Jim Solum
Latest posts by Jim Solum (see all)
Volume 5 Number 3 November 1, 2011

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


The left hand of the shooter is the forgotten hand.  The left arm is the forgotten arm of the shooter.  Of the four limbs in the body, the left arm and the right leg are the most important.  All players are aware of their right arm motion.  Some players are aware of their right leg motion.  However, almost no players are aware of their left arm motion.  It goes unnoticed.  The question is why?  In the throwing motion, the left hand is more important than the right hand.  The left arm is more important and does many more things than the right arm.  How does one not notice one of the two most critical limbs in the body for throwing the ball?  All of the actions of the left hand are explored in depth in our study of the forgotten left hand and arm.

The coach and the player need to know the theory of shooting.  The water polo player of today is not a cave man throwing rocks at the goal.  The modern water polo player knows the mechanics of the shot.  The unconscious shooter, steeped in myth and magic, has to become enlightened.  He or she has to know what the body is doing during the throwing motion.  The throwing motion is math and mechanics.   Emotion, magic and ego play no part in shooting the ball.  The science of shooting is now upon us.


Cocking Stage


All photographs used in the article are by Allan Lorentzen at mywaterpolopics.com

The throwing motion divides into three parts, a cocking stage, acceleration or throwing stage and a follow-through stage.  Of particular note, the only part of the four limbs of the body that is active in all three stages of the throwing motion is the left arm.  The right arm is the last part of the body to move to throw the ball.  Of these two stages, the cocking stage and acceleration stages, the cocking stage is the most important.  The follow-through stage is automatic as the player’s body turns to the left to slow and stop the body. Almost all mistakes are made in the cocking stage.  The acceleration stage’s body position is set up in the cocking stage.  Whatever mistakes made in the cocking stage transfers into the throwing stage.  For example, the archer to shoot the arrow straight and hit the target, has to cock the bow by having the left foot forward, the right leg back, the hips rotated to the right and the right arm cocked to pull back the arrow and the bowstring.  In the acceleration stage, the archer simply lets go of the arrow. If the archer wants to fix their shot, he or she does not look at the right hand but at the body position.  When applying this analogy to throwing the water polo ball it is simply too late to try to modify an incorrect arm motion as the arm and the ball is accelerating forward (see Fig. 1).

If the coach wants to solve a problem in the right arm throwing motion, he or she must fix it in the cocking stage.  An example of a coach trying to fix a throwing problem is the ball that rises up and goes over the goal.  The coach has taught that the ball goes up because the hand was not on top of the ball.  This is incorrect because if the hand were on top of the ball, the ball would go straight down and land on the water above the shooter’s feet.  The hand should be behind the ball with the fingertips releasing the ball in the center of the ball.  The reason the ball goes high is the thrower’s hand was underneath the ball.  The real reason that the ball went high over the goal was not the right hand but the left hand and the position of the legs.  The legs and the left hand control position of the right hand.  The right hand slides under the ball when the back is not vertical in boys; in girls, the elbow dips down when the body is square to the goal (shoulders, left hand, hips and feet are parallel the goal).

The position of the right hand and the back are dependent on the leg and left arm position.  The right hand and the back do want the legs and the left arm tell them what to do.  When the legs are split apart in what is called a “split eggbeater” or what the author describes as the “left leg forward and the right leg straight back” the body is angled and the back is vertical.  The boy can now position his right hand so the ball is released in the center of the ball.  The girl with the angled body will not drop the elbow in the middle of the shot.  All these events are set up in the cocking stage of the shot.  Once the body is accelerating forward, nothing can be changed in the throwing motion; what happens underwater is the problem.

A typical mistake is for the shooter to think that the right hand aims the ball.  This is a myth.  The ball is aimed by pointing the left foot at the corner the shooter wants the ball to be thrown at.  In the cocking stage, the shooter points the left foot at the left corner of the goal and then during the throwing stage, the ball goes into the left corner.  To prove this point a simple demonstration is needed.  Have the shooter at center cage and aim the left foot at the right corner of the goal and have the shooter attempt to throw the ball at the left corner.  The shooter cannot get his or her arm past the left foot point.  Wherever the left foot points, the right hand follows.

Another widely made mistake is to look at the right hand when the ball slipped out of the hand or the ball suddenly curved away from the goal.  The shooter intensely looks at his or her right hand to blame it.  It is not a right hand problem but a leg and left hand problem.  The problem, as always, occurred in the cocking stage.  The left hand and legs were not properly set up in the Serbian Lean Forward Posture (read the Smart Legs articles) with the left foot forward and the right leg straight back and slightly bent at the knee with the left hand pulling downward.  The shooter was unbalanced in the water with all three points, both legs and the left hand, contributing nothing to balancing out the player throwing the ball.  Being unbalanced is not a right hand or a right arm mechanical error.  It is a leg and left hand mechanical error.  No pitcher in baseball or softball has ever fallen over on the mound because their “right arm was unbalanced.”  It is ridiculous for the modern coach to believe in such fairy tales. Is it kinesiology or is it mythology?  We have a choice between math and mechanics or smoke and mirrors.

In the final analysis, fix the throwing problems in the cocking stage, and forget about problems in the throwing stage.

Acceleration Stage or Throwing Stage


This is the stage when the body is rotating to the left, the torso is snapping forward into flexion, the right arm is extending forward to throw the ball and the wrist snaps down to release the ball for the shot.  It is not an important stage in shooting.  However, coaches, have believed that acceleration stage or throwing stage was the critical stage of the two stages of the throwing motion.  The acceleration stage is automatic and preprogramed by the cocking stage.  The shooter’s right arm is like a cannon.  All the cannon can do is go bang.  It is the same with the right arm.  The right arm is totally dependent on the rest of the body to position the right arm so it can move forward.  The right arm is dumb.  It does what it is told by the body.  The legs and the left arm are smart.  They tell the right arm how to throw the ball correctly (see Fig. 2).

As regards the fixable mechanical errors in the right arm and hand, the spin of the ball is the only part of the acceleration stage that the shooter can change by how much spin placed on the ball by the fingertips.  That is all, only ball spin.  All other mechanical mistakes in vertical shooting are fixed in the cocking stage.  The unseen and underwater parts of the body cause the mechanical error in the throwing motion.  What is seen, is the effect and not the cause of problem of the bad shot.  While it may seem illogical to concentrate on what is unseen and underwater.  This is the area where the problem lies and the solution is applied.



There are four phases to the throwing motion aside from the cocking stage and the acceleration stage.  These phases are elevation, rotation, crunch and shoot.  In the photographs above, the shooter is going through each one of these phases with the left arm active and pulling throughout all four phases of the throwing motion.



All photographs used in the article are by Allan Lorentzen at mywaterpolopics.com

The player elevates high out of the water to reduce the drag of the water, to elevate the position of the right hand so it is pointing at the high corner of the goal, and to increase its momentum and leverage to throw the ball.  If the shooter does not get high out of the water by kicking high and hard with the legs and pulling down hard with the left hand, the shot is already blocked.  This is the first phase of the cocking stage.  The low in the water player who cocked the ball leads to the low in the water shooter.  When the player does not get high out of the water to pass or shoot, there is little hope that the player will be successful (Fig. 4).



The shooter’s hips and the left hand rotate the body back to cock the ball.  Then the hips and the left hand rotate the shooter’s body forward to shoot the ball.  The main force in throwing is rotation (see Fig. 5).



The third phase has the torso snapping forward in the “crunch.”  The shooter’s torso is elevated out of the water by the legs and rotated by the hips before the shooter’s left arm pull and abdominal muscles can crunch (flex) the torso forward (see Fig. 6).



Once the three phases of the throwing motion are complete, the shooter’s right arm moves forward and releases the ball.  The left hand’s underwater pull reaches its maximum force as the ball is released (see Fig. 7).



The Left Hand Elevates the Shooter


All photographs used in the article are by Allan Lorentzen at mywaterpolopics.com

The player uses the left hand pull down to elevate the body for catching, passing and shooting.  The legs provide 75-percent of the height of the player out of the water.  The player adds another 25-percent, or 6-inches (15-cm), with the left hand pulling down.  The ability of the shooter to hit the high corner of the goal is dependent on vertical height out of the water.  The center of the shooter’s right hand must be at least 30-inches (75-cm) above the surface of the water.  The water polo ball only travels in a straight line.  If the shooter wants the ball to go in the high corner of the goal he or she must reach this 30-inch hand height for the ball to be released as a high corner shot.  Magical thinking by the shooter leads him to believe that the ball thrown from 15-inches (37-cm) at the middle of the cage, where the goalie’s arms are located, can be magically lifted another 15-inches higher up into the air to 30-inches (75-cm) and into the high corner of the goal.  It cannot (see Fig. 9).

Left Hand Rotates the Hip Back to Cock Ball


Due to the drag of the water, the right leg cannot naturally swing back the full 90-degrees from its square to the goal eggbeatering position and stops after only moving 45-degrees.  The hips are not strong enough to overcome the resistance of the water to the right leg’s backwards motion.  The player’s left hand sweeps horizontally to the left to assist in rotating the right leg the other 45-degrees.  This is why the left hand is called the “third hip” of the player.  Women players have greater challenges.  They have hips that are 6-8-inches (15-20- cm) wider than a men, which create greater drag during hip rotation.  In addition, women have a weaker left arm to sweep water to turn the body.  The combination of greater drag and a weaker left hand sweep cause the woman shooter to remain in a square position to the goal.  The major problem of the square woman shooter is the left hand cannot rotate the body to the right when catching and cocking the ball.  The woman player must concentrate on the left hand sweep to assist in hip rotation (see Fig. 10).

Left Hand Rotates the Hip Forward to Shoot the Ball 


All photographs used in the article are by Allan Lorentzen at mywaterpolopics.com

The player throws the pass or the shot by rotating the right hip forward from it cocked back position.  If the hips do not rotate, there is no pass or shot.  If the left hand does not pull backward, there is no pass or shot.  Hip rotation and the left hand pull are everything in water polo.  Yet, the average water polo coach or player has never heard about the hips or the forgotten left hand.  The ability of the hips to rotate and the left hand to pull is dependent on the shooter’s body position.  The split eggbeater or left foot forward/right leg straight back creates an angled body so the hips can rotate.  A player with a square body cannot rotate the hips.  The position of the right leg, high and horizontal in the water, leans the thrower’s torso forward in the Serbian Lean Forward Posture so the left hand can pull deep and backwards.  The throwing motion is a series of interconnected parts of the body that function together to throw the ball (see Fig. 11).

Left Hand Catches the Ball


The left hand catches the ball and not the right hand.  The most frequent mistake in water polo is to drop the passed ball.  The coach yells at the player to “catch the ball” often and strenuously but to no avail.  The player continues to drop the pass until he or she intuitively understands the mechanics of the catch.  It may take years for the age group player to understand the mechanics by watching other players catch the ball.  The concept that the player must have “strong legs” is deeply flawed.  Yes, it true that the player must have adequate leg strength to catch the ball but does not need the leg strength of an Olympic player.  What the player needs is technique—left hand technique.  The left hand sweeps to the left and rotates the body so the force of catching the ball is reduced and the right arm swings the ball backward—if the back is vertical. If the player uses the left hand properly but leans backward, the ball rolls off the hand.  A square player cannot rotate back to absorb the force and the ball hits the rigid hand with a thud and falls into the water.  The coach believes the square player has “stone hands,” but in reality, the player did not rotate the right arm and body backward for the catch (see Fig. 12).

Left Hand Turns the Body for the Catch


The pass is a slower shot.  Great passers are great shooters.  What is wrong in this statement by the Serbians and Hungarians is they leave out the fact that the great catch sets up the great pass; the great catch sets up the great shot.  There are no great passes or shots without a great catch.  A horrible catch leads to a horrible shot.  Instead of calling it the “catch” maybe it should be called the “positioning catch” to be more accurate.  The catch is part of the cocking stage and therefore determines the shot.  By the shooter catching the ball perfectly, it creates the correct body positioning for the great shot (see Fig. 13). 


A poorly caught ball knocks the player on the back with the subsequent pass or shot thrown high into the air and over the head of the intended receiver or above the top of the goal.  It may look like the right arm threw the ball away, but, the poor catch threw the ball away.  A poor catch means a ball, which is barely caught, becomes a bad shot before the shooter’s right arm ever moves (the left hand never did move).   The great catch = the great shot and the bad catch = the bad shot (see Fig. 14).

If the coach has to choose between players catching and passing the ball in practice or the right arm moving forward to shoot the ball in practice, the coach should concentrate on catching the ball and the cocking stage and not on the acceleration stage and the release.  In practice, the coach does the opposite and has poor results.  The average coach’s belief is that there is no correlation between the catch, the pass and the shot.  In fact, catching and passing practice is more important than shooting practice.  The pass is a slower shot and the player can pass 200 times versus taking 20 shots in practice.  Each catch to a pass, however, uses perfect technique, so all subsequent shots will be perfect. The catch and the left hand create the body position of the shooter-to-be.  The average coach never realizes that the catch is the shot.

In concluding, the coach and the player need to understand the theory of throwing to understand what is unseen and underwater, the legs, hips and left hand, throw the ball.  The cocking stage is more important than the acceleration stage.  Catching the ball is more important than shooting the ball.  The left hand is more important than the right hand.  The forgotten left hand must be educated so it aids in elevation and rotation of the shooter’s body. The myths and legends that permeate shooting in this country have to be eliminated.  Shooting the ball is a science.  The shooter does not blindly throw the ball while falling over on the back, hoping the ball will go into the goal.  The throwing motion is a structured set of mechanics for shooting the ball by a disciplined player who understands the theory of throwing.



The left hand is the forgotten hand of water polo.  Why that is, is a question the player and the coach must ask themselves.  No one forgets that the shooter has a left leg when shooting.  Yet players and coaches routinely do not notice that the shooter’s left hand is a critical part of the shot.  In Europe, there is no secret that the left hand is vital to the shot.  In the US, we fallen into the belief that “right arm only is the shot” and lost the concept that the whole body of the player throws the ball.  The whole body of the shooter includes both legs, hips, the torso and the right and left arms.  No one in baseball or softball believes that only the right arm throws the ball.  In fact, no sport other than American water polo believes this.  Teaching the player to realize the importance of the left hand to all movements of the thrower is the goal of this article.

When the player does not know that the left hand aims the ball, elevates the body, turns the player’s body to catch the ball, to cock the ball, to pump fake the ball and to shoot the ball, the player is handicapped in his or her ability to achieve their potential.  This is the danger of magical thinking and believing in myths instead of mechanics.  The player’s left hand is active in all phases of the throwing motion.  There is never a time when the left hand is not supporting the player in the water.  The truth is, the shooter’s right arm and hand only becomes active when the ball is thrown.  The left hand is more important than the right hand.  The left arm is more important than the right arm.  The left hand has twenty uses; the right hand only one.

In Europe, they say that all mistakes in throwing are leg mistakes.  In reality, what they mean is all mistakes in throwing are right leg positioning mistakes.  Since the Europeans correctly use their left hand in throwing, they do not include the left hand on their mistake list.  In America, we do not know how to use the left hand and we must add that all mistakes in throwing are made by the player’s left hand and the right leg.  The question of how to teach awareness of the left hand to the player is a daunting one.  The left hand immediately adjusts to the situation to support the player without the player being conscious of its movement.  In movements that require the shooter to be conscious of the left hand and its specific use to determine how to take a certain shot or fake, the untrained player fails.  The untrained player has to know the theory and the drills so he or she is aware of the left hand’s existence.

Women, The Left Hand and Hip Rotation




Women have a tendency to be square to the goal with the feet, hips and shoulders parallel the goal when shooting due to not using the left hand.  Without the left hand sweep, the square woman’s body is not angled with the left foot forward and the right leg straight back.  The solution to eliminating squareness in the woman shooter is to swing the right leg straight back to angle the body.  However, due to the drag of the water on the woman’s larger hips and longer legs, the right leg stops after 45-degrees.  The woman’s left hand must sweep water to the left to move the right leg back the additional 45-degrees so the right leg is properly positioned at 90-degrees.  In Europe, this straight right leg back position is called “positioning the right leg at 6-o’clock.”  Without the knowledge of the left hand motion, the woman shooter cannot rotate the body and angle her body.  Without the body being angled with the left foot forward and the right leg straight back, she cannot rotate her hips to generate the power necessary to throw a high-speed shot.  So often, we hear the complaint from coaches that a woman has a “weak right arm.”  In reality, she has an unused left arm (Figs. 1, 2, 3).

Women shooters are not weak, but the untrained woman can have weak technique—an unused left hand.  True the well-trained woman will throw the ball at 75-percent of the speed of the male shooter.  That is not weak that is just reality.  The fastest senior national team woman shooter throws the ball at 42 mph (77 kph).  The average high school junior male throws the ball at 36 mph (58 kph).  Who is weak now?  The problem with the untrained woman shooter is her ball speed drops to 15 mph (24 kph), the speed of a lob, when she is square and unable to rotate her hips. It is not a weak physique but weak technique that is the problem.


  • Pump fake: Arm swing forwards and backwards  
  • Foreswing: Swing ball forward/left arm sweeps right
  • Backswing: Swing ball back/left arm sweeps left


The pump fake (a back and forth arm swing) and the hesie fake (a fake with a pause or momentary stop in the arm motion) require the extensive use of the left hand to perform the fake.  The failure of the hesie fake to catch on in high school boys and high school girl’s water polo teams is the lack of the use of the left hand to reposition the body when making its quick acceleration and deceleration (stopping) movements.  The shooter’s right arm cannot stop anything.  It is up to the left hand and the legs to stop the shooter’s body in mid-air as it is in the middle of its throwing motion (see Fig. 4). 

The pump fake uses the left hand to rotate the body in the water so the right arm and torso can swing back and forth.  On observation from the deck, the coach wrongly believes that the right arm is swing back and forth by itself.  This is an impossible motion by the right arm.  True the right arm can swing forward with ease in the foreswing, but it cannot swing back more than a few inches (centimeters) in the backswing.  A simple demonstration proves the lack of range of motion of the right arm to swing backward.  The person raises the right arm straight over the head, locks the hips and torso, and then tries to move the right arm backward.  The right arm moves a few inches and stops.  Repeat the demonstration, unlock the hips and swing the right leg back and the right arm swing backward 24-inches (60-cm).  The right arm needs the body rotation to reposition itself back 15-24-inches (37-60-cm) on the backswing.  Half of body rotation are the hips swinging the  right leg back; half of body rotation is the left hand moving the right leg and body back.  The left hand sweeps to the left to turn the player’s body to the right for the catch and the backswing.  The left hand sweeps to the right to turn the player’s body to the left for the foreswing.  For a demonstration place the left hand out of the water and try and swing the right arm fully back into a backswing.  Not much happens on the backswing.  The pump fake needs the left hand sweeping to the right and left to fake the ball.


  • 1st fake: Right leg moves halfway and does not return
  • 2nd Fake: Right leg moves in front of hip and stays there
  • Shot: Square and weak


The strong fake but weak shot is a rare but mystifying sight among the girl pump faker.  The girl shooter pump fakes twice and then throws a weak shot.  How could a girl with strong pump fake throw a weak shot?  Seems like this an impossible action.  What causes the strong fake/weak shot action is called the creeping right leg syndrome.  The girl’s first pump fake moves the right leg forward on the foreswing but she does not move the right leg straight back on the backswing.  The left hand is not engaged at all to push the right leg backward past the hip.  On the second pump fake, the girl’s leg moves further forward until right leg is now ahead of the hip in the 12 o’clock position.  The right leg remains in front of the hips and does not swing back to the 6 o’clock position.  She is square to the goal.  The square shooter’s subsequent backswing to cock the ball is now a short arm cock due to squareness.  A short arm cock applies very little force on the ball.  (A power shot requires a long arm cock of 24-inches or 60-centimeters and the length of a short arm cock is 6-inches or 15-centimeters). In addition, the shot is weak because the hips cannot rotate to generate great power when the body is in a square position.  The problem is fixed by the player’s left hand sweeping strongly to the left to rotate hip back so the right leg can swing all of the way back.  The proper position for throwing the ball is to have the arm in a long arm cock with the right leg straight back and slightly bent at the knee (see Fig. 5).


  • Pull-down Hesie
  • Shoulder Hesie
  • Elbow Hesie
  • Knee Hesie

The use of the left hand is critical in the hesie fake.   Without the left hand there is no hesie.  Unfortunately, high school shooters have tried to do a hesie without using the left hand and failed.  They thought it was a strength issue and not a technique issue.  They wrongly assumed that college and international players are “stronger” and therefore the high school player was “too weak” to do a hesie fake.  The hesie fake uses a different left hand technique for each hesie.  The pull-down hesie, shoulder hesie, elbow hesie and knee hesie require the left hand to make a specific movement to complete the hesie fake.  Strength has nothing to do with the hesie.  Technique is everything in performing the hesie fake.


  • Left hand pulls down 8-inches and stops mobile right arm
  • Left hand stops the right arm behind the shoulder
  • Restart pull-down and shoot


The pull-down hesie or “single hesie” (The Shot Doctor: Hesies Parts 1, 4) is a unique hesie.  The shooter’s left hand stops after 8-inches (20-cm) of the pull-down for a millisecond, which stops the right arm that is moving forward to throw the ball.  The left hand restarts the pull-down and the right arm returns to moving forward and releases the ball.  It is a quick go-stop-go motion. The pull-down hesie works synergistically to stop the shooter’s moving right arm by stopping the moving torso.  Since the right arm cannot move forward without the torso moving forward, the right arm stops. When the shooter’s left hand pulls down again, the torso snaps forward and then right arm moves forward to shoot the ball.  The pause on the pull-down is brief—less than a tenth of a second.  If the pause is too fast, the goalie never sees the hesitation in the shooter’s right arm.  If the pause lasts longer than a tenth of a second, all of the shooter’s momentum is lost and the shot is weak. The major mistake, however, made in the pull-down hesie is not moving the right arm at all!  Therefore, there is no break in the right arm’s forward throwing motion.  The goalie does not see the shooter’s left hand pulling down and only sees the non-moving right arm and does not jump early.  The shooter has to coordinate the right arm and left hand movements to make this hesie work. Both boys and girls can use this fake.  Again, technique and not strength is the requirement to do the pull-down hesie (see Fig. 7).


  • Shooter on US 4-spot (EU-2) and left arm stops sculling
  • Left arm bent, throw arm, splash water to left
  • Hips snap the left shoulder to left.  Shoot at right corner


The shoulder hesie snaps the right post located shooter’s left shoulder to the left once to pull the goalie to the left corner of the goal while the ball is thrown at the right corner.  While it may seem that anyone can rotate the shoulder sharply to the left one time, actually, it is a complex action involving the shooter’s left hand and arm.  The shoulder by itself does not move much by itself.  The reader sits in a chair and tries and rotates the left shoulder to the left by itself (do not rotate the torso or hips) and finds it moves an inch or so (2.5-cm).  The shooter’s shoulder is attached to the torso that is rotated by the left hand and the hips.  It is a whole body fake as all fakes and hesies are.  There are no right arm only fakes.  The technique for snapping the left shoulder to the left sharply is to disengage the left hand from sculling in the water.  When the shooter has the left arm locked and the left hand sculling vigorously the shoulder cannot move.  Remember the shoulder cannot move unless the left arm moves it or the hips rotate.  The left hand is removed from sculling, the elbow is bent and held underwater and the hand is barely above the surface.  The shoulder fake requires the shooter to use the legs to stay up in the water.  Players with weak legs that depend on the support of the left hand sculling cannot do the shoulder hesie.  When the left arm is bent, the left hand is thrown to the left.  This left arm action with help from the hips rotating to the left helps turn the left shoulder sharply.  The left hand is held at surface level and splashes water to the left exaggerate the shoulder’s movement to the goalie.  The goalie has been taught two clues: “When the left shoulder moves, the shot is thrown”; “Wherever the left shoulder points the ball follows.”  The goalie jumps to the left corner to block the shot. The goalie jumps left because the shooter’s left shoulder has moved and is now pointing at the left corner.  The goalie watches helplessly as the ball is goes into the open right corner (see Fig. 8). 


  • High left knee, pause and drop right elbow
  • Left knee drops
  • Reset left hand, cock and shoot


The elbow hesie is misnamed from a biomechanical standpoint.  It appears from the deck that the shooter broke (paused) the shot at the elbow, restarted, and shot the ball.  Since only the right elbow is visible, it is assumed that the right elbow stopped the rapidly moving arm.  The underwater movement is not visible.  This error in thinking has led to many shooters hurting their elbow and this particular hesie died an early death.  The fact of the matter is, the left hand and the left knee makes the right elbow stop in mid-air.  It is foolishly to think that the right arm can stop suddenly in mid-air as it is traveling at 30-40 mph (48 -63 kph) forward.  What happens in the elbow fake is the left hand pulls down strongly and the left knee lifts up almost to the chest to stop the forward movement of the torso.  If the shooter’s torso stops, then the right arm also stops.  Then the shooter resets the left hand and brings it to water level, the left knee drops, the left hand pulls down again, and the right arm restarts and throws the ball.  The pause is a tenth of a second or longer as more of the body was used to decelerate the moving body.  The goalie sees the arm moving forward and quotes the rule, “Whenever the right arm moves forward the ball comes.”   The goalie sinks deep into the water from the early jump, as the ball sails into the high corner of the goal (see Fig. 9).

Knee Hesie

  • Left knee lifts up to stop arm motion
  • Right pinches ball and remains behind the ball
  • No elbow drop but left knee drops
  • Pause once and shoot


The knee hesie is the more advanced hesie that stops but does not drop the elbow.  The knee hesie keeps the right hand behind the ball in a pinch grip with the ball facing the goal and stops the right arm motion with a left knee lift.  After the pause, there is an instantaneous release of the ball at the goal.  The knee hesie is the preferred hesie of the two elbow-type fakes (Fig. 10).

In concluding, the use of the shooter’s forgotten left hand to reposition the body in the water and assist the hips in rotating the body is critical.  Poor shooters never use the left hand except to scull the hand aimlessly on the surface of the water.  The shooter’s left hand sweeps water to the left to turn the pump faker’s body to the right for the backswing and sweeps water to the right to make the foreswing.  Proper left hand technique is of critical importance in angling the woman’s body so the left foot is forward and the right leg is straight back instead of square to the goal.  The left hand is active in the pull-down, shoulder, elbow and knee hesies. In the hesie fakes, the left hand positioning is more complicated as it is used to stop the arm in mid-air, snap the shoulder to the left and to stop the elbow during the shot. Great shooters use the left hand intelligently to make the fake.  The left hand is a critical part of the shooter’s throwing mechanics and should not be overlooked.



The left hand of the shooter must not continue to be forgotten.  The left hand of the shooter is a valuable part of the throwing motion.  The left hand elevates the shooter, creates the slide hesie, the ab crunch hesie, the upstroke crunch hesie, the 1-2 leg hesie and the double knee hesie.  All of these high out of the water fakes use the left hand to stop and go.  Without the use of the left hand none of these hesies can be done.  In contrast, the right hand is up in the air, dry, and waits for orders.  The left hand is elevation, the fake and the shot.  If the shooter does not use the left hand appropriately on the fake or the shot the ball does not score.


Pull down hard to elevate the shooter


Many respected coaches have said that elevation high out of the water and a vertical back is 90-percent of the water polo shot.  A water polo team can immediately improve and double its scoring if the team is high and dry (has a dry back instead of a wet one).  Height out of the water is a critical aspect of shooting.  Ratko Rudic, three-time Olympic gold medal winning coach, has stated that vertical height is the most important tool for the great shot.  There are no great shooters that are low in the water and fall over on their back.  None.  The coach overlooks this simple solution to increasing scoring and instead worries about counterattacks and 6-on-5 formations.  The question arises, if you cannot score when open, what use is having the greatest 6-on-5?  Fundamentals first, tactics second should be the way a team is coached (see Fig. 1). 


Great vertical height out of the water requires strong legs, explosive legs, sustaining legs and smart legs.  All these require leg work to build a stable base for the legs.  No legs = no shot (see The Shot Doctor: Smart Legs Parts 1-5).  However, great elevation out of the water requires the use of the left hand to assist in getting out of the water.  The shooter’s left hand pulls down to elevate the shooter another 12-inches or more (30-cm).  Without the use of the shooter’s left hand, great elevation out of the water is impossible.  A blocked shot, where the player throws the ball into the outstretched hand of the guard, is an example of not using the left hand to elevate over the top of the guard’s hand.  The lack of the left hand pull allows the shooter’s torso to fall backward and throw the ball over the goal.  The player’s left hand is not a lightly sculling hand, uselessly splashing the surface of the water, but is a powerful tool to create elevation (see Fig. 2).


The coach demands that the shooter elevate high out of the water.  He or she repeats the mantra “Elevate, Rotate and Crunch” to shoot the ball.  However, the shooter remains low in the water.  The shooter remains low in the water because he or she does not use the left hand to pull down hard to elevate.  The shooter has been taught to aimlessly wiggle the left hand on top of the surface of the water to scare bugs away.  The left hand of the untrained shooter does nothing to enhance the height out of the water of the player.  The great shot comes from correct left hand sculling technique (see Fig. 3).


The low-ball release point of 17-inches (42-cm) in height versus the high release point of 30-inches (75-cm) makes a big difference.  It is the difference between the blocked shot at 17-inches (42-cm) with the low release point or the ball scoring at 30-inches (75-cm) with a high release point.  The low-height shooter with the center of his or her hand aimed at the middle of the goal at 17-inches (42-cm) of height has aimed the ball directly at the goalie’s arms.  Add 13-inches (32-cm) of height out of the water to the standard low elevation shooter’s 17-inches (42-cm) for a 13 + 17 = 30-inches high release point, and the ball is now aimed at the high corner of the goal.  A high release point demands a strong leg kick and hard left hand pull down (see Fig. 4).

An exciting or horrible concept, depending whether the player is a goalie or a shooter, is the little known fact that the goalie is coached not to jump to the high corners of the goal.  The goalie simply comes out of the cage with the arms at shoulder height of 15-18-inches (37-47-cm) above the water in the middle of the goal cage.  The low-height shooter will then throw the ball directly into the goalie’s arm for a block!  The result of the shooter’s lazy legs and a lazy left hand is that the shooter, in reality, has blocked their own shot.  There is an old Hungarian proverb: There are no good goalies only bad shooters.


  • Elevate
  • Kick, glide forward on rigid left arm
  • Left arm pulls down, drop legs, elevate high and shoot


The slide hesie uses the left hand to pull, slide and then pull down again; the pull-down hesie uses the left hand to pull-down but stops once and then pulls down again (see Forgotten Left Hand: Part 2). The slide hesie has the shooter pull down hard with the left hand for elevation, then the left hand stops sculling with the left arm extended, so the shooter can glide forward.  Then the shooter’s left hand pulls down strongly again to lift the shooter high out of the water.  After the first fake, the goalie sinks low in the water and remains low in the water, as the shooter elevates again.  The shooter must get high out of the water to place the ball in the high corner or the shot is blocked.  The common mistake is to stay low after the glide and shoot low into the wet arms of the goalie.  The slide hesie requires a hard second effort by the shooter to complete the high-low-high parts of the fake and the high corner shot (see Fig. 5).

Ab Crunch Hesie

Abdominal muscles flex torso forward


The ab crunch hesie snaps the torso forward to stimulate the throwing motion.  The torso’s forward movement is not the shot but the fake.  Women do particularly well with ab crunch hesies. The woman’s body is designed for abdominal crunch hesie fakes.  The woman has a light and short torso and long heavy legs that keeps her balanced in the water.  Men with their long heavy torsos and short legs cannot do an ab crunch hesie fake. The woman contracting her abdominal muscles to flex her torso forward 6-inches (15-cm) makes the ab crunch hesie.  The goalie jumps when she sees the forward motion of the shooter’s torso.  The goalie has been taught the “shooting clues” that the shooter elevates, rotates and then crunches the torso forward before shooting.  The crunch hesie leads into a high corner shot.  There is no reason to sink the goalie with a hesie and then throw the ball into the wet hands of the goalie that is out of position to block the high corner shot (see Fig. 6). 

Upstroke Crunch Hesie 

  • Elevate up
  • Left hand pushes upward
  • Torso snaps forward


The crunch hesie with an upstroke by the left hand is a more widely used fake.  The left hand pushes upward with the palm facing up.  The effect of a push up versus a pull down is to flex the shooter’s torso forward.  The shooter is using the left hand to move the torso forward.  Instantly, after the upstroke with the left hand, the shooter’s hand flips over so it is palm down and pulls down hard to shoot the ball at the high corner of the goal.  The goalie sees the torso movement, jumps early and the ball sails into the high corner of the goal.  Men and woman can do this upstroke crunch hesie equally well as it uses the left hand to move the torso and not the abdominal muscles thus preserving the balance of the shooter (see Fig. 7).

1-2 Leg Hesie

  • Shooter body elevates upward twice in the air as a fake
  • 1st Large longitudinal scissor kick raises to 30-inches/75-cm
  • 2nd Short longitudinal scissor is shorter and quicker raises another 10-inches/25-cm higher


The 1-2 leg hesie is a unique elevating two kick fake that uses the legs to fake the ball by moving the shooter’s body upward high and higher in the air before releasing the ball.  The left hand plays a vital role in assisting the legs in elevating the body by quick up and down hand strokes.  The shooter takes a large longitudinal scissor north/south kick to do the hesie.  The ball is held high above the head directly above the shoulder.  Do not use a long arm cock as this reduces the player’s elevation out of the water.  The first longitudinal scissor kick does not slap the legs together as is done in the sidestroke swim stroke.  If the shooter’s legs slap together he or she is unable to attempt the second scissor kick to complete the 1-2 leg hesie fake.  The first kick is the larger and more powerful of the two kicks and produces 75-percent of the shooter’s height out of the water with a quick deep left hand pull down. The second longitudinal scissor kick is shorter in stroke and quicker in motion and adds about 25-percent with a shorter left hand pull down.  Once the shooter has reached the proper height, the right arm moves back into a medium arm cock and the ball is released with a quick left hand pull down.  The goalie is coached to assume that passers are low in the water and shooters get high out of the water.  The goalie sees the shooter elevate once and jumps to block what the goalie believes is the incoming shot.  The shooter kicks a second time higher in the air and adds another tenth of a second, which delays the release of the ball.  The goalie sinks as the ball is shot at the high corner of the goal.  Men and women can do the 1-2 leg hesie fake equally well (see Fig. 8).

Double Knee Hesie

  • Double knee motion with two right arm pauses in the Break zones
  • Release the ball in the Release zone
  • Follow-Through zone the body turns to left and stops
  • Maintain Left Shoulder/Right Hip Diagonal with left hand


Note: In Figure 9, the emphasis is on the arm spacing.  The illustration shows the shooter’s right knee down and positioned back for the proper left shoulder/right hip positioning before the shot.  In Figure 10, the two knee movements of the double hesie fake are emphasized.


The double hesie is a master hesie done by the top college and professional players.  The double hesie is two arm pauses to a shot.  The double hesie is a whole body fake that uses the left hand extensively to stop the shooter’s right arm in mid-air.  The observer on the deck assumes that the right arm magically stopped itself twice in mid-air.  This is not the case.  The two knee motions in combination with the left hand motion create the two pauses that stop the right arm in the air. The goalie sees the shooter’s arm move forward, stop, restart, stop and shoot the ball.  The two pauses in the throwing motion of the right arm confuse the goalie’s read of the shot.   The two hesies throws off the timing of the goalie to block the ball and the goalie jumps early and sinks as the ball arrives in the high corner (see Figs. 9, 10).

Four Zones of the Double Hesie

  • 1st hesie Break zone
  • 2nd hesie Break zone
  • Release zone
  • Follow-through zone

Just churning and switching the knees in the water does not make the shooter’s double hesie—the left hand has to guide the fake by quick sculling movements.  During these shooter’s left knee and right knee movements, the left hand pulls, pushes and sculls in a series of quick movements to stabilize the shooter during the hesie fake.  Then as the right knee drops, the shooter uses the left hand to turn the body to the right to reset the left shoulder/right hip diagonal for the shot. It is common for the shooter to become square after the second right knee hesie and the left hand MUST realign the body, with the left foot forward and the right leg back.




The shooter has to respect the two hesie “break zones” or “pause zones” and maintain the left shoulder to right hip diagonal.  This is a difficult task.  The right arm stops over the elbow in the first break zone for the first hesie.  Then on the second hesie, the right arm stops just behind the shoulder.  If the shooter can see the ball past the face, a mistake has been made.  When the right arm moves too far forward on the second hesie arm pause and right knee lift, the shooter’s body becomes square and the subsequent shot is weak.  An approximate rule of thumb, using a 6-foot (1.82-meters) male as a model, has the center of the ball cocked 26-inches (65-cm) away from the shoulder. The first hesie pause of the arm occurs after the arm travels 12-inches (ball is above the elbow).The second hesie pause of the arm occurs after 12-inches (30-cm) arm travel with the ball stopped just behind the shoulder.  The shooter’s right arm continues past the shooter’s face and extends about 26-inches (65–cm) and releases the ball.  One inch (2.5-cm) later, the follow-through begins and the shooter’s body rotates immediately to the left, slows and stops.  A boy or a woman who has a shorter stature will have slightly different arm spacing distances (see Figs. 11, 12, 13).

The first problem arises when the shooter carries the ball into the second hesie pause zone instead of stopping the ball after 12-inches (30-cm) over the elbow.  The late pause, then forces the second hesie pause to stop the ball in the 18-inch long release zone causing a late ball release with disastrous consequences.  The best demonstration to describe this concept to a player is to stand the athlete next to a wall with the ball in his or her hand.  The right arm is cocked back and the ball rests at a certain spot on the wall (a teammate can mark it with tape).  Then the ball stops again for the first hesie pause and again for the second hesie pause.  The player’s right arm extends past the face to the release where the ball drops out of the hand.  One inch (2.5-cm) later in the follow-through zone, the player rotates the right arm and torso to the left and extends the right leg forward.  The second part of the demonstration, is have the player to go through all the knee movements and sees that the second right knee hesie squares the player’s body. The player sweeps the left arm to the left and swings the right leg back to maintain the proper left shoulder/right hip diagonal.


The double hesie shooter’s left shoulder/right hip diagonal has to be maintained after the second right knee hesie so the shooter’s right hip can be cocked back to generate power.  The motion of rotation produces most of the power for throwing the ball.  Thus, the left hand helps to reset the left shoulder/right hip diagonal after the right knee is lowered after the second hesie (see Fig. 14).

A common mistake in the double hesie fake is arm spacing.  The shooter stops the second hesie late, in the “release zone.” The release zone is where the ball leaves the hand of the shooter.  The shooter does not understand how to correctly arm space the hesie fakes.  The shooter is used to mindlessly swinging the right arm back and forth in the pump fake and has no specificity in his or her arm fake distances.  The first break stops exactly in a specific spot.  The second break stops exactly in a specific spot.  And the ball is released exactly in a specific spot in the release zone.  The follow-through zone begins an inch later (2.5-cm).  It begins exactly in a specific spot whether or not the ball has been released.  Arm spacing mistakes are common when first learning the double hesie fake.  The gravest mistake of all is a hesie pause in the release zone.  This late second hesie pause results in the shoulder pinching the arm and causing sharp pain in the shooter’s shoulder.   The shooter’s shooting right arm and ball has incorrectly protruded far into where the follow-through zone begins.

In the follow-through zone, the shooter’s body turns automatically to the left with the left hand rotating the body.  Where the follow-through zone is located cannot be changed.  When the right hand hits a specific spot in the air, an inch after the release and at the end of the release zone, the body turns to the left.  Regardless of whether or not the ball has been released from the shooter’s hand, the body turns to the left.  In the incorrect double hesie release, the right arm continues to move forward for a late release of the ball in the follow-through zone.  In the correct throwing sequence, the right arm and hand releases the ball in the release zone and then turns with the body to the left in the follow-through zone to decelerate the body.  All four movements (two hesie pauses, release and follow-through) have a proper spot in space to complete their motion.

The left hand controls a large part of the hesie breaks of the right arm motion and dominates the follow-through by rotating the body to the left.  The shooter’s left hand pulls half way down on the first hesie for elevation, sculls sideways quickly for stability. For the second hesie, the left hand pulls down again as the right knee moves up to stop the right arm with the left hand sculls sideways again for stability.  Then the left hand pulls down to restart the right arm again to release the ball.  The double knee hesie requires quick knee motion and left hand sculling to perform each fake.


In concluding, the three articles written on “The Forgotten Left Hand,” the varied use of the left hand is explained in detail. The player uses the left hand to assist in elevating the body.  The left hand pulls down to elevate the shooter’s body 12-inches (30-cm) to create the high release point for the 30-inch (75-cm) high corner shot.  The left hand is used during the slide hesie, ab crunch hesie, upstroke crunch hesie, 1-2 leg hesie and the double hesie. The left hand during the slide hesie pulls down, slides forward and pulls down again.  The ab crunch and the upstroke crunch hesie snap the torso forward to get the goalie to jump early.  In the 1-2 leg hesie, the left hand sculls quickly to assist in the two elevated body fakes.  The double knee hesie uses the shooter’s left hand to pull and scull to add stability as the knees change position.  The coach and player now can clearly see the advantages that the left hand gives the player in faking and throwing the ball.

© Copyright 2011 Jim Solum

Click here to learn more about Jim’s books