Jim Solum
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READING THE GOALIE: Part 1
Forgotten Angles and Forbidden Shots

01

We have talked about the correct technique and mechanics for the throwing motion.  Perfect technique leads to the perfect shot.  However, the perfect shot does not lead to the perfect score.  To score every time, the shooter has to analyze the goalie’s position in the goal and “read” the angles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (EU numbers are reversed). Half of shooting is technique; the other half is reading the goalie.  To score, the well-trained shoots must throw the ball at the spot where it has the highest percentage of going into the goal.  The perfect shot thrown at the perfectly positioned goalie is blocked.  Great shooters know that scoring requires the player to read the goalie’s position and shoot the ball where the goalie is not located.

The next question after the shooter’s mechanics is corrected is, “How do I score on the goalie.”  At the high school level, the thought is more like “How do I hammer the goalie.”  The shooter does not care about scoring only about throwing the ball as hard as possible in the general direction of the goal.  This attitude of “I throw heat” and “no one can block my shot” is an immature attitude that just about every shooter from age group to high school has.  In college and the pros, great goalies block most of the shotsFor the shooter to score on a good goalie requires reading skills of where to place the ball when the goalie is slightly out of position.  The shooter exploits the small gaps in the goalie’s defense.
Reading the goalie’s position is a lifetime job for the player.  Each goalie is different on how they play the shot.  Inexperienced goalies play the shot differently than experienced goalies.  Nothing is ever the same from shot to shot in a game.  The goaltender becomes smarter and smarter as the game goes on.  Every shot must be approached as a different shooting situation.   The shooter should not throw all of the shots as power shots and at the same corner. The shooter has to improvise for the specific situation.  Just throwing the ball as hard as possible does not score goals. The great shooter scores with mind and muscle.

READS

  • Angles US 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Goalie’s position in cage
  • Goalie’s weaknesses (cannot block high corners, lob or skip shot)

02

The shooter knows the goalie reads for the open spot in the goal and the particular shots for each angle that will score—the weakside corner.  The successful shooter is prepared to shoot the ball.   The unprepared shooter, however, which is almost all of the age group and most of the high school shooters, has no idea what shot he or she is going to shoot.  Often the inexperienced shooter freezes up when facing the goalie.  The author estimates that half of all of the shots that are blocked in a game would have scored, if the shooter was prepared and knew what shot and spot to select.  The most obvious options for the immature shooter is to throw the ball at the goalie’s stomach or the head.  The goalie is an easy target. Easy to see and he does not move much!  The unseen invisible unprotected corner is an abstract concept that requires thinking and problem solving by the player.  Thinking separates the shooter from the thrower (see Fig. 1).

The concept of “Am I open” is lost on most high school players who do not see the open man.  Instead, “I have the ball, therefore I shoot no matter what” is the major thought that dominates the high school boy shooter’s mind.  On the other hand, the girl shooter thinks, “I have the ball and I need to pass it off quickly to someone else.”  Both concepts are wrong.  If the shooter is open and has a good read on the goalie, he or she must shoot the ball.  Not shooting is as bad as taking a bad shot.  Most players are afraid to shoot the ball.

The pure shooter, however, has no fear nor conscience, which can be a dangerous thing.  The coach must develop his or her “pure shooters” by developing their reading the goalie skills so they shoot appropriately.  In Europe, at half time, the professional player or national team player has to explain why his or her shot was blocked.  The answer “I don’t know” or “I forgot” lands the player on the bench for the rest of the game.  Since the shot is an extension of the shooter’s mind, the coach assumes that the player is “unconscious.”

During a game there are only about 20 shots taken per team.  All of the shots have to be high quality if the team is going to win the game.   Every shot counts.  Some of the good shots are going to be blocked.  However, all of the bad shots will be blocked.  Wasting a shot is sinful.  Five wasted shots equals 25-percent of all shots thrown in a game.  In a one-point loss, five possible scoring opportunities wasted is a tragedy.

When the Tactical Game Fails

In the American game, tactics succeed and fundamentals fail regularly during the game.  This unique combination appears in almost every age group, high school and college water polo game.  What happens is the counterattack is executed to perfection with two or three great passes with the open shooter-to-be getting a perfect pass on the hand.  Then the shooter has the shot blocked.  The tactical system worked beautifully but the shooter’s mechanics failed miserably.  The team works for the exclusion, sets up the 6-on-5 and then the pass is thrown away or the ball is thrown at the goalie’s stomach.  Again, the team had success in the frontcourt tactical offense followed by failure in ball handling and shooting on the 6-on-5.  How does a one-on-nobody on the counterattack not score?  How do 6 offensive players playing against 5 defensive players not score? It is not that the tactics failed.  The opportunity to score was created, but the throwing fundamentals failed.  When no fundamentals are taught, such as legwork, passing, catching and shooting—all tactical systems fail.

Finishing the Shot

The last second of the offense ends with the shot and the shooter’s psyche.  Ninety percent of what the player has done may be correct up until then, but then he chokes and blows the shot.  The shooter-to-be drives to the goal, catches the ball, is high out of the water and then disaster follows.  It is this last 10-percent and the last 5-meters from the goal where the shooter finishes off the goalie or the goalie finishes off the shooter.  The great shooter scores and the average shooter fails.  For example, the one-on-nobody shooter throws the ball over the goal has failed to finish the shot.  Finishing the shot requires reading the goalie, throwing the ball with good technique, and SCORING.  This last second of the offense requires the shooter to concentrate and have the will to win.  Someone wins and someone loses in this contest.  Have the player practice Stress Drills where the shooter has less than a second to catch and shoot quickly with the guard attacking the shooter.

SHOOT AT THE WEAKSIDE CORNER

  • Strongside: Corner where goalie is sitting
  • Weakside: Corner opposite the goalie

03

The goalie is out position in the strongside left corner Fig. A. Goalie is out of position in the weakside right corner in Fig. B.

04

In Figure 3, goalie overplays middle, expects a weakside shot, leaves a gap and the strongside shot scores.

05

In Figure 4, the goalie overplays the strongside left corner and the weakside shot scores.

The shooter that is not on the point is at an angle to the goal, the wings 1, 5 or the flats 2, 4.  The goalie overplays the nearside/strongside, the side closest to the shooter in Figure 4. The left corner is wide open and the shooter lobs the ball into the left corner.  The shooter has a choice of shooting at the goalie on the nearside angle (strongside) or the weakside angle that the goalie is not blocking.  In almost all cases, the weakside is the corner where the ball is most likely to score.  The nearside is the corner where the ball is least likely to score.

Logically, the shooter should shoot the ball at the weakside corner of the goal.  However, the  age group and high school shooter throw almost all of their shots at the nearside or strongside corner.  In Figure 2A, the goalie is half way playing the strongside angle but leaves a “gap” in the left corner.   In Figure 2B, the goalie overplays the left goal post and leaves the right weakside corner open for the shot.  In Europe, the age group and high school shooters throw all of their shots at the weakside corner of the goal (see Figs. 2, 3, 4).

I watched a Croatian coach give a clinic at one of the great Orange County, California high schools on weakside shooting from a bad angle to the goal.  Exasperated at all of the strongside drive shots that hit the goalie in the stomach, he wanted to kick anyone out of the clinic that threw the ball at the strongside corner of the goal!  The players learned very quickly that the strongside (nearside) corner was not the place to throw the ball but the weakside corner.  It makes a dramatic differencein scoring.  The goalie routinely overplays the nearside corner expecting all of the bad angle shots to be thrown at his or her stomach next to the goal post.  The shooter reads the goalie’s position throws the ball into the opposite corner (weakside corner).  Further more, Europeans have an interesting concept— no angle is considered bad.  A goal is expected from the shooter from any angle (see Fig. 5).

06

One of the problems that the coach faces is the players shooting at the nearside corner of the goal when the weakside corner is open.  The coach neglects to tell the players that the left foot aims the ball.  Without the players pointing the left foot at the opposite weakside corner, the ball is thrown at the strongside corner of the goal where the goalie is sitting. The first rule in teaching weakside shooting is to point the left foot at the opposite corner of the goal.  Mechanics and reading the goalie are combined to finish off the shot and score (see Fig. 5).

LOB THE WEAKSIDE CORNER

  • Bad Angle
  • Goalie overplays corner

07

The coaching statement that “A boy should never lob the goalie” is one of the greatest problems facing the American shooter!  The coach yanks the male player out of the water because he threw a lob and scored!  This is just nonsense.  The shooter has to be able to select the best shot for the situation.  The rationale for the coach is simple, he sees that all of his the players throw horrible lobs.  Lobbed balls are bouncing all over the deck on every shot.  The coach assumes that the lob is a bad shot.  The truth of the matter is that the coach is a bad coach!  Banning a shot just because you don’t know how to teach it is just crazy  (See Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Lobs 1, 2, 3).   The lob is a great shot and the inability of the players to throw a lob is one of the reasons why the American male water polo player shoots so poorly (see Fig. 6).

08

The lob is a great shot, not a bad shot.  The coach is wrong and needs to change.  The lob shot requires the greatest skill to score.  In addition, it requires the shooter to read the angle.  The lob shot is a combination of mechanics and the mind.  The lob shot mechanics requires the shooter to have strong legs, split legs, kick high out of the water, not be square, do not drop the elbow for a shot putt lob, the proper ball arc, good hands, and the correct lob aiming point. The lob shot teaches body control.   If you cannot lob, you cannot shoot (see Fig. 7). 

09

The lob requires the shooter to accelerate the lower body and then slow down the torso rotation and the arm speed.  It is a two-speed differential motion that the shooter must learn.  The lob, due to its slow upper body speed, teaches the shooter to have control.  The power shot is a one-speed all-out shot.  Throwing hundreds of power shots a day at the goaltender does not create a better shooter (see Fig.8).

10

The mental part requires the shooter to read the goalie’s position in the goal, see that he has overplayed the strongside corner and use the correct lob aiming point.  In Figure 9, the lob shooter aims the ball at the high corner and sees the ball fall into the water.  Little, however, is taught to the player about lob mechanics or reading the goalie, the angle and the aiming point.  No wonder the coach of the boys bans all lob shots!  However, when the shooter is properly instructed in the mechanics and reading the angle, the lob scores regularly.  Just ask any girl. The lob, to the Europeans, is a high percentage shot.  On the other hand, in the US, the lob is considered the most inaccurate the shot in water polo (see Figs. 8, 9).

The read of the goalie on a bad angle for a lob requires the goalie to be locked on the nearside goal post with the opposite weakside corner wide open.  Another part of the read is to aim the ball at the correct lob height known as the aiming point.  In the US, we just lob the ball up in the air and pray that it goes into the goal.  No one in the US knows about the lob aiming point.  The lob aiming point for the standard 3-finger lob is to aim the ball 24-inches (61-cm) above the crossbar of the goal.  The lobbed ball has a curved trajectory where the ball rises above the top of the goal 24-inches and then drops into the high corner of the goal.  The average shooter assumes that the lob has a flat trajectory and aims the ball at the high corner of the goal and sees the ball drop into the water in front of the goal.  In fact, the average shooter believes that the lob should go into low corner and pass through the goalie’s head!

11

The 2-finger lob, a more advanced lob, gives the shooter more control of the ball.  The ball is pinched by all five fingers with the index finger and the middle finger together in the center of the ball.  At the release of the ball, these two fingers snap down on the ball.  There is less ball spin and a lower lob curving trajectory with the 2-finger lob.  The lob aiming point is lowered to 1-foot (30-cm) above the crossbar of the goal.  The 2-finger is the choice of most high-level water polo players. The 2-finger release allows the shooter to change from a lob to a 2-finger power shot to a 2-finger skip shot if the goalie is setting up to block the lob shot.

SHOOT AT THE HIGH CORNERS

  • Elevate
  • Shoot high

12

The third concept that radically improves scoring is shooting at the high corner of the goal.  While the coach assumes that all of his or her players automatically shoot at the high corners of the goal, few actually can.  Shooting at the high corner of the goal requires stronger legs and a more a more stable base.  No one can miss the water on a low corner shot!  When the coach demands the team to shoot at the high corners of the goal, very few can actually hit the high corner.  It is a good idea for the coach to have a high corner shooting section during each shooting practice.  High corner shooting forces the player to have stronger legs and develop a more accurate shot.  The goalie knows that the shooter has weak legs and waits low in the water for the low corner shot.  In the case of boys, the boy shooter falls on his back and then shoots across the body at the lower left corner of the goal.  The intelligent goalie waits for the shot and easily blocks the left low corner shot.  The male shooter lies on his back because of weak legs and shoots across the body so he can rotate his hips to create more power for the shot.  The end-result of this body position and throwing motion is to telegraph the location of every shot to the goalie (see Fig. 11).

SHOOTING DRILLS

Croatian weakside driving drill

The driver starts on the wall, drives the bad angle and swims toward the right goal post.  The goalie is told to overplay the right goal post and play for the strongside corner shot.  The driver is instructed not to drive too close to the goal or the angle will be reduced or eliminated and he or she will not be able to shoot at the weakside corner.  Also, the left foot must point at the opposite corner.  This adjustment to weakside drive shooting will take a while to learn.  The shooter has never considered a cross-cage shot, the angle or how close to the goal he or she can get and still score.

The goalie is not allowed to cheat on this driving drill.  In fact, the goalie must play  “Dummy Defense.”  The goalie may look at this drill as a “Goalie Humiliation Drill” but that is too bad.  Any shot thrown at the goalie’s stomach on the strongside right corner of the goal results in the player eggbeatering hard for 5-seconds.  Wall pull-ups is another good punishment for players that do not listen.

Bad Angle Lob Drive Shot

Women have invented a shot that scores frequently on age group and high school girl goalie.  The driver drives the left post, gets close to the goal and the goalie moves to lock onto the left goal post.  The driver stops, drops her elbow and throws a shot putt lob at the weakside right corner of the goal from a semi-horizontal position.  The bad angle drive convinces the goalie that it is a strongside left corner shot and positions herself so the right corner of the goal is wide open for the weakside shot.  This lob shot may not work on the taller high school boy goalies.  However, the drive lob should work on the age group boy goalies.

LOB SHOT DRILLS

The lob is probably the hardest shot other than the side arm skip shot to teach.  All of the mechanics go against what the shooter considers is “natural.”  The legs do not kick weakly, the elbow does not drop, the shooter’s body is not square to the goal and the arm moves in a controlled but not a motion.  The correctly thrown lob has a strong leg kick but slows the upper body as ball is about to be shot, i.e., fast legs and a slow arm.  The shooter also believes that the lob shot requires a square to the goal body position.  Why this is, no one knows!  The lob shooter splits the legs with the left foot forward and the right leg back and angles the body to the goal.  The square body position eliminates all hip rotation and forces the lob shooter to drop the elbow and throw a long distance shot put lob.  When the shooter’s body is angled to the goal, he or she does not drop the elbow.  The last part of lob shooting is to teach the lob aiming point.  On a wall-mounted goal, the coach stands over the weakside corner of the goal and places his or her fist 2 feet (61-cm) over the top of the goal so the players have a target to aim at.  In a floating goal, a red flag that is 2 feet high is placed on top of the weakside crossbar.  If the lob is low—a low aiming point.  If the lob hits the middle of the cage—the left foot needs to be adjusted.  For the 2-finger lob, the coach holds a fist 12-inch (30-cm) above the crossbar.

HIGH CORNER SHOT DRILLS

The shooters are required by the coach to spend part of the practice time shooting exclusively at the high corners of the goal.  The shooter elevates high out of the water with a high elbow with the center of the ball 30-inches (75-cm) above the water.  The coach will be surprised to find that two-thirds of the team is unable to shoot accurately at the high corners of the goal.  However, criticizing the shooters for missing the high corner of the goal soon results in no one shooting at the high corner!  The good news is that within two weeks of practice, all of the shooters, at least at the high school level, should be able hit the high corners accurately.

Conclusion

This drill section for the coach has three parts: weakside shot, lob shot and high corner shot. These three main drills combine throwing mechanics with the mental aspect of reading  the goalie.  When shooting from an angle, the weakside shot is thrown at the open corner opposite the goalie’s position.  The lob shot is a slow high arching shot to the high corner that sails over the goalie’s head when the goalie plays the angle incorrectly.  The high corner shot forces the goalie to jump high out of the water and to judge the speed of the incoming ball.  No longer can the goalie stay low in the water and block the easy strongside low corner shot because the shooter now consistently shoots at the high weakside corner of the goal.  Following these rules the shooter will be well on their way to becoming a well-trained shooter who can score.

READING THE GOALIE: Part 2
Forgotten Angles and Forbidden Shots

01

Reading the goalie requires the coach to teach the shooter how to read the goalie’s position in the cage by reading the angle and selecting the correct shot.  In this article, we will discuss how to throw the skip shot  that will score from any of the five angles to the goal. In addition, the coach has to break several bans on great shots that prevent the shooter from taking the highest percentage shot. Coaches have to “un-ban” a list of forbidden shots that are useful in scoring goals such as lobs, skip shots, side arm shots and backhands.  Limiting the number of shots possible at each angle increases the chances of the goalie blocking the shot. The goal of water polo is to score; it is not to help the goalie block shots. Below is a banned shot, the skip shot and its shooting angles.

SKIP SHOT

  • 3-finger skip shot  3-meter skip point  30-degree skip angle
  • 2-finger skip shot  2-meter skip point  45-degree skip angle
  • 1-finger skip shot  1-meter skip point  60-degree skip angle
  • Topspin skip shot  1-meter skip point  70-degree skip angle

02

The skip shot is a shot where the ball hits the water and bounces into the high corner of the goal.  The goalie sees the ball thrown at the low corner of the goal and leaps to block the apparent low corner shot, only to see the ball skip into the high corner.  The goalie fears the skip shot and its unpredictable ways.  And to confuse the goalie even more there are four types of skip shots.  The skip shot is a great shot.  The skip shot is a banned shot by many coaches from age group through high school.  However, in college and internationally it is not.  Same shot, banned on one level, but encouraged on a higher level?  The skip shot joins the list of other “banned shots” by American coaches such as the lob shot, side arm shot and the backhand shot (see Fig. 1).

The skip shot is considered by US age group and high school coaches to be a highly inaccurate shot.  The skip shot, however, is not a “bad shot.”  The skip shot is a great shot when properly thrown.  Half of all college shots and international shots that score are skip shots.  The goalie cannot block the well-thrown skip shot.  There are no bad skip shots, only bad shooters (and bad coaches).  The problem with the skip shot is that few coaches know how to teach the skip shot and therefore the players do not know the mechanics of the shot (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Skip Shot Part 1-4). 

03

Additionally, girls and women can also skip the ball.  They just need to change from a standard 3-finger release that causes the ball to dig deeply in the water and stop (for girls) to an index finger release or a 2-finger release that skips the ball. This allows age group girls and boys, from age 12 and above, to skip the ball if a 1-finger or 2-finger technique is used.  The girl goalie does not expect to have a skip shot thrown at her and is unprepared to block the shot (see Fig. 2).

3-Finger Skip Shot

  • Cradle the ball or pinch grip
  • Release ball off middle 3 fingers
  • 3-meter skip point

04

This is the standard skip shot for boys and men.  The player cradles the ball in the hand or moves the fingers to the vertical and “pinches” the ball with all five fingertips.  The player throwing a three finger release skip shot has to use all of his or her power to shoot the ball.  For the shooter to generate all this power, he or she must use the Left, Right and Rotate rules along with the Split and Kick rules to create enough power for a high velocity shot that can skip into the goal.  There are no low elevation, lazy kicking, and square skip shot shooters.  Once the whole body mechanics are correct, the hand mechanics of the release are trained.  The standard 3-finger release has the ball roll off the fingertips with the middle three fingers as the last fingers to touch the ball.  The shorter thumb and little finger are not in contact with the ball as it has already rolled off these fingertips.  The skip point is the 3-meter line for a slow rising ball that skips into the high corner of the goal at 30-degrees.  The 3-finger skip shot is not recommended for girls (see Fig. 3).

2-Finger Skip Shot

  • Index and Middle Fingers snap the ball
  • 2-fingers in the center of the pinched ball
  • 2-meter skip point

05

Most players prefer this shot.   The shooter’s middle two fingers, the index and middle fingers, are close together in the center of the ball and make the final contact with the ball.  The ball is pinched by all five fingertips and as the wrist snaps downward, the index and middle finger snap down on the ball.  The skip point is the 2-meter line.  The 2-finger skip lifts off the water quickly at a 45-degree angle and the ball’s skip point needs to be moved closer to the goal so it skips into the high corner of the goal.  A skipped ball that bounces over the top of the crossbar is skipped at a point that is too far away from the goal.  All of the whole body mechanics of high elevation, a vertical back, a long arm cock, and the right leg straight back and slightly bent at the knee must be observed to generate enough power for the ball to skip.  The 2-finger release is highly recommended for girls and women.  Because there is less ball spin, the ball does not dig in deeply and therefore less power is required to skip the ball (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Skip Shots Parts 1-4).  The 2-finger release allows the shooter to skip the ball, but also to lob the ball or throw a power shot (see Fig. 4).

Index Finger Skip Shot 

  • Index finger snaps down on the pinched ball
  • Goal line skip point

06

The one-finger release is ideal for age group boys, girls, high school girls, and high school boys.  The index finger skip shot pinches the ball in all five fingers and snaps the ball off the index finger.  The ball skips upward off the water’s surface at a 60-degree angle and uses a 1-meter line skip point (the goal line) If the ball is not skipped at the edge of the cage, the ball skips over the top of the goal.  Age group boys and girls have slightly longer skip points due to reduced ball velocity.  For example, a man throwing a 2-finger skip point uses a 2-meter skip point and a woman taking the same shot has 2.3-meter skip shot because the ball is not lifting off the water as sharply.  The index finger release and the 2-finger release require greater dexterity and control of the shooter’s hand.  The index finger has only one finger placing spin on the ball and requires a tremendous amount of fingertip spin to get the ball to spin with a great rotation.  Girls and women MUST powerfully spin the ball off the index fingertip or the ball will have a slow rotation and stop on the surface of the water (see Fig. 5).

Topspin Skip Shot  

  • Five fingers on top of the ball
  • Hand moves ½-inch (1.25-cm)
  • Ball spins forward
  • Goal line skip point

07

The topspin skip shot is the greatest skip shot.  However, it is the hardest to teach as the ball spins forward and not backward as on the standard backspin skip shots.   The advantage of the topspin shot is the forward spinning ball sharply leaps off the water’s surface into the goal; same as the index finger skip shot.  The technique is to grip the ball like a football.  The hand is across the top of the ball, not behind the ball.  The right leg is moved back as far as possible, the right hip is cocked back as far as possible and the right arm cock is stretched back as far as possible.  Since no power comes from the wrist snap, the body has to produce an extra 2-5 mph (3.2-8 km/h) by extending the right arm and leg to compensate for the power loss.  The shooter releases with topspin, the ball leaps out of the water at a 60-70-degree angle.  The skip point is at 1-meter at the edge of the cage (see Fig. 6).

At the release, the shooter’s fingers slightly spin the ball with the hand moving an half an inch (1.25- cm) across the top of the ball.  There is not a hard snap of the ball.  The hand only places spin on the ball and not power.  The shooter will usually try to slide the hand 6-inches (15- cm) over the entire top of the ball while applying all his or her hand strength on the ball and fail.  Less is more with the hand mechanics of the topspin release.  A skilled shooter makes the topspin skip shot bounce off the water without any effort.  This is the complete opposite philosophy of the regular backspin skip shot shooters who must apply all of their force on the ball to get it to skip off the water.

Players practicing the topspin skip shot will fail repeatedly as the ball hits the water and dies.  A slightly more experienced player will get the ball to skip but the ball wobbles with a visible diagonal spin on the ball.  After much practice, the player will get the ball to skip high off the water with no visible stripes seen on the ball because it is spinning so rapidly (standard ball with stripes).  The reason it is so important for the player to learn the football release and how to place topspin on the ball is this new method of releasing the ball opens the way to topspin lobs and to curving the ball.  The standard hand-behind-the-ball release is not the ONLY RELEASE in water polo but one of several types of releases the experienced shooter uses to throw the ball.

ANGLES

  • US 1 Left Wing  (EU 5)
  • US 2 Left Flat  (EU 4)
  • US 3 Point  (EU 3)
  • US 4 Right Flat  (EU 2)
  • US 5 Right Wing   (EU 1)

08

Point 3-Spot

The skip shot shooter can shoot from any angle.  The highest percentage shot is from the point or 3-spot.  The skip shot is also valuable for scoring from the mild angles, US 2 and 4 (EU 4, 2), from above the left and right posts and from the worse angles and from the both wings US 1 and 5 (EU 5, 1).  The skip shot is both a power shot and a deceptive shot.  The shooter from the point reads the position of the goalie in the cage and sees if the goalie is leaning to one side or the other.  The shooter knows that a right-handed goalie is probably weaker to his or her left arm.  The shooter fakes the high corner shot by elevating high out of the water and skips the ball to the best spot in the cage.  In a point shot, both corners are high percentage shots (see Fig. 7).

Flat: 2-Spot, EU 4-Spot

In shooting the skip shot from the left flat, US 2 (EU 4) the shooter has three choices: he can shoot low, high or skip the ball to the strongside or weakside corner.  In facing an experienced goalie with strong legs, the shooter may realize that nothing is open in the strongside left corner but the shooter must shoot a skip shot the ball as time runs out.  The goalie has filled the cage (at least it looks that way to the shooter).  The shooter elevates high out of the water, the goalie assumes it is a high corner shot, and then the shooter skips the ball to the strongside left corner.  The goalie dives down to protect the low corner of the goal and sees the ball skip into the high corner.  If the goalie over-commits and overplays the strongside angle, the 2-spot shooter has a good angle while on the left flat to shoot at the gap in the weakside right corner.  Some European coaches consider the 2-spot (EU 4-spot) superior to the point for shooting.  The 2-spot shooter fakes the left corner to lock the goalie in the left corner and shoots at the open right corner.   A 3-spot shooter cannot lock the goalie into a corner.  The 2-spot (EU 4-spot) angle favors the shooter.  The other three angles, US 1, 4, 5 (EU 5, 2, 1) do not.

Right Flat:  4-spot, EU 2-Spot

In Europe, a 4-spot specialist (EU 2-Spot) is trained to take a cross-cage weakside high corner shot from this spot in the pool.  However, the weakside skip shot is a safer shot.  For the strongside 4-spot shooter facing a goalie in the right corner the shooter looks for a gap between the goalie’s body and goal post to shoot low, or a goalie with deep hands for a high corner shot.  If these goalie’s weaknesses are not apparent, the shooter fakes the goalie down and shoots high or skips the ball.  The 4-spot strongside corner shot is the lowest percentage shot.
Left Wing: 1-Spot, EU 5-Spot

In the shooting from the bad angles, the wings, a skip shot may be the only shot that can score on a goalie that has jammed the strongside left corner.  The age group or high school goalie that overplays the strongside corner, drops their hands to block the apparent low corner shot and the ball skips into the high corner.  The strongside skip shot is a desperation shot.  The only way to score on the perfectly set up goalie is trickery—the skip shot.  If the angle allows it, shoot at the weakside corner.

SKIP SHOT DRILLS

The drills teach touch, finger dexterity, finger control and the skip point.

The skip shot shooter has to have perfect control of his or her various fingers and fingertips.  The skip shot shooter has to be able to visualize the skip point in the water and skip the ball at this exact point in the water time after time.  The ability to skip the ball and using the proper skip point are integral in scoring the skip shot.

Finger Flick Ball Drill

This is a critical dry land drill for developing finger control for the three out of the four skip shots.  The player holds a water polo ball in the hands and flicks the ball back and forth using four different finger releases.  The index finger flicks the ball; followed by the 2-finger flick; followed by the middle finger flick; and then the ring finger flicking the ball from hand to hand.

Skip Shot Passing Drill

The quickest method for practicing the skip shot is one-on-one skip shot passing.  The players practice 3-finger skip shot passes and 2-finger and index finger skip shot passes.  The coach can see if the player has the proper posture and technique.  When the posture is poor, low elevation, unstable, falling back, falling to the side, square, the right leg not straight back and slightly bent at the knee, not using an index finger or 2-finger release, there is not enough power to skip the ball.  The topspin is an advanced skip shot and is rarely taught in high school. The coach can try having the players throw topspin skip shots but almost all balls hit the water and stop.

Skip Point Drill

The coach has a player stationed on the 3-meter line so the skip shot shooters have a visual of where the skip point is located.  For the 2-finger skip point, station the “marker” at the 2-meter line.  For the index finger skip and the topspin skip shot as the edge of the goal on the goal line is the perfect visual aid.

Shooting at the goal Drill

The player takes three skip shots at the goal.  The shooter can see if he or she missed the skip point in the water or not by whether the ball skipped into the high corner of the goal or over the goal.  When the ball hits the water and stops it is the result of poor shooting mechanics or not enough spin on the ball.

Bar-in Drill 

09

Once the shooters learn how to skip the ball many of them think they have achieved their life’s goal.  The coach can add a degree of difficulty by adding the bar-in drill that requires precision down to 1/16th of an inch (.158-cm).  The ball hits the angle of the goal post and deflects into the goal. The shooter is on the left post on the 2-meter line or 4-meter line and throws the ball at full power at the edge of the right goal post.  The ball hits the edge and deflects into the goal.  Easy to say but it is hard to do.  The shooter has to have perfect posture and control of his or her body.  Any motion of falling backward, leaning to the side or bobbing up and down and twisting the wrist and the ball misses the goal completely.  The coach can see how much body control the players have with this drill.  Each player takes three shots in a row to establish their rhythm.

The bar-in drill is reversed and the players throw bar-ins from the right post at the edge of the left goal post (called a left post bar-in).  Soon all of the balls are deflecting AWAY from the cage.  What has happened!  For the ball to deflect into the goal from the right, the shooter has to subtly, and microscopically, turn the wrist inward to make a diminutive curve on the ball.  This left post bar-in technique (shooting from right to left) is called leading with the index finger to “push” the ball into the goal.  Shooting a bar-in from the left post towards the right goal post a right post bar-in is called leading with the ring finger.  Though it is the wrist that turns ever so slightly inward the players understand this finger imagery.   The placing of the correct index or ring finger on the ball is done at an unconscious level.  The shooter cannot consciously only twist his or her wrist inward a half of an inch (.158-cm).  A demonstration on the deck is to have the player hold the hand up and lead with the index finger and see how it turns the wrist and then lead with the ring finger.  The players get the concept immediately during the demonstration.

Half of the team in time will be able to bar-in the ball after two weeks.  The other half of the team will never be able bar-in the ball.  The accuracy of the shooter goes from a huge 24-inch (60-cm) area of inaccuracy down to a sixteen of an inch or.158-centimeters (see Fig. 8).  

The next drill is to have the shooter positioned on the left post on 2-meter line or 4-meter line and skip the ball at the edge of the goal post and into the goal.  This is a difficult shot to do.  Add a bar-in lob to the high corner and the player’s career goals are laid out for him or her. If any of the “hot dogs” can do the above, move the shooter out to the point at the 6-meter line and have the shooter skip the ball and deflect it (bar-down)off the lower edge of the crossbar and into the goal.  A player I trained, Olympian John Mann, when in high school, was able to do an overhand skip shot bar-down from the point and also a backhand bar-down skip shot off the crossbar into the goal!  When the shooter is motivated, nothing is impossible.  The impossible becomes the possible.

Tennis Ball Drill

he tennis ball drill greatly improves the accuracy of the shooter by practicing this dry land drill in conjunction with the bar-in drill.  The player stands on the deck about 2-meters from a wall and throws a new tennis ball or handball at the “crack” in the wall where the deck intersects the wall.  An accurate throw causes the ball to hit the crack and bounce right back to the player’s hand.  If the ball did not hit the crack, the ball rolls on the deck or bounces away from the thrower.  The record is 20 hits.  This drill is similar to a baseball or softball pitcher throwing a baseball or softball threw through the hole in the tire.  The water polo player has never been taught accuracy drills before and this is a new concept.  This is a fun drill.  Players who are mentally exhausted after doing homework can practice this drill and get mentally refreshed.

Conclusion

The skip shot is a great shot.  Age group and high school coaches should not ban skip shots.  They are no bad skip shots—only bad shooters.  Coaches need to be educated on how to teach the skip shot.  Boys and girls with the proper instruction, can, as young as 12 years of age skip the ball.  The skip shot has the player elevate and kick hard with the proper hand mechanics for the 3-finger, 2-finger, or index finger release aimed at the correct skip point.  The player who masters the skip shot becomes a complete shooter.

READING THE GOALIE: Part 3

01

The backhand shot is a great shot by the 2-meter player.  The center’s back is to the goal and he throws the right arm and ball backward at the goal.  It has been a staple in shooting in the United States and in Europe for over 40-years.  The reason the backhand is banned by lower level coaches is supposedly the backhand is an inaccurate shot that hits the goalie at center cage or misses the goal completely.  Most coaches want the center to face the goal when shooting for good visuals.  The backhand, on the other hand, is a “blind” shot with the shooter’s back to the goal.  The top college and international players shoot backhands most of the time during a game.  Recently, in the 2013 World Championships, the Australian women made the finals by scoring five backhands in the semi-finals.  Interestingly, not all of the backhands came from the Australian center but from players on the wing and on 5-meter foul shots.  The goalie did not expect to see a backhand shot from there and was unprepared to prevent the score.

BACKHAND SHOT TECHNIQUE

BACKHAND SHOT

  • Step-out 45-degree angle
  • Hand on top
  • Left hand pulls, pushes down, pulls
  • Right elbow leads

The first rule for 2-meter player is to set up in the center of the goal, which allows the ball to be thrown at the left corner of the goal. Then the center steps-out at a 45-degree angle by pulling with the left hand, puts his or her hand on top the ball to grip and then half submerges the ball.  Do not put the hand underneath the ball or on the side of the ball.  The center’s left shoulder digs into the guard’s sternum and is pushes off. The left hand’s downward push lifts the tightly griped ball slightly clear of the water.  The right elbow is bent, leads and then straightens out to release the ball.  At the same time, the center’s right leg swings backward with the arm to rotate the body (see Fig. 1). 

02

Left Shoulder Push Off

  • Arch back
  • Angle left shoulder
  • Kick into guard
  • Spring off the guard’s sternum

03

The center has to get free of the center guard’s hands.  For girls this is an especially trying situation as the swimsuit provides many places to grab.  The common mistake for the boy or girl center is to use the hand to push off the guard to get open.  When the center uses the hand to push off the guard it always results in an offensive foul.  The proper technique to use is to push off with the left shoulder into the guard’s sternum.  The left shoulder push off results in a 12-inch (2.5-cm) space and strips the guard’s hands off the center’s body.  All the referee sees is the natural rotation of the center’s body and shoulders.

Actually, the technique to push off the guard is complex.  The center arches the back and positions the body at a 45-degree angle so the shoulder thrust has a firm point.  Having a flat square back does nothing for the center.  It may result in an offensive foul if the center uses the head to throw the torso backward instead of the back extensor muscles.  With the back arched and the torso and left shoulder angled, the center kicks back into the guard’s body and springs off the sternum, separating from the guard. The arching the back, angling the torso and kicking back into the guard are all new techniques that the center is unfamiliar.  With practice, the left shoulder push off into a step-out backhand shot becomes commonplace for the center to perform.  Perimeter players can also use the left shoulder technique to become open to pass the ball (see Fig. 2).

04
05

At this point, the right hand slides to the side of the ball as it is lifted from the water from the push down. Do not swing the arm high up into the air, as the ball will hit the water at an angle and stops.  Once the bottom of the ball is slightly out of the water, the center’s left hand pulls backward and the right leg swings backward to rotate the center’s body to the right.  As the right leg swings backwards, the right elbow is bent and right arm fully extends to release the ball (see Figs. 3, 4).

06

07

The best backhand shot is a left corner skim shot.  The goalie jumps up in the air with the arms and is unable to protect the low corner of the goal.  The rule: Where ever the elbow points the ball follows.  In the illustrations below, Figure 5 & 6, show various incorrect elbow angles of center that throw the ball in different directions.  One of the most common errors in the backhand shot is for the center to step-out straight ahead with the right leg and bend the right elbow with the ball in front of the face.  The ball is used as a floating aid for the center.  The result of the bent elbow is the ball misses the entire goal.  Other examples are swinging the ball up in the air to get ball clearance with the elbow down at the water, which causes the ball to hit the water and stop.  On the other hand, not lifting the ball up out of the water causes the ball to become a torpedo.  Submerging the entire ball with the elbow aimed over the top of the goal causes the ball to fly over the cage (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Hole Shots Part 2).  These above errors are common mistakes made by the center (see Figs. 5, 6).

ANGLES

  • Left Lower Corner Shot
  • Left Upper Corner Shot
  • Over the Head Shot
  • Right Lower Corner Shot
  • Right Upper Corner Shot

08

In the above illustration, Figure 7, the five places that the center can place the ball are shown.  There are two shots to the left corner, one shot over the goalie’s head and two shots to the right corner of the goal.  The center reads the position of the guard and the goalie and places the ball in the most open spot in the goal.  For a backhand shot, the left corner is the preferred corner for shooting.  The above the head and right corner are difficult backhand shots and are only used in special situations.  The shooter can also change the angle of the ball by positioning the ball in a different place, using a scissor kick or the left hand to move the ball around (see Fig. 7).

The lower left corner shot is the preferred location for the angled step-out backhand shot with the center positioned in the middle of the cage.  The goalie automatically jumps high for the shot and the ball skims into the lower left corner of the goal under the goalie’s arm.  Goaltenders are taught to raise their arms up to 15-inches to 18-inches above the water (37-cm to 45-cm).  This is the location in the goal that most center shooters throw the ball.  The backhand skim shot takes advantage of goalie’s arm height out of the water to score. 

Left Upper Corner Shot

When the goalie stays low in the water, expecting a skim shot, the center’s elbow is aimed at the high corner of the goal and the ball is shot at the high corner.  Again, the rule is, the ball goes wherever the elbow points.

Over The Head Shot

The over the head shot is a rare shot.  The goalie usually protects his or her head from the ball.  However, on certain occasions when the goalie has jumped early and is sinking the ball can be thrown over the goalie’s head.

Right Lower Corner Shot

The right corner shot involves the center changing from a step-out kick with the legs widely separated and eggbeatering into a scissor kick (legs slap together).  The result of a step-out at 45-degres with a scissor kick is to over-rotate the male’s hips, which causes the ball to go into the lower right corner of the goal. If the center steps-out straight ahead using a scissor kick, the ball instead hits the goalie in the stomach at center cage.

 

Right High Corner Shot  

When the center is on the left goal post, it is possible with a scissor kick to shoot a cross-cage weakside high right corner shot.  This is a rare shot and requires great control of the body and the hand.

CHANGING THE ANGLE

09

The ball position in the water is often ignored even though it affects the angle to the goal.  The ball makes the angle.  As we have seen previously, the elbow decides the angle that the ball travels. However, in the Rudic cross-cage shot the ball placement in the water before the shot, makes the angle for the shot to score.  The Rudic cross-cage shot from the left post with the right shoulder facing the goal and center’s back facing the side wall, is an unexpected and deceptive shot by the 2-meter player.  The goalie is used to seeing the center’s back and having him be at center cage.  A center set up off to the side, facing the side wall of the pool, is out of position to shoot the ball according to the goalie’s mindset.  This is not true of course.  The offset center’s shot rips cross-cage across the goal and into the right corner of the goal (see Fig. 8). 

The technique for shooting a Rudic backhand shot is for the shooter to be precisely positioned  2-meters outside of the left goal post on the 3-meter line.  In this position in the pool, the ball is geometrically aimed to go into the right corner of the goal.  The goalie is not paying much attention to the ball when he/she sees the center outside the goal post and off the angle.  The goalie is expecting a pass from the center to the perimeter players for a shot and plays center cage.   The ball zooms past the sleeping goaltender.  The position of the ball in the water is critical for the Rudic backhand shot.  The center has never thought before this type of shot about shooting geometry.

10
11

If the ball is placed above the 3-meter line, the angle is decreased and the ball hits the goalie at center cage.  When the ball placed below the 3-meter line, the angle is increased and the ball misses the right corner of the goal.  Ball position in the water is everything to the center as he or she considers the angle their body is positioned in relationship to the ball. The shooter reads the angle but also makes the shooting angle (see Figs. 9, 10).

Advanced Left Hand Scissor Kick Backhand Shot

  • Scissor kick
  • Left hand pulls for right corner shot
  • Left hand pushes for left corner shot

12

The center reads the guard the goalie and the angle but also the referee.  The referee controls the game.  In particular, the referee controls whether or not the center scores.  When the referee allows the center guard to be all over the center, the 2-meter player has to change to another shooting technique to score.  In a recent Olympic Games, the referees allowed the guards to  wrap their arms around the center!  The centers developed a new backhand shot to maneuver around the lack of fouls so they could shoot at 2-meters.  They changed their shooting angles by pulling or pushing with the left hand.

The center switches from a step-out to the right to a scissors kick.  The center guard cannot grab the 2-meter player’s legs so at least the legs are safe!  To prevent the male or sometimes the female center shooter from over-rotating, the center’s left hand is used to “steer the ball” to increase or decrease body rotation and the angle of the shot (see Fig. 11).

13

The center’s left hand pull fixes the over-rotation problem.  When the center wants to shoot at the left corner of the goal, he or she pushes forward with the left hand to reduce body rotation caused by the scissor kick.  The ball travels into the goal near the goalie’s right hip.  The effect of the scissor kick on the center’s body rotation is greatly reduced.  For a right corner shot, the center’s left hand pulls backward, the center’s body rotates excessively (passed center cage) and places the ball near the right corner of the goal. Note: In the narrow hip male 2-meter player, the act of scissor kicking over-rotates the body 180-degrees so the backhand shot hits the goalie in the stomach at center cage (see Fig. 12). 

READING THE POSITION OF THE CENTER GUARD 

  • Left Shoulder: Backhand shot, Rollout shot
  • Right Shoulder: Sweep, Power Turn shot
  • Middle: Backhand, Power Turn shot, Humbert shot and Spin Move
  • Tight Middle: Layout shot, Rollout shot

While it is important to read the goalie’s position in the goal, it is more important to read the position of the center’s guard on the 2-meter player.  If the ball does not get past the guard’s hand, it does not make any difference if the goaltender is out of position in the cage.  The guard has three different positions to defend the center: left shoulder, right shoulder and middle (playing behind the center).  The center sees/feels what shoulder the guard is on and selects the correct shot based upon the on the out of position of the center guard.  There are no great center guards, only bad center shooters.  There are no great goalies, only bad shooters.  There is always an open space in the goal; shoot at the open space and score.

Left Shoulder Defender: Backhand

When the guard is overplaying the center’s left shoulder the correct shot is the backhand or rollout shot.  The center guard takes the left shoulder of the center.  The center’s right arm is free and completely open for the shot.  The out of position guard cannot block a backhand shot or a rollout shot (see Hole Shots Parts 1-4 to see all of the center shots). 

Right Shoulder Defender: Sweep shot, Power Turn shot, Spin Move

When the center guard overplays the center’s right shoulder, the shooter cannot take a backhand because the guard is playing his or her right arm for the shot.  Then, the center grabs the guard’s left hand, does a power turn shot and spins 90-degrees towards the right corner of the goal for a shot.  Another shot is a spin move towards the right corner of the goal.  The center grabs the right hip of the defender and spins 180-degrees to the inside for inside water and an off the water shot.  When the guard is pressing hard against the center, a strongside spin move towards the left corner is possible.

Middle: Behind the Back Defender: Backhand shot, sweep shot, Power Turn shot, Spin

When the center guard plays the middle or behind the back of the center, many center shots are available.  The first shot considered is the backhand shot, followed by the power turn shot and the Humbert shot and the rollout shot.  The Humbert shot where the shooter pushes off the guard’s chest with his or her left shoulder, turns to face the goal, and shoots the ball at the right corner of the goal.  Another shot out of the defender’s middle position is the rollout shot where the center shooter rolls on his side towards the left corner and shoots the ball at the left corner.  The guard is way out of position to stop this type of shot.  The spin move is used when the guard’s hips are down and the guard’s hip can be grabbed.

When the center guard is tightly covering the center and grabbing everything to hold on to, the center layouts on his or her back and pushes away from the guard towards the point, and takes an overhand shot off their back.  Women, because they float are much better at taking layout shots, both power shots and lobs than the men.   Men have a tendency to sink in the water unless they are very skilled at the layout shot.

BACKHAND DRILLS

The purpose of the drills is to teach body rotation, hand skills and left hand mechanics.

Backhand Passes

The backhand is a whole body rotational shot.  Therefore, all body rotational drills will help practice the backhand shot.  The first drill is to have two players practice backhand passes to each other.  Step-out at a 45-degree angle, pull, push and pull with the left hand and backhand pass the ball to a partner.  In the beginning, expect a lot of errant backhand passes flying all over place until they learn to aim the backhand pass.  Then modify the drill and require backhand skim passes.  Skim passes require the passer to master “touch” on the ball.  To assist in skimming the ball, the passers twists the thumb down and inward as the ball is released to increase the rotation of the ball so it skims better.  Skim passes can be throwing facing the partner or with the back to the partner.  The player has to “feel the ball” and develop “touch” to skim the ball.  Until doing this drill, most players are ham-fisted and have stone hands, which makes for some very humbling and entertaining practices in the beginning!

Backhand Walks

The player walks a lap stepping out with the right leg and doing pull, push and pull with the left hand. The player can take a fake backhand to make it feel authentic.  A variation of the drill is to step-out sideways with the right leg, step after step, without hand movements for a lap.  Then reverse direction and have the player step-out with the left leg for a lap.

Backhand with a Guard

This is a three-man drill.  The player has a guard on himself with an unguarded passer throwing the entry pass to him.  The entry pass has to be perfect (a rare thing in age group and high school) and the guard is positioned on his left shoulder for him to take a soft backhand shot into the wall.  The guard shifts position to force he center to read the position of the guard: guard’s chin on left shoulder—shoot; guard’s chin on right shoulder—do not shoot a backhand shot.

Strongside Spin 

Another drill for developing the backhand is strongside or reverse spins.  The player has a partner and practices spinning without using a hand and spinning 180-degrees towards the right corner.  The speed of the spin creates the power for the move.  Slow spin = no spin move.   For those centers that do not have an off the water shot, the center holds onto the ball after the spin and shoots a screw shot.  The woman center, found she spun and floated.  No call by the referee.  The woman adjusted.  She pointed the right shoulder at the goal, picked the ball up and held it high in the air with a palmed hand.  She shook the arm twice and threw the ball over the goalie’s head.  Men, by the way with their non-floating body, spun and sunk to the bottom of the pool.  The sympathetic referee calls an exclusion.

Weakside Spin

A complimentary drill is to do weakside spins to the left, which duplicates the sweep shot motion.  The center grabs the guard’s mid waist area with his/her left hand, grabs the ball in the right hand and spins 180-degrees towards the right corner of the goal.  When the center grabs the guard’s left hip, the spin is only 90-degrees (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Spins 1-3).

Left Hand Mechanics  

The left hand controls ball clearance and power for the standard backhand shot.  The center’s left hand, pulls, pushes down and pulls.  For the drill, have the center positioned with his/her back to the wall, 3-meters out from the wall with a ball.  The center pulls with the left hand and steps-out at 45 degrees, pushes down with the left hand to lift the pinched or palmed ball clear of the water.  Then the center pulls again with the left hand for rotation and throws soft backhand into the wall twenty times.  The left hand is the shot in the backhand.

Left Shoulder Push Off

The drills has two players together, one plays the center and the other the guard.  The center arches the back, angles the left shoulder, kicks into the guard and springs off the guard’s sternum for the push off and gains separation from the guard.

Conclusion

The backhand is a valuable shot for the center.  When the center guard overplays the center’s left shoulder, no power turn shot towards the right corner is possible.  The center reads the position of the guard on his or her left shoulder and shoots a backhand shot at the left lower corner.  The backhand is a low corner skim shot that slides the ball on the surface of the water as the goalie leaps up into the air.  If the center shooting a high corner shot, he or she plays into the goalie’s natural upward movement.  The backhand shooter has to position the elbow so it in points at the left corner of the goal.  Resting on the ball bends the elbow and aims the ball outside the goal posts.  Pushing the ball down deeply underwater creates a high over the goal shot.  The well-trained shooter steps-out, pulls, pushes, and pulls and leads with the right elbow and skims the ball into the goal.

Coaches ban the only shot that can score when the center-guard  is positioned on the center’s left shoulder.  It is complete nonsense.  Logic, not some kind frozen ideology from the 1970s, needs to govern the actions of the modern 21st century coach.  The center reads the guard, the goalie and the angle, selects the backhand and scores.  The goal of the center is to score.  Hopefully, the goal of the coach is the same.

READING THE GOALIE: Part 3

01

The backhand shot is a great shot by the 2-meter player.  The center’s back is to the goal and he throws the right arm and ball backward at the goal.  It has been a staple in shooting in the United States and in Europe for over 40-years.  The reason the backhand is banned by lower level coaches is supposedly the backhand is an inaccurate shot that hits the goalie at center cage or misses the goal completely.  Most coaches want the center to face the goal when shooting for good visuals.  The backhand, on the other hand, is a “blind” shot with the shooter’s back to the goal.  The top college and international players shoot backhands most of the time during a game.  Recently, in the 2013 World Championships, the Australian women made the finals by scoring five backhands in the semi-finals.  Interestingly, not all of the backhands came from the Australian center but from players on the wing and on 5-meter foul shots.  The goalie did not expect to see a backhand shot from there and was unprepared to prevent the score.

BACKHAND SHOT TECHNIQUE

BACKHAND SHOT

  • Step-out 45-degree angle
  • Hand on top
  • Left hand pulls, pushes down, pulls
  • Right elbow leads

The first rule for 2-meter player is to set up in the center of the goal, which allows the ball to be thrown at the left corner of the goal. Then the center steps-out at a 45-degree angle by pulling with the left hand, puts his or her hand on top the ball to grip and then half submerges the ball.  Do not put the hand underneath the ball or on the side of the ball.  The center’s left shoulder digs into the guard’s sternum and is pushes off. The left hand’s downward push lifts the tightly griped ball slightly clear of the water.  The right elbow is bent, leads and then straightens out to release the ball.  At the same time, the center’s right leg swings backward with the arm to rotate the body (see Fig. 1). 

02

Left Shoulder Push Off

  • Arch back
  • Angle left shoulder
  • Kick into guard
  • Spring off the guard’s sternum

03

The center has to get free of the center guard’s hands.  For girls this is an especially trying situation as the swimsuit provides many places to grab.  The common mistake for the boy or girl center is to use the hand to push off the guard to get open.  When the center uses the hand to push off the guard it always results in an offensive foul.  The proper technique to use is to push off with the left shoulder into the guard’s sternum.  The left shoulder push off results in a 12-inch (2.5-cm) space and strips the guard’s hands off the center’s body.  All the referee sees is the natural rotation of the center’s body and shoulders.

Actually, the technique to push off the guard is complex.  The center arches the back and positions the body at a 45-degree angle so the shoulder thrust has a firm point.  Having a flat square back does nothing for the center.  It may result in an offensive foul if the center uses the head to throw the torso backward instead of the back extensor muscles.  With the back arched and the torso and left shoulder angled, the center kicks back into the guard’s body and springs off the sternum, separating from the guard. The arching the back, angling the torso and kicking back into the guard are all new techniques that the center is unfamiliar.  With practice, the left shoulder push off into a step-out backhand shot becomes commonplace for the center to perform.  Perimeter players can also use the left shoulder technique to become open to pass the ball (see Fig. 2).

04
05

At this point, the right hand slides to the side of the ball as it is lifted from the water from the push down. Do not swing the arm high up into the air, as the ball will hit the water at an angle and stops.  Once the bottom of the ball is slightly out of the water, the center’s left hand pulls backward and the right leg swings backward to rotate the center’s body to the right.  As the right leg swings backwards, the right elbow is bent and right arm fully extends to release the ball (see Figs. 3, 4).

06

07

The best backhand shot is a left corner skim shot.  The goalie jumps up in the air with the arms and is unable to protect the low corner of the goal.  The rule: Where ever the elbow points the ball follows.  In the illustrations below, Figure 5 & 6, show various incorrect elbow angles of center that throw the ball in different directions.  One of the most common errors in the backhand shot is for the center to step-out straight ahead with the right leg and bend the right elbow with the ball in front of the face.  The ball is used as a floating aid for the center.  The result of the bent elbow is the ball misses the entire goal.  Other examples are swinging the ball up in the air to get ball clearance with the elbow down at the water, which causes the ball to hit the water and stop.  On the other hand, not lifting the ball up out of the water causes the ball to become a torpedo.  Submerging the entire ball with the elbow aimed over the top of the goal causes the ball to fly over the cage (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Hole Shots Part 2).  These above errors are common mistakes made by the center (see Figs. 5, 6).

ANGLES

  • Left Lower Corner Shot
  • Left Upper Corner Shot
  • Over the Head Shot
  • Right Lower Corner Shot
  • Right Upper Corner Shot

08

In the above illustration, Figure 7, the five places that the center can place the ball are shown.  There are two shots to the left corner, one shot over the goalie’s head and two shots to the right corner of the goal.  The center reads the position of the guard and the goalie and places the ball in the most open spot in the goal.  For a backhand shot, the left corner is the preferred corner for shooting.  The above the head and right corner are difficult backhand shots and are only used in special situations.  The shooter can also change the angle of the ball by positioning the ball in a different place, using a scissor kick or the left hand to move the ball around (see Fig. 7).

The lower left corner shot is the preferred location for the angled step-out backhand shot with the center positioned in the middle of the cage.  The goalie automatically jumps high for the shot and the ball skims into the lower left corner of the goal under the goalie’s arm.  Goaltenders are taught to raise their arms up to 15-inches to 18-inches above the water (37-cm to 45-cm).  This is the location in the goal that most center shooters throw the ball.  The backhand skim shot takes advantage of goalie’s arm height out of the water to score. 

Left Upper Corner Shot

When the goalie stays low in the water, expecting a skim shot, the center’s elbow is aimed at the high corner of the goal and the ball is shot at the high corner.  Again, the rule is, the ball goes wherever the elbow points.

Over The Head Shot

The over the head shot is a rare shot.  The goalie usually protects his or her head from the ball.  However, on certain occasions when the goalie has jumped early and is sinking the ball can be thrown over the goalie’s head.

Right Lower Corner Shot

The right corner shot involves the center changing from a step-out kick with the legs widely separated and eggbeatering into a scissor kick (legs slap together).  The result of a step-out at 45-degres with a scissor kick is to over-rotate the male’s hips, which causes the ball to go into the lower right corner of the goal. If the center steps-out straight ahead using a scissor kick, the ball instead hits the goalie in the stomach at center cage.

 

Right High Corner Shot  

When the center is on the left goal post, it is possible with a scissor kick to shoot a cross-cage weakside high right corner shot.  This is a rare shot and requires great control of the body and the hand.

CHANGING THE ANGLE

09

The ball position in the water is often ignored even though it affects the angle to the goal.  The ball makes the angle.  As we have seen previously, the elbow decides the angle that the ball travels. However, in the Rudic cross-cage shot the ball placement in the water before the shot, makes the angle for the shot to score.  The Rudic cross-cage shot from the left post with the right shoulder facing the goal and center’s back facing the side wall, is an unexpected and deceptive shot by the 2-meter player.  The goalie is used to seeing the center’s back and having him be at center cage.  A center set up off to the side, facing the side wall of the pool, is out of position to shoot the ball according to the goalie’s mindset.  This is not true of course.  The offset center’s shot rips cross-cage across the goal and into the right corner of the goal (see Fig. 8). 

The technique for shooting a Rudic backhand shot is for the shooter to be precisely positioned  2-meters outside of the left goal post on the 3-meter line.  In this position in the pool, the ball is geometrically aimed to go into the right corner of the goal.  The goalie is not paying much attention to the ball when he/she sees the center outside the goal post and off the angle.  The goalie is expecting a pass from the center to the perimeter players for a shot and plays center cage.   The ball zooms past the sleeping goaltender.  The position of the ball in the water is critical for the Rudic backhand shot.  The center has never thought before this type of shot about shooting geometry.

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11

If the ball is placed above the 3-meter line, the angle is decreased and the ball hits the goalie at center cage.  When the ball placed below the 3-meter line, the angle is increased and the ball misses the right corner of the goal.  Ball position in the water is everything to the center as he or she considers the angle their body is positioned in relationship to the ball. The shooter reads the angle but also makes the shooting angle (see Figs. 9, 10).

Advanced Left Hand Scissor Kick Backhand Shot

  • Scissor kick
  • Left hand pulls for right corner shot
  • Left hand pushes for left corner shot

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The center reads the guard the goalie and the angle but also the referee.  The referee controls the game.  In particular, the referee controls whether or not the center scores.  When the referee allows the center guard to be all over the center, the 2-meter player has to change to another shooting technique to score.  In a recent Olympic Games, the referees allowed the guards to  wrap their arms around the center!  The centers developed a new backhand shot to maneuver around the lack of fouls so they could shoot at 2-meters.  They changed their shooting angles by pulling or pushing with the left hand.

The center switches from a step-out to the right to a scissors kick.  The center guard cannot grab the 2-meter player’s legs so at least the legs are safe!  To prevent the male or sometimes the female center shooter from over-rotating, the center’s left hand is used to “steer the ball” to increase or decrease body rotation and the angle of the shot (see Fig. 11).

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The center’s left hand pull fixes the over-rotation problem.  When the center wants to shoot at the left corner of the goal, he or she pushes forward with the left hand to reduce body rotation caused by the scissor kick.  The ball travels into the goal near the goalie’s right hip.  The effect of the scissor kick on the center’s body rotation is greatly reduced.  For a right corner shot, the center’s left hand pulls backward, the center’s body rotates excessively (passed center cage) and places the ball near the right corner of the goal. Note: In the narrow hip male 2-meter player, the act of scissor kicking over-rotates the body 180-degrees so the backhand shot hits the goalie in the stomach at center cage (see Fig. 12). 

READING THE POSITION OF THE CENTER GUARD 

  • Left Shoulder: Backhand shot, Rollout shot
  • Right Shoulder: Sweep, Power Turn shot
  • Middle: Backhand, Power Turn shot, Humbert shot and Spin Move
  • Tight Middle: Layout shot, Rollout shot

While it is important to read the goalie’s position in the goal, it is more important to read the position of the center’s guard on the 2-meter player.  If the ball does not get past the guard’s hand, it does not make any difference if the goaltender is out of position in the cage.  The guard has three different positions to defend the center: left shoulder, right shoulder and middle (playing behind the center).  The center sees/feels what shoulder the guard is on and selects the correct shot based upon the on the out of position of the center guard.  There are no great center guards, only bad center shooters.  There are no great goalies, only bad shooters.  There is always an open space in the goal; shoot at the open space and score.

Left Shoulder Defender: Backhand

When the guard is overplaying the center’s left shoulder the correct shot is the backhand or rollout shot.  The center guard takes the left shoulder of the center.  The center’s right arm is free and completely open for the shot.  The out of position guard cannot block a backhand shot or a rollout shot (see Hole Shots Parts 1-4 to see all of the center shots). 

Right Shoulder Defender: Sweep shot, Power Turn shot, Spin Move

When the center guard overplays the center’s right shoulder, the shooter cannot take a backhand because the guard is playing his or her right arm for the shot.  Then, the center grabs the guard’s left hand, does a power turn shot and spins 90-degrees towards the right corner of the goal for a shot.  Another shot is a spin move towards the right corner of the goal.  The center grabs the right hip of the defender and spins 180-degrees to the inside for inside water and an off the water shot.  When the guard is pressing hard against the center, a strongside spin move towards the left corner is possible.

Middle: Behind the Back Defender: Backhand shot, sweep shot, Power Turn shot, Spin

When the center guard plays the middle or behind the back of the center, many center shots are available.  The first shot considered is the backhand shot, followed by the power turn shot and the Humbert shot and the rollout shot.  The Humbert shot where the shooter pushes off the guard’s chest with his or her left shoulder, turns to face the goal, and shoots the ball at the right corner of the goal.  Another shot out of the defender’s middle position is the rollout shot where the center shooter rolls on his side towards the left corner and shoots the ball at the left corner.  The guard is way out of position to stop this type of shot.  The spin move is used when the guard’s hips are down and the guard’s hip can be grabbed.

When the center guard is tightly covering the center and grabbing everything to hold on to, the center layouts on his or her back and pushes away from the guard towards the point, and takes an overhand shot off their back.  Women, because they float are much better at taking layout shots, both power shots and lobs than the men.   Men have a tendency to sink in the water unless they are very skilled at the layout shot.

BACKHAND DRILLS

The purpose of the drills is to teach body rotation, hand skills and left hand mechanics.

Backhand Passes

The backhand is a whole body rotational shot.  Therefore, all body rotational drills will help practice the backhand shot.  The first drill is to have two players practice backhand passes to each other.  Step-out at a 45-degree angle, pull, push and pull with the left hand and backhand pass the ball to a partner.  In the beginning, expect a lot of errant backhand passes flying all over place until they learn to aim the backhand pass.  Then modify the drill and require backhand skim passes.  Skim passes require the passer to master “touch” on the ball.  To assist in skimming the ball, the passers twists the thumb down and inward as the ball is released to increase the rotation of the ball so it skims better.  Skim passes can be throwing facing the partner or with the back to the partner.  The player has to “feel the ball” and develop “touch” to skim the ball.  Until doing this drill, most players are ham-fisted and have stone hands, which makes for some very humbling and entertaining practices in the beginning!

Backhand Walks

The player walks a lap stepping out with the right leg and doing pull, push and pull with the left hand. The player can take a fake backhand to make it feel authentic.  A variation of the drill is to step-out sideways with the right leg, step after step, without hand movements for a lap.  Then reverse direction and have the player step-out with the left leg for a lap.

Backhand with a Guard

This is a three-man drill.  The player has a guard on himself with an unguarded passer throwing the entry pass to him.  The entry pass has to be perfect (a rare thing in age group and high school) and the guard is positioned on his left shoulder for him to take a soft backhand shot into the wall.  The guard shifts position to force he center to read the position of the guard: guard’s chin on left shoulder—shoot; guard’s chin on right shoulder—do not shoot a backhand shot.

Strongside Spin 

Another drill for developing the backhand is strongside or reverse spins.  The player has a partner and practices spinning without using a hand and spinning 180-degrees towards the right corner.  The speed of the spin creates the power for the move.  Slow spin = no spin move.   For those centers that do not have an off the water shot, the center holds onto the ball after the spin and shoots a screw shot.  The woman center, found she spun and floated.  No call by the referee.  The woman adjusted.  She pointed the right shoulder at the goal, picked the ball up and held it high in the air with a palmed hand.  She shook the arm twice and threw the ball over the goalie’s head.  Men, by the way with their non-floating body, spun and sunk to the bottom of the pool.  The sympathetic referee calls an exclusion.

Weakside Spin

A complimentary drill is to do weakside spins to the left, which duplicates the sweep shot motion.  The center grabs the guard’s mid waist area with his/her left hand, grabs the ball in the right hand and spins 180-degrees towards the right corner of the goal.  When the center grabs the guard’s left hip, the spin is only 90-degrees (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Spins 1-3).

Left Hand Mechanics  

The left hand controls ball clearance and power for the standard backhand shot.  The center’s left hand, pulls, pushes down and pulls.  For the drill, have the center positioned with his/her back to the wall, 3-meters out from the wall with a ball.  The center pulls with the left hand and steps-out at 45 degrees, pushes down with the left hand to lift the pinched or palmed ball clear of the water.  Then the center pulls again with the left hand for rotation and throws soft backhand into the wall twenty times.  The left hand is the shot in the backhand.

Left Shoulder Push Off

The drills has two players together, one plays the center and the other the guard.  The center arches the back, angles the left shoulder, kicks into the guard and springs off the guard’s sternum for the push off and gains separation from the guard.

Conclusion

The backhand is a valuable shot for the center.  When the center guard overplays the center’s left shoulder, no power turn shot towards the right corner is possible.  The center reads the position of the guard on his or her left shoulder and shoots a backhand shot at the left lower corner.  The backhand is a low corner skim shot that slides the ball on the surface of the water as the goalie leaps up into the air.  If the center shooting a high corner shot, he or she plays into the goalie’s natural upward movement.  The backhand shooter has to position the elbow so it in points at the left corner of the goal.  Resting on the ball bends the elbow and aims the ball outside the goal posts.  Pushing the ball down deeply underwater creates a high over the goal shot.  The well-trained shooter steps-out, pulls, pushes, and pulls and leads with the right elbow and skims the ball into the goal.

Coaches ban the only shot that can score when the center-guard  is positioned on the center’s left shoulder.  It is complete nonsense.  Logic, not some kind frozen ideology from the 1970s, needs to govern the actions of the modern 21st century coach.  The center reads the guard, the goalie and the angle, selects the backhand and scores.  The goal of the center is to score.  Hopefully, the goal of the coach is the same.

READING THE GOALIE: Part 4
Forgotten Angles and Forbidden Shots

01

The next shot to join the list of banned shots by age group and high school coaches in America is the side arm shot.  Coaches hate it.  Furthermore, most side arm shooters are highly inaccurate.  Therefore, the side arm must be a bad shot!  The ban of the side arm shot goes along with the bans on lobs, skip shots and backhands.  The next banned shot, the side arm, is the latest hot shot on the international scene and at the college level.  For teams to win the players have to be able to throw the side arm shot, curve the ball and side arm skip the ball.  The side arm shot also utilizes the five shooting angles differently than the overhand shot to confuse the goaltender.

In Europe around 2010, the European men began to use side arm and lean-over shots off the 5-meter foul.  The ability to shoot to the right with a side arm shot and to the left with a lean-over shot (player leans on his side) gave the shooter off the 5-meter foul a dual weapon with tremendous lateral motion to move the ball to right and left.  The shooter reads the guard that has just fouled him and the position of the goalie and shoots to the left or right corner.  In an overhand shot, the ball has only one direction—straight ahead.  If the overhand ball is aimed at the high right corner, the ball goes towards the high right corner.  However, on the side arm shot the ball can skip or curve  back to the left corner without any visible arm movement to indicate the change of direction of the ball.  The goalie has never seen these types of shots before and cannot read the shooter’s throwing motion (see Polo Articles: The Shot Doctor: Vertical to Horizontal Shots Part 2, 3).   

On each team, one or two players throw the side arm shot naturally without any instruction.  The other untrained players on the team are horrible side arm shooters.  Based on the majority rules, the coach bans the side arm shot.  This is not right. The coach has failed to nurture his player’s individual strengths and allowed creativity and individuality to grow.  In the United States, we have a one size fits all shot philosophy where the coach demands that the team shoot only one way (his way).  A team should be a combination of different types of shooters so the goalie cannot easily read all of the team’s shooters.

The shooters on most teams have dreamed of a lateral movement shot where the shooter moved sideways to throw the ball.  It is impossible to move sideways with the overhand shot because it only moves forward.  The dream vanished as the coach demanded conformity and destroyed creativity.  Without specialized training, all of the shooters that stepped-out to shoot to the weakside right corner failed.  Their shots missed wide of the right goal post.  What did they do wrong?  Their coach had no answer and banned their attempts at creativity.

Boyer Shot

02

Greg Boyer led UC Santa Barbara to a 1981Division I NCAA Men’s Championship with a unique shot, a lateral movement shot called a step-out shot or simply a “Boyer.”  Greg played on the US 1988 Olympic Team, which won the silver medal.  Like all great shooters, he could not explain the shot to others and few copied the shot (see Fig. 1).

With the standard overhand shot, the shooter throws the ball straight-ahead.  If you are a guard, look where the shooter’s left shoulder and hand is pointing and put the arm up to block the shot.  The ball cannot deviate from a straight path thrown by overhand shooter’s straight right arm.  There are many field blocks against teams using the overhand shot.

Boyer’s technique was to move the right leg out laterally to the side and move the right arm sideways while maintaining the arm at 45-degree angle in the air for a high corner shot.  Boyer’s entire body and arm moved sideways.  The Boyer shooter moved past the guard’s up-raised arm and shot around the arm to the high right corner.  It makes perfect sense to step to the side to shoot around the guard’s arm rather than throw the ball directly at the guard’s arm.  When the shooter’s arm drops to 90-degrees, it becomes a side arm shot.  The word Boyer, Angled Boyer and side arm shot become interchangeable in the text.

03

When teaching the Boyer the first mistake players make is to immediately swing the right arm back and cock the ball as if it were an overhand shot.  The Boyer becomes an overhand shot without lateral arm movement and the ball hits the goalie at center cage.  The players must realize that there are two types of motion.  There is the forward motion of the North-South of the overhand shot and there is an East-West sideways motion of the Boyer shot.  The shooter cannot combine both styles (see Fig. 2).  

An example of the Boyer shot in action has the shooter in the left wing (US-1, EU-5) and goalie is locked onto the left goal post. However, the ball is thrown around the goalie to the right corner.  This shot worked for a while until the goalies realized that the shooter’s body moving sideways meant a cross-cage shot.  Still, the Boyer was a great shot and it continued unchanged until 2010.  Then the Angled Boyer shot was invented that allowed the side arm shot, side arm skim and skip shot. The Angled Boyer also allowed shots to be taken at unique angles to the goal. Furthermore, women could now take a Boyer shots and side arm shots.

Standard Boyer Technique

The Boyer shot is taken from the 1-spot, 2-spot or 3-spot (EU 5, 4 or 3), but not the 4-spot or 5-spot (EU 2, 1).  The Boyer shooter leans the torso a little to the left, steps-out with a high right knee, pushes  sideways with the left hand from the hip and holds the ball high over the head.  This is the lateral body cocking position for the shooter.  The Boyer shooter has to “spring” to the right.  All of the force of the shooter’s body moves sideways.  The right arm does not swing backward as is done in the overhand shot.  Another common mistake by the beginning shooter is drop the right arm and ball to the horizontal and then try to shoot the ball.

The body is one piece, just as the stretched rubber band and the archer’s cocked arrow/bow and bowstring.  What effect one part effect the whole body as one unit.  The whole body is like a coiled spring.  The Boyer shooter cannot cock the legs, the hips and the torso to the left and then position the right arm in a relaxed laying on the water position.  There no transfer of power and momentum from the legs and hips to the arm with an uncocked right arm laying on top the water.  The spring is uncoiled at one end and cannot spring up.  One cannot stretch (cock) only part of a rubber band and have it take off.  The same is true of the lateral body cock of the Boyer.

04

This concept of lateral cocking in an East/West direction is completely new throwing model to the overhand North/Southshooter.  It will take a few practices for the players to adjust to this new body style of cocking and throwing. The right arm moves from a high position above the head and shoulder and swings out until it is at a 45-degree angle.  The ball is pinched so the ball does not fall out the shooter’s hand.  As the ball hits the apex of the 45-degree arm motion in rhythm with the leg step-out, the ball is released.  The right hand is not straight up but is slanted to the right and releases the ball with backspin on the ball. When the shooter has a vertical hand position drops the elbow and prevents a cross-court shot—making it a center cage shot (see Fig. 3).

Women and the Boyer Shot

Girls and women had a difficult time taking a Standard Boyer shot because the sideways motion of the right leg stepping-out at zero-degrees eliminates hip rotation and makes the Standard Boyer an “arm shot.”  Since females have half the upper body strength of the males, any reduction in hip rotation makes it impossible to take a Boyer shot.  It was not until the Angled Boyer that females could do step-out shots, the side arm shots and side arm skip shots.  The Angled Boyer opened up a new horizon for the women.

Angled Boyer   

05

The Angled Boyer allowed for the side arm shots, skim shots, skip shots and shooting from the left and right corners.  This technological breakthrough revolutionized the game.  The Boyer shot was basically a high corner cross-cage shot with the arm at 45-degrees from the US 1 and 2-spots (EU 5, 4).  The Angled Boyer is a side arm shot with the arm dropping to 90-degrees.  The side arm ball can be shot anywhere from any angle, right or left, high or low corners, skimmed or skipped (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Women Shooting Part 5).

The theory behind the Angled Boyer was to increase hip rotation to make up for the loss of the long arm cock overhand arm position.  This is accomplished by stepping-out with the right leg at a 30-45-degree angle and by snapping the right foot inward.  Angling the right leg back a little, the shooter cocked the right hip backward and gain as much as 70-percent of hip rotation available to the overhand hip cock.  To further increase hip rotation, the right foot was snapped inward in what is called a snap-in.  Twisting the right foot inward greatly increases hip rotation and the force of the shot.  In addition, the right foot snap-in can curve the ball to the right or the left corners.  A hard snap-in from the 2-spot (EU 4-spot) pulls the ball back into the left corner of the goal.  A milder snap-in lets the ball drift out and the ball curves into the right corner of the goal (see Fig. 4).

One of the clues that the goalie uses to read the Standard Boyer shot is shooter’s lateral body movement.  The goalie’s rule: move right = shoot right. The Angled Boyer shooter steps-out, reads the goalie’s lateral movement in the cage, hard snaps the right foot and pulls the ball back to the left corner.  The goalie cannot see underwater foot motion of the right foot snap-in.  The goalie jumps towards the right corner and the ball goes into the left corner of the goal.

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07

Note: when the right leg is back on the overhand shot, the right arm is cocked back, the torso and the hip is rotated backward.  The whole body of the overhand shooter is cocked back to the right.  The word “cocking” is the action that the archer takes when he or she pulls back the bowstring on the bow to cock the arrow—it is the same action in throwing a water polo ball.

In the Standard Boyer shot, the hip abducts (steps-out) with the right leg straight out at zero-degrees.  The Angled Boyer steps-out with a 30-degree angled right leg that provides not only abduction of the leg but hip rotation.  Women now have enough power to throw a Boyer shot and the side arm skip shot.  The European men have been terrorizing their goalies for the last four years using side arm shots.  By 2014, a quarter of the elite college women were throwing side arm shots (see Figs. 5, 6). 

The arm position of the Angled Boyer can be same as the standard Boyer at 45-degrees for a high corner shot, drop down to 90-degrees to curve the ball or to skip the ball or below 90-degrees to skim the ball.  The release of a side arm Angled Boyer uses a much different release than the overhand release.  In the overhand release, the hand is flat and snaps downward.  In the side arm release, the shooter uses a twist snap or twisted hand release.  The right hand twists backward to cock the ball and then twists inward to the left to release the ball with sidespin.

When the untrained shooter throws a side arm shot, the shooter steps-out, swings the arm sideways with the hand horizontal.  This old style side arm release causes the ball to slip out of the shooter’s hand and miss the goal completely.  On the other hand, the Angled Boyer side arm shooter has superb ball control.  For a demonstration, stand up, step-out to the right, and swing the horizontal arm, the right hand is horizontal and the ball slides out of the hand to the right. In the second demonstration, the player steps-out 30-degrees to the right, drops the arm from 45-degrees to 90-degrees with the hand twisted back and then twists forward to release the ball.  The angled step-out with the dropped arm and the twist snap make a huge improvement  in ball control.

Sidespin versus Backspin

The Boyer side arm shot creates a horizontal ball spin called sidespin.  The effect of a skipped ball with sidespin is for the ball to leap out of the water at about a 70-degree angle.  Of all the types of skip shots, the backspin (ball spins backward) and topspin (the ball spins forward), the sidespin is the most uncontrollable unless the Angled Boyer technique is used.  The ball usually skips up but it can also skim and usually there is a slight curve to the ball.

Depending on the force of the right foot snap-in and the degree of curve created, the aiming point for the non-skipping ball may be to aim the ball at the right corner (mild snap) or 12-inches (30-cm) in front the right goal post (sharp snap, hard curve).  Sometimes, if the foot snap-in is too hard the ball sharply curves and hits the goalkeeper at center cage (oops).   Other times, there is not enough force created on a mild foot snap-in to pull the curving ball into the cage and the ball sails wide of the goal.  The shooter has to experiment and learn how much right foot snap-in force to use to get the proper curve on the shot.

Skip Point

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The skip point for the side arm skip shot is right at the goal line, the 1-meter line.  This is the same skip point used by the index finger skip shot that has a 60-degree angle off the water.  The side-spinning ball is going to jump up high out of the water and ball and needs to be placed close to the cage (see Fig. 7).   

ANGLES

  • US 1, 2, 3, 4, 5-spots (left to right)
  • EU 5, 4, 3, 2, 1-spots

09

The Boyer side arm shot allowed the Boyer shooter to not only shoot cross-cage from the 1-spot, 2-spot and 3-spots (EU 5, 4, 3).  And it also the shooter to shoot from the right wing and right flat (US 4, 5/EU 1, 2)  cross-cage at the left corner of the goal.  This amazing shot is thrown at any angle in the pool either curved, skipped or skimmed.   The only limiting factor is the creativity of the shooter (see Fig. 8). 

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1-Spot (EU 5)

The read of the goalie decides what corner the ball is thrown.  The left wing shot shooter has to improve his or her angle by moving to the 1.5–spot.  The shooter from this angle has opened up the angle so a hard snap-in can pull the ball back to the left corner if the goalie moves right.  When the goalie overplays the left corner assuming a strongside left corner shot; the shooter side arms the ball to the weakside right corner (see Fig. 9).

2-Spot (EU 4)

The left flat shooter can shoot at both corners of the goal.  The shooter reads the goalie’s position in the goal to see what corner to pick.  Most goalies are going to favor the strongside left corner and be leaning that way.  As the Boyer shooter steps-out, he or she evaluates the goalie to see if the goalie is jumping to the right corner or staying put in the left corner.  Goalie is right, shoot—left; goalie is center, shoot—right.

3-Spot (EU 3)

11

The side arm shot from the point, allows the shooter to shoot at both corners.  The goalie on a point shot has to play center goal so both corners are open.  To shoot at the right corner, the shooter uses a mild right foot snap-in.  Depending on the situation, the curve can be mild or sharp.  To shoot at the left corner, the shooter uses a hard snap-in to “pull” the ball back sharply.  The shooter has to master the force of his or her right foot motion and its effect on the ball.  To skim the ball, drop the hand on the release so it is almost in the water (see Fig. 10).

4-Spot (EU 2)

Shooting from the 4-spot (EU 2-spot) allows the shooter to throw the ball at the right corner or the left corner of the goal.  The best shot is the weakside left corner.  The goalie is set up to block the strongside right corner shot and is surprised where the ball is shot to at the left corner (see Fig. 10).

5-Spot (EU 1)

12

The Boyer side arm shot by a righthander from the right wing is a difficult shot.  The shooter needs to move up in the “pocket” to a 4½-spot position and lead with the right foot forward to improve his or her angle to the goal.  From this position in the pool, the ball can be side-armed  into the left corner of the goal with the goalie completely out of position (see Fig. 11).

DRILLS

The drills teach the Angled Boyer shot with a side arm shot, a skip shot, curve and skim shot.

Boyer Wall Drill

13

The Wall Drill is the major drill for teaching the Boyer shot.  The player leans into the wall with his or her left forearm with the ball held over the head with a high right knee.  The players pushes off the wall with the left forearm, steps-out and swings the right arm and ball over the right shoulder in a lateral motion and stops.  The three common mistakes are the player will unconsciously swing the arm straight back as if taking an overhand shot; have the right arm floating in the water instead of cocked.  The player stepping-out with a low knee, immediately sinks and crosses the legs.  Without leg support, the player’s elbow hits the water with the arm straight up, instead of at a 45-degree angle. With a straight up-and-down arm, the Boyer has turned into a center cage overhand shot with a wet elbow (see Fig. 12).

Step-Out Drill

The players get away from the wall and practice passing the Boyer shot with the arm at 45-degrees at the release.  The passes go all over the place as the players try to master the step-out, the slight twist of the wrist and the timing to release the ball when the step-out reaches full power.  If the player steps-out, hesitates and loses momentum, he or she begins sinking and throws a weak pass.  The players should master the high release/arm position before moving on. Next, the players practice the side arm skim and skip shot/passes.

Curve Shot Drill

14

This drill teaches the player to curve the ball into the right corner.  The player pushes off the wall from the left side in a wall-mounted goal or pushes off the lane line.  The player steps-out at a 30-degree angle and side arms the ball into the right corner.  Depending on the force of the right foot snap-in, the ball will hits the nearside side of the goal a meter away, hit the middle of the goal or go into the right corner.  Some of the time, the shooter uses too mild a foot snap and the ball goes wide and misses the right corner of the goal completely (see Fig. 13).

Snap-In Drill

The drill has three players, one shooter and two pass catchers in a triangle  The pass receivers are about 3-meters a part and 5-6-meters away from the shooter.  The shooter is near the pass receiver on the left.  The side arm specialist steps-out to the right and mildly snaps-in the right foot to make a mild curve shot that goes to the pass receiver on the right.  The next shot pass has the shooter hard snap the right foot and sharply curve the ball to the player on the left.  Expect many missed side arm shot passes as the players adapt to the use of the right foot to determine direction.

Snap-in on Goal Drill

The shooter is at the left flat (US 2-spot/EU 4-spot) and takes one shot at the right corner of the goal with a mild right foot snap-in.  The ball may go into the right corner or it may drift outside the right goal post.  The shooter has to “feather” the force of the right foot snap-in to push the ball into the corner.  Next, the shooter steps-out, and throws the ball at the left corner of the goal by using a “hard snap-in” to pull the ball. 

Shoot Around the Guard’s Arm Drill

The shooter is at the 2-spot or the point, facing a guard with a raised left hand.  The shooter steps-out and shoots around the arm.  This is the final test to see if the shooters have mastered the shot in a real-time situation.

Conclusion

The Boyer shot allows the shooter to shoot to the weakside of the goal from a bad angle or around a guard’s outstretched arm.  The original Boyer shot is modified to become an Angled Boyer side arm shot—which enabled players to be able to throw side arm, skip, curve, and skim shots.  The 30-degree angle of the right leg step-out with the right foot snap-in created more power so the girls and women could use the hips to take a side arm shot.  The side arm shot using the Boyer technique is a great shot for men and women that gives the shooter great control of the ball and the ability to shoot from a wide variety of angles.

READING THE GOALIE PART 5  
Forgotten Angles and Forbidden Shots

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Photograph by Water Polo World

In the last four articles, we covered the five forgotten angles and four forbidden shots, the lob, the skip shot, the backhand, and the side arm shot.  We have learned to read the goalie from the shooter’s angle on whether or not to shoot to the strongside of the goal or the weakside of the goal and what shot to take.  In this article, we examine the technical clues that the goalie’s body gives us as to where to shoot the ball.  Does the goalie have strong legs and good blocking technique or bad?  Is the goalie fat and slow? Does the goalie have deep hands, is he or she better to the right arm, a jumpy goalie, a goalie afraid of the ball, slow to react, too quick to react, shuts his or her eyes, pulls away from the ball, or sinks after one fake.  When the shooter has these clues to the physical nature of the goalie’s technique and playing skill, he or she can increase their scoring average dramatically.  Knowing that a goalie cannot block a particular shot, an angle, a high corner shot, and lob or skip shot or uses incorrect blocking technique are golden clues on how to score on the goalie.

These are the hidden goalie clues that the shooter must read if he or she is going to maximize his or her scoring percentage.  It is rare that a coach knows much about goalies— how to train them or even how to score on them.  “Just throw the ball at the goal and it will go in” is the usual instruction to the shooter by the coach.  The shooter believes that he or she only needs to overpower the goalie with a hard shot and the goalie will be knocked back, fall into the goal, with the cage collapsing into pieces.  The theory behind this throwing concept is wrong.  It takes skill to score on a goalie, not just brute strength!

The goalie read requires the shooter to evaluate the angle, the shot, and the goalie’s technique.  For example, if the goalie has deep hands and weak legs, he or she cannot block the high corner shot.  All shots thrown to the high corner of the goal will score.  A goalie with no lateral movement receives a cross-cage shot.  These simple reads result in every shot going into the cage.  The shooter reads the leg strength of the goalie and their technique for clues.  The goalie’s body tells the shooter where to throw the ball.

There are no great goalies, only bad shooters

Most goalies are bad.  However, the shooter throws the ball into the arms of the goalie anyway. “Did the goalie block my shot?”  On the other hand, the shooter should ask, “Did I block my own shot by aiming at his or her arm?”  There are no great goalies, only bad shooters. The average age group and high school goalie has no instruction at all in blocking technique.  Many players are made into goalies because they cannot swim very well.  The goalie should be the best athlete on the team with the strongest legs.  Most of the time the goaltender is the worse athlete on the team and the shooter must take advantage of this situation.  Unfortunately, for the shooter, few shooters can read the goalie’s clues.  Most of the shooter’s shots are thrown at the goalie’s body for an easy block.  The shooter, however, with a few instructions, can double or triple his or her scoring average if they evaluate the goalie before throwing the ball.

When the shooter’s mechanics and the mind meld together into one, the ball will score.  If the shooter is unthinking, throws a power shot at the low corner every time and never looks at the goaltender, the ball rarely scores.  Luck, not skill, puts the ball in the goal for the unconscious shooter.   The skilled shooter is not affected by bad luck.  He or she takes and makes the high percentage shot and scores every time.

Scout the Goalie in Warm Up

The shooter needs to evaluate the goalie.  The best time to read the goalie is during the warm up before the game.  It is always a good idea for the shooter to spend a few minutes watching how the opponent’s goalie is blocking various shots and protecting the corners.  Since all shooters want to score, the goalie’s teammates will always show you how to beat him during warm ups!  This is valuable information that the shooter needs to have before the game begins.  To shoot at a goalie without any idea of the goalie’s strengths and weakness is sheer folly.  It may take the shooter several quarters during the game to find out that the goalie cannot block a lob, a skip shot or a high corner shot.  By this time in the game, the shooter has already had several shots blocked.  The shooter’s  read of the goalie starts before the game starts—not during the game.

The goalie creates the shot not the shooter.

The goalie creates the shot not the shooter.  What this means is that the shooter’s idea what he or she wants to do with the ball is changed when the shooter confronts reality—the goalie. The shooter takes what the goalie gives him. For example, if the goalie is set up to block the shooter’s favorite shot and spot, the shooter changes the shot and the corner.    By changing, the shooter takes advantage of the goalie’s weaknesses in the cage.  Reading the goalie requires the shooter to adjust to the goalie’s play.  Rarely, can the shooter dominate a good goalie.  Take (advantage) what the goalie gives you.  Scoring on the goalie is in actuality, smartness.  Smart shooters score; dumb shooters do not.

Shooters are Dumb

Since most untrained shooters are going to throw the ball into the goalie’s arms, the goaltender has little to fear.  Goalies are taught, “All shooters are dumb.”  They are taught to come out of the cage with the arms raised at between 15-inches to 18-inches (38-41-cm) in the middle of the cage to block the shot.  The goalie knows the low elbow shooter, with center of the ball at 15-inches (38-cm) above the water with weak legs, is going to throw the ball at the middle of the cage or at the low corner of the cage.  It is simple for the goalie to block the average shooter’s shot.  Scary but true.  The author agrees with the popular goalie opinion that most shooters are dumb.

READING THE GOALIE’S TECHNIQUE

Small Goalie Shuts his Eyes
Fat Goalie Sinks after one Fake
Deep Hands  Cannot Block the Lob
Jumpy Goalie  Pulls Away from the Ball 
Bites on the Fake Weak to the Left Hand
Afraid of the Ball Shooter Shoots Low from Outside
Too Slow to React Gap in the Corner
Too Quick to React  Cannot Block the Skip Shot
Hides in the Goal The Great Goalie
Arm Swinging Goalie

Small Goalie

The small goalie cannot make it across the goal on a weakside power shot or lob.  The goalie cannot “fill the goal” and make it look like the goaltender is covering the entire cage.  The small goalie looks small in the goal.   Cross-court passes to a shot and lobs are the bane of the small goalie because of reduced lateral movement in the cage.  The goalie’s arms are not long enough to make it across the cage to block the cross-court shot.  The same is true of the weakside shot from an angle, such as a 2-spot (EU 4-spot) shot to the right corner.  The lob goes over the head of the out of position small goalie. The small goalie has to read the angle much better than a taller goalie to block the shot.  The small goalie can be overpowered by a hard shot.

Fat Goalie: Shoot high

The fat goalie is out of shape, has weak legs and deep hands, and is usually a poor swimmer.  He or she is in the cage to prevent being beaten on the counterattack.  The shooter is looking at the weakest possible goaltender he or she will ever see.  The ball is thrown at the high corner of the goal where the fat goalie is unable to lift him or herself out of the water.

Deep Hands: Shoot high

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When the goalie’s hands are deep it means he or she has weak legs and must use the sculling hands to assist in staying up in the goal.  Deep hands should be the first item on the list that the shooter checks on when facing the goalie.  A goalie with deep hands cannot react quick enough to get to the high corner shot.  All shots are thrown at the high corner of the goal.  The players should be able to read that the goalie cannot block a high corner shot by the first quarter of the game or, better yet, before the game during warm-up (see Figs. 1, 2).

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04

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In Figure 4, the counterattacker is low in the water with a low elbow.  The ball is thrown at the middle of the cage at the goalie’s arms for a block (see Figs. 3, 4).

Note: In a recent Southern California CIF quarterfinal game between two famous Orange County high school boy teams, the goalie could not jump to the high corners of the goal, due to weak legs and deep hands.  However, in the game, he blocked 10 one-on- nobody counterattack shots!  The counterattacker would tire, not elevate very high out of the water and have a low elbow and shoot low.  The result was the ball was thrown 15-inches (38-cm) above the water in the middle of the goal at the goalie’s arms.

Jumpy Goalie: Patience and any shot goes in

The jumpy goalie reacts too quickly and pulls the hands out of the water.  The jumpy goalie will also jump to the high corner or to one side.  A good fake can cause the jumpy goalie to leap up early in the goal.  The shooter should never try to out-quick the jumpy goalie but wait for the goalie to jump up.  Once the goalie is committed, and airborne, the game is over for the goalie.

Bites on the Fake: Shoot high

A one fake goalie is like the jumpy goalie.  The goaltender has his hands lightly sculling in the water but bites on the shooter’s first fake.  He or she leaps up and is sinking as the ball is shot high.  The shooter fakes, reads and waits.  If the goalie jumps early, the shooter throws the ball a second later.   Do not throw the ball low into the hands of a sinking goalie!

Afraid of the ball: Throw the ball at goalie or corner

When the goalie is afraid of being hit in the face with the ball, he or she will pull away from the shot.  The goalie will duck the head or the pull the arm away from the ball.  The shooter facing the frighten goalie shows no mercy.  The shooter throws the ball right at the goalie’s face or high corner to intimidate the goalie.  A goalie is a psychological being.  They have to be in a good mood to play goalie.  Once the goaltender is challenged and scored on, the goalie becomes depressed and gives up.

Too slow to react: Shoot at high corner

A goalie that has slow reactions to the release of the ball is scored upon by quick wrist shots and by high corner shots.  Goalies must have quick reflexes to play in the goal.  Almost any shot will score, even the over the head shot.  There is no need for patience as the goalie’s hands are too slow to block the ball.  Deep hands is a tip off that the goalie will have a slow arm motion upward.

Too quick to react: Fake and wait

The goalie reacts and leaps up on any movement by the shooter.  Kick up high out of the water and the goalie jumps, pump fake once and the goalie jumps, etc.

Hides in the Goal: Any shot will score

The inexperienced goalie is deep inside the goal and uses the cage as a “home.”  However, the goalie needs to play outside the cage to cut down the shooter’s angle and block the shot.  Any shot thrown inside the goal is a goal whether the goalie gets a hand on it or not.

Shuts his eyes: Throw at face or anywhere

The well-trained goalie watches the ball until it hits his or her arm.  The untrained goalie or fearful goalie closes his or her eyes as the ball is shot.  The shooter shows no mercy in the first quarter of the game and throws the ball at the goalie’s face.  The shooter intimidates the goalie.   Another shot is to shoot at the high corner of the goal because the goalie has to see the high corner shot and he cannot because his eyes are shut.  Skip shots are another good shot that a blind goalie cannot block.

Arm Swinging Goalie

The swinging arm goalie is usually a boy goalie in high school.  The goalie swings at the ball without any leg support behind the arm.  The result is, the goalie’s arm swing makes contact with the ball, but ball knocks the arm into the goal for a score.  Almost anything thrown towards the corner goes into the goal on the arm-swinging goalie.

Cannot Block the Lob: Lob

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The goalie that cannot block the lob is found in both genders.  After the skip shot, the lob is the second most hated shot on the goalie’s list of undesirable shots to block.  Most goalies react too soon or do not move far enough to the corner to block the shot.  A goalie should immediately move all of the way to the corner and wait for the lob to drop to block the lob shot.  Women, due to their shorter arms, have a more difficult time setting up to block a lob than male goalies.  A woman goalie may make the wrong assumption that she is facing “a dumb shooter,” and overplays the bad angle and jams the goal post.  The alert shooter sees the goalie is out of position and lobs to the open weakside corner of the goal for the score (see Fig. 5).

A goalie with poor lob blocking technique will incorrectly play the lob “short” and attempt to block the lob at the middle of the crossbar.  However, the lob continues and scores in the corner of the goal.  A lob that is short, always hits the middle of the crossbar of the goal.  There is no reason for the goaltender not to go to the corner to wait for the lob shot.  To prevent the alert goalie from playing the angle correctly, a good shooter should fake the goalie on the strongside angle, lock the goalie to the goal post, and then lob the ball to the weakside for the score.  To “lock and lob” the 2-spot (EU 4) shooter must first point the left foot at the left corner, fake, and then move the left foot to re-point the foot at the right corner and shoot (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Lobs Part 1-3).

Pulls away from the ball: Shoot at that corner 

A goalie that pulls away from the ball cannot block a corner shot.  The goalie’s head should move towards the ball he or she is attempting to block.  The goalie’s arm follows the head.  The goalie does not want ball to hit his face and pulls the head away from the ball (along with the arm).  When the shooter sees the goalie’s head pull away from the shot, the ball should place the ball in the corner of the goal.

Weak to the Left Hand: Shoot at left hand

Most goalies are righthanded and play shots thrown at the left corner of the goal well. However, the righthanded goalie has a more difficult time playing to his or her left hand and the right corner of the goal.  The shooter during warm ups should look downcourt at his opponent’s goalie to see if the goalie favors his or her right hand.

Shooter Shoots Low from the Outside: Shoot high

The goalie knows that most shooters on the 7-meter line or beyond are going to shoot at the low corner of the goal.  The rule is, Outside—Shoot High.  For a low corner outside shot, the goalie does not need to leap up.  The goalie sits and waits for the low corner ball to hit their waiting wet hand.  On the other hand, the high corner shot from 7-meters forces the goalie to judge the speed of the ball and make a judgment on when to leap up to block the ball.  Half of the time the goalie misjudges the speed of the ball and the ball goes into the high corner.  Again, the golden rules is, THE SHOOTER SHOULD NEVER SHOOT LOW WHEN OUTSIDE.Unfortunately, most shooters do not listen to the coach and shoot low!

Gap in the Corner: Shoot at gap

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The goalie plays the bad angle of the 1-spot, 2-spot, (EU 5-spot, 4-spot) the left side of the pool, leaves a small gap in the corner.  The goalie believes he or she is on the angle, but is slightly offset towards the center of the goal.  When the goalie is offset in the cage, there is a gap next to the goal post.  The goalie believes the arm covers the corner—it’s not.  At the age group and high school levels, the inexperienced goalie leaves a gap most of the time in the goal.  The shooter throws the ball into the strongside gap and scores (see Fig. 6).

Cannot Block the Skip Shot: Skip the ball

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The goalie is unable to figure out the trajectory of the skipped ball and the ball scores.  The shooter skips the ball on all of his shots.  In age group and high school, boys and girls, the goalie is not good at blocking skip shots (see Fig. 7).

The Great Goalie: You are in trouble!

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The great goalie, as seen in the above photograph, reads the shooter, moves to the ball, knows the direction of the ball and the release of the ball, if the ball is going to the high or low corner, keeps his eyes on the ball and moves the head in the direction of the ball.  The goalie’s left arm pushes off the water to accelerate his movement to the left corner of the goal.  The great goalie has control of his body and supports the arm with the legs so the arm does not swing backward and let the ball bounce off the arm into the goal (see Fig. 8).

A shooter that has feasted on bad goalies in age group or high school is in trouble facing the great goalie.  A great goalie has quick reflexes, strong legs, plays the angle correctly, and has great technique.  The shooter is not going to beat the goalie to the high corner of the cage.  The shooter is not going to overpower the goalie.  The goalie blocks the lob shot and the quick wrist shot does not work. The shooter has to have a good pump fake or a hesie fake to deceive the goalie.  The hesie fake is a series of short abrupt non-rhythmic burst-like fakes (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Hesie Fakes Part 1-4).  A good fake pulls the goalie’s hands out of the water or moves him or her to the left corner or right corner.  The great goalie is a thinking goalie but one that can be deceived by a good fake.  The shooter by faking the ball can cause the goalie to commit early.

The shooter requires patience as a great goalie is not easily scored to on.  The shooter must keep shooting no matter what happens.  A shot not taken is a 100-percent miss.  Sometimes, the shooter loses the battle and the goalie dominates the shooter.  However, the shooter keeps shooting, no matter what is the outcome.

Conclusion

The read of the goalie’s technique creates the shot—not the shooter’s ego.  The physical ability of the goalie or lack of creates the shot for the shooter.  The shooter does not take a shot without first reading and understanding the goalie’s technique and weaknesses.  Blindly throwing the ball low in the direction of the goaltender’s body is not going to score.  The shooter, when facing the goaltender, quickly evaluates what type of goalie he or she is going to shoot at.  For most goalies, a high corner shot or a cross-cage weakside shot is going to score.  For better goalies, the shooter sees if the goalie is on the angle, leaves a gap in the goal to the right corner or left corner, or bites on the fake.  The goalie has a weakness in the cage and the shooter must find it before he or she shoots.  Reading the goalie requires the shooter to develop his or her mental skills: thinking, analysis, and patience.  The end-result of developing the mental game is the ability of the shooter to find the weak spot in the goaltender’s technique and score.

READING THE GOALIE PART: 6
Forgotten Angles and Forbidden Shots

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THREE GOALIE TYPES

Iron Cross Goalie: Arms high
Modern goalie: Hands shallow
Chest-down goalie: Hands deep

As we continue with reading the goalie’s position on the angle and their technique in the goal, we examine the posture of the goalie in the cage.  What the word posture means is the body position (chest and hand depth) of the goalie’s starting position before blocking the shot.  The author is going to call the three types: the vertical goalie — the Iron Cross goalie, the lying down in the water goalie—the chest-down goalie, the torso leaning slightly forward—the modern goalie.  These three specific goalie postures will confront the shooter as he or she attempts to score.

The goalie is the same size in all of these pictures it is only the body position or posture that is different.  Each type of goalie posture has strengths and weaknesses that the shooter should know about.  The shooter has to be able to read what type of goalie he or she is facing so they can select the best high percentage shot to use for that type of goalie.  There is more to scoring on a goalie than reading the correct angle to shoot the ball.  The shooter has to read the position of the goalie’s chest, depth of the hands and width of the hands.

The goalie must follow the laws of physics to be able to play the goal. 

Simply speaking, the goalie accelerates Mass (goalie’s body) to block the ball.  The formula for acceleration is Mass x Force (M x F = A).  The problem that the goalkeeper faces is how one develops force to block the shot while moving in two different directions: vertically and horizontally.  What is the best position of the chest and hands to develop optimal power to move in these two different directions to block the shot?  The goalie uses the power from the legs to generate vertical lift to lift the body upward, uses the muscles in the back (extensors) to snap the torso to the vertical, and uses the hands and forearms to lift the torso and the arms out of the water and to move sideways in the goal.  The legs, torso, and hands are the three elements of how a goalie blocks the shot.  For the purposes of the discussion, we will assume that all goaltenders have strong legs so we can concentrate on the visual signals that the goalkeeper gives the shooter, which is chest position, arm position (in the air or in the water) and hand depth.

GOALIE POSTURES

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The three types of goalkeeper styles dictate the blocking techniques used for each particular style.  The size of the goalie does not matter in this evaluation of goalie torso, arm and hand techniques.  These three types are the vertical goalie also called the Iron Cross goalie, the chest goalie, and the modern goalie (see Fig. 1).

The goalie has two basic body movements that enable him to move to a specific position: the goalie first snaps the torso backward to the vertical using both hands.  The second movement is to move laterally using one hand—the weakside off-hand.  The goaltender has to be vertical to block the frontal shot; be able to move laterally to the corner to block the corner shot.

When the goalkeeper’s torso moves to the vertical, the arms can then be lifted high out of the water.  The question that the coach faces in coaching goalies is how to increase back speed and arm speed.  The faster the back moves to the vertical the sooner the arms can be lifted out of the water.  The Iron Cross goalie already has a vertical torso.  A chest-down goalie with the chest in the water cannot lift the arms out of the water quickly.  Where is the middle ground?

The reason for the goalie to have light hands is not to support the eggbeater kick of the legs.  When the goalies hands are light he or she can push off the water with the shallow hands to instantly assist in lifting the back to the vertical and quickly get the arms high out of the water.  A goalie with deep hands cannot make that quick one-time sculling surge with the hands.  The deep-handed goalie has to use several sculling hand motions to get the power to lift up the torso and arms, which takes time and limits the height and speed of the leap up.

Iron Cross Goalie

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Photograph by Russ McKinnon
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The Iron Cross goalie arms are fixed in the air.  Shooter shoots above the head or shoulders and under the arms.  In this situation above, a one-on-nobody, the goalie makes “big in the goal” and throws the arms up in the air hoping to block the ball.  The black circles show the areas to shoot.  The Iron Cross goalie has a vertical torso with his or her hands high out of the water.  This type of goalie has limited lateral movement.  The only time a goalie has both hands high out of the water (pitchfork) is defending a bad angle shot from the wing, or when the shooter is very close (see Figs. 2, 3, 4).

Chest-Down Goalie

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The chest-down goalie has the chest lying in the water with deep hands to assist the weak eggbeater kick of the legs to stay afloat.  The chest-down goalie is slow to lift the torso out of the water and very slow to lift the deep hands that are 12-24-inches (30-60-cm) underwater.  This is a common goalie posture in age group and high school (see Fig. 5).

Modern Goalie 

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The modern goalie type is vertical, in a seated position, leaning forward with the torso, with the chest out of the water at 9-10-degrees with the hands in the water and shallow (light).  The modern goalie is able to move quicker to the ball because of light hands.  The main difference between the modern goalie and the Iron Cross goalie is the modern goalie leans forward at 10-degree from the vertical and has his hands in the water.  The most often seen goalie in water polo is the Iron Cross goalie in college and the chest down goalie at the high school and age group (see Fig. 6).

GOALIE LAWS

  • Posture and stability is everything
  • Light hands
  • Seated position
  • Shoulders in front of the hips
  • Torso leaning slightly forward from vertical at 10-degrees

The major goalkeeper’s rule is to keep the hands in the water as long as possible and to be as light as possible.  The second rule is to wait as long as possible to leap up to block the frontal shot or move sideways to block a corner shot.  Lifting the hands out of the water early means the goalie can no longer move up nor sideways in the goal.  The non-observant shooter is not paying attention to the critical detail that at any time the goalkeeper lifts the hands out of the water, the goalie is committed and locked in space.  The modern shooter reads the goalie’s hands and shoots around him or her.

Other rules are for the goalkeeper to be in a seated posture with the chest leaning slightly forward (10-degrees) with the shoulders in front of the hips.  The legs are under the goalkeeper and supporting him.  The goalie posture creates the stable blocking position.  The chest down goalie is very slow to react to the shot because he or she has to lift the torso a great distance out of the water to the vertical before they can move the arms out of the water.

GOALIE POSITIONING FOR THE SHOT

The goalie has to have their legs in a seated position.  The goalie’s torso is leaning forward, the legs with the hands light and the leg churning.  From this position, the goalie can immediately lift up out of the water to block the shot as the ball hits the arm.  The incorrect body posture is for the goalie’s torso to be leaning backward from the perfect vertical.  The ball will hit the goalie and knock the goalie’s arm back into the goal for a score.

This torso backward position of the goalie at making contact with the ball is often seen in the under 14-years of age goaltenders.  The goalie falling backwards into the cage is a common sight in games.  The goalie has shifted his mass, the torso, behind the hips, where the back and abdominal muscles cannot stabilize the torso and keep it erect.  The result is that any shot will knock the unstable goalie’s body backward.  The goalie’s legs are also too far forward and not under the goalie body to stabilize the underwater part of the goalie during the shot blocking process.

GOALIE RULES

  • First move of a goalie’s torso is vertical
  • Second move is lateral

The first move of the goalie is to snap the torso backwards to the vertical.  In this torso position, the arms can be lifted out of the water.  A goalie with strong legs has the hand 9 to 12-inches (22-30-cm).When the shooter is in the shooting area and faking, the goalie’s hands are 6-inches (15-cm).  If the goalie’s legs are weak, the goalie has deep sculling hands to generate addition power to stay afloat.  The arms will come up slowly because they are 16-to -24-inches (30-60-cm) deep.  The goalkeeper’s back is positioned by the arms but is dependent on the strength of the goalkeeper’s legs.  With strong legs, the goalie’s hands can be shallower in the water.  When the goalie has weak legs, the hands are deep underwater below the knees, to assist the eggbeater kick—a four legged goalie.

The modern goalkeeper’s chest is moderately above the water and the hands are shallow and light.  There is no reason for the goalie to keep the torso rigidly vertical high up in the air for a long time.  And there is no reason for the goalie to lift the hands out of the water like a pitchfork to cover airspace in the goal.  The only exceptions: a bad angle wing shot or when the shooter is very close to the goal.  The modern goalie waits for the shot and then moves.  The shooter, on the other hand, has to read the goalie’s technique and select the correct shot.  In age group and high school, some goalies try to duplicate an Iron Cross goalie but only raise one hand.  This goalie is powerless; any shot will score.

Another important visual is the goalie’s hand placement in the air.  The goalie hands are up in the air but are positioned behind the head.  The tiring goalie now can no longer block a shot thrown above the head.  This is similar to the goalie having the hands behind the shoulders as he leaps to block the shot.  The ball hits the rear positioned arm and knocks the arm and the ball into the goal.

SHOOTER’S READ: Where Are Goalie’s Hands? 

  • Deep: Shoot high
  • Light: Be careful
  • Close in: Shoot wide
  • Wide: Shoot close to body
  • Foaming: Shoot at corners or add a fake to delay the shot

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The shooter has never looked at the goalie’s hands before.  Are the goalkeeper’s hands light, deep, close in, wide or foaming?  The shooter has no idea.  The position of the goalie’s hands determines whether he or she is going to block the shot.  A goalie with light hands is a well-trained goalie with good legs and the scoring will not be easy.  When the goalie has deep hands—shoot high.  When the goalie’s hands are close in into the body, the goalie is expecting a body shot—shoot wide.  A goalie with the hands wide expects a corner shot—shoot close to the body. And for a goalie with foaming hands churning on the surface—shoot high after a fake (see Fig. 7).

09

Goalie uses his left hand to push off and leaps to the left low corner for a two-hand block. When the goalie jumps to the corner, the goalie’s hands are in the water and the push with the weakside left hand (off hand) to push off the water to assist in lateral movement to the left corner of the goal.  The legs provide some lateral movement.  However, the goalie’s weakside off-hand provides the most power to move sideways in the goalThe Iron Cross goalie having both arms out of the water in a pitchfork shape cannot move sideways to block a cross-cage shot (see Fig. 8).

Pitchfork Hands: Shoot wide

10

Photograph by Russ McKinnon

The goalie has both hands up to protect the left corner of the goal.  However, the shooter is not at a bad angle but above the left post at the US-2/EU-4-spot and can shoot at either corner.  He shoots to the opposite corner.  The hands up in the air goalie cannot move. The goalie’s body has his chest slightly above the water but he is tiring from a much higher body position earlier.  Goalie’s hands are positioned behind the head, which is a grave mistake.  If the shooter did shoot over the goalie’s head, the hands could not stop the ball.

11
Photograph by Russ McKinnon

Goalie’s hands are up out of the water for blocking a possible left corner shot.  The shooter leans towards the left corner with a left torso fake but shoots at the right corner.  Goalie is deceived by the shooter and now cannot move to block opposite corner shot.  The goalie’s arms are “dry” indicating he has been up in the air for a while.  He is sinking in the water with the water at his armpits.  His arms are beginning to widen indicating that his arms are tiring.  Goalie’s hands are in front of his face showing good hand form.

Pitchfork hand positioning is required on bad angle shots, one-on-nobody shots and when the shooter is close to the goal.  When the goalie has his or her hands out of the water all of the time as in an Iron Cross posture it is a grave mistake.

Foaming Hands: Fake and shoot high 

The goalkeeper’s hands are in front and are splashing water.  The goalie in a tenth of a second is going to explode upward to block the over the head shot.  The goalie anticipates the shooter’s over the head shot and throws his or her hands straight up.  However, the shooter adds a fake to delay the release of the ball.  Unfortunately, the goalie’s hands are pulled slightly out of the water, leaving him powerless, and the ball is thrown over the goalie’s head.  The goalie realizes the shot is not coming and drops his or her hands back into the water to push off to leap up again.  It is a few hundreds of a second too late (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Hesies Part 1-4).  

THREE GOALIE TYPES

IRON CROSS GOALIE

  • Arms high or is cross shape
  • Cross-cage shot
  • No close to the body shots
  • Lob
  • Over the head

12

The Iron Cross goalie is the most common goalie posture in the cage.  The goalie’s back is vertical with the arms stretched out.  The Iron Cross goalie is a rider sitting upright on a motorcycle.  The upright goalie comes out of the water with the back vertical and with the arms spread straight out like a cross.  The goalie is committed to the outstretched out arm position and is unable to move in the air once he or she has jumped.  The goalie is a fixed object momentarily hanging in space.  The shooter can shoot above the goalie’s right arm or left arm and below the arms (see Figs. 11, 12). 

13

In Figure 13a, the 5-spot shooter faces a goalie with both arms up to block the nearside corner of the bad angle shooter.  The 5-spot shooter does not have the angle to shoot around the goalie.  In Figure 13b, the 4-spot shooter can shoot to either corner and the goalie has to have both hands in the water so he or she can move sideways to either corner of the goal (see Figs. 13, 13b).

Before the shot, the Iron Cross goalie may have both of his or her arms vertical in the air to knock down any shots close to the body.  The Iron Cross goalie paints a “big picture” and appears to be covering the entire the goal that the shooter sees.  The Iron Cross goalie is over 6-feet (1.83-meters) for the boys.  In college, the male goalie is 6’5” or taller (1. 96 to 2-meters) with a very long arm span.  There are also several college women goalies 6-feet (1.83-meters) in height.

When the inexperienced shooter is looking at the Iron Cross goalie it looks like the goalie is as big as the entire cage!  This is an illusion that the shooter needs to put it out of his or her mind.  When the tall goalie has his or her hands out of the water like a pitchfork, they can block a shot close to their body but not to the corners.  The Iron Cross goalie has little lateral movement with the pitchfork arms in the air.  It takes longer for the tall goalie with their pitchfork arms to drop their hands into the water and push water with the weakside off-hand to move over to the corner.  Shoot to the corners when you see an Iron Cross goalie with the arms vertical in the air.  An Iron Cross goalie also has a difficult time blocking lob shots because the goalie needs to use the hands to move over to the corner to block the lob. The over-the-head shot on a tall goalie with long heavy arms is another good shot.

CHEST-DOWN GOALIE

  • Chest down, hands are deep
  • Shoot high
  • Lob, Cross-cage
  • Fake, Skip Shot

14

The author calls the low in the water goalie, the chest-down in the water goalie.  The chest-down in the water goalie is not going to stand up and “paint a picture” like the Iron Cross goalie with his arms vertical to cover the goal.  The chest-down goalie has deep hands to make up for weak legs.  Therefore, the chest in the water goalie stays low and his or her body is “hidden” from the shooter’s view.  Sunken goalie is maybe a better term. When the ball is shot, the chest-down goalie slowly leaps up to block the shot.  Therefore, the chest-down goalie guesses and is “jumpy” in the goal.  Not seeing the goaltender’s body does not present a problem to the shooter because the shooter knows that the goalie legs are weak, the hands are deep and any high corner shot will score (see Fig. 14).

A chest-down goalie is not good at quickly blocking the high corners of the goal.  The heavy weight of the goalie’s torso first has to be lifted out of the water before the goalie’s arms can be lifted out of the water to block the shot. Any fake will cause the chest-down goalie to jump up early.  Quick high corner shots are also good because of the deep hands of the goalie are slow to move to the high corners of the goal. Some deep hands goalies can only jump to a mid-cage height of 18-inches of a 35-inch high goal (45-cm height in a 90-cm tall goal).

A cross-cage power shot or a lob is another good shot because the chest-down goalie cannot move well laterally due to a deep off-hand. (The off-hand pushes water so the goalie can move sideways).  The chest-down goalie may be what most shooters are going to see at the age group and soph/frosh levels of water polo.

MODERN GOALIE

  • Vertical
  • Hands shallow
  • Difficult to score on

15
16

Photograph by Russ McKinnon

Goalie keeps the hands in water as lean-over shooter shoots at left corner of the goal. The goalie waits for ball to be released by the shooter before jumping to the ball.  The goalie is able to move to the left corner and block the shot.  The shooter wants to pull the goalie to one corner or to get the goalie to jump early and get his hands in the air.  The waiting goalie now knows the direction of the ball and the release of the ball (see Figs. 16, 17).

17
Photograph by Russ McKinnon

Goalie keeps hands in the water and waits for the release of the ball. The goalie does not lift up his hands prematurely.
The modern goalie has light hands a moderate positioned chest with shoulders leaning in front of the hips and their legs in a seated position.  This type of goalie can move to block the high corner shot, the lob, the cross-cage shot, and the skip shot.  The modern goalie is a difficult goalie to score on and requires a good fake to unbalance the goalie (see Figs. 16, 17).

Conclusion    

The experienced shooter not only looks to see if the goalie’s hands are deep, if the goalie jumps too soon, or if the goalie plays inside the goal.  In this article, we examined the three types of goalies: the Iron Cross, chest-down and modern goalie.  Each type of goalie is analyzed as how each type of goalie blocks the shot.  The shooter throws the ball at Iron Cross goalie where the shooter above or below the goalie’s outstretched arms (armpit/shoulder) or around the arms at the corner of the goal or lobs.

The chest-down goalie requires a different technique for shooting than the erect Iron Cross goalie. The chest-down goalie receives a high corner shot, is lobbed or shot around. The modern goalie, however, keeps the hands in the water as long as possible and waits for the ball to be shot.  The modern goalie is quick to the corners and requires a good fake and careful shot by the shooter. The shooter has to memorize these three types of goalies and know the best shot for each goalie by looking at the goalie’s chest position, arm position and hand depth.

READING THE GOALIE PART: Part 7
Forgotten Angles and Forbidden Shots

01

BAD ANGLE SHOTS 1.5, 4, 4.5, 5

Certain angles that the shooter finds difficult to score from become the forgotten shooting angles.  However, there is no angle in the pool from which the shooter cannot score.  The concept of only shooting from the point or from the 1, 2 or 3-spots (EU-5, 4, 3) in the pool is a grave mistake.  Not shooting from the right side of the pool, the 4-spot and 5-spot (EU 2, 1) eliminates 40-percent of the potential scores.  Furthermore, the goalie only has to honor shooters on the left side of the pool and can cheat over to center cage when the ball is in the right wing.  By the goalie not having to move all of the way over to the right corner, the goaltender cuts the blocking area he or she must cover in half.  For example, a right to left cross-cage pass has no effect on the offset goalie who is already set to block the 3-spot shot, 2-spot shot or 1-spot (EU-3, 4, 5-spots).

We will examine the forgotten angles of 1.5-spot (EU4-5) left wing pocket, the 5-spot (EU-1) right wing,  the 4.5-spot (EU 2.5) right wing pocket and the 4-spot (EU-2) right flat, and what shots score from these “bad angles” to the goal.   Poorly trained shooters have made these narrow angles to the goal into “bad shots” in their minds.  There are no bad angles to the goal only great shots.  The players have to be trained to take these difficult shots and be able to score them.  A typical high school game is for the 5-guard to slough off the shooter and double team the center and let the 5-spot shooter throw the ball at the goalie’s stomach.  Great 5-spot shooting eliminates the 5-slougher, by scoring and evens up the game.  If no one can score from the 4-spot, the defensive team sloughs the 4-guard and 5-guard down to block the driving lanes and slough on the 2-meter player.  In this defensive arrangement, the game is over after the first possession.  The team must have bad angle shooters to win the game. To accomplish the aim of scoring from narrow angles to the goal or from the right side of the pool with a righthanded shooter, the players must be trained in the correct shots that score from these bad angles to the goal.

ANGLES

  • 1.5 Spot Angle
  • 5-Spot Angle
  • 4.5-Spot Angle
  • 4-Spot Angle

02

The 1.5-spot, 5-spot, 4.5-spot, and the 4-spot are forgotten shooting angles.  No one wants to shoot from a “bad angle.”  Bad angle shots are low percentage shots that shooter’s do not want to take.  However, there are no bad angles in the pool, just bad shooters.  Each of the so-called bad angle shots can score if the shooter is trained in the proper throwing technique.  The problem is not the angle.  The problem is the shooter not knowing the correct shot.  The well-trained shooter can score from the 1.5-spot on the left wing, the 4-spot on the right flat, and on the 4.5-spot and 5-spot on the right wing (see Fig. 1).

The 1.5-Spot Curve Shot: Sharpening the Angle

03

The 1.5-spot (EU 4.5) cross-cage shot is considered an impossible position to score from by the American shooter.  It is a forgotten angle.  Few players ever even attempt to shoot from this angle to the goal.  The goalie on the other hand, knows the shooter will not shoot cross-cage at the right corner from the 1.5-spot.  The goaltender overplays the strongside, the left corner, and blocks the 1-shot (EU-5).  It is not a difficult cross-cage shot to score if the shooter has the proper training and  the shooter is be able to curve the ball.  Curving the ball is only taught in European water polo and in baseball pitching in the USA.  The US water polo shooter believes he or she is without a shot from the 1.5 angle.  However, European shooters curve the ball into the goal from the 1.5 (EU 4.5) angle all of the time and score (see Fig. 2).

The American shooter is positioned in the pool between the left wing (1-spot, EU-5) and an area the author called the 1.5-spot (EU 4.5-spot).  A cross-cage shot from this spot in the pool usually misses the right corner of the goal completely and hits the right wall.  Few shooters will take the 1.5 shot in a game and shoot from this “bad angle.”  The “cure” to 1.5 spot cross-cage shooting is a mild curve ball into the right corner.  When the standard backspin ball is thrown, the air hits the ball and makes it drift about 6-inches (15-cm) to the right of the right goal post and into the wall.  To prevent this from happening, the shooter places a mild curve on the ball to pull the ball back into the corner.

04

05

The technique for curving the ball from 1.5-spot and into the right corner is for the shooter to hold one side of the ball.  The shooter’s fingers are slightly in front of the ball with all five fingers gripping the ball firmly.  The ball is aimed at the right goal post bar.  The placement of the hand in front of the ball places a mild curve on the ball which pulls the ball into the right corner. The 1.5-spot shot now becomes a “make-able” shot (see Fig. 3, 4).

The drill is for the shooter to set up on the 1-5 spot around 5-meter to 6-meters out and practice shooting the ball at the right corner of the goal.  It will take some shots for the shooter to figure out the correct hand position on the ball to curve it.

The most common mistake is for the shooter to not curve the ball at all and have it miss the right corner by 6-inches (15-cm) or more. The other mistake is to have the hand too far forward on the side of the ball and the ball curves sharply toward the center of the goal.

06

The first drill is to hold on to the wall/goal lane line to the left of the cage, then step-out and side arm curve the ball into the right corner (see Polo Articles: The Shot Doctor:  Reading the Goalie Part 4).  The last drill is a bar-in drill from the 2-meter or 4-meter line above the left post where the shooter deflects the ball into the right corner of the goal.  If the ball hits the edge of the goal post and bounces out, the index finger dominated the release and “pushed” the ball to the outside.  In the left-to-right bar-in shot, the ring finger slightly places more fingertip pressure on the ball to “pull” the ball in.  If you are still confused, talk to a baseball or softball pitcher.  Fingertip pressure on a baseball is everyday stuff to them (see Fig. 5).

After a while, the shooter figures out the correct “touch” on the ball and begins scoring the curve shot.  The 1.5-spot curve cross-cage shot is an advanced shot and only about four or five players on the team will be able to master it.  A shooter’s smart hand is one that is able to shift from backspin to topspin to curving the ball and skipping the ball using 1, 2, 3 or 5 (topspin skip) finger releases (see Polo Shots: Skip Shots Part 1-4).  A “dumb hand,” on the other hand, can only snap the wrist down with the hand behind the ball.  A player with a “dumb hand” cannot do much with the ball except throw it hard. The coach should continue to teach the curve shot even if most of his or her players cannot “get it.”   The 1.5-spot shot educates the hand and makes a “smart hand.”   The result is that most players will develop a smarter hand even though they cannot score with the curve shot.

A curved lob from the 1.5-spot is possible, but is rarely taken.  The lob shooter pinches the ball in all five fingers but has the middle finger as the dominant finger to apply pressure on the ball.  The shooter’s middle finger is going to “slice” the ball by sliding down the ball at a diagonal of 2-inches (5-cm).  The slice on the ball will put a mild curve on the lob.  For the curve lob shot, it helps to have long fingers to release the ball.

The Charlie Turner lying-on-the-side shot is possible from the 1.5-spot though it most commonly shot just outside the 2-spot shot.  It is also possible to take this shot from the 4.5-spot and the 4-spot cross-cage.  Charlie Turner invented a fabulous shot for a shooter lying on his side in the water.  He was outside the left goal post on the 6-meter to 7-meter line and shot an overhand shot cross-cage to the right corner of the goal.  The goalie overplayed the left corner because he figured that no one lying on his side could shoot cross-cage.  Rollout type shooters typically shoot to the nearside corner of the goal, in this case, the left corner.  The force to throw the outside shot cross-cage came from Charlie Turner using two short dolphin kicks with the left hand deep and sculling feverishly to prevent body movement.  This hand and leg action “coiled the spring” so he had plenty of power to throw the ball (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Charlie Turner).

5-Spot Angle

07

08

A righthander in the right wing at the 5-spot (EU-1) has a difficult shot, but not an impossible one.  As they say in Europe, there are no bad angles to the goal, only bad shooters.  The shooter looks at the position of the goalie to see if the goaltender has completely moved over to the right corner to block the 5-angle shot.  Many goalies do not think a righthander shooter will shoot from this angle and do not completely commit to defending the right corner of the goal.  When the shooter sees the goalie is not honoring the shot (right corner), he or she must shoot the ball.  The cheating goalie is not square to the shooter and has slightly turned the left shoulder to “appear” like he is honoring the shooter.  When the 5-shooter (EU-1) sees a weakly positioned goalie and an “alley” (a clear path) he must shoot (see Figs. 6, 7).

Trick 5-Spot Shots

When the goalie is paying full attention to the 5-spot (EU-1) shooter, and time is running out, then trickery has to be used to score.  The three trick shots are as follows.  The skip shot, the lying on the side wraparound shot and the Charlie Turner shot.  The first shot, the skip shot, is used whenever the shooter runs out of options.  Sometimes it scores and sometimes it does not.  However, a shot not taken is a 100-percent miss.

09

One 5-spot trick shot is the wraparound shot. The shooter lays completely on the side with the arm held high (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Smart Legs Part 4).  In this position right shoulder opens up the shoulder joint fully so the shooter can wrap the ball with a locked elbow in a semi-circular arm motion, back to the right corner of the goal (see Fig. 8).

10

The Charlie Turner shot is used where the shooter lies on his side, dolphin kicks, improves his angle, and shoots at the weakside left corner of the goal (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Charlie Turner Shot). The 5-spot (EU-1) is not the “dead zone” of the pool as commonly thought by the coach or players (see Fig. 9).

4.5 Angle

11

The shooter is situated slightly above the right wing (1-spot, EU 5-spot) but below the right flat (5-spot, EU 2-spot) in a no man’s land called the 4.5-spot.  The 4.5-spot is half way between the two major angles, the 4-spot and 5-spot.  For the righthanded shooter this area is a “No Shoot Zone.”  However, for the well-trained shooter from Europe this is a “Shoot Zone.”  The 4.5-spot (EU 2.5) shooter is skilled at weakside left corner shooting either overhand, the Charlie Turner lying on the side shot or the wrap-around shot to the right corner (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Charlie Turner Shot).  A lob from this area, either a 3-finger lob or a 2-finger lob is also a good shot.  The 4.5angle shot can score if the shooter is trained.  When facing a high school chest-down goalie a strongside right high corner shot or skip shot should score on the slow reacting goalie (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Reading the Goalie Part 6). All angles can be scored from; if the shooter knows the correct shot (see Fig. 10). 

4-Spot Shooting

12

The 4-spot in America is another “No Shoot Zone.” It is the same for the 6-on-5 offense position called the US 5-spot (EU 2-spot).  The average righthanded player, who can only shoot at the right corner of the goal from the right side of the pool, is at a terrible disadvantage.  The goalie knows that no one will shoot from the right wing 5-spot, 4.5-spot or the right flat 4-spot.  The goalie barely moves over to “honor” the players on the right side of the goal.  In Europe, the 4-spot shooter is a specially trained vertical shooter whose sole purpose is to shoot cross-cage at the left corner of the goal in a game.  The European goalie has to honor the 4-spot shot because the 4-shooter is going to shoot the ball and not pass it off. However, when the 4-spot shooter sees that the goalie is slowly moving to the right corner of the goal or is not moving at all, the 4-spot shooter throws the ball in the strongside right corner.  If the goalie honors the shooter and protects the right corner the 4-spot shooter throws the ball at the open weakside left corner of the goal.  The goalkeeper cannot win on this bad angle shot (see Fig. 11).

The well-trained shooter reads how the goalie plays against the 5-spot and 4-spot players to see if the shot is available.  If the goalie is not there—the shot is.  At the age group and high school levels, no one on the right side of the pool ever looks at the goalie and simply passes the ball to players on the left side of the pool without ever committing the goalie with a fake.

The 4-spot (EU-2) lob is a great lob that is rarely thrown.  In the girls and women’s game, the shorter female goalie is at a great disadvantage when trying to set up against the lob.  Should she play the strongside goal post for the nearside shot or be more center cage to be in position to stop a possible lob.  The righthanded shooter shooting from the right side of the pool usually declines to lob the ball at the weakside left corner of the goal.  The goalie knows no one is going to cross-cage lob her and jams the strongside right corner of the goal and blocks the shooter’s power shot.  Is this a hopeless situation?  The answer is no.  In the 2008 Olympic Games final, the USA scored three right side lobs into the left corner.  However, the usual lobbing technique is changed from a 3-finger lob release to a more accurate 2-finger lob release.

The 3-finger lob is a hard to control lob with a rapidly spinning ball and a high 45-degree to 55-degree arc.  The lob aiming point is a high 24-inches (60-cm) above the crossbar of the goal, which confuses the righthanded shooter throwing the ball from the right flat (US-4, EU-2) towards the left corner.  The solution is for the shooter to change to a 2-finger lob that has less ball spin, ball arc and a slower velocity.  This gives the 4-spot shooter better control of the ball.  The 2-finger lob is a superior lob compared to the 3-finger lob (see Polo Articles: The Shot Doctor: Lobs Parts 1-3).

The technique for throwing a 2-finger lob is to pinch the ball in the hand, have the index finger and the middle close together and in the center of the ball.  The angle of the hand determines the arc not the ball spin.  When the ball is released, the shooter snaps the 2-fingers down on the ball to release the ball.  The lob aiming point for the 2-finger lob is 12-inches (30-cm) above the crossbar of the goal.  Now, the righthanded lob shooter has an accurate lob from the 4-spot (EU-2-spot) in the pool that can score.

CATCHING THE ACROSS THE FACE PASS

  • Right foot catch
  • Left foot catch
  • Across the body pass

The ability to score at the 4-spot (EU-2) or the extra man 5-spot (EU-2) is dependent on the catching the ball quickly.  The correct shooting technique is combined with the quick across the face catch.  The shooter cannot catch the ball slowly.  The goalie moves across face of the cage at a good pace, to set up on the 4-spot shooter or in the US extra man the 5-spot (same as EU-2).  A slow catch to a shot is blocked.  There is no other spot in the pool, where the quick across the face catch is so important for scoring.  Slow catch = slow shot = blocked shot.

There are two techniques for catching the across the face pass: right foot forward and the left foot forward.  The right foot forward across the face catch is for beginners; the left foot forward across the face catch is for experienced players.  It appears that only the top boy and high school varsity players can do a left footed catch.  The rest of the players on the team cannot.  The US Olympic Development Program promotes the left footed across the face catch but most high school players and almost all age group players cannot catch the ball using the left foot technique.  Lesser skilled player should use the right foot forward catching technique.

Right Foot Across the Face Catch

13
14

The right footed across the face catch is the technique used by most of the players on a high school team and all of the players on an age group team.  The player turns to face the passer with his right foot forward, catches the ball, and swings the right leg back 270-degrees so it is positioned straight back.  The left hand is used extensively to help rotate the player’s body to the right.  The catch is a little slower than the left foot across the face technique.  However, the ball is not dropped in the water nor bobbled in the player’s hand.  If the players on the team are advanced, the coach should use the left foot technique.  If the players cannot catch the ball left footed, stay with the right foot technique (see Figs. 12, 13).

Left Foot Across the Face Catch

The left foot forward across the face catch technique is to keep the left foot pointing at the goal to aim the ball and to be a pivot point.  The shooter does not have to change leg positions as when he did used the right foot forward technique.  It is a quick catch to a quick shot.  Quickness beats the laterally moving goalie to the right corner for a score.  However, the left foot forward across the face catch is a much more difficult catch.  The left foot is forward as the left hand and right leg swing the catcher’s upper body to the left to catch the ball and then realign it at the right corner to shoot the ball.  In the high school varsity and in college, men and women use the left foot forward technique.

Across the Body Pass (Right Foot)

15
16

The 4-spot pass across the body to the players on the left side of the pool is a right foot forward pass.  A left foot forward pass eliminates the ability of the passer to turn to the extreme left and pass the ball to the 1, 2 and 3-spots (EU 5, 4, 3-spots) players.  When the right leg is forward, it opens up the left hip so the body can move to the extreme left to throw the ball to the left side of the pool.  For example, a simple demonstration of this biomechanical fact is to be standing on the deck with the left leg forward and try to pass the ball to someone on your left.  It cannot be done.  Next, move the right foot forward and passer can turn to the left and pass the ball.  The right foot pass is the best option for the average player (see Figs. 14, 15).  

The elite player, however, has “smart legs” and knows how to maneuver his or her legs to pass the ball.  The 4-player’s left foot, that was once pointed at the right goal post when he or she caught the across the face catch, now moves the left foot to point at the 2-spot (EU-4) pass catcher on the left side of the pool.  The passer’s left leg moves 90-degrees to the left and passes the ball.  A 90-degree left leg swing is too much distance for the average player’s leg to move (see Polo Articles: Shot Doctor: Smart Legs Part 1-5).

Conclusion

The shooter can score from all angles to the goal.  The shooter has to realize that there are no bad angles to the goal, only bad shooters.  Shooters can score from these so-called “bad angles” to the goal if they are trained to read the goalie’s position in the cage and know the specific shot to take.

The well-trained shooter on the 1.5-spot (EU-4.5), the left wing, can score if he or she has the ability to curve the ball into the right corner of the goal or take a Charlie Turner shotThe shooter on the right side of the pool has several forgotten angles that a righthander never looks to shoot the ball.  The 1.5 angle, 5 angle, the 4.5 angle and the 4 angle are angles (EU-4.5, 1, 2.5) that are difficult but not impossible to score from when the shooter is well-trained.  On the 4-spot (EU-2) across the face catch and the US extra man 5-spot (EU-2) catch, the player uses a right foot catching technique or a left foot catching technique to catch the ball quickly and shoot while the goalie is out of position and is in the left corner.    The end-result of teaching “all-angle shooting,” is the coach now has as many angles to the cage open as possible for the team to score.

READING THE GOALIE PART 8  

01
Photograph by Russ McKinnon

Vision, is it the eyes or the mind and body?

Vision is more than the eyes. Vision is the ability of the shooter to recognize the “spot” in the water that is the correct angle for the shot to be taken.  And vision is locking onto the correct open spot in the goal to throw the ball with the mind.  The shooter has to not only “see” with the eyes where he or she is in the water but also “feel” the correct location in the water with his or her body and to “visualize” (image) the spot in the goal with the mind.  There is a difference between tactile sensing of the body and the mental imaging of the mind versus the visual input of the eyes. Feeling the spot in the water with the body and ‘seeing’ the spot in the goal with the mind are critical elements for success.  For example, when the shooter is blinded by the guard splashing water in the eyes, how did the ball score?  In this situation, the shooter used the mind and the body to aim the ball.  Aiming the ball is a whole body experience that is not limited to the eyes.  Again, vision is more than the eyes.

Visualizing a “spot” in the corner of the goal with the mind is the next step after finding and feeling the spot and angle in the pool.  Then we move on to shooting drills with the eyes closed as the last step in teaching the angle to the “blinded” players so that they visualize with their mind.  The body and mind aim the ball and not just the eyes.  It may be news to the shooters, but goalies have been visualizing where the ball is going and moving over to block the shot for over a century.

Visualizing the Spot in the Goal

  • Visualize a target in the corner

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The shooter is on the angle and is about to throw the ball.  Before shooting the ball, the shooter can visualize the corner of the goal.  It is as if the shooter was looking through a periscope or a riflescope and can see crosshairs in the corner of the goal.  A gray round spot can also appear in the high corner in the shooter’s mind.  The shooter visualizes the riflescope crosshair image in the corner and throws the ball at that spot in the high corner.  The shooter can also visualize a black spot or a gray spot in the corner of the cage if crosshairs is too difficult to visualize (see Fig. 1).

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The players that are non-visualizers, this is a daunting task.  However, with practice in the pool and at home, non-visualizers will begin to see a gray spot or the crosshairs in the goal.  One of the advantages of visualizing is the eyes and the body lock onto the visualized target.  The ball goes exactly where the mind pointed it.  The mind aims the ball. The mind’s image of the crosshairs locks the body onto the target.  The eyes follow the mind.  The left foot and right hand follow the mind.  Train the mind’s eye so the eyes will follow (see Fig. 2).

Our average absent-minded age group and high school players cannot concentrate very well. Therefore, visualization is the first lesson in being “mindful.”  The player can only become as great as he or she can visualize.  In other sports, visualization techniques are practiced daily.  In water polo, the coaches have never heard of these techniques!  The American coach has to step-up and move into the 21st century.

The shooter has to know where the precise spot is in the pool from where to throw the ball.  The shooter cannot waste time figuring out where he or she in the water.  They must “know” exactly where the spot is in the pool.  There are five angles to the goal and ten minor angles.  The five major angles start at the left wing and are numbered 1 followed by the left flat at 2, point at 3, right flat at 4 and the right wing as 5.  The European numbers are the reverse of the US numbering system and number 5 through 1.

Each minor angle of a major angle spot is labeled negative “-” or positive “+,” These minor angles are a meter away from the major angle on the left and right.  When the shooter is on a minor angle, the trajectory of the shot is changed.  If the shooter is at the 2-spot (EU 4-spot), he or she has a slightly different shot than on the -2-spot.  The +2-spot has a slightly greater capacity to score than the 2-spot or the -2-spot.  The shooter moves around the perimeter shooting with the eyes or blind from the five angles to master the best shot.  By teaching 5-angle shooting the coach gets away from the shooter only able to shoot from the point spot (3-spot), and only if a perfect pass thrown from the right side of the pool.  The shooter has to be able shoot from anywhere and to be able to receive a pass from the right side or the left side of the pool.   Shooters must adapt to the angle and the situation.  The ball and the angle does not adapt to the shooter.

Visualizing the 5 Spots

  • Blind player moves around the perimeter
  • Shooting From the 5 Angles 
  • Shoot from each of the 5 angles

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Then the shooter takes a cross-cage shot from each of the major angles to see how the trajectory of the shot is affected by each new angle to the goal.  There is no goalie in the cage.  Next, have the shooter shoot at the high corner of the goal.  Almost all the shooters will shoot low due to fear.  The coach lets the shooter take three shots from each major angle so the sensory part of the body and the visual part understands where the corner of the goal is located.  This is a long process and the coach should set up a station in the water to practice 5-angle shooting (see Fig. 3).

Shooting from the 10 Minor Angles

There are 10 minor angles or spots to the goal numbered -1, +1 through -5,+5 (EU -5, +5  to -1, +1) with a negative sign or a positive sign next to it.  A negative sign indicates a narrower angle for the shot and a reduced chance of scoring such as -2 (EU -4).  A positive sign indicates a larger shooting angle to the goal and a greater chance of scoring such as +2. The 2-spot (EU 4) left side of the pool shooter throws the ball from a minor negative angle 1-meter to the left or minor positive angle to the right of the major angle   spot.  On the right side of the pool, it is the reverse: negative is to the right and positive is to the left. For example in the right wing, the 5-spot narrow angle to the right is marked -5.  The wider angle to the left of the 5-spot is +5 (EU +1).

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After a few shots, put a goalie in the cage and have the shooter on the new minor angles, the negative (-) and positive (+) angles and shoot the ball.  The players will be amazed that a meter makes such a big difference in shooting at the goalie when the shooter moves from the “-2”  to the “2” or from the 2-spot to the  +2.  A change to another major angle would be for the shooter to move from the 5-spot to the 4-spot.  It may be the shooter was off the angle by a meter or a few inches (centimeters) but it greatly diminishes his or her percentages for scoring. The goalie does not move when the shooter improves the angle slightly and is out of position to block the new shot.  The shooter must always improve his or her angle to the goal.  The shooter can see this visually but also needs to “feel” it tactile-wise (see Figs. 4, 5).

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When the shooter is on the 5-spot (EU-1) and has his or her shot blocked.  He can improve the angle and move to the 4 spot or +4spot (EU-2) and score.  Looking at the illustrations above, the “+4 spot” has the best angle for scoring that is even better then the major angles of 5 or 4 (EU 1, 2).  Water polo shooting is a game of a few inches (centimeters) and degrees of an angle.  Make the angle work for you by opening up the angle, not narrowing the angle (see Fig. 6).

VISUALIZATION

  • Shooting Blind at the Goal
  • Close the eyes
  • Shoot the ball high

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The player is lead around the perimeter with his or her eyes closed.  The player starts at the left wing at the 1-spot (EU 5-spot) and is lead around the perimeter with the eyes closed by a partner.  The player should be able to “feel” or “tactile sense” when he or she is on the correct spot of a major angle.  This may take some time at the high school or college level to “know” through muscle memory where the correct spot is located.   Once the shooter feels where the spot is in the water, he or she is drawn like a magnet to the correct spot in the water (see Fig. 7).

When the shooter has magnetized the body and eyes to the “spot” in the water, then blind shooting from the angle is introduced.  The shooter is on the 2-spot (EU 4-spot) with their eyes closed and shoots cross-cage at the high right corner of the goal.  The shooter will be cautious and throw the ball at the low corner.  It takes courage for the player to throw the ball at the high corner of the goal with the eyes closed.  The lesson here is the ball is not aimed with the eyes.  The ball is aimed with the body and the mind.  When the left foot points at the goal with a high right elbow, the ball is aimed at the high corner.  The eyes do not point the left foot.

Convincing the shooter to believe that the body throws the ball and not the eyes, will take some time.  The facts are the eyes only reassure the shooter’s body that the mind/body mechanics are correct.  The eyes do not aim or throw the ball—the mind/body does.  The blind shooting drill has a shooter take three blind shots at the goal from each spot.  As the shooter moves to the 4-spot and 5-spot the shot accuracy deteriorates remarkably.  The 4-spot and  5-spot (EU 2, 1) requires superb body mechanics to score whether the eyes are open or closed.

Blind Passing

  • Passer closes his eyes and passes

The passer sights in his or her partner, closes the eyes and passes the ball.  In mid-flight, the passer can open their eyes to see if the ball went to the partner or off into the sky blue yonder.  What this drill teaches is the passer has set up the shot with his body and does not need the eyes to pass the ball once the body is locked into the target.

Blind Catching

  • Catcher closes her eyes and catches ball

The pass receiver closes his or her eyes as the ball passes the half-way point on the way to the player’s hand.  The ball must be accurately passed!  This event is impossible with the typical age group or high school practice where the ball is constantly underthrown, overthrown or thrown wide.  The pass receiver sets up, and watches the ball until it is almost at his hand and then closes the eyes.  The ball hits the blind pass receiver’s hand as he or she rotates back with the right leg swinging backward and the left hand sweeping to the left to turn the body.  It is much harder to catch the ball blind then it is to pass the ball blind.

Note: Two great NFL Hall of Fame American football players, Jerry Rice and Joe Montana would play pass and catch blindfolded.  A blind folded Montana, the quarterback, took five steps back and threw a pass to Rice, a wide receiver, to a specific area of the field.  Jerry Rice would run a precise route and catch the ball in his hands while blindfolded.

Leap and Catch: Underwater and Blind

  • Jump off the bottom of pool
  • Knock the ball up in the air
  • Catch the ball with the eyes full of water

This is a fun exercise that teaches the player that the body mechanics are everything and the eyes do not matter.  The player is underwater and in a place that is not too deep so he or she can push off the pool’s bottom and leap up to the surface with the ball laying on the water right above the player’s head.  The player leaps up off the bottom and places the hand under the ball tosses it straight up and catches the ball.  The ball bounces straight up in the air as the player is momentarily blinded.  He or she has to catch the ball without falling out of the hand.  This drill takes some practice by the player.  The player has to have perfect body position to catch the ball with water in the eyes. The most common mistakes are to knock the ball to the side instead of straight up so the ball in uncatchable. To increase the degree of difficulty, the shooter leaps up, catches the ball, and shoots instantly at the goal.

Shooting When Underwater 

  • Shooter is underwater on back
  • Ball is dry
  • Player shoots the ball at the high corner

A good shot to practice mindfulness and visualization is the underwater shot.  The shooter is attacked by a guard and is driven underwater on the back, but with the arm and ball above the water.  The shooter shoots and scores with the shooter’s head underwater!  How can shooter score with his head underwater, not being vertical and with the guard on top of him?  The answer is the shooter watches the guard’s legs underwater.  The guard will jump up and then fall down with the legs and belly becoming deep under the water.  The goalie sees the shooter on his back, head underwater and assumes that there will be no shot.  The shooter knows that the guard and goalie have read his body and head position, are “sleep.”  The shooter relies on his or her “image” of the goal, and throws the ball into the high corner and scores.  To the team and the coach this shot seems like a miracle, but it is not.  The shooter has been trained to “know” (visualize) where the goal is with the eyes closed so shooting blind underwater is an easy task.

Backhand When Underwater 

  • Center is underwater
  • Shoots a backhand

The center is underwater with or without a guard.  The center’s head is underwater but the arm and ball are still on the surface of the water.  The center shoots a backhand the over the goalie’s head or to the right corner of the goal.  Field players are taught backhand shots so they have to shoot blind with their back to the goal.

Knowing

  • Without confidence the ball will not score.

The great shooters not only have physical advantages but also mental ones.  The great shooter knows as the ball is spinning off the fingertips whether or not the ball will score.  He or she understands the geometry of the shot and can see the ball going into the goal before it is released. It is part geometry and part visualization.  This is not a “psychic event” but one based on math and mechanics.  There is no magic involved in this technique.  When the shooter has perfect technique and has a good read on the goalie, he or she “knows” whether the ball will score 4-tenths of a second later.  Contrast this with the high school player that is not even sure that the ball will even go to the corner that he or she throws the ball!  There is a profound mental difference between these two types of players.

The “knowing” shooter will have few of his or her shots blocked.  The shooter’s confidence level, however, is sky high on every shot.  When the player is going in to shoot at a goalie, and knows the ball will score, it  is a great advantage to the shooter.  The not-knowing shooter is at a severe disadvantage and fears the unknown.  In the end, knowing develops confidence in the shooter.  Confidence is everything in shooting.  When the shooter feels confident, he or she has perfect technique and dominates the goalie.  A shooter without confidence is weak and throws a weak shot.

When the goalie sees a weak shooter, the goalie grows in confidence that this is an easy shot to block.  When the goalie faces the confident shooter, the goalie loses confidence and begins to sink as he or she expects the ball to go into the goal.  When a confident shooter faces the average goalie, the shot has already scored as the goalie has given up before the ball ever reaches his arm.  Knowing is also called confidence.  It is the hardest of all subjects to teach to the player.  The coach has to instill confidence by teaching the correct shooting technique, how to read the goalie and then praise the player.

Coach Builds or Destroys Confidence 

  • Half of shooting is reading the goalie, the other half is confidence.

Visualization and confidence are two different parts of the shooter’s personality.  The ball goes where the mind puts it; without confidence,–the ball is never shot.  Confidence is a trained quality of the mind like visualization.  The great players have confidence and the average player does not. Why is there a difference between the two types of players?  The great player has the same brain and fears as the average player but he or she is able control their fear and doubts.  When the player is haunted by doubts, he or she must say the word “Cancel Out” to abolish thoughts of failure.

The player has to control his or her mind to be successful.  Similarly, the coach has to teach confidence and not negativity to his or her impressionable players.  Unfortunately, some coaches specialize in teaching negativity to their players.  In a game, young players are going to make a lot of mistakes.  The coach cannot criticize every mistake a player makes or the player will quit or feel “tortured.”  The coach can be a confidence builder or confidence destroyer for the team.  The coach has to be positive and promote confidence in practice and in the game.  A team cannot win if it does not have confidence.

The Desire to Learn 

  • Shooting circle
  • Player, teammates, coach discuss his shot

The Europeans learned early on in their program that if the athlete did not want to learn, all further training was a waste a time.  In small countries like Montenegro (800,000 people), Croatia (4 million), Serbia (10 million) and Hungary (12 million) the coaches had to select the best athletes for the long term.  These 8-year olds would advance through a 14-year program to the Olympic Games at age 22.  Not many selection mistakes can be made in a small country with a limited budget.  Selecting problem players that later would flunk out of the program was a waste of training and money.   One of the first things that the European coaches did was eliminate players that did not want to learn.  Learning to throw the ball correctly is a 14-year education—like going to school.  There has to be a desire to learn on the player’s part to excel.  The player must be a student of the game.

The desire to learn had to be present in the athlete thorough out his or her career.  The coaches soon learned that girls accepted criticism and changed their technique.  However, boys refused to admit they were making mistakes and did not change.  To a boy, admitting that he was not “perfect” made him vulnerable.  Girls are vulnerable and therefore open to suggestions.  However, with girls their openness and vulnerability allowed other girls to gossip and cause emotional harm.  This is why coaches ban girls and women from gossiping about each other.  Men do not have this problem because they never listen to anyone!

A great example of this gender difference is the comment of the University of North Carolina men and women’s volleyball coach.  In talking to the women about a certain player missing a spike and knocking the ball into the net, the woman’s reply was “I am sorry.”  She was quickly joined by a teammate who said that she had given her a bad pass.  When talking to the men’s team about the same situation, the guilty player said “Not me.”  No one chimed in to give him support.  For the male to admit a mistake makes him vulnerable.  The great coaches allow the players to be vulnerable but protected so they can admit mistakes and learn.  We learn through making mistakes. The greatest shooters are the greatest learners; the worse shooters are the worse learners.

The European coaches realized that teaching boys and men to learn new shots was going to be a problem.  The “Shooting Circle” solved the problem by peer pressure.  The shooting circle involved a water polo player in the center of a circle surround by his teammates, the goalie, and the coaches.  The player explained his shooting technique.  Then the teammates commented on his shot.  The goalie made a comment and finally the coaches commented on the player’s shot.  For the egoistical shooter who has a bad shot and does not want to learn, the criticism by his teammates stung but was “educational.”  He was not the “ideal self” he thought he was, with no need to change his shot.  The peer group pressure made the bad shooter into some one seeking education.

Conclusion

In this article, we examined the mental technique and not the physical technique of throwing the ball.  Both are involved in scoring.  This mind and body article is not about the latest “hot shot” on the planet.  The player has probably not examined his or her mental state at all.  The player or the coach has probably not examined how shooters learn new tricks.  Yet, the mind throws the ball.  The body throws the ball at the image the mind is locked onto.  This event happens regardless whether a guard splashes the player’s eyes or the player is underwater. There is more to throwing the ball than looking at the goal with the eyes.  Ask any 2-meter player who shoots blind backhand shots.  Developing visualization skills brings the shooter’s mind up to the level of his or her shooting technique.  Together, mind and body dominate the angle and the goaltender.

© Copyright 2014 Jim Solum Nov 1st

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