.  The player has to see on the screen that they do not have perfect posture in the water.  When the shooter is using a long arm cock but does not swing the right leg way back so the right foot is under the ball for support, the coach sees the shooter’s torso falling backward and the ball flies over the goal.  Any shot thrown over the goal is because the shooter was falling backward.  The only exception to the rule is the square girl who drops the elbow, which causes the ball to go high.

ROTATION

16
Photograph by Allen Lorentz at mypolopics.com

Body rotation caused by hip rotation is the major force in throwing and catching a water polo ball.  Crunching the abdominal muscles to flex the torso forward is a minor force.  Extending the right fore arm forward to throw the ball is also a minor force.  A tremendous amount of the dry land practice time is devoted to flexion/extension sit-ups and the bench press drills.  Little practice time is allocated, if any, to developing the hip muscles that create body rotation.  The result is the hip muscles are weak and the shot is weak.  Weak body rotation is also responsible for dropping the ball on the catch (see Fig. 15).

DRILLS: ROTATION

Dry land

Medicine side-to-side tosses standing and kneeling develop the muscles of rotation.  Standing medicine tosses develops the hip rotators; kneeling develops the small spinal muscles surrounding the spine.  Another drill is the Universal Machine cable drill.  The player is standing to the side of the machine, with elbow tucked into the side, and pulls horizontally out by rotating the body.  Do not move the arm as the drill now becomes a rotator cuff drill and not a hip rotator drill.

For the player’s hips to rotate the legs, the legs must be positioned in a split leg position, with the left leg forward and the right leg straight back and slightly bent at the knee.  In the split leg positioning, the player’s hips can rotate backward to cock the arm and the body and rotate forward to throw the ball.

In the water

The easiest method for seeing if the hips are rotating underwater is to look at the player’s shoulder when passing or shooting.  If the shoulders do not move, the coach knows that the legs were not split and the hips did not rotate the shooter’s shoulders.

POWER

Verticality and hip rotation creates power, the power stage.  If the player is lying on his or her back on the water, no power in the world from the legs and hips will help the player’s back into a vertical throwing motion.  Without verticality, there is no rotation, and therefore no power.  Body rotation is the shot.  No rotation = no shot.  However, the elements that produce power are underwater and unseen.  The player’s  legs must be split, the right leg straight back to make the back vertical and balance out the thrower so the hips can rotate to produce power.  Power is not a right arm motion.  The right arm is part of a kinetic chain that produces most of its power before the right arm moves.  A weak right arm, means in reality, a weakly positioned body.  The coach has to get out of the fixation on the right arm motion being the shot.  It is an illusion.  Split, kick and rotate is the golden rule.

17
Photograph by Allen Lorentz at mypolopics.com

No one has seen a baseball pitcher with his legs together flex the torso forward to throw the baseball.  The baseball pitcher’s power comes from having split legs, a vertical back and hip rotation to rotate the body.  The rotational power from hips is used in throwing a javelin, the tennis swing and in a quarterback throwing a football.   The major power generator in all of these sports is hip rotation (see Fig. 16). 

DRILLS: POWER

An efficient and perfect technique creates the most power for the shot.  Strength without technique does not produce great power to throw the ball.  Power has to be applied from the legs onto to the ball to make a high velocity shot.  The legs are split to allow the hips to fully rotate to generate power for the shot.

Dry land

The player has his/her legs together throws the ball against the wall AND SWINGS THE RIGHT LEG BACK so the hips and shoulders can rotate.  The usual wall passing drill has the passer square to the wall with frozen shoulder and without right leg and shoulder rotation.  The right leg controls the right arm so it moves back first and the right arm follows.

In the water

In the shallow end of the pool, the player gets on his or her left toes and practices lifting the right hand from in front of the face on the surface of the water and then swinging the right leg and right arm back to teach hip rotation.  In catching the ball, the player is vertical, has the right leg back, uses the left hand to sweep water to the left to turn the body to the right and swings the right leg way back.  The coach should see the player’s shoulders rotating if the drill is done correctly.

ACCURACY (LEFT LEG)

18

We have seen the effect of both legs on the shot in elevation, the right leg on verticality and now we examine the left leg’s effect on accuracy.  This quest for accuracy has befuddled water polo coaches for a long time.  Does the right hand aim the ball or is it the left shoulder?  The answer is the left foot aims the ball.  The rule is: Wherever the left foot points, the ball follows.  Point the left foot at the left corner of the goal and the ball goes into the left corner of the goal.  Point the left foot at the goalie’s stomach and the ball hits the goalie’s stomach (see Fig. 17).   

DRILLS: ACCURACY

Dry land

Point the left foot at a spot on the wall and throw the ball at that target.  The Serbian Tennis Ball drill is great for improving hand-to-eye coordination.  The player holds a tennis ball in his or her hand about 5-feet from the wall while standing on the deck.  The ball is thrown exactly at the “crack” in the wall where the deck meets the wall.  A perfect throw causes the ball to bounce back to the thrower’s hand.

In the water

19

Shooter is at the point position in the pool, he or she points the left foot at the left corner and shoots the ball.  Then the player reverses direction, points the left foot at the right corner and shoots the ball.  The second drill is to fake right, then reposition the left foot and aim it at the left corner and shoot at the left corner of the goal (see Fig. 18). 

Conclusion

The rule for shooting hard and accurately is Split and Kick High and Hard.  It is a simple command to say and difficult for the players to do.  This complicated command requires the shooter to split his or her legs wide apart for hip rotation.  With the legs correctly positioned, the player kicks hard with the legs for elevation, verticality, rotation and power.  Having the right leg straight back and slightly bent at the knee creates verticality and balance.  And pointing the left foot at the goal determines the direction of the ball.  Though the words Split and Kick are easy to understand the six processes involved in throwing the perfect high velocity and accurate shot are not.  The coach needs to apply Split and Kick Hard and High to the previous article that discussed the Big 5 rules of Left, Right and Rotate.  The coach will see immediate improvements in leg acceleration, elevation, verticality, rotation, power and accuracy. The coach combines the two systems and creates the high-level shooter.

© Copyright 2014 Jim Solum

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