Jim Solum
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Volume 5 Number 5 February 1, 2012

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



Training the woman shooter is a controversial subject for the coach.  Yes, there is only one way to throw the ball.  Yet, women have different bodies then the men and different mechanical errors in their throwing motion.  The drills designed for men do not address the mechanical errors that women have in throwing the ball.  Most of the drills designed for men work well with women.  However, there are some throwing challenges that are women-only errors. These mechanical errors need women-specific drills.  The woman shooter may use a falling on the back shooting style and is square to the goal when shooting.  Some women are only able to lob the ball instead of throw the ball hard or they drop the elbow in the middle of the throwing motion due to being square to the goal (shoulders, hips and feet are parallel to the goal).  In addition, the untrained female shooter may not be able to skip the ball, has difficulty in catching across the face passes and has a weak drive-in shot.  All of these challenges have to be addressed by the coach training the girls or women’s water polo team.  Coaches train women as if they are smaller men and get poor results. Women are not smaller men!   The knowledge to train the female athlete correctly and to design woman-specific drills is unavailable to most coaches.

Physical Differences

Women have a different body than the male.  The woman’s body is much more buoyant than the male body.  Women float and men sink.  Women have 10-percent more body fat than men, giving them great buoyancy and balance in the water.  This is a great advantage to the well-trained female shooter, which allows her to be vertical in the water.  The female body is 4-inches (10-cm) shorter and weighs 40-pounds (18-kilos) than the male’s body.  Proportionally, she has a shorter torso and longer legs than a male.  Her hips are 6-8-inches wider than a male, which provides her with better stability in the water and a wider eggbeater kick.  She has half the upper body strength of a male of comparable size.  Her weight distribution, however, is ideal for playing water polo.  She has a shorter and lighter torso and long legs, which keeps her balanced in the water.  The male, on the other hand, is unbalanced in the water.  He has a long heavy muscled torso and short legs.  He sinks and falls over frequently in the water.  Think of the female as a bar of Ivory soap that floats and the male as a motorized rock that is struggling to stay afloat.  The one disadvantage of a woman’s wider hips is there is greater drag in the water.  It is harder for her to rotate her body, giving her a tendency to be square in the water.

As far as strength, her handgrip strength is 60-percent less than a male and her upper body strength is half that of a male of comparable size.  She, however, is 33-percent more flexible than a male.  She loves swimming and yoga; boys hate swimming and yoga.  This greater flexibility is particularly noticeable in the butterfly stroke as she effortlessly butterflies down the pool with a double dolphin kick.  On the other hand, the rigid male swimmer is struggling to lift his arms out of the water with one dolphin kick per stroke.  The buoyant women love driving drills.  Men, do not like driving, and only want to take outside shots due to floatation problems.  Lastly, the woman understands at an intuitive level, she has to use her whole body to throw the ball; males never understand this concept.


The coach throws the ball into the pool with the boys’ water polo team and within a few hours, most of the boys are good shooters.  The same coach throws the ball into the pool with the girls and a few hours later, no one can  throw the ball.  Same coach, same ball, what happened?  What the coach failed to understand is that girls and women need to be taught different drills because their bodies are different.  Boys and girls have different body shapes and strength differences that affect the way they learn how throw the ball.  Gender makes a difference.  The throwing motion, however, is genderless.  But coaching females requires the coach to be more knowledgeable about throwing mechanics.

The coach has to be firmly grounded in throwing theory and fundamentals.  Tactics are nice but so is sugar and spice, but without fundamentals, the game is lost.  No longer can we tell our women to work hard and be in top shape, counterattack and then miss the shot.  To drive in the frontcourt, get open and miss the drive-in shot.  Alternatively, get an exclusion, set up a 6-on-5, and have the shot blocked is a sure way to lose the game. If the woman cannot catch, pass and shoot the game is lost.  If we want to score goals, fundamentals must be taught.

Leg Positioning

  • Legs: Strong, Sustaining, Explosive and Mobile
  • Left Leg: Fixed, points and pivots
  • Right Leg: Mobile, balances out and shoots
  • Almost all mistakes are right leg positioning mistakes


The major reason that coaches fail to teach girls and women properly is he or she does not understand leg positioning.  The legs are the shot as they say in Hungary.  No legs = no shot.  We, in our ignorance, assumed that these two statements meant the legs have to be physically strong.  This is only partly the case.  The shooter’s legs have to be strong, explosive, sustaining and smartStrong legs are able to eggbeater with power and develop great force.  Explosive means that the legs instantly react and lift the shooter high out of the water.  Sustaining means that the shooter’s legs maintain vertical height out of the water for at least 3-seconds. And smart legs is defined as the legs of the shooter are correctly positioned to catch the ball and to move the right leg around to support the shooter when shooting.  Leg intelligence is composed of all four parts.  Great shooters have “smart legs” and bad shooters have “dumb legs.”  Unfortunately, a lot our female players have uneducated legs (see Fig. 1). 


The fundamentals of water polo begin and end with leg positioning.  Each leg on the water polo player has separate and distinct duties.  The left leg is fixed, points and pivots.  The right leg is mobile, balances out and shoots.  Once the left leg mechanical errors are fixed, almost all mistakes in catching and throwing are the result of not positioning the right leg correctly.  The left leg of the woman player is relatively fixed in the water.  It moves a little but not much in comparison to the shooter’s mobile right leg.  One of the two duties of the left leg of the woman shooter is to aim the ball.  Wherever the left leg points the ball follows.  Point the left foot at the left corner of the goal and the ball goes into the left corner of the goal.  Point the left foot at the goalie, and the ball hits the goalie.  The left foot is the pointer of the two legs.  The second duty: the left foot is the pivot point of the shooter.  The pivot point is the left foot that the shooter uses to rotate the body.  Think of an ice skater spinning around on the point of her skates.  She cannot spin with both skates flat on the ice.  Likewise, the shooter cannot rotate her body without a left foot point and the right leg straight back in the split eggbeater.  Without a left foot point to pivot around the shooter cannot rotate back to cock the arm and the body nor accelerate forward to throw the ball.  The creation of the left foot point and the left shoulder point is made by the right leg and not by the motion of the left leg.  While this may seem like a contradiction, it is not (see Fig. 2).


The right leg of the shooter is mobile, balances out and starts the shot.  The mobile right leg of the shooter swings back to make the left foot point and the left shoulder point.  The demonstration to prove this point is for the player to be square, with the shoulders, hips and feet parallel the goal.  The legs and feet are in a 12 o’clock position.  Then, the athlete swings the right leg 180-degrees backwards to a 6 o’clock position and the left foot point and shoulder point appear and are at the 12 o’clock position.  The position of the right leg determines the placement of the left leg.  The left leg is fixed but the right leg is mobile.  The right leg is mobile so it can reposition itself to adjust the left leg and left shoulder to the ball (see Fig. 3). 

In young players, the right leg is fixed and immobile.  The player cannot move the right leg in order to adjust to the ball and catch it.  In addition, the player is unable to use the right leg for support during the shot.  The young player can only catch the ball or shoot the ball if the pass is perfect.  A perfect pass is needed for the player who is a stone statue.  Since water polo is a fluid game that changes constantly, a static right leg paralyzes the player and prevents the player from being able to play the game.  The player has what is called “stone hands” because she drops the ball every time.  In reality, she has a stone right leg that has turned the rest of her body into a rigid stone statue.  She does not adjust her right leg to balance out her body so the right hand is soft and able to catch the ball.  The mistake that coaches make is to assume that the right hand catches the ball instead of the whole body.  In the final analysis, the player’s flexible, mobile and adjusting right leg catches the ball by repositioning the body.  The coach has to start thinking in wholes instead of individual body parts such as the right hand.  The wall is not made of one brick.  And the catch requires all parts of the body to catch the ball.

The right leg of the shooter balances out the body.  The right leg of the player is mobile so it can move to create balance throughout the body when catching and throwing the ball.  The right leg is in front and bent when the player is eggbeatering and waiting in the frontcourt offense.  Just before the catch, in the pre-catch stage, there is a slight angling of the player’s body to prepare the player for the catch.  The right leg and foot moves 90-degrees to the side to the 3 o’clock position.  The pre-catch stage moves the right leg so it is only 90-degrees away from the correct 180-degree right leg shooting posture.  When the player has both legs in front in the eggbeatering posture in the 12 o’clock position, the pass knocks the square-to- the-goal player on her back.  There is not enough time for the player’s right leg to swing back 180-degrees to reposition the body and right hand to catch the ball.  The failure for the woman shooter to move into the pre-stage catching posture before the ball arrives is the main reason why the ball is dropped.  The ball hits the player’s hand but rolls off the hand.  A square body pre-stage position at the catch dooms the shot.  The coach says, “That the ball was dropped before the player ever caught the ball.” This statement relates to failure to adjust the body to the ball in the pre-stage catch mechanics.  When the body of the catcher is not set up beforehand, the ball is destined to be dropped when it arrives at the player’s hand.

The right leg of the shooter starts the shot by snapping in the right foot inward to begin the process of accelerating the force of the contracting muscles of feet, legs, hips, torso, shoulders and left arm and right arm to throw the ball.  The shooter believes that her shot begins in the right arm and ends in the fingertips of the right hand.  This is not true.  The shot is a whole body throw that begins in the feet and ends in the fingertips.  The right arm of the shooter is not an isolated part that exists extraneously outside of the player’s body.  Picture a floating right arm in the air as the example of the “right arm only shot.”  This is incorrect visual.  However,  it is the picture that is in the mind of the shooter—as she tries to use only her right arm to throw the ball.  The reason why the shooter visualizes the “right arm only” picture is her body is square and she is unable to rotate the body to generate the great force needed to throw the ball.  A powerless square shooter can only usethe right arm to throw a weak lob-like shot.  As she tries to generate more force from a square throwing posture, she inflames the shoulder joint.  Eventually, over time, she has a chronic shoulder injury.


We need to examine the kinesiology of the throwing motion.  In the illustration above, Figure 4, the shooter is using the old-fashioned fall-on-the-back shot technique.  She catches the ball, falls on her back, scissors kicks up and shoots a square right arm-only shot. In the correct shooting technique, the shooter’s whole body generates 100-percent of the throwing force—not the right arm.  In the illustration below, Figure 5, the shooter’s shot starts in the toes and ends in the fingertips. The shoulder accepts force generated upward through the body from the legs to the right arm in a powerful upward cascade of kinetic energy moving from the large muscles of the legs up to the small muscles of the arms.  It is a chain reaction shot, which unites all the links of the body.  To be square is to be sore—have an inflamed shoulder. This is why many square shooters, who have poor technique and only throw from the right arm, hurt their over-worked shoulder.  Injury is not an accident.  Injury is a destined event (see Fig. 4, 5).


Poor technique is created by not moving the right leg back 180-degrees.  The right leg is supreme. The square posture prevents the shooter’s hips from rotating to throw the ball.  The major force for throwing the ball is rotation.  The hips generate most of the rotational power.  Rotation can only occur if the body is angled with the left foot forward and the right leg straight back.  The square woman shooter is powerless in the water due to her square to the goal body posture.  The woman shooter compensates during the shot for the severe loss of power caused by being square to the goal by “forcing” more power from the right arm.  This is not the correct philosophy for throwing the ball.  In kinesiology, the water polo throw is mainly a rotational motion.  It begins in sequential order, starting from the legs, to the hips, to the torso and up to the right arm to throw the ball. The Hungarians agree that the water polo shot is a rotational motion and say the right hip is supreme. Hip rotation (and the unmentioned torso/shoulder rotation) is the shot.  What this statement means, is the properly angled body with the left foot forward and the right leg straight back allows the right hip (and the left hip) to move and rotate to generate great rotational force.  The Hungarians use the analogy of the right hip because the shooter can see and feel the right hip move.  Both hips move of course, but the shooter only senses the right hip motion. The woman shooter, knowing the importance of rotation, can sense hip rotation and know if her hips are rotating or not (see Fig. 5). 


In coaching, the girl or woman water polo player, the rule is all mistakes are right leg positioning mistakes.  Of course, that is only partly true, but it makes a good coaching command statement to the woman player to force her to concentrate on the position of her right leg when catching the ball and shooting the ball (see Smart Legs Parts 1-5 and Left Arm and Right Leg Shooting Parts 1-6).  She needs to concentrate on being aware of her right leg.  Almost all mistakes are corrected by correctly positioning the right leg.  The shooter’s right leg is mobile, balances out and starts the shot.  Unfortunately, the woman water polo player has no idea that the right leg does anything at all.  The right leg is just “there.”  What it does, no one knows.  However, when the female’s right leg becomes a smart leg she can adjust to the ball and catch it wherever it is thrown.  There are no bad catches only bad right leg positioning. There are no bad shots only bad right leg positioning.  There are no stone hands only a stone right leg.  When the female water polo player begins to see her whole body throwing the ball with the right leg positioning the body throughout the catch and the shot she is able to adjust and fix all of her mechanical errors.  She can now coach herself.  She is no longer dependent on the coach noticing her mechanical throwing errors in a pool with twenty other water polo players.  She is now empowered with knowledge of the solution and the means to fix it (see Fig. 6).


In concluding, the woman water polo player must have the knowledge of the importance of the legs to catch the ball and shoot the ball correctly. She must be taught to know what the left leg is fixed, points and pivots and the right leg is mobile, balances out, and starts the shot.  The legs are the shot.  She must know, instinctly, by proper coaching, the theory of the throwing motion.  She can then use the right leg to position the body in a split leg eggbeater with the left foot forward and the right leg straight back so she can rotate the hips and legs for maximum power, balance and stability in the water.  No longer is her body square in the water when catching or throwing the ball.  She is aware of how the legs are positioned in the water and has smart legs instead of dumb legs.  Hers is an angled body and not a square body.  As a result, of this knowledge, she becomes an empowered and powerful water polo player.


Photograph by Allan Lorentzen at mywaterpolopics.com

The correct throwing technique for the woman (or man) is to have the left foot forward and the right leg straight back slightly bent at the knee in the split eggbeater.  This is an angled body posture.  In the angled body posture, the hips can now freely rotate to provide the rotational power for the shot.  Most of the power for the shot is generated by rotation.  A non-angled or square body position prevents hip rotation and greatly reduces the ball’s velocity.  There are several techniques for throwing the ball. The Serbian Lean-Forward technique is the best body position for throwing the ball as seen the photograph above.  Often the woman water polo player gets into a “square” or “square to the goal” posture where her shoulders, hips and feet are parallel to the goal.  In a square posture, the woman cannot rotate her hips to provide power to throw the ball and she throws a weak shot.

The reason why the female shooter has a more difficult time getting into the correct throwing posture is because she has longer legs and wider hips, which combine to produce greater drag in the water which impedes body rotation in the water.  In addition, she has a reduced strength in the upper body, particularly the left arm that requires her to pull harder to rotate the body in the water.  These three parts of her anatomy slow body rotation in the water and predispose her body to becoming square to the goal.  As a result, of the female being square to the goal, her right elbow drops in the middle of her shot causing the hard shot to become a lob.  The female shooter has to battle squareness when shooting throughout her career.  Her advantage, however, is she does not have to worry about sinking or falling on her back like the male shooter.  Once the coach is aware of the challenges that are specific to women, he or she can fix them easily.  All women have the potential to become great shooters.


  • Right leg horizontal
  • Torso leans forward
  • Left hand pull

Photographs by Allen Lorentzen at mywaterpolopics.com

By looking at Figures 1, 2 and 3, it is not difficult to disprove the pre-modern throwing theory, that only the right arm throws the ball.  The shooter’s whole body, minus the right arm, moves first.  The last part of the body to move is the right arm.  The rule is elevate, rotate, crunch and shoot. The shooter’s left calve kicks to straighten the left leg so the body can pivot around it with the right leg straight back.  The shooter’s right foot snaps inward, the left arm pulls down, the hips rotate and the torso crunches forward.  All of these body motions happen before the right arm moves.  As said before, the right arm is the last part of the body to move.  By itself, a right arm-only powered throw is a 15 mph (24 km/h) lob-like shot (see Figs. 1, 2). 


In the follow-thorough stage the “butt up in the air” is the visual sign the Russian women’s national team coaches look for to see if the correct lean-forward shot has been thrown. The woman’s buttock comes out of the water as the ball is released and the body leans forward to the horizontal.   Men have small butts and narrow hips and can only get their swimsuit out to the drawstrings so the “high butt analysis” of the shot cannot be used.  The coach looks for the man’s torso leaning very far forward to see if the lean-forward technique is used (see Figs 2, 3).

Photographs by Allen Lorentzen at mywaterpolopics.


The modern female shooter has moved past the “fall-on-the-back shot” and is now using the vertical right leg technique.  She is taught to have the right leg underneath the right hip for support.  Internationally, the Serbs invented a lean-forward posture with a horizontal right leg for throwing the ball around year 2000.  Today, it is the superior throwing style used throughout the world and at most colleges.  The vertical right leg technique is still used at the high school level, as the coaches are unaware of the new throwing style.  The Serbian Lean-Forward technique positions the body so the torso is leaning forward and the right leg is horizontal and the left hand is positioned so it can pull deeply.  The combination of these three elements makes a shooter that can elevate higher out of the water, lift the buttocks out of the water and throws the ball harder (see Figs. 4, 5).

As was said in previous articles, right leg positioning is the cause of most throwing problems.  In the Serbian shot, we see that the right leg is moved from the vertical to a horizontal position in the water.  The right leg position controls the position of the shooter’s torso.  A horizontal leg position creates a tilted forward torso.  The advantage of a tilted forward torso is that it is less likely to fall over on the back.  The position of the shooter’s torso allows the left hand to pull deeply and snap the torso strongly forward.  Also, when the right leg is higher in the water there is less weight to lift up.

When catching the ball, the lean forward position causes the player’s back to straighten up to the vertical.  In the vertical right leg technique, the player’s back leans backward when catching the ball.  Once the shooter is leaning backward in the cocking stage, the shot is destroyed.   It is destroyed because the player’s back remains leaning back during the acceleration stage when throwing the ball.  The well-trained woman, due to her superior buoyancy, finds it easy to position the right leg straight back and slightly bent at the knee.  For more information on the Serbian Lean-Forward technique please read Smart Legs Part 3.


  • Square to the goal
  • Catch and fall over
  • Scissor kick up and shoot


There is an obsolete shot that women used for decades until the middle of the 1990’s called the fall-on-the-back shot.  The woman caught the ball and instead of elevating, rotating and moving the body forward to shoot the ball, her first motion was to fall over on her back.  The woman first moved backwards instead of forward. She then scissor kicked up to the vertical with a square body position and used the momentum generated by kicking herself back to the vertical with a right arm only throwing motion.  As one can see, there were no quick shots or powerful shots and there were many lobs being thrown at the goal using the fall-over-on-the-back technique.  For the male coach who has been coaching the short legged, narrow hip, long torso boys who automatically rotated their hips, this was a stunning picture.  All the girls were falling over and not rotating their shoulders or their hips!  The reason that the boys never got into this bad habit was that boys sink deep underwater when they fall over on their backs.  Since girls float in the water, this was a throwing motion that worked well enough.  However, it was very inefficient and reduced ball velocity by at least 5 mph (8 km/h).  With the women’s water polo becoming a sport in high school and college, the predominantly male coaching staff was not going to tolerate females falling over and not rotating their hips and shoulders.  The fall-on-the-back shot, however, is seen at the age group boy and girls level (see Fig. 6).



The woman shooter that has lazy legs that do not kick hard to elevate her body high out of the water to pass or shoot is quite a revelation for the coach that has coached boys.  Boys kick their legs hard like propellers. But untrained girls do not want to kick hard.  In all other female sports such as basketball, track, soccer, field hockey and diving, girls and women work their legs hard.  Female 100-meter track sprinters do not slowly push off the block when the starter’s gun goes off.  Female basketball players explode upward with the legs to shoot a basketball.  Soccer players kick the ball strongly at the goal to score a point.  Divers jump as high as possible off the diving board with their legs to get maximum height to do the dive. In no other sport, except swimming, do females use their legs lightly.  In swimming, where the most power is coming from the arms, kicking is not emphasized.  In water polo, however, the legs are the shot.  The player must kick high and hard to elevate to catch the ball and to shoot the ball.  The coach has to retrain the swimmer into using her legs in water polo.  Bursts of four strokes are good drills for getting the female player to accelerate and reach maximum speed in four strokes.  Then stop and repeat a burst of four strokes until reaching the end of the lap.  It is important that the woman player decelerate and stop instantly after the fourth stroke instead of gliding.  She must learn to accelerate her body to maximum speed and instantly control and stop her body in the water (see Fig. 7).


  • Left shoulder points
  • Right hip is back
  • 30-degree angle



The woman shooter’s left shoulder/right hip diagonal has to be maintained during pump faking, advancing the ball or catching an off-balance pass so the shooter’s right leg can be cocked back to generate power from hip rotation.  A diagonal line is drawn from the shooter’s left shoulder to the right hip when the left leg is forward and the right leg is straight back. The motion of rotation produces most of the power for throwing the ball.  Thus, the left hand sweep and the right leg swinging back is critical in resetting the left shoulder/right hip diagonal after the fake or awkward catch.  Due to the woman’s long legs and wide hips there is a tendency for her to want to “square up” and be square to the goal with her body.  For the untrained woman shooter being square does not require much energy and is an “automatic posture” in the water.  The trained woman shooter, on the other hand, knows that she has to angle her body on every catch and shot and resets the left shoulder/right hip diagonal with the right leg whenever the right leg moves into a forward position (see Figs. 8, 9).


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


The strong fake but a weak shot is a rare but mystifying sight.  The girl shooter pump fakes twice and then throws a weak shot.  How could a girl with strong pump fake throw a weak shot?  It seems like this is 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 used at all to push the right leg backward past the hip.  On the second pump fake, the girl’s right leg moves further forward until leg is now ahead of the hip in the 12 o’clock position; again, the left hand isn’t use to push the right leg back.   The right leg remains in front of the hips and does not swing back to the 6 o’clock position when the ball is cocked, making her now square to the goal.  The square shooter’s subsequent arm 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 the square position.  The problem is fixed, by the player’s left hand sweeping strongly to the left to rotate the right hip back so the right leg can swing all of the way back.  The right leg cannot move back until the hip rotates in what is called a coupled motion.  Another coupled motion is for the arm to be positioned in a long arm cock, the right leg has to be straight back.  The right hip controls the length of the right leg extension; the right leg controls the length of the right arm extension (see Fig. 10).


  • Square shooter scissor kicks
  • Force of the lateral kick lunges the shooter to left


The tall girl or woman shooter who is square to the goal will use a “square” scissor kick as the finishing kick.  The shooter is positioned above the left corner of the goal and shoots the ball at the left high corner of the goal. A shooter who is square-to-the-goal (shoulders, hips and feet parallel the goal) positions the right leg straight out to the side with the calf in a straight line with the thigh.  As a square shooter, she has a zero-degree right leg angle and slaps the right leg against the left leg. When the square shooter uses the square scissor kick, the force of the leg motion lurches the shooter to the left, which causes her to fall over to the side and miss the left corner of the goal (see Figs. 11, 12, 13).


The well-trained shooter, on the other hand, has the left foot forward and the right leg straight and slightly bent at the knee and uses a 30-degree scissor kick for maximum generation and straight-line stability.  When the shooter scissor kicks, the force of the kick moves the shooter forward so the body remains stable during the shot and the ball goes into the left corner (see Figs. 12, 13).

In concluding, the female shooter has advantages and disadvantages in throwing.  It is harder to teach a girl or a woman to throw the ball than it is to teach a boy or a man.  The women’s coach needs a thorough technical understanding of the mechanics of throwing to coach the female athlete.  Women have longer legs, wider hips, weaker arms, and a shorter torso and a tendency to be square.  Women also have the advantage of great buoyancy and balance in the water.  Once a woman masters the throwing technique there is little that goes wrong with her shots during her ensuing career.  Unlike the male, that angles the body well, he continues to sink and fall backwards throughout his career, from age group to the Olympic team.  It is difficult to keep a rock (non-buoyant male) high out of the water for very long.  Though the throwing motion is genderless, females need woman-specific drills to enhance their throwing motion.  She uses the Serbian Lean-Forward technique for shooting and abandons the vertical right leg technique and the falling-on-the-back technique.  The woman shooter can throw the ball as well as the male because of proper training in throwing mechanics. The woman needs to kick high and hard when throwing the ball and maintain at all times the proper left shoulder/right hip diagonal.  The woman player avoids the creeping right leg syndrome on the pump fake that makes a square body and a weak shot.  She avoids becoming square and using the square scissor kick that lunges her to the extreme left.  Once the mechanical errors are fixed, they remain fixed, and the woman becomes a great shooter.



There exists at this time mythological beliefs in water polo that have nothing to do with throwing.  Mythology has replaced mechanics as the basis of teaching throwing to the female athlete.  Myths are not truth but are incorrect beliefs.  Coaches that are not aware of the modern concepts of shooting, teach these myths.  As such, our players are not getting educated in the proper throwing fundamentals.  The correct and modern throwing mechanics are not everyday knowledge.  Mid-20th century beliefs still permeate our teaching.  What was true in 1950 is no longer true in 2012.  Coaches that played in college in 1980 are 30-years behind the times and are not current on the latest shots.  We have to teach the modern system of throwing that has developed in Serbia and Hungary.  There are several myths that dominate our coaching philosophy on shooting: women cannot shoot, false vision, the vertical shooter, left shoulder rotation, the useless left hand, the right arm-only shot and countermotion. We have to replace mythology with kinesiology to coach women’s shooting correctly.


  • Poor aim: Left foot point
  • Over the cage: Right leg not straight back
  • Weak shot: Square body
    • Low elevation: Weak leg kick, left hand did not pull
    • No hip rotation: Square body, left hand did not pull


Before we get into the various myths that control water polo players and coaches, we have to examine a method of analyzing the data.  The shot takes place in less than a second and it is very difficult to observe what is happening to the various parts of the body during the throw.  “I don’t know what happened” is a frequent player comment to the coach during practice or the game.  Unfortunately, the coach does not know what happened either!  He or she does not have high-speed film cameras that the elite swimmers use for stroke analysis and cannot figure out where were the mechanical errors in the shot.  How does one analyze the throwing motion when half of the body is underwater and the visible part is a blur?  The author developed the four-limb theory of analyzing the shot to address this situation.  The water polo player has four limbs: two arms and two legs.  These four limbs are responsible for almost all of the motion of the body.  All mistakes take place in the right leg or the left leg in the lower body and in the right arm or the left arm in the upper body.  When we look further, the left leg is fixed and is used for aiming the ball.  All directional aiming errors are the result of not pointing the left foot at the spot in the goal where the shooter wants the ball to go.  All errors of throwing the ball over the goal, dropping the ball, losing balance, etc. are right leg errors.  In the lower body analysis, except for directional aiming errors, all mistakes are right leg mistakes (see Fig. 1).

In the upper body, we have the left arm and the right arm.  As we know from the previous article, the right arm is the last part of the body to move and the right arm is up in the air.  Therefore, most mechanics errors in the upper body are going to be left arm errors.  The left arm controls twenty different processes in the throwing motion.  The right arm just one: it throws the ball.  When the shooter does not elevate high enough out of the water the left hand is at fault.  When the shooter cannot rotate the body out of a square position, the left hand is at fault.  Lack of balance is also a left hand mistake.  In using the four-limb theory, one can see that the left arm and the right leg are where the vast majority of mistakes are made when throwing.  In what constitutes “contemporary shooting theory,” we have ignored the causes of most mechanical throwing errors created by the left hand and the right leg.  Instead, coaches focused on fixing effects—the right hand, and made it responsible for every mistake.  The right hand is the very last part of the body to move and is an “effect.”  All the right hand does is to put spin on the ball.  By concentrating on a part of the body that has almost nothing to do with throwing we have eliminated our ability as coaches to solve the “real problem.”  The left arm and the right leg are thecause and not the effect of the throwing mistake.  Use the four-limb theory to quickly figure out what caused the throwing problem so the water polo coach can immediately correct her throwing error.



The great myth of our time is that girls and women cannot throw the ball very well.  On surface, it looks true.  Untrained women do not throw the ball very well.  Like all myths in water polo, it is easy to disprove.  The fact is, the women on the USA, Dutch, Italian, Greek and Hungarian national teams throw the ball extremely well.  And college women in the US and girls at elite high schools throw the ball well.  The difference between the two is training.  Women can throw the ball with great technique when trained correctly.  It is more difficult to train women to throw the ball because of their wider hips, which are harder to rotate in the water and create a square to the goal body position (shoulder, hips and feet are parallel the goal).  Women have an arm that angles inward at the elbow more than a man, called the “carrying angle.”  When the woman’s body is square, the elbow drops in the middle of the throw.  When women are taught to angle the body with the left foot forward and the right leg straight back, rotate the hips and keep the right arm high all of these “problems” cease to exist.  Women are great shooters (see Fig. 2).


What we see during the shot is not what is happening.  This is a crucial paradigm shift in the mind of the coach.  Our vision misleads us into seeing things that are not there.  Therefore, basing a theory of shooting on our vision creates false assumptions.  In baseball or softball, the observer can see the entire throwing motion, which is to say, that the entire body of the pitcher is throwing the ball.  In water polo, on the other hand, we only see the head, right arm, left shoulder and chest.  It is easy to see that a theory based purely on vision would come up with concepts like the right arm only throws the ball, the left shoulder is responsible for body rotation and the head helps throw the ball.  All of these “facts” are wrong.  Basing a shooting theory on the eyes instead of science has led the water polo coach astray.  Such a theory that cannot see underwater to observe the shooter’s left hand, abs, hips, right and left leg moving to throw the ball leaves out half of the shooter’s body.   No one in baseball or softball would say only the upper part of the body throws the ball—they know that the whole body threw the ball.  Shooting theory has to be based on physics, mechanics and scientific laws.  Much of water polo as we know is based on mythology.  Is it kinesiology or is it mythology?  This question needs to be examined more fully.


                        The right leg is straight back not vertical                        


The myth that the right leg of the shooter has to be vertical and under the hips is explored next.  The coach incorrectly tells the player that the reason she fell over, fell to the side, dropped the ball and so on is because her legs.  Usually the coach says, “The legs were not under the hips.”  When one looks at this statement and then examines the legs of the player, one is dumb-founded.  In the eggbeater, both of the legs are in front of the hips.  In throwing the ball, the left leg is forward and the right leg is back.  What the coach was trying to say was to have the right leg under the right hip when shooting.  When the player cocks the ball back for a power shot using a long arm cock with the right leg under the right hip, she falls backward and the ball sails over the top of the goal.  The coach does not realize that the right leg has to be straight back for stability to make a long arm cock.  The length of the arm extension is the length of the leg extension.  The shooter’s right foot has to be under the ball and not under the hips to support the ball and prevent falling on the back.  For a demonstration on the deck, have the legs together and swing the right arm way back.  The player stumbles backward and almost falls over.  The right leg straight back is part of the tripod of the shot.  The left leg, left hand and right leg spread widely apart make a 3-legged triangle or tripod that supports the shooter.  There cannot be a water polo player with a 2-legged tripod with both legs under the hips (see Fig. 3).


  • The right leg controls the back position

Photograph by Allen Lorentzen at mypolopics.com

When the shooter kicks high and hard with the legs, we can see the position of the back.  The back has three positions: leaning back, vertical and leaning forward.  As coaches, we know that leaning back when throwing the ball creates an over-the-goal shot.  What we do not know as coaches is the vertical back creates the same result.  Only the lean forward back position creates a high corner score.  As water polo players, we have been taught since we were little kids that leaning back was bad; being vertical was good.  Unfortunately, both are bad and result in inaccurate shooting.  To shoot the ball properly the torso must be leaning forward at a 15-degree angle. If the shooter catches the ball with a vertical back, she immediately falls backward and throws the ball over the goal.  When the leaning forward player catches the ball, he or she is moved to the vertical.  The correct command should be “Lean forward” instead of “Do not fall on the back” from the coach (see Fig. 4).

Now, do any of the positions of the back mean anything?  The answer is no.  The position of the back is an effect and not the cause of the mechanical throwing error.  When a coach treats effects—nothing happens.   Back position is a visual cue of right leg position and height in underwater. Coaches have been yelling at their players for over a hundred years to “get off the back” and to “not lie on the back” without any change in the player’s accuracy.  Millions of water polo balls have hit the bleachers, walls and fences surrounding the pool without any improvement in the team’s high corner shooting accuracy. When the coach changes his or her philosophy and treats the cause, and not the effect, change is possible.  The position of the shooter’s back is dependent on and created by the position of the shooter’s right leg (see Smart Legs Part 1-5).  The right leg controls the back.  The back does not control anything, the back is an effect.

It is the position of the shooter’s underwater right leg that controls the position of the back.  When the coach tells the player to lift up the right leg and to have the right leg straight back and slightly bent at the knee, the player’s torso leans forward—and real change takes place.  The coach has treated the cause and created positive change that allows the shooter to reach her full potential.

What the author is presenting, when examining how the right leg position determines back position, is the concept of coupled motion; there are always two parts of the body involved in a specific motion.  To isolate one part, the back or the right arm, is not to see the totality of the motion of the whole body throwing the ball.  To test out the validity of this theory the player stands in the shallow end and has the right leg forward, which results in the back tilting backward.  Then move the right leg vertical under the hips and the back is vertical.  Throw a ball to that player and the back is now tilted again as the right leg moves forward slightly.  Finally, have the player’s right leg straight back, and the back now leans forward.  The right leg of the shooter controls the position of the back.  It is that simple and yet, that hard to understand because what is below (the water) controls what is above (the water).  The unseeable controls the seeable.  The underwater part of the throwing motion is more important than the visible part of the throwing motion.  Treat the underwater causes to correct above the water effects.   For the coach to treat the unseeable, he or she has to know the mechanics of the shot.


  • The hips rotate the shoulders


Along with the myth of falling on the back is the myth of shoulder rotation.  “The shoulders must rotate” is what every girl is told by her coach from the first day of practice until the last day she gets out of the water.  According to this incorrect theory, the shoulders rotate the entire body of the shooter.  Since the arms are attached to the two shoulder sockets, it is hard to imagine that raising the arms rotates the shoulders, the torso and the hips.  The player can sit in a chair and move their arms up and down and there is absolutely no “shoulder rotation.”  So what is shoulder rotation in the water polo sense?  That is a good question.  Obviously, it is not what the coaches have named it.  Shoulder rotation is a visible cue of body rotation by the hips and torso muscles.   The shoulders are attached to a rotating torso. When the shooter’s torso rotates to its full range of motion of 30-degrees, the shoulders rotate.  When the right hip rotates 35-degrees forward, or rotates 45-degrees backward, the “shoulders” rotate even more.  Shoulder rotation as correctly defined is an effect and not the cause of body rotation (see Fig. 5). 

In body rotation (also called trunk rotation) utilizing the shooter’s hips and torso is of great importance.  Of these two interconnected body parts, the hips produce the greatest power.  The hips are the shot.  Torso rotation assists the hips in rotating the body in a coupled motion.  The major force generated in the body to throw the ball is caused by body rotation.  The Hungarians so strongly believe in the modern concept that they state, “The right hip is supreme” and the “Hips are the shot.”  Another way of saying it is, “The right leg is supreme.”

When we see the shooter’s shoulders rotating, we know that the hips are rotating the upper body and the “shoulders.”  If the coach does not see the shoulders rotating he or she knows that the hips are not moving and the player’s body is square.


  • The left arm is more important than the right arm


Body rotation is the gold standard for throwing the ball hard and accurately. The coach and the player should be concentrating on using all parts of the body to assist in body rotation.  This, however, is not the case.  The left hand is responsible for about 35-percent of body rotation, yet no one has heard of using the left hand.  The left hand is just “there.”  What it does, no one knows?  In women’s shooting, due to the female’s wider hips and greater drag in the water, use of the left hand is of critical importance.

The female shooter cannot successfully rotate the right hip back and thus position the right leg straight back unless she uses the left hand to assist in rotating the body.  The shooter’s right leg has stopped in the water after reaching the 3 o’clock position.  She needs to use her left hand to pull and rotate the right hip rest of the way back so the right leg can swing back to the 6 o’clock position straight back position.

When the left hand is not pulling the water passed the left hip, there is no further body rotation. The right leg remains in the 3 o’clock position, and the shooter’s body is square to the goal.  The result is a square shooter with a weak shot (see Fig. 6).


  • Whole body throws the ball not the right arm


The current belief that only the right arm throws the ball is archaic.  It comes from the mid-20th century.  All modern women’s water polo teams at the elite level do not believe in the myth that only the right arm throws the ball.  The modern concept is that the whole body of the shooter throws the ball.  A throw, is a whole body throw.  All the links of the body from the legs, hips, torso and right arm are unified and work together to throw the ball.  In age group and in high school, however, we find the right arm-only concept is still being taught.  Even if the coach teaches the whole body concept, the square athlete firmly believes that her right arm did everything to throw the ball (see Fig. 7).

Square woman shooters, who in fact, can only use the right arm to throw the ball, have created and continue to believe in this myth!  Modern shooting involves body rotation and an angled body with the left leg forward and the right leg straight back with the knee slightly bent.  A right arm-only shooter cannot throw the ball very hard, seldom scores, and always has sore shoulders.  Every team has female athletes that do not listen to their coach and continue to be square to the goal and throw the ball only using the right arm.


  • Fall-on-back as right arm moves forward 
  • Square shooter
  • Fall-on-the-back shooter
  • Fall-on-side as right arm moves forward same view

The player believes that she can move two directions at the same time and still have an accurate and powerful shot.  She cannot.  The accurate and high-powered shot needs to have all of its momentum of the body going forward and not backward/forward or sideways/forward.  The first example of countermotion is the square shooter that cannot rotate her body and produces little power because the hips cannot move.  The next countermotion is the fall-on-the-back shooter, who falls over on her back before scissor kicking up to the vertical and then moves forward to take a square shot.  The fall-on-the-back shooter cannot get high out of the water, rotate her hips, catch-and-shoot or shoot quickly (see Figs. 8, 9).



The third countermotion is to fall backwards as the right arm accelerates forward to throw the ball.  The shooter did not have her right leg back and there was no tripod support for the right arm and ball.  She swung the right arm back for a long arm cock with the right leg vertical and started to fall backwards as the right arm moved forward to release the ball.  Falling on the back reduces ball velocity from 5 mph to 15 mph (8 km/h and 24 km/h). Average speed for a high school senior girl is a range of 27 mph (43 km/h) and 36 mph (58 km/h).  The final countermotion is to throw the body to the side and move the right arm forward.  The shooter’s momentum stop, as the body cannot move powerfully in two directions at the same time.  The on-the-side shooter throws a weak shot.  The shooter has to eliminate all countermotion from her shot to be able to throw the ball quickly, powerfully, and accurately (see Figs. 10, 11).



In concluding, the coach and the players need to be educated in the modern fundamentals of shooting.  For far too long throwing myths have lead potentially great players to become average players because the wrong throwing mechanics were applied.  The eight myths presented represent our incorrect thinking.  The coach and the player need to read this article thoroughly to understand the basic mechanics of the throwing motion.  Women truly do want to learn the correct fundamentals so they can become great shooters.



Shooting is an individual sport.  The ball is only in one hand—the shooter’s hand.  There is no counterattack or 6-on-5 with multiple players for the shooter to be distracted by.  How well she throws the ball determines whether the ball scores or is blocked.  Good technique leads to a score.  Bad technique leads to a blocked shot.  The player with mechanical throwing errors has bad technique and her shot is blocked.  The woman shooter needs to eliminate throwing errors if she is going to score. There are fourteen mechanical throwing errors causing the ball to go array.  The problem that water polo coach encounters in analyzing the throwing motion (not found in land-based sports) is actually seeing the throwing motion.  However, even with the blur of the throwing motion of the shooter and with half the body underwater, there are telltale clues for the coach that describe the throwing error.


Below is a list of 14 ways that a woman shooter takes a poor shot.  The coach needs to memorize the rules and visual clues so he or she can instantly analyze and correct the mistake.  The coach may not be able to see the error but he or she can visualize it.  The coach visualizes the shot by seeing the ball, knowing the clues and the underwater body mechanics.  The shooter’s mistake makes a picture in the mind’s eye of the coach.

Weak shot  Ball wide right Ball stops on water
No shoulder rotation Ball hits center cage goalie Ball dropped
No left shoulder point Ball wide left Dropped elbow
Butt underwater Ball goes over the goal Fear
Bad lob Skip shot dies

The woman shooter catches the ball and shoots in a half second of blurred motion.  The coach only sees the ball by the time it is half way to the goal and shooter’s throwing motion is but a blur in the coach’s memory.  When the coach cannot see the shooter, how can he or she evaluate the shooter’s throwing technique?  There is not much to see and subsequently, few facts to go on.  Above is a list of visible clues that the coach can see to evaluate whether or not the body position was correct when the ball is thrown.  The coach may not be able to see the cause (many of which are underwater) but he or she can watch its effect on the ball and realize where the mechanical error was. For example, the ball goes over the cage is the visual clue, and the cause is the shooter was on her back. Without this list of visible clues, the coach cannot discover where the mistake is in the shot.


  • Square not angled
  • Elbow drops
  • No hip rotation
  • Right leg not straight back
  • No left hand pull down


The women’s weak shot is a series of body positioning mistakes.  The mistakes that the woman makes are easy to fix. There are logical corrections available to fix her shot.  The main problem in women’s shooting is being square to the goal.  The woman’s feet, knees, hips and shoulders are parallel the goal.  A square shooter cannot get high out of the water, rotate her hips, aim the ball, prevent the elbow from dropping or throw the ball hard.  The solution to all of these problems is to use the Serbian Lean-Forward technique and have the left leg forward and the right leg straight back, kick hard, rotate the hips, pull down hard with the left hand and slap the water with the right hand.  In short, angle the body and lift up the right leg.  It is that simple and yet that difficult to change the bad habits of the woman shooter (see Fig. 1).


  • Angle body, left hand pull, rotate the hips—left shoulder rotates


When the coach sees the woman shooter throw the ball and not rotate the shoulders, it is a visual sign that the shooter was square to the goal.  Only a shooter with the left leg forward and the right leg straight back (and slightly bent at the knee) so the hips can fully rotate can the shooter’s torso and shoulders rotate.  No shoulder rotation by the shooter is a visual sign that there is no hip rotation occurring underwater and the shooter was square.  In passing practice, look to see if the women’s shoulders are rotating.  Many do not move (see Fig. 2).


  • Left foot forward with the right leg back

The shooter’s left leg forward with the right leg back combine to create the sharp left shoulder point.  The left shoulder point is an effect and not the cause.  When the left foot is forward and the right leg is back, the sharp left shoulder point appears.  For a demonstration, have the player stand square on the deck with her feet together, then swing the right leg back and the pointed left shoulder appears.  The right leg position creates the left foot forward leg position and the sharp left shoulder (see Figs. 2, 7, 10).


  • Did not lean-forward on the shot


When doing the Serbian Lean-Forward technique the woman’s buttocks should be visible after the release of the ball and during the follow-through stage.  No butt = No Serbian shot.  This is a telltale sign that the woman was vertical instead of the leaning her body forward at the release of the ball.  She did not have the right leg straight back and a deep strong left hand pull and therefore could not get the body and buttocks high out of the water (see Figs. 3, 4).


  • Fingertips put spin on the ball
  • More ball spin = more arc on the ball
  • Less ball spin—less ball arc
  • Ball does not reach the goal—square, no power
  • Ball hits low corner—lob aiming point too low
  • Ball hits crossbar—not enough spin on the ball, aiming point too low
  • Ball wide—left foot did not point at corner




This is an interesting paradox for the coach that coaches both boys and girls.  The boys lob the ball over the goal; the girls hit the crossbar or the ball drops into the water in front of the goal.  Women with shorter arms, reduced strength in the arms and shorter fingers apply less force on the ball and therefore have less ball spin with the lobbed ball having a lower arc trajectory, a slower ball velocity with the ball less likely to go into the high corner.  When the female’s lob shot drops in front of the goal, she was square to the goal with a dropped  elbow creating a lob without enough power to reach the goal.  Another disadvantage of dropping the elbow is the shooter telegraphs the lob to the goalie. The solution is to increase the spin on the ball and the arm speed so the ball has enough power make a 55-degree ball arc. The shooter’s average lob ball speed is 15 mph (24 km/h).  A lob moving at 10 mph (16 km/h) does not have enough speed to reach the goal.  When the lobber is inaccurate, the first thing she does is reduce ball speed rather than re-point the left foot and readjust the lob point to aim the ball.  When a women’s lob does not score, she must increase ball rotation to maintain the 55-degree ball arc.  This is one of the few shots where ball speed is maintained and is not the cause of the inaccurate shot.  In a power shot, for example, too much power causes a wild shot (see Figs. 5, 6, 7).



After ball spin and ball arc, the third reason for missing a lob is not knowing about the lob aiming point.  A lob that reaches the low corner of the goal instead of going into the high corner of the goal is the result of a low lob aiming point. A lob that is wide of the goal is not a lob aiming point problem but a left foot that was not pointed at the corner. A three-finger released lob should have an aiming point that is 24-inches (61c) over the crossbar.  The lob has a 45-55-degree arc at its apex 2-feet above the goal’s crossbar.  From the apex of the lob, the ball then drops down 24-inches (61c) down into the high corner of the goal (see Shot Doctor: Lobs 1-3).  The archer goes through this same aiming process. She aims the arrow above target knowing it will drop down and hit the target.  When the ball’s lob aiming point is the high corner of the goal, as it is with a power shot, the lobbed ball drops 24-inches and hits the low corner. The lobbed ball hitting the crossbar indicates there was not enough ball spin to cause the ball to raise up high enough in the air so it can spin down quickly and drop into the high corner.  The visual sign to the coach is a barely spinning ball (see Figs. 8, 9). 


  • Aim the left foot at the corner


The left foot aims the ball and not the right hand.  Wherever the left foot points the right hand follows.  This is another coupled motion of the left foot/right hand.  When the shooter’s left foot is aimed at the woman goalie’s stomach, the ball hits the goalie’s stomach.  For the shooter to avoid the goalie blocking her shot, she moves the left foot to point at the corner of the goal and the ball scores.  A square shooter cannot point her left foot at a corner and points both feet at the goalie (see Fig. 10).


  • Square shooter scissor kicks at 0-degree leg angle


The tall girl or woman shooter’s body is square to the goal, and uses a square scissor kick.  The kick knocks her body to the left as she shoots the ball.  The result of force applied sideways to the body and right arm, is to pull the ball to the extreme left and wide of the goal. Another error is to not point the left foot at the left corner of the goal and angle the body (see Fig. 11).


  • Point left foot, don’t step-out, no side arm

The shooter throws the ball from the 5-meter line, at the right corner of the goal, from the point.  However, the ball misses the cage completely and hits the right wall.  The mistake the woman shooter made was to step-out to the right and throw a side arm shot.  By moving sideways, she loses control of the ball and puts sidespin on the ball that pulls the ball wide.  The wide right correction is to point the left foot at the right corner of the goal and throw the ball overhand.  Wherever the left foot points is where the ball follows (see Figs. 7, 10).


  • All high shots are result of falling back
  • Right leg is straight back to make the torso upright and lower the ball


When the ball goes over the goal, the shooter was on her back. The girl or woman shooter has a vertical right leg and a long arm cock.  Without the support of the right leg straight back and slightly bent at the knee to make a tripod to support the ball, the shooter’s back leans backward and changes the angle of the hand.  The leaning back position aims the hand and the ball so it goes over the goal.   The cure is to position the right leg straight back to support the ball and the right arm.  In females, this is a quick adjustment and fix (see Fig. 12). 


  • Fingertips spin the ball


The ball thrown at the low corner of the goal hits the water in front of the goal and stops.  The shooter needs to spin the ball harder off her fingertips to increase the ball rotation so the ball spins more on the surface of the water.  The ball has very little spin, hits the surface of the water and stops.  Lack of ball spin for girls and women is a major problem.  It is corrected by applying more force by sliding the fingertips down the ball.  The players can practice overhand skim passes and backhand skim passes to develop the ability of the hand to place spin on the ball.  A homework exercise is to hold the ball in the hand and then spin the ball off the fingertips into the air (see Fig. 13).


  • Needs power, elevation, angle, ball spin
  • 1-finger or 2-finger release
  • 1m skip point—1-finger
  • 2m skip point—2-finger release


The standard 3-finger release has the middle fingers making final contact with the ball with a 3-meter skip point.  These middle three fingers make up the 3-finger release.  For a demonstration of a 3-finger release hold the ball in the hand and roll it forward. As the ball rolls forward only the index, middle and ring fingers are touching the ball at the release. The 2-finger release uses a pinch grip with the ball released by the index and middle fingers with a 2-meter skip point. These two fingers are together and snap down on the center of the ball.  The index finger release uses a pinch grip with the index finger snapping down and making final contact with the ball at the release with a 1½-meter or 1-meter skip point.  A skip point is a spot in the water where the ball is “aimed.”  A 3-finger skip shot has a slower rising 30-degree angle that uses a 3-meter skip point.  An index finger skip shot with a 60-degree angle uses a 1-meter skip point (see Figs. 14, 15).


The skip shot requires power, angle, ball spin and a new release.  The Lean-Forward provides the power and vertical height, the fingertips placing more spin on the ball increases ball rotation so the ball does not “snag” (rotate so slowly it increases friction) the surface of the water but bounces off it.  The woman shooter changes from the standard 3-finger release to a pinch grip with an index finger release and a pinch grip 2-finger release to skip the ball.  The 3-finger release causes the ball to “dig” a deeper “hole” in the water (greater ball spin displaces more water) and is used by men. A 1-finger or 2-finger release is used by women and has less ball spin, there is less water displacement with the ball not digging as deep and the ball skips easier. The woman shooter pinches the ball and snaps the wrist down with the index finger making the final contact with the ball.  Since only one finger is used on the index finger release instead of three fingers, the woman must place more fingertip spin on the ball for adequate ball rotation.  For the 2-finger release, the woman’s index finger and middle fingers are placed on the middle of the ball as these two fingers make final contact with the ball.  In addition, she needs to use a 2-meter skip point for a 2-finger release and 1½ meter or 1-meter skip point to the goal for an index finger release (see Fig. 15). 

When the skipped ball takes a little hop and turns to the left it is the result of the right wrist turning inward which was caused by the woman shooter’s square body position and dropped elbow.  When the woman’s elbow begins to drop during the shot, the shooter’s hand turning inward puts sidespin on the ball and causes ball to hop to the left (see The Shot Doctor: Skip Shots 1-4).


  • Balance out with the right leg


The woman player does not drop the ball due to her right hand being “hard.”  There is no such thing as a “stone hand.”  There is, however, a player with a stone right leg.  A “stone leg” cannot adjust to the ball and is immobile (first two panels).  The experienced player’s right leg adjusts to the ball to create the soft right hand to catch the ball.  The player’s mobile right leg position creates a stable body so the right hand and arm can absorb the force of the ball and swing the ball back.  For example, hips rotate = right leg swings back = right arm swings back (third panel). A square player cannot absorb the force of the ball, cannot rotate the hips and swing the arm back, and therefore drops the ball (see Fig. 16). 


  • Angle the body with high elbow


Any shot taken by a female water polo player where the elbow drops is the result of having a square body.  A woman with an angled body with the elbow high and the hips rotating cannot drop her elbow.  This is a common mistake made by the inexperienced female water polo player.  The player does not what to move the right leg straight back and is content to remain in the square to the goal eggbeatering position with both of the legs in front of the hips.  The inexperienced female player “feels” that it requires less effort to be square than to have the left foot forward and the right leg straight back.  The result is the square body that leads to a dropped elbow.  “Feeling good” is not the same thing as good technique (see Fig. 17).


  • Never try to rationalize when shooting

The girl or woman shooter has to constantly deal with fear while shooting.  Many times she is too afraid to shoot the ball even though she is wide open in front of the goal.  One of the first things that happens with fear is she will begin to rationalize in her brain about the shot.  Instead of working off muscle memory, she begins to think about the shot.  The more that she thinks about the shot, the less likely she is going to shoot the ball.  To stop this situation from controlling the mind of the shooter she must immediately say to herself, “Cancel out.”  This is a signal to the mind to stop rationalizing.  She must stop thinking about the shot and SHOOT!  A great shooter is on automatic pilot and “thoughtless” when throwing the ball.  The motor part of the brain is involved in movement and throws the ball.  The thinking part of the brain does not.  To quote Descartes with a slight addition, “I think therefore I am…not going to shoot.”


The coach of a girl or women’s water polo team reads the above shooting corrections about improving the shot, uses the visual clues to find the player’s particular problem and fixes it.  It is easier to fix a problem with women shooters than with men except for their tendency to be in a square body position to the goal.  Women athletes listen well and are attentive to their coach’s instructions.  Women want to get better. Each one of the shooting corrections is simple and logical.  There is no magic or emotion involved.  She can transform herself into a great shooter with the correct knowledge.


The Angled Boyer Shot


The main difficulty women face in shooting on the outside shot or during the 6-on-5 is the lack of lateral movement on the ball.  The guard simply puts up her arm and the shooter throws the ball into the outstretched hand of the guard.  The inability of women to move laterally in the water while shooting has resulted in many blocked outside shots and 1-for-9 extra man scores.  The guard and her field blocking have the advantage over the shooter.  In the 1980’s Greg Boyer, a former US Olympic player, invented a shot where he “stepped-out” to the side so he could shoot around the guard’s arm and the goalie.  The Boyer shot is a square-to-the-goal shot that isolates body from the right arm, creating an “arm shot.”  The woman shooter, however, does not have a strong enough arm to take an “arm shot” and needs to use the whole body to throw the ball. Not until recently, when a modified Boyer shot called the Angled Boyer shot was invented, have women been able to take a Boyer step-out shot.  Using the Angled Boyer women can now score at will.

The body of the woman makes her ideally suited to move laterally in the water.  To move laterally, however, the player’s body must be square to the goal.  A square shooter cannot rotate the hips and she loses a huge amount of power to throw the ball.  Women have a weaker right arm than men have and need to use their whole body to throw the ball.  There are no “arm shots” for women water polo players.  The Angled Boyer shot allows women to use their hips and body to throw the ball when they are square-to-the-goal.  To digress, the outside shooter has the left foot forward and the right leg back with the body in an angled position.  This leg position allows her to rotate her hips and greatly increase the speed of the ball.  The square leg position eliminates the woman’s hip rotation and causes a weak shot. If, however, she can angle her right leg to rotate her hip while having a square torso she can shoot a Boyer shot.  The Angled Boyer shot is the solution to the problem.


The technique for taking an Angled Boyer shot is to step-out at with the right leg at 30 to 45-degree while keeping the torso square to the goal.  The left leg is square to the goal and the right leg is angled to the goal.  When the standard Boyer shot is taken, the right leg moves straight out to the side, the step-out, with the right foot pointing at the right side of the pool.  There is no right foot movement for hip rotation. Contrast the Angled Boyer with the standard Boyer and the shooter steps-out at an angle and then snaps in the right foot for hip rotation.  Because the woman’s lower body is angled, she can use the hips to rotate her body to transfer power up into the right arm.  Women cannot shoot standard Boyer shots, but they can shoot Angled Boyer shots with great effect.   The woman shooter may have a weaker arm but she has very strong legs and hips to throw the ball (see Fig. 1).



The Angled Boyer shot is taken from the left wing, above the left post or center cage.   The ball is going to be shot laterally to the right of the shooter’s body.  For example, the shooter is at an angle to the goal a few meters to the left of the left goal post.  The goalie jams the left goal post assuming a left corner shot by an overhand shooter.  The shooter steps-out to the right and shoots a cross-cage shot around the goalie to the right corner of the goal.  By the woman shooter stepping out into an Angled Boyer she is able to improve her angle to the goal and now has a clear line to the right corner of the goal.  It is also possible to lob from an Angled Boyer after stepping-out (see Fig. 2).


  • Step-out
  • Three-quarter arm position
  • Left hand pushes to side
  • Pinch grip with twist release


The standard Boyer shot is to position the shooter’s body so the feet, hips and shoulders are square or parallel the goal.  The ball held high in the air, the left hand pushes water to the side from the left hip, the right knee is high and the shooter steps-out sideways.  At the highest part of the step-out, the ball is released (see Fig. 3).

The Boyer shot requires a lateral cocking of the body.  The right arm is cocked towards the head, the left hip is pushed to the extreme right and the torso stretched and curved to the left.  The body is in a reverse “C” to cock the body and the arm.  The right arm extends out over the right leg and releases the ball at the high corner of the goal.  The right arm is positioned in a three-quarter position between an overhand arm position and a side arm position.  Do not drop the arm into a side arm.


  • Step-out at 45-degree angle
  • Snap-in right foot for hip rotation



The Angled Boyer has the woman body slightly angled to the goal with the right leg out at 30-45-degree angle.  The right leg is not straight back and the woman’s right leg is not straight out to the side.  The shooter’s right leg angle is in between these two extreme leg positions.  If the woman’s right leg is square-to-the-goal she cannot rotate her hips to generate power and her shot is weak.  When her right leg is straight back, she is in the overhand shot position and cannot move laterally.  Therefore, the leg angle is critical for her to be successful in throwing the Angled Boyer shot.    The Angled Boyer shooter’s left hand pulls water to the left, which helps the body move to the right for the leg step-out.  The ball is pinched in the fingers and the arm is held high at three-quarter arm position.  At the height of the step-out leg motion and the maximum elevation of the shooter the right foot is snapped inward and the ball is released.  The ball is thrown at the high right corner of the goal.  The goalie cannot get across the cage and make it to the high corner to block the shot. If the shooter misses releasing the ball at the maximum height of the step-out, she sinks and throws a weak shot.  Understanding the timing of the release is critical for a powerful shot (see Figs. 4, 5).


  • Cock Body to Left
  • Step-Out Shoot Right




The Angled Boyer uses a lateral body and arm cocking technique.  The overhand shot uses a rotational body and extended back right arm/leg cocking technique.  These are two vastly different techniques for cocking the body and the right arm. The shooter has to be educated in the difference between the North/South overhand shooter and the East/West Boyer shooter.  When the overhand shooter cocks her body she rotates the hips back and extends the right leg straight back.  The right arm follows the right leg and is extended into a long arm cock with the ball over the right foot.  The length of the leg cock is the length of the arm cock.  No leg cocked back = no arm cock. In the Boyer lateral cocking technique everything is changed.  The right arm is cocked over the shoulder and head and the right leg is to the side.  The torso is stretched to the right and the left hip is pushed to the right.  A reverse “C” shape is created.  The Angled Boyer cocks the body to the left and steps-out to the right for the shot (see Fig. 6, 7, 8). 


The deadly mistake that the novice Angled Boyer shooter makes is after she steps-out, she swings her right leg and arm backward.  This action destroys the Boyer shot, eliminates lateral movement, and makes the Boyer shot into an overhand shot.  If the shooter was trying shoot around the goalie to the right corner, now, the ball hits the goalie in the stomach at center cage.  An overhand shot has no lateral movement.  Only the Boyer shot creates lateral movement.  THE RIGHT LEG AND ARM DO NOT MOVE BACKWARDS!  The first 30 times, however, the beginning Boyer shooter will swing the right arm back out of habit.  The coach needs to have patience (see Fig. 9).


  • Soft Snap-in. Pushes ball right
  • Hard Snap-in. Pulls ball left



The right foot snapping inward, the snap-in, makes the power and curved trajectory of the Angled Boyer shot.  The right foot snap-in uses two types of foot snap-in: a soft snap-in gently pushes and curves the ball to the right and a hard snap-in sharply pulls the ball to the left.  The foot force generated by a soft snap-in or hard snap-in changes the direction of the ball by pushing or pulling the ball into a curve. When the shooter is above the left goal post at the US 2-spot or EU 4-spot and wants to curve the ball into the right corner of the goal she uses a soft right foot snap-in.  This means that the right foot snapped inward at about 75-percent of maximum foot rotational power.  The soft snap-in mildly curves the ball into the right corner of the goal.  The ball is “pushed” into the right corner. A hard right foot snap-in pulls or curves the ball to the left using 100-percent of the power of rotating the right foot (see Figs. 10, 11).

The first option of the shooter on the left side of the pool is to shoot around the goalie to the right corner.  The second option is to read the defense, the position of the goalie in the cage.  When the Angled Boyer shooter steps-out, does the goalie move to the right or stay in the left corner?  If the goalie moves, the shooter uses a hard snap-in and pulls the ball back to the left corner.  When the goalie does not move, the shooter uses a soft snap-in and mildly curves the ball to the right corner.  The Angled Boyer shooter changes the shot with her right foot and the direction of the ball.  The goalie can only see the shooter’s arm position but cannot see underwater how hard the right foot is being snapped inward.  A skillful and cunning Boyer shooter can “set up” the goalie by stepping-out to the right, getting the goalie to jump towards the right corner, then pull the ball back to the left corner.  For example, in the 2012 NCAA Women’s Championship game between Stanford and USC, a Stanford player was above the left post, stepped-out and then pulled the ball back sharply and skipped the ball into the left corner using a hard foot snap-in.  The ball looked like it was going to hit the goalie at center cage and then sharply curved back into the left corner of the goal.


  • Step-Out, Three-Quarter Arm Position
  • Drop into Side Arm with Twist Release



The three-quarter arm position of the Angled Boyer may not be conducive to curving the ball around the goalie and into the right corner of the goal.  The Boyer side arm shot is.  The Boyer shooter adjusts the three-quarter arm and lowers it into a side arm position during the throwing motion for right corner curve and skim shots.  The ball is pinched in the fingers so the ball cannot fall out of the hand.  The arm position is three-quarter, as the shooter steps-out she lowers the arm to a side arm position and releases the ball.  The release to the low right corner of the goal is a “twist snap” release.  That is the fingers remain vertical pinching the ball and the wrist turns inward.  This results in the ball having a sidespin on it, which helps it to curve into the lower corner.  The high corner side arm shot is a more difficult shot (see Figs. 12, 13).



The Angled Boyer side arm skip shot is a recent shot for women.  Before the Angled Boyer shot, women used the overhand shot to skip the ball.  The Angled Boyer with a side arm and a sidespin ball makes it easier to skip the ball.  The sidespin on the ball pulls the ball up out of the water.  However, the sidespin skip shot is a difficult shot to control.  The skip point for skipping the ball in the water is 12-inches (60-cm) in front of the crossbar or the goal line of the cage.  The Angled Boyer skip shot uses a hard snap-in and a twist snap and it takes all of the power of the shooter to skip the ball.  If the shot is taken at medium power, the ball hits the water and dies.  This is a great shot but it takes time to master it (see Fig. 14).


  • Goalie takes right corner
  • Guard’s arm takes away left corner
  • Right foot forward side arm shot to left


The Angled Boyer shooter is above the right goal post to the right from the point position.  From this spot in the pool the shot at the right corner is difficult and the goalie is jamming the right corner expecting the shot.  The left corner is wide open.  The Boyer shooter angles her entire body so the right leg is angled forward and shoots a side arm cross-cage shot at the left corner of the goal.  When the right leg is forward, the Angled Boyer shooter can rotate the hips and shoot to the left.  Right foot forward leg position creates the Boyer shot to the left (see Fig. 15).

When the overhand shooter’s left leg is forward, the shooter cannot shoot across the body.  The extended left leg forward locks up the hip and no body rotation is possible.  Shooters are under the illusion that they can shoot in any direction they want with a right arm that is made of rubber.  The left foot has to point at the left corner of the goal for the right arm to be able to shoot across the body.  In the case of the Angled Boyer shot, the right leg has to be forward to allow the hips to move freely.  For a demonstration, have the left foot forward and try and move the right hand passed the left foot.  It cannot be done.  Next, move the right foot forward to point at the left corner, the hips then rotate to the extreme left and the right arm shoots at the left corner.


  • Boyer Wall Drill
  • Cocked to left
  • Push off with forearm
  • Step-out and pass


Push off the wall drill is the most important of all of the Boyer drills.  The player is positioned next to the wall with the left forearm against it.  This is going to be a forearm push off and not a hand push off.  The head tilts to the left, the torso is stretched in a reverse “C”, the left hips is pushed to the extreme right and the left leg is extended to the extreme left.  The right arm is high in the air and leaning towards the head.  The player pushes of the wall with the left forearm and at the same time steps-out with a high right knee and a stimulated three-quarter arm position throw. DO NOT ALLOW THE ARM TO SWING BACKWARD!  The player must have a high right knee or the water will push the leg down and cross the player’s legs.  The shooter’s crossed legs results in the player’s elbow dropping into the water and the shooter sinking.  In the next drill, the player adds a ball and a partner and practices stepping out from a wall push off and throwing a Boyer pass to her teammate (see Fig. 16). 

In The Water Drill

Move the player away from the wall and have them throw Boyer passes to each other.  The main problem will be the player does not understand lateral cocking and has a “soft” uncocked body that generates no force.  The body has to be in a hard reverse “C” to cock the body.  The right arm has to be high out of the water and leaning towards the head to be properly cocked.  Finish the drill by adding a guard with a raised arm that forces the Boyer shooter to move laterally and shoot around the guard’s arm (see Figs. 7, 16).

Curve Ball Drill

  • Push off wall or lane line and step-out
  • Boyer ¾ arm position drops to side arm
  • Ball pinched with twist snap release


The Curve Ball drill teaches the girl or woman to curve the ball.  The shooter holds on to the lane line in a pool with a floating goal or holds onto the wall with a stationary goal about 3-meters to the left of the goal.  She steps-out at a 45-degree angle and uses a three-quarter arm position or high side arm position to shoot from behind the goal, cross-cage, to the right corner.  If she curves the ball too strongly the ball pulls into the left side of the goal; a little too much curve and the ball hits center cage; just right amount of curve and the ball hits the far right corner of the goal; and no curve and ball completely misses the right corner of the goal.  The curve shot requires the correct mixture of arm position, release and right foot snap-in to master this shot (see Fig. 17). 

Shooting at the Goal Drill

The shooter is above the left goal post on the 5-meter line with the goalie in the left corner.  The shooter throws an Angled Boyer shot at the right corner of the goal.  Add a guard with a raised left arm and shoot around the guard’s arm and the goalie with the arm in three-quarter arm position or side arm.  For the next drill, a 5-meter foul shot Boyer, the shooter’s back is to the goal with the ball on the water, foul the shooter with the guard’s left hand up in the air and have the player step-out and shoot around the guard’s arm. For the advanced Angled Boyer shot, the shooter is positioned above the left post and reads the goalie’s position.  She steps-out, snaps the right foot in hard to pull and curve the ball to the left corner or uses a soft snap-in for a curved right corner shot.

In concluding, the woman shooter can now move laterally and shoot around the guard’s outstretched arm and around the body of the goalie.  No longer is she frozen in the water with cement fins.  She can move sideways in the water.  She is no longer forced to throw the ball into the guard’s outstretched hand with an overhand shot.  The Angled Boyer shooter can curve the ball by soft and hard right foot snap-ins to push or pull the ball.  She can step-out laterally now and skim or skip the ball. She can now shoot Boyers with the boys.  The Angled Boyer presents to the woman shooter a paradigm shift in her ability to move laterally, shoot around the guard and score on the goalie.


The woman driver has the advantage.


The driving game is dead.  No one scores anymore when they take a drive-in shot.  Both men and women cannot score.  The question is why?  The shooter is on the 2-meter line, facing the goal with the guard on her side or behind her.  These are ideal situations for the woman driver to be able to score.  However, she does not score because she does not have the correct shooting technique or separation technique (also called pushing off).  Ages ago, drivers used to score by creating separation and taking fantastic shots.  The driving and throwing techniques of that bygone age have been lost.  At one time, in the Atlanta Olympics, a driver, Manuel Estriarte led his Spanish team to the gold medal—by driving.  Since Manuel Estriarte retired, the knowledge of shooting and scoring from a drive has been forgotten.  In this article, we explain the techniques necessary to create great women drivers.

Women are better drivers than men are.  Women float, have a short torso and long legs.  This is the ideal body type for a driver.  Women love to drive because of these advantages.  However, women do not get open or score  because of poor training.  It is a myth that they do not score because they have a “weak arm.”  Women are strong shooters not weak shooters.  The driver has to be able to move laterally on the drive for positioning and shooting. The woman driver of today is unable to do this.  She cannot dribble, bear-in, hold position, duck under or do a Wigo bump.  She cannot get separation using the legs, hands or forearm to push off, or turn to the right or the left.  Moreover, she cannot take lateral shots such as a push off Boyer to the right and a rollout shot to the left.  All she has been trained to do is swim straight ahead and put the ball in the lower right corner of the touch pad, also called a goal.  She drives as if she is in a swim meet. And she is unable to move laterally in the water or push off her guard to gain a tactical advantage.  The driver in water polo has become a “lost” swimmer with a ball looking for a lane line.

The woman driver has to be able to control the ball, her “driving line,” move the guard (bear-in), duck under the guard, push off and hold position.  If she cannot control the guard at 8-meters then she cannot control the guard at 2-meters when she wants to shoot.  Unlike the outside shooter, where 100-percent of the technique is in the outside shot mechanics, the driver has to learn how to drive to become free in addition to being able to shoot.  This makes training a driver a much more difficult job than training an outside shooter.  This is the main reason why there are so few drivers in the world and a great abundance of outside shooters.

12-Meters to 5-Meters 5-Meters to 2-Meters
Dribble the Ball   Hold Position
Bear-In  Duck Under
Duck Under  Foot for Separation   
Wigo bump Hook with Legs
Hold Position Push Off
Spin  Shooting
Counterattack Exclusion Drive Exclusion


The drive is a part of the tactical game of water polo. The pool divides into two sections, a middle pool part that extends from 12-meters to 5-meters and a second part from 5-meters to 2-meters.  In each section of the pool, the driver performs specific techniques so she can arrive at the 2-meter line ready to shoot.  In the first part, she is driving without the ball; in the second part, she is driving with the ball.  Between the 12-meter line and the 5-meter line, the driver improves her position in the pool and controls her line as she drives to the goal.  Between the 5-meter line to the 2-meter line, she shoots the ball.  For example, she has the ball at 5-meters and must in 3-4 strokes select the shot, set up, push off and shoot.  Failure to get open, hold position and keep the advantage over the guard in the middle of the pool dooms her from ever reaching the 5-meter line to become an offensive threat.  Failure outside 5-meters leads to failure inside 5-meters.  A bad driver at 8-meters does not become a great driver at 2-meters.  The driver’s must have control in each of the two major sections of the pool from 12-meters to 5-meters and inside 5-meters to 2-meters to score (see Fig. 1).


Dribble Hold Position Wigo bump Counterattack Exclusion
Bear-In  Duck Under  Spin Moves

Dribble the Ball


The very first technique that is taught to the driver is how to dribble the ball.  Dribbling the ball may occur anywhere, from 12-meters to 5-meters or inside the 5-meter line.  Dribbling is a skill. While dribbling the ball may seem a simple technique to the coach, it is not to the players.  Over half of the players on the team cannot dribble correctly.  The ball slushes from the right to the left with every stroke.  Outside of 5-meters she may lose control of the ball, have it drift away, which slows her progress and may allow the guard to steal the ball.  In another situation, when the driver gets to the 2-meter line to shoot, she has to look for the ball.  In many cases, she has to stop, turn to the left to recover the ball before she can begin shooting.  By this time, the guard or the goalie has stolen the ball.  The correct technique for dribbling with the ball is a high elbow arm stroke.  The elbows are high in the air and cannot splash water on the ball.  The ball should remain in the center, between the stroking arms, and not move.  When the elbows are low, they make waves that push the ball from side to side.  The most common misplacement for ball is for it next to the left arm.  The stronger right low elbow arm stroke creates waves that force the ball over to the left arm.  A commonly taught technique is not to correct the low-elbow arm stroke driver and raise her elbows but instead to compensate and use two hands to get the ball back into the right hand of the driver to pass or shoot.  Not only is this two-hand technique slow, it makes the driver “flat in the water” (she cannot roll on the side and point the left foot to shoot) and telegraphs the shot to the goalie if the driver is inside 5-meters. The two-hand ball transfer technique must never be used.  In its place, the driver uses the proper dribbling arm stroke to meet the ball (see Fig. 2).


The driver holds her line while driving and moves the guard at an angle away from the goal.  The driver drives shoulder-to-shoulder rubbing shoulders down the pool.  She continues to disrupt the guard’s line and move her over towards the side of the pool.  When the driver has started in the center of the pool she can has reduced her area of shooting in half.  By moving the guard, by bearing-in to the outside of the goal post, she has the entire area in front of the goal to work with.  There is more to driving then swimming.  There is a strategy to driving.  Driving is a tactical game; shooting is a technical game.

Hold Position


The driver needs to master the technique for holding position in the water and keeping her guard behind her.  Holding position requires the driver to move the legs to the vertical, to eggbeater and scull fiercely with the elbows and back high out of the water.  Holding position occurs between the 12-meters to the 2-meter line.  Holding position is not only stopping in the water, it is a technique to set up the guard to be pushed off.  By the driver holding position, she is able to get the guard on her back and to have the guard drop her legs to the vertical.  When the guard’s hips are horizontal, it is difficult to push off.  When the guard’s hips are vertical, there are a number of push off techniques that can be used.  The strategy for holding position at 6-meters is for the driver to quickly stop, scull high in the water, get the guard on the back, fake a kick out, if the referee does not call one, then resume driving downcourt.  Holding position momentarily during the counterattack shows dominance by the driver over the guard.  The guard is not someone to fear.  The guard is a tool that is used by the driver to score upon.  By dominating the guard in the middle of the pool, the driver wins the psychological game.  The driver punishes the guard physically and psychologically.  The driver either dominates or is dominated by the guard (see Fig. 3).

Ducking Under



The driver dives under the guard and gets inside water.  The driver that was swimming side-by-side now has the guard on her back.  This is an ideal position for the driver and not one to be feared.  From this position, the driver can receive an exclusion on the guard, stop the guard’s progress and push off the guard.  Ducking under the guard is a “must have” technique for the driver.  The driver uses several techniques to duck under the guard.

The driver has to position herself shoulder-to-shoulder so she is close enough to the guard to duck under the guard.  When the driver’s shoulder is 12-inches (30-cm) away from the guard’s shoulder it is impossible for her to duck completely under the guard.  It looks like to the coach that the driver tried to duck under the guard’s shoulder and not her body.  Without rubbing shoulders and bearing-in, the driver cannot get under the guard.

The first ducking under technique one is to take two strokes with the outside arm and dive under the guard.  The dive is very shallow and the driver immediately can feel the guard’s chest, stomach and legs.  When the driver cannot “feel” the guard she has dove too deeply and is helpless.  The guard continues swimming uninterrupted while the driver plays submarine (see Figs. 4, 5).

Wigo bump


The Wigo bump is a further advancement on the ducking under technique.  The Wigo bump knocks down the legs and arms of the guard and leaves her momentarily unable to move.  Ducking under only blocks the guard. With the guard in this position the Wigo driver is free to fake the kick out, push off and/or swim to freedom.  The technique is duck under the guard, spread the arms wide and scull intensely.  The legs are spread apart and eggbeater.  From this position, the driver shoves the buttocks up into the guard’s stomach, which leaves her unable to move for a second.  The driver can fake the kick out, push off or just swim away.  The Wigo bump is only done when the driver is shoulder-to-shoulder and hip-to-hip with the guard.  If the driver is slightly ahead of the guard when she does the bump, she will bump the guard’s face with her buttocks (see Fig. 6).

Spin Moves


After the counterattack is over the perimeter “umbrella” is set up with the players in a semi-circle from 8-meters at the point to the wings at 2-meters to 4-meters, with the set player in front of the goal on the 2-meter line.  The perimeter passer throws the ball into the center to shoot the ball.  However, if the center is being sloughed on, then the perimeter player with the ball “makes offense” and spins the guard for inside water.  The standard spin move is to swing the ball 180-degrees around the guard for inside water with the guard on the driver’s back.  The technique for spinning around the guard is to place the hand in the center of the small of the guard’s low back or on the right hip.  The elbow is locked, the ball is held on the side or palmed and the right arm is swung close to the water at high speed.  Immediately, let go of the ball, lift the buttocks up in the air to block the path of the guard (hold position) and swim away.

When the perimeter guard overplays the driver’s left shoulder anticipating a spin to the left, the driver spins to the right for a reverse spin.  The reverse spin does not use a grab point to hold onto the guard’s swimsuit.  The left hand pushes water to help the driver turn to the right.  There are two versions of the reverse spin: over-the-top or on-the-water.  In the over-the-top reverse spin, the driver places her hand on top of the ball and swings it in the air and straight back.  This spin is the simpler of the two spins.  The ball-on-the-water reverse spin, the driver spins with the ball close to the surface of the water (see Fig. 7).

Counterattack Exclusion


During the counterattack, the driver may want to fake the kick out to get an exclusion called on the guard.  The driver ducks under the guard and sinks and the guard swims over the top of her body.  The driver speeds up her arm stroke when she ducks under and brings the left hand next to her hip, takes another stroke with the right hand and pulls it down next to the right hip and then pushes upward with both hands.  The hands do not break the surface of the water.  She sinks down to the bottom of the pool. If the referee does not call the exclusion, the driver continues on her way down the pool.  Half of the time, the referee does not call the kick out on the guard.  If there is no exclusion called, the counterattacking driver has slowed or stopped the guard and shown dominance.  Another form of dominance is the stop-and-go drive.  The driver ducks under the guard, stops, and then takes off.  She may actually do this several times during the counterattack to upset the guard’s psyche.  The last offensive interference by the driver is to bear-in to the guard, drive her into the wall and then turn and drive away with open water.  The goal of the counterattacking driver is not to swim down the pool leisurely as if she is in a swim practice but to torment the guard on every arm stroke. The guard is going to punish the driver once she has the ball, so why not punish the guard all of the way down the pool?  Punish or be punished is the rule for the driver (see Fig. 8).

In concluding, the downcourt in water polo divides into two parts: from 12-meters in to the 5-meter line and from inside 5-meters to the 2-meter line.  The goal of the driver in the middle part of the pool is to improve her position with the guard.  She does this by dribbling the ball, bearing into the guard,  holding her position, by ducking under, spinning and faking the kick out during the counterattack.  The driver masters the 7-meter distance from the 12-meter to 5-meter line to maintain her line to the goal.  Learning how to drive is much harder than learning how to be become an outside shooter.  The driver requires twice as much training to learn her position. The education of the driver is a stroke-by-stroke experience.

In the women’s game, driving is very important for the success of the frontcourt offense.  The author believes that the driving game for women is more important than the 6-on-5 game.  Getting a natural goal is much easier for a woman than an extra man goal.  The men’s game is designed to get exclusions at 2-meters and then set up a 6-on-5 for a probable goal.  When the women’s team gets an exclusion and a 6-on-5, it is a punishment.  It is not a reward, as it is nearly impossible to score. When one looks at the odds, one sees a women’s 6-on-5 scoring 20-percent of the time and a drive-in shot scoring 50-percent of the time.  Men can score 50-percent of the time on a 6-on-5 with their stronger arms, but women cannot.  Women are different. The women’s game is the driving game—not the 6-on-5 game.  Women are built to drive and score.


The woman driver has the advantage. 


Women have a difficult time making outside shots and scoring 6-on-5s during a game.  At 2-meters, the center guard grabs the swimsuit and the center shot is eliminated.  And the drive-in screw shot is blocked by the goalie without too much problem.  This leads many to the conclusion that women water polo players cannot score in water polo.  This is not correct!  The return of the driving game with high-tech shots and push offs is here to save women’s water polo.  The woman driver can score from 2-meters if she knows the correct drive-in shooting and separation techniques.  The old style drive-in push shot or screw shot has failed women.  She drove straight ahead and threw a screw shot at the right lower corner.  This shot, of course, is blocked by the goalie.  There are no great Manuel Estriarte type drivers found among women.  There is no creativity when women shoot the ball off the water.  And for that matter, there is no creativity among the men either.  In today’s game, no one can shoot drive-in shots!  Many coaches believe that driving game is a dead.  It is just better to pass the ball into 2-meters to the center (dunked with the ball stolen) than to go for a drive-in shot.  The coaches, however, are dead wrong.  The driving game is alive and well for women who learn to be creative.


Manuel Estriarte was the greatest driver of the 20th century, a 6-time Olympian, who led Spain to an Olympic gold medal in Atlanta, USA—by driving.  At 5 foot 9 inches and 145 pounds (1.7-meters, 65-kilos) he scored by pushing off the guard.  The question is why are there no Estriarte drivers among women?  Women have clung to a shooting technique that does not score goals.  The logical question is why not change to a shooting technique that does score goals.  Women are better drivers than men are.  Women love to drive.  And women throw the ball hard. So why can’t women score.  The shooting style of women has to change to reflect the modern age by moving laterally to the right or left and by pushing off the guard.

Male coaches assume that women cannot shoot drive-in shots.  Therefore, they spend a lot of time on the counterattack to create a one-on-nobody shot.  However, it is quite possible to create a one-on-nobody shot on the drive and take an unhindered drive-in shot at 2-meters by moving laterally to become open for an overhand shot.  A goal is a goal, no matter whether it is thrown in the vertical or in the horizontal position. The way for women to score more drive-in goals is to push off, rollout or step-out.  Women do not use any of these three concepts in today’s game.  Moreover, these techniques are no longer used in men’s water polo.

The driving game is dead.  Or is it?  The author believes that women can resurrect the driving game and make it a valuable part of the shooting game.  Why throw the ball into the center at 2-meters if the ball is only going to be stolen?  Why shoot a 6-on-5 when teams are scoring 1 for 9?  Why not bear-in to the guard, push off, and rollout to the left or step-out to the right for a Boyer shot and throw the ball into the goal for a natural score.  For women to be able to score, they must develop lateral movement on the drive and use separation techniques.  In addition, to the push off/separation techniques she has to learn new shots such as rollouts, slam-dunk shots, backhand shots and Boyer step-out shots.  This means that there must be a complete re-education of the woman driver in shooting technique.

For ages we have relied on the push shot, screw shot and T-shot to score.  As the goalies got bigger and better, these three off the water shots no longer scored.  The shots that Estriarte developed were all overhand shots where the entire right arm is out of the water and high in the air. The driver, however, cannot lift the ball in the air if the guard is closely guarding her.  The push off created the separation from the guard and allows the overhand shot to be taken.


Women have a great advantage over men in water polo.  Women float, have a short torso and long legs, which makes them the ideal body type for driving.  Men, on the other hand, do not float, have a long heavy torso and short legs and are top heavy.  The woman driver has a great offensive advantage over the woman defender.  Most of the weight of the woman guard is in her hips and legs—she is bottom heavy.   Furthermore, when the woman driver pushes off the guard and knocks down her legs, the guard is very slow to recover and is dead in the water.  The push off works in the women’s game because the woman guard does not have the upper body arm strength to quickly recover and pull herself up.  The push off is not nearly as effective on the male guards because of their superior upper body strength.  If the driver can suddenly change directions on the guard and push off, she is wide open and has a clear overhand shot at the goal without being attacked by the guard.   Women coaches have not considered the unique anatomical advantages that the woman driver has over her driving guard.  It is now time to take advantage of these deficiencies in the woman guard and begin using Manuel Estriarte type push off moves and lateral movement shots.

When the woman driver is on the 2-meter line with a guard on her back and the goalie looming big in the goal, the driver believes that she is doomed.  Actually, she is in a great position to score!  She is in a great position to score only if she is mobile and pushes off.  The static driver, on the other hand, is in a hopeless situation.  The author has developed three major shots to use when driving to score in these “hopeless situations.”  When the guard is side-by-side on the driver’s left side—step-out into a Boyer shot; guard is behind—rollout to the left and shoot; the guard is tight behind the driver—push off, go airborne for a straight-ahead slam-dunk shot.


Three Shooting Techniques for the Drive

Position  Direction Shot  Push Off
Guard on Side Lateral Right Boyer Shot  Left forearm push off
Guard on back Lateral Left Rollout Shot, Backhand Left Hand or foot to turn
Guard on back Straight-Ahead Slam-Dunk Shot Bent transverse right leg


The three basic push off shots are tailored to the guard’s two defensive positions.  When the guard is side-by-side on the driver’s left shoulder—the driver turns to the right, pushes off with the left forearm off the guard’s ribs, step-outs, and shoots a Boyer.  If the guard is on the driver’s back—the driver turns to the left for a rollout shot by using the left hand on the guard’s swimsuit or the left foot on the guard’s hip.  When the guard is tight on the driver’s back—she drives straight-ahead, pushes off with the right leg folded across the guard’s stomach and both hips, and shoots a slam-dunk shot.  The driver reads the guard’s position, and selects the appropriate push off and shot for the situation (see Fig. 1).


  • Boyer Shot to Right
  • Rollout Shot to Left
  • Slam-Dunk Shot Straight-Ahead


BOYER SHOT (Lateral Right)

  • Forearm pushes off guard’s ribs
  • Step-out
  • Lift ball high and shoot


The average driver drives to the right corner in a straight line, the guard tightly covers her left shoulder, and the goalie is waiting in the right corner to block the screw shot.  The modern driver is different.  She stops, drops the legs to the vertical, pushes off with the forearm off the guard’s ribs and hip, steps-out and shoots a Boyer overhand shot at the high right corner.  The push off increases her shooting power by 25-percent.  An advanced shot is to slide the right leg forward and shoot cross-cage at the left corner.  The right-foot forward position allows the shooter to rotate her body to the left for the left corner shot.  The forearm push off is easy to learn.  However, the Boyer step-out leg and arm shot motion requires some study (see Figs. 3, 4, 5).


Boyer Drills


The Boyer shot drill is taught by pushing off from the wall with the forearm.  The ball is over the head and stepping-out with the right leg with the knee high. At the apex of the vertical movement, the ball is passed to a partner.  If the player misses the apex of the release, she sinks low in the water without any power on the pass.  She must also step-out with a high knee so the hips are level.  If she steps-out with a low knee, the water will force the knee down and cross the legs.  The result of a cross-legged shot is the elbow hits the water, the shot is weak, there is no lateral movement and the goalie is hit center cage with the ball (see Women’s Shooting Part 6).  In the second drill for the Boyer push off shot, the driver is on the 2-meter line with the guard side-by side and the driver pushes off with the guard with the forearm, steps-out and shoots (see Fig. 6).

ROLLOUT SHOT (Lateral Left)

  • Grab ball and grab guard’s left hip with hand
  • Lift ball up, extend left arm and roll hip up
  • Shoot overhand shot on side


The driver has the guard on her back and faces the right corner of the goal.  A drive-in shot to the right corner is a sure block by the goalie.  The left side of the goal is wide open.  The driver grabs the ball in her right hand, uses the left hand on the guard’s hip or the left foot to “hook” the hip to turn to the left.  She turns to the left, extends out the left arm underwater to roll the right hip up and lifts the ball high in the air.  She swims laterally across the face of the goal on her side and shoots a rollout shot (an overhand shot on the side).  She moves laterally by using a right lower leg “whip” sidestroke kick or a dolphin kick.  For the overhand shot release, she changes to a scissor kick.  If the driver cannot get her legs to grip the water and be in a power position, she can “arm the ball” (throw the ball with the arm without using the power of the body) and lob it into the left corner of the goal.  The driver is adding “center shots” with vertical leg positioning and lateral movement to the horizontal straight-ahead driver’s shooting repertoire (see Figs. 7, 8, 9).

Rollout Drills

The driver without a partner, faces the goal, picks the ball up on top and turns to the left by extending the left arm underwater to roll the right hip up.  Next, add a partner in the static and repeat.  Move to the goal, drive and stop on the 3-meter line, hook with the left foot on the hip or grab the hip with the left hand and rollout to the left.  After the turn, a weaker player can put the ball in the water and then push off the ball and rollout.  A strong player rolls-out with the ball high in the air.

BACKHAND SHOT (Lateral Left)

  • Turn left with the ball, but rollout is stopped
  • Put ball in the water to help rotate the body
  • Turn the back to goal and point right heel at left corner
  • Cock the arm and shoot a backhand


All women, not just centers, can throw the backhand shot.  This is also a great drive-in shot for the driver.  Once the right corner driver has moved laterally to the left, she is wide open to take a backhand shot.  The goalie cannot move quickly to get across the cage to cover the left corner of the goal before the backhand shot.  The drive-in backhand shot for women is a legitimate shot. In a traditional shot, the driver drives with the guard on her left side to the right corner and the goalie blocks the right corner screw shot.  However, the observant driver now realizes that the right corner is covered but the left corner of the goal is open.


The question is how to get there?  The driver turns 90-degrees to the left with the ball high in her right hand either palmed or pinched and is trying to do a rollout shot. The guard stops the shooter’s rollout motion. Instead, she puts the ball in the water, moves the legs to the vertical, and turns the back to the goal, which allows her to step-out with the right leg towards the left corner. She steps-out to the left, points the right heel at the left corner of the goal and holds off the guard with her left shoulder.  The shooter is now in a perfect back-to-the-goal backhand shot position.  At the same time as she turns her back, she steps-out forward with her hand on of the ball. With the ball as a pivot point in the water, she cocks her arm and shoots a backhand skim shot into the left lower corner of the goal.  Do not try to throw a high-in-the-air backhand, it does not work (see Figs. 10, 11). 


The driver is vertical in the water and is not lying on her side or lifting the right arm high in the air.  A skim shot needs to have the shooter’s hand close to the water or the ball stops.  A high-in-the-air backhand throws the ball at a sharp angle at the water and causes the ball to dig in and stop.  When the driver cannot shoot a backhand, it is because she did not move her legs to the vertical, and is stuck horizontally in the water.  Another shot, the push shot lob, was invented to counter this leg position error.  After making the turn, the horizontal-legged driver throws a push shot lob into the left corner of the goal for a score.  The goalie has little lateral movement in the cage and is out of position to block the backhand or the lob shot (see Figs 12, 13).


Backhand Drills

The drill to teach this is to have a passing partner 5-meters away, face the partner, turn the back, move the right leg to the left and backhand skim the ball to the partner.  Add a guard and repeat the drill.


  • Guard tight on back, hold position, scull
  • Fold right leg across both hips and push off
  • Grab ball on top, leap up and shoot


The Russian women developed a separation and shooting technique called the Russian slam-dunk shot for scoring when the guard tightly covering the driver’s back with the driver stopped at the 3-meter line. This awe-inspiring shot has the driver leap high in the air and slam the ball down into the goal!   In this situation, the driver has dropped her legs, is dead in the water, and is waiting for the goalie to come out of the goal and steal the ball.  This common game scenario does not have to happen as the Russian driver makes an explosive leap into the air and slams the ball into the goal.  The secret to leaping high in the air while tightly guarded is the folded leg push off by the driver—the Russian push off for short.  The driver drops her legs, holds position by fierce sculling and allows the guard to get tight on her back.  Then she folds the right leg across the guard’s hips and stomach and pushes off at the same time as she grabs the ball and leaps up (see Figs. 14, 15). 

The slam-dunk push off occurs as the driver is in the act of shooting and does not give the appearance of a huge push off (which it is).  She pushes off and leaps into the air with the ball high above her head with the torso square.  Then she uses her abdominal muscles to “crunch the abs” for the shot.   She begins the shot motion by snapping the torso forward, followed by the right arm moving.  The extra power generated by the abdominal muscles allows her to shorten her arm cock so the right arm does not swing back and into the guard’s outstretched hand.

Slam-Dunk Drills

The drills for teaching the slam-dunk shot are the wall push off slam-dunk, Serbian straight-arm shot, slam-dunk swims, slam-dunk 180, the slam-dunk drive-in shot and the Russian push off slam-dunk.

Wall push off drill

The driver holds on to the ball on top, pushes off the wall with the right foot and leaps into the air.

Serbian straight-arm shot drill

The ball is above the driver’s head, elbow locked and use the abs to snap the torso down to throw the ball.

The right arm only moves after the torso is snapping forward.  It is not a right arm-only throw.

Slam-dunk swim drill

The driver takes 4 strokes, picks up the ball on top, leaps high in the air and slams the ball down on the water.

Slam-dunk 180 drill

The woman pushes down on the ball, leaps up with the ball high over the head, spins 180-degrees, crunches the abs and slams the ball on the water.   Note: girls 12 years and under can spin 360-degrees due to their narrower hips.  Older women with their wider hips have more drag in the water and cannot rotate as much.  For less experienced players they can push off the wall and spin in the air to get the feeling of the 180-degree spin.

Slam-dunk drive-in shot drill

The driver picks up the ball underneath, leaps high in the air, locks the elbow, hand is flat under the ball, slides the fingers on top of the ball and then slams the ball into the goal.

Russian push off slam-dunk drill

The guard’s legs down in the water with her chest tight on the driver’s back who is holding position in the water by fiercely sculling.  The driver bends the right leg so it is across the guard’s stomach and hips and pushes off.  Add a ball and cage and shoot the Russian push off slam-dunk shot.

In concluding, the modern driver uses the new separation techniques and lateral movement shots to score on the goalie.  The drive-in shot is not an automatic blocked shot any more.  The old school “Big Three” drive in shots: the>push shot, the screw shot and the T-shot, are no longer the primary shots for the driver.   In the women’s driving game, the driver has the advantage over the guard.  The woman guard cannot adjust to lateral movement and recovers slowly from a push off.  Now, nothing can stop the determined woman driver from shooting and scoring!  When the woman driver is preparing to shoot on goal, she knows that the goalkeeper is limited in her ability to move sideways to stop any lateral movement shots.  No matter what the defender and goalie do, the triple option driver has the ability to shoot and score in any situation.  To the driver’s left is the rollout shot/backhand.  Straight-ahead is the slam-dunk shot.  And to the driver’s right is the push off Boyer shot.  The driver doing a planned drive eliminates indecision as the driver selects the appropriate shot for the situation.  It is now a new age for the woman driver and with new moves and new shots.  It is an age when the driving game replaces the center game and the 6-on-5 game as the main scoring tool in the women’s water polo.

For additional information on driving please read Dr. Solum’s new book the “Science of Shooting: The Driver” that is available from lulupress.com.  Click on the water polo ball to the right at the top of the Water Polo Planet article to find the book.


The woman driver has the advantage. 


The modern driver senses the guard’s position in the water, selects what move she is going to put on the guard, pushes off and scores using one of the triple option shots.  Contrary to popular thought, the guard is not a threat to the driver.  The guard is a tool for the driver to use.  The guard’s body is a platform that provides the driver the ability to push off, which allows her to become open and score.  She scores with help from the guard.  The guard, in fact, is part of her shot!  Pushing off-to-a-shot is a new concept for women.  It is a valuable addition to their shooting skills.  After a successful push off that knocks down the guard’s legs, the driver is able to move with little defensive pressure.  She moves laterally to the left or right and shoots around the goalie for the score.  The ability of the driver to have a position sense of where she is in the water allows her to accurately push off the guard’s “spot.”  Not only does the driver have to push off with the correct part of the arm or leg but she must locate where the push off “spot” is on the driver. The push off spot can be the ribs, hip or thigh.  In addition, she must push off using only the smallest amount of force.  The modern driver needs to develop position sense, foot accuracy and smart legs and smart feet.

For the driver to push off inaccurately with the foot on the guard’s chest instead of on the hips and with excessive force, creates an offensive foul.  It is a miscalculation in aiming by the driver of about 12-inches or more (30-cm); and it is a too forceful a push off using two to three times the amount of leg force necessary to get open.  Pushing off involves the driver developing a position sense of where she is in the water and where the guard’s body is located and how much “touch” (leg power) is necessary to push off.  Without the driver developing the correct “spot technique” with eyes on her feet and legs, she cannot push off and become free.  A “blind” driver (without eyes on the back of her legs and feet), unaware of the guard’s position in the water and with “dumb legs” (leg and foot kick the guard anywhere and with too much force) cannot push off the guard and get open.



From the triple option comes a variety of shots for different driving situations in the pool.  The driver should be aware of how the angle and the guard’s position on the driver effects the shot.  The prepared driver is aware of all of the possibilities.  The ability to set up the guard, push off and shoot requires the driver to be knowledgeable about the game.  There are no “dumb drivers” in water polo that can only score off the strength of their right arm.  No driver ever overpowers a goalie.  The driver, instead, outsmarts the goalie and scores the easy goal by setting up the guard, pushing off the guard and moving laterally.  The disadvantage of the guard and the goalie is that both of them cannot move laterally quickly enough to block the lateral movement shot (see Fig. 1).

The driver has to have an aggressive attitude.  The guard and the goalie are not people to fear but players to outsmart and use!  The driver is one of the smartest players in the pool.  Manuel Estriarte, Spain’s great driver, was a 5’9” and 145 pounds (1.7-meters, 65-kilos) and guarded by larger men over 6-feet and 200-pounds (1.8-meters, 94-kilos).  He was not going to overpower anyone when driving or shooting.  Quick moves to get open and quick wrist shots from a raised arm were his weapons.  Quickness should also be the weapon that the woman driver uses to score.  Quickness is not emphasized with woman drivers.  The woman driver is not like the male driver.  She cannot muscle her way to the goal with the guard hanging on her and slam the ball into the goal.  To move slowly without having great strength, dooms her shot.  It is the wrong shooting model.  To be quick and smart is the ideal driving model for the woman driver.


  • Body awareness
  • Spot location
  • Strength of push off
  • Smart feet and smart legs


The challenge that confronts the woman driver is where to find duck under spot on the guard, butt bump spot and/or the foot push off spot on the guard.  The driver needs to develop a position sense of where she is in the water in relation to the guard using her arm, back, butt and legs.  Position sense or body awareness is required so she can have precise “aim” at the correct part of the guard’s body.  She aims for the guard’s ribs for a forearm push off to a Boyer shot, the hip for a foot hip push off, the guard’s chest and abs for an underwater Wigo butt bump.  Even when she ducks under the guard, the driver has to know what depth underwater she is at in relationship to the guard’s body.

For the woman driver to be successful on these moves, she must first locate and then push off the exact spot on the guard.  If she does not find the “spot,” she becomes a submarine on the duck under move, bumps the guard’s face on the Wigo bump move or the foot slips off the guard’s hip when pushing off and the driver is dead in the water. Location is everything to the water polo player.  The inexperienced driver has not yet developed her “position sense” of where her body is in the water.  She does not know where the guard is located or how to control her leg or foot aim when pushing off.  In ducking under the guard, she does not “rub her back” against the guard’s underside and dives too deeply. In the Wigo bump she did not bear into the guard, rub shoulders and had no idea she was ahead of the guard and bumped the guard’s face instead of her chest.  In other push off moves, she pushes off with her foot on the guard’s shoulder, chest and neck instead of the hip for an offensive foul.  The driver has to develop a tactile sense and “feel” where she is in the water to develop a body awareness of her position in relation to the guard.  If the driver does not know where the guard is located or what her foot is doing, she pushes off the wrong spot of the guard for an offensive foul.  The push off that leads to a goal for the body-aware driver now becomes a contra foul for the inexperienced driver (see Fig. 2). 


The coach thinks that the driver should know the difference between where is the guard’s shoulder and her hip are located.  After all, to the coach, the guard’s hip is 12-15-inches (30-47-cm) further down the guard’s body than the shoulder.  The average driver, however, does not “feel” its location, she is blind; a blind body without awareness of her position in the water coupled to a dumb foot.  She has not yet developed a “position sense” in the water or what the Europeans called “eyes on the back” or “eyes on the feet.”  This is a tactile body sense and not a visual sense.  Developing “aim” requires the driver to develop the tactile sense within her body. She needs to see without using her eyes to locate the guard’s body and position her foot.  The center uses the same “feeling” (sensory) technique to figure out where the guard is when her back is to the goal.  The center “feels” the center guard in the vertical; the driver “feels” where the guard is located in the horizontal (see Fig. 3).

After the driver has mastered location of the guard and control of her leg and foot, she needs to measure the strength of the push off.  When the driver pushes off too hard with the forearm on the Boyer shot or the leg on the rollout shot a giant gap is created between the driver and the guard.  This “big gap” results in an immediate contra foul on the driver.  The driver has to use just enough force to get open and create a “small gap” so she can move and score.  If the driver does not use enough force, the guard is not slowed nor has her legs knocked down, and she attacks the ball.  The driver cannot over-do or under-do the force on the push off but uses the correct amount of controlled force.  The women driver has a huge advantage over the male driver because of her reduced arm and leg strength, which usually does not create the gigantic 7-foot (2.1-meters) push off that a boy or man does. In addition, because female guard’s wide hips and long legs causes her not to move very much when pushed off and there is usually not a “big gap” created between the driver and the guard.   The main advantage of the push off on a woman guard is that it knocks down the legs of the bottom heavy guard and temporarily immobilizes her in the water, allowing the driver to swim to free water.


  • Big gap push off
  • Medium gap push off
  • Small gap push off
  • Stop gap push off
  • Check move


The key to being able to take a rollout shot to the left, slam-dunk straight-ahead or a Boyer shot to the right is the push off.  The push off by the driver is a skilled movement.  We all have seen high school boys blatantly push off a guard, make a 2.5-meter gap and create a contra foul.  Girls never do push offs so it is hard to tell if they would be more skilled and show better judgment than the boys.  There are five types of push off that are determined by the size of the gap between the driver and the guard.  The five are big gap, medium gap, small gap, stop gap and a check.  The size of the gap between the driver and the guard in the next four push off are judgment calls (no pun intended) by the driver.  The big gap push off from the guard by the driver is 7-10-feet (2-3-meters).  A big gap push off is extremely obvious, and should never be used as it is an automatic contra foul.  The medium sized gap is about 5-feet or 2 1/4–meters between the driver and the guard.  It is noticeable, but there is not a huge gap like the big gap push off.  Probably, half of the time, it is a safe push off.  The small gap push off is the best type of push off.  The gap between the driver and the guard is less than 3-feet or 1-meter and is not noticeable by the referee.  For example, in college and internationally, the push off shooter is open, the guard is slow to attack, allowing the shooter to take an open shot at the goal. A push off foul occurred but the referee did not notice it (see Fig. 4).

The stop gap push off is where the driver did a medium push off, sees that the referee is thinking about calling a contra foul, and stops in the water and allows the guard to close the gap, and then swims off to free water.  The driver still has the advantage as the guard is closing the gap between the two players, so it is not a foul.  In the check move, a push off is used but not to create a gap but to stop the guard’s progress.  The driver’s leg or foot knocks down the guard’s legs and stops (checks) the guard dead in the water for a second.  The result of the check move is there is no gap of 1-meter or 1½-meters between the driver and the guard.  The guard cannot move and the driver swims away.  The referee assumes that the inactive guard was “asleep” and does not call a push off foul.  There was indeed a “check foul” on the guard but the referee is looking for a big gap push off between the two players.

When a big driver drives against a small guard, she must be extremely careful to use a small gap push off with reduced force.  A big driver is 20-30 pounds (9 to 14 kilos) heavier than the guard.  A hard the push off will send the guard flying across the pool for a contra foul.  A small driver, on the other hand, can push off to her heart’s content on a big guard without worrying about the guard moving too far away.  This is how the great Spanish driver, Manuel Estriarte, at 145 pounds (65 kilos) got away with pushing off on the larger 200-pound (90-kilos) guard.

To create a small gap push off requires the driver to have “smart legs and smart feet.”  The driver measures the amount of force and uses the least amount of force—not the greatest amount of force, against the guard.  In age group and in high school, the boys, for example, are determined to use the maximum amount of force to push off and create a big gap.  This of course results in an automatic contra foul.  The boy has a dumb leg and foot that are out of control. The wise woman, however, uses the minimum amount of force to create the smallest gap  necessary to get open for the shot.  While this seems logical to the coach, to the athlete it is difficult for her to control her leg and foot movement.  The driver learns by pushing off the guard, repeatedly until she uses the correct amount of force for the situation. Until the correct amount of leg or foot force is learned, it can be a frustrating time for the driver.

A word of caution is necessary here.  Women are renowned for kicking the guard in the face.  Women kick in retaliation for a “horrible” uncalled foul by the referee.  The referee is aware that girls kick with their feet and boys punch guards with their fists.  The skilled push off artist makes sure that her foot hits the correct “spot” (hips and thighs) underwater and is not high out of the water where it can strike the guard’s face or shoulders.  A poorly performed foot push off can result in an immediate exclusion foul on the driver.


  • 90-degree spin move
  • 180-degree spin move
  • Hand grab
  • Foot grab (a.k.a. hook)


Any good push off usually involves a hand grab or foot grab from a spin move.  In the 90-degree spin move the perimeter driver-to-be grabs the right side of the swimsuit with the left hand and makes a quarter turn for a foul or to pass.  The 180-degree spin move places the driver’s left hand on the opposite side of the guard’s waist or in the middle of the waist as the grab point to spin around the guard for inside water.  A foot grab or a hook is when the driver is going to turn to the left for a rollout shot and needs to “hook” the guard’s hip with her left foot.  The driver grabs the ball on top or on the side with the right hand and has the left foot in the guard’s hip.  The arm swing provides the force to pivot off the guard’s hip for a 45-degree turn (see Figs. 5, 6, 7).


The separation drills involving teaching the driver to have body positioning, position sense and location skills.  Body awareness drills develop tactile position sense so the driver knows where the guard is.  Location drills aim the foot, shin or forearm to push off at the correct “spot” on the guard’s anatomy.  The driver must know where her body is in relation to the guard and how to aim her foot so it does not slide off the guard.  There are drills to teach the driver to master holding position, ducking under, push offs to the right, left and straight-ahead.  These nine drills below place the driver in various situations where she has to develop position sense in the water, aim and the proper push off technique to gain separation from the guard and score.


  1. Vertical guard Hold Position

    Driver is in the vertical with guard on her back holding position while fiercely sculling and eggbeating. This drill teaches the driver how to hold position and keep the guard behind. To make this drill into a shooting drill, the ball is passed from the right wing with a high pass and the holding position  driver slaps the ball into the cage (see Fig 8).Positioning drill

  2. Horizontal guard on driver’s back Quadriceps Kick

    Driver kicks the guard’s thighs.  Driver has the guard tight on her back and kicks both of guard’s thighs with both of her feet at same time.  Good starting point to teach the driver foot push offs. Location drill

  3. Horizontal guard on driver’s back:Hold position and push off

    The driver will hold position, scull fiercely and push off the right bump with right foot (bump is a bony protuberance in front and on top of the hips). Location drill

  4. Horizontal guard: Bear-In

    The driver and partner swim for 4 laps rubbing shoulders and bearing-in as the driver attempts to drive the guard across to the other side of the pool. Teaches body awareness

  5. Horizontal guard: Ducking Under
    Driver swims for 4 laps ducking under the guard.  The best drill to teach body awareness
  6. Horizontal side-by-side: Wigo Bump

    The driver swims, ducks under, Wigo bumps into the guard’s stomach with her butt. An advanced move is to duck under, Wigo bump and then pop up, hold position by sculling and then swim away.  Next add the right foot push off on the right bump. Body awareness

  7. Horizontal: Freestyle to Backstroke

    The driver swims into the swimming guard, rolls on back, pushes off with hand and backstrokes away at an Location

  8. Horizontal fixed: Guard is side-by-side, shin push off hip

    Driver uses a shin push off against guard’s hip or thigh and swims away at angle to the right. It is done in the stationary and the dynamic (swimming) positions. Location

  9. Vertical fixed: Guard behind, right leg folded across the hips for a push off slam-dunk

    Practice by pushing off the wall with one foot and grabbing the ball, getting airborne and then slam-dunk the ball.  Add a guard, and have the driver push off the guard and slam-dunk the ball.  Location


In concluding, the driving game for women is now a new game, a creative game, a game of a push off-to-a-shot.  No longer does the woman driver drive to the right corner of the goal and throw a screw shot at the goalie for a blocked shot.    The driver develops her position sense in the water so she can use separation techniques, push offs and lateral moves to get open to take a clear shot.  The drive-in shot now becomes a combined push off/shot.  In addition, the use of a push off produces three options: a turn to the right for a Boyer shot, a turn to the left for a rollout shot or a straight-ahead airborne slam-dunk shot.  The guard’s body now becomes part of the driver’s shot.  No longer is the guard a threat but her body becomes a useful platform to push off and turn.  The complete driver has learned the basic push off techniques and then masters her body’s position sense and develops smart legs so the push off is small, measured and foul-free.

For additional information on driving please read Dr. Solum’s new book the “Science of Shooting: The Driver” by lulupress.com.  Within Water Polo Planet, the reader clicks on the water polo ball at the top right corner of this article to find the book.

Women’s Shooting Part 9

The woman driver has the advantage


The woman driver in this article completes her revolutionary strategy to bring the driving game back to life.  The woman’s game is the driving game.  The woman’s body is best suited for driving.  When the woman driver uses push offs and the triple option of shots, she can dominate the game. The ability of the woman driver to score from the counterattack and in the frontcourt offense is now unlimited.  She is not a weak driver nor is she a weak shooter.  The modern driver uses a hook move, ducks under the guard, a hip bump, a right foot push off and a combined left hook and right foot push off to get open. In addition, she masters her thoughts.  She has a strong shot and a strong mind.  The mental game of water polo comes first before the technical aspects of drive-in shooting.  A weak mind equals a weak shot. She uses her will to conquer her fear of failure and uses intent to focus the mind on her goals during the game.  She will never be fearless, no one ever is, but she will contain and control her fears so she is able to perform up to her full potential.


Half of shooting is technique, the other half is confidence.
The coach’s job is to build both.

Coaching the player’s mind and coaching the player’s body are not two separate tasks.  All of the coach’s efforts to create the perfect shot are also dedicated to building the driver’s confidence.  Without confidence there is no shot.  The well-trained shooter that lacks confidence to shoot or the will to score is useless during a water polo game.  Both the technical and the psychological aspects of the player must be addressed.  Mistakes have to be corrected, but, in a gentle and caring manner when coaching women. The coach cannot kill the hope and confidence of the shooter.  The player has to be nurtured by the coach and her team to have the courage to shoot the ball.  She must have the desire to drive, not to be afraid of failure and have a strong intent to score.  The driver that does not drive and is afraid to shoot is of little value to the team.  There is only one rule: The bad shot is only the one that the water polo player never takes!  Criticizing and ridiculing a shooter for a bad shot will guarantee that this particular woman driver (or the team) will never take another shot during the game.  Coaching the mind of the player to have confidence is just as important as coaching shooting technique.  The player must love herself, feel accepted and loved by the team and the coach, to have the confidence to shoot the ball.  Without love, no one will take the risk of being a driver.  Without love and trust there cannot be a great women’s team.


Only one hand shoots the ball. The shooter must have the will to shoot the ball.

In this world, there are only two types of people: those with will and those without.  There is no time during the middle to late counterattack when a driver cannot score or create an exclusion.  There is no time when the frontcourt offense is set up that the creative driver cannot score or create an exclusion on the guard.  When one watches Tony Azevedo or Brenda Villa of the US Men or Women’s National Teams, they are attempting to get open and score at every opportunity.  These two drivers are fanatical about wanting to get open and get the ball.  They possess the will to score and the knowledge to score.  This combination of skill and will has created these two four-time Olympians.  The will to score is just as important as the ability to score.  One, will, is psychological; the other, skill to score is technical.  Of the two, the will to score is the most important.  If the talented driver does not begin the drive, all of her driving skills are meaningless.  If the wide-open woman driver does not shoot but passes the ball off to another player who is covered, the game is lost.  The will to score has to be found in every woman’s heart so she can overcome her fear.  Fear is the body’s response to a dangerous situation where caution needs to be used.  Fear when shooting the ball is an irrational phobia that prevents the ball from being thrown.  There is nothing dangerous about throwing the ball at the goal.  But fear persists among woman water polo players.  The question is why?  It is a question that the author cannot answer.  But it is the challenge that every woman must face and conquer.


The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Fear of failure weighs heavily on the woman’s psyche.  Women want to be perfect!  Yet, to succeed, the woman player must fail repeatedly.  Paradoxically, failure leads to success.  Eventually, she understands how not to get the contra foul on the drive and how to score instead of having the shot blocked.  Creativity does not mean instant success.  Creativity in driving and in shooting means a lot of failures until the correct drive or shot is mastered.  Creativity is based on experimentation.  Try a new shot, and it is blocked.  Try is a slightly different shot again and it is blocked too.  Finally, the third new shot scores.  The sad truth to the perfection seeking female, is to develop a new shot, the woman has to fail repeatedly.  In reality, the shooter may have to experiment and experience failure for a week to develop a new shot.  Both men and women want to stick “with the tried and true” shot.  Translated that means I only have one shot and I not going to change whether it works or not.  Tony Azevedo, four-time US Olympian, approaches practice as “Failure Time.”  That is he experiments with new shots at every practice, hoping to develop a new shot.  He is unique in he has the courage to experiment and to continue to experiment when he fails and his new shot is blocked.  The average one-shot shooter will not score after a while as the goalie knows her shot and sets up every time to block it.  She needs a new shot.  But to succeed she must fail a lot.  A paradox arises; being afraid of failure only leads to more failure.  The driver failing while learning something new, however, leads to eventual success.  In women’s college and professional basketball, the top scorers only score a little over 40-percent of their attempts.  They miss 50 to 60-percent of their shots.  The high-level basketball woman player realizes that she is going to miss over half of her shots.  However, her attitude after a miss is, “I will make the next three baskets.”  If she was not perfect on the first shot, she will be perfect on the next shot.  We saw that in the 19-year old US Olympian Maggie Steffans, high scorer at the Olympic Games, who was not afraid to shoot the ball in spite of her young age.

The last comment: the woman must be wary of striving to be perfect. The perfect is the enemy of the good. No one is perfect.  No water polo player’s performance is ever perfect.  The attempt by the woman to “always be perfect” ruins the present.  There is no perfection.  It is a dream.  It is a dream not worth following.  Being good is great!  Never let the good be destroyed by the unattainable perfect.  It is enough to be good.  The fear of failure begins with seeking perfection.


Without intent, there is nothing.

The goal of the woman driver should be to score.  To be able to score she must have intent.  This is more than having a driver skill set, or to be unafraid of failure.  Intent is to have a purpose, a goal and to achieve that goal.

Without intent, there is no action.  It is a thought before a shot.  The driver must explode into every drive at 100-percent.  She must be willing to use all of her strength for one second to drive to dominate the guard, to be open in two strokes and to shoot the ball.  This goal is easily achieved for someone with intent.  It is impossible for someone without intent.  The woman driver has decided, before she even put on her swimsuit, that she will dominate.  All of the great woman players in college and internationally have intent.  The average player has no intent and consequently no success.

Intent is inner discipline in which she commits 100-percent of herself for the team to succeed. Intent is learned.  To achieve her aims she must set goals, have affirmations, is focused on these goals and overcomes her tendency to be lazy.  The driver writes down her goals and then works to achieve them.  To work hard in practice, not argue with fellow players, to score so many goals a game and the total number of goals for a season.  All of her goals are written down and looked at daily.  For example, an affirmation would be is when she is taking an outside shot she explodes upward and kicks the legs high and hard.  Most girls and women do not want to kick hard with their legs.  The best shooting technique is to have a high vertical leap out of the water.  This action takes the great force generated by the legs and transfers that force into the right arm.  Hard kick = great force for the great shot but it requires great effort.  A weak kick = little force for a weak shot and it requires no effort.  To get this effort the player has to have intent to start kicking her legs hard.  Every girl or woman driver or shooter can kick the legs hard and get higher out of the water but few do. Before the ball ever left the hand of the shooter without intent, the shot failed—due to a weak leg kick.  It is a thought before a kick.  Intent gets the motor started.   Will, meeting fear with resolve and having intent are the secrets of a successful driver.


The modern woman driver is putting life back into a game that has become stagnant; it consists of mud wrestling on the perimeter and at the two-meter position.  “Train quick, be quick” is the new rule for the woman driver of today, which allows her to get away from her Greco-Roman wrestling guard.  With the push off moves and advanced lateral movement shots, the modern woman driver has become an overwhelming scoring machine during the counterattack and in the frontcourt.  Below are fifteen push off moves that separate the driver from her guard and create the unhindered open shot.  The first illustration below indicates the various spots that the driver’s foot or shin can push off (see Fig. 1).

Push Off Spots

  • Bump (AIIS)
  • Crest of Pelvis
  • Hip, Upper Thigh
  • Buttocks


In the skeleton above, the driver pushes off the guard’s upper thigh, hip, crest of pelvis, the buttocks and a bony prominence in the front part of the pelvis bone called the AIIS (Anterior Inferior Ischial Spine) now called the “bump” with the foot or shin (see Fig. 1).



The driver has the guard on her back and she uses the left foot to “grab” into the guard’s hip and uses the foot as a pivot point to assist the driver in turning to the left.  This move is covered in detail in last month’s article titled Women’s Shooting Part 8 (see Fig. 2).

Combined Hook & Foot Push Off


This is a combination left/right foot move.  The driver has the guard on her back, and she uses a left foot hook to turn to the left and then pushes off with the right foot for separation (see Fig. 3).

Quadriceps Kick


The driver is on the 4-meter line and the guard is tight on her back.  The driver cannot get open.  She switches to a check move to slow or stop the guard’s movement in the water.  The driver kicks rapidly and several times with the heels of her feet into the guard’s thighs.  The quadriceps kick immediately immobilizes the guard’s thighs and she backs off the driver.  The quadriceps kick gives the driver enough space to take a shot at the goal (see Fig. 4).

Slam-Dunk Push Off


Driver holds position to force the guard to be vertical and tight on her back.  The driver folds her right leg across the guard’s stomach and both hips and pushes off (see Figs. 5, 6).

Push Off from the Guard’s Shoulder

While swimming side-by-side in mid-court in the counterattack, the driver pushes off the shoulder with the hand to gain a slight advantage.  It is an offensive foul and one that the backcourt official should notice but many times the driver can get away with in.

Duck Under and Grab the Other Side

Tony Azevedo, four-time US Olympian, would sometimes duck under the guard, slide his inside hand to the opposite side and grab hold of the guard’s obliques to help pull himself under the guard for a duck under move.  The referee only saw the Tony fingers and did not realize what had happened.

Zigzag Drive


The driver is closely guarded on the counterattack.  To get open, the driver zigzags down the pool to shake off the guard.  She zigzags by swimming two strokes on her stomach doing freestyle and then two strokes on her back doing backstroke.  She freestyle swims to the right and backstrokes to left.  When she is on her back, she is looking for the long goalie pass or a pass from the half tank release (see Fig. 7). 

Mermaid Directional Check Move  


The driver is driving side-by-side, bumps with the hip and uses a lateral dolphin kick of the legs to the right to “nudge” the guard to change direction and swim away at an angle.  The dolphin kick flick of the legs is not a push off, it is a directional check move, that aids the driver in turning to her left (see Fig. 8).

Right Foot Bump Push Off


The driver is on the 5-meter line with the guard on her back and barely has inside water.  The driver stops, holds position by fiercely sculling which puts the guard tight on her back.  With the guard positioned perfectly for the foot push off, she places her right foot on the “bump” and pushes off and gains about a half body length of separation and another second of time to take the shot.  It is a small forward gap push off covered up by the driver dribbling the ball away from the guard (see Fig. 9).

Two-Leg Hold

The two-legged hold is a 1960’s water polo move that died out because it did nothing for the center or the driver.  The high school center would wrap both of her legs around the center guard and spin the 2-meter guard 180-degrees but was frozen in the water with her legs stuck to the guard’s hips. By the time the center or driver has both of her legs back under the hips; the guard recovers and steals the ball or the goalie steals the ball.

Hip & Elbow Bump 


The post player uses the hip and elbow bump on the 6-on-5 to slow the guard’s progress.  The post shooter is often attacked as the ball arrives.  The hip bump combined with the elbow thrust delays the attacking guard on the post by knocking down her legs just enough to give her the time to catch and shoot (see Fig. 10).

Leg Brush


Leg brush is used by the 6-on-5 offensive player when she is on the post to buy time to shoot the ball.  The post player sees the ball slowly coming towards her and realizes that the guard is going to attack her before the ball will arrive and knock it down.  The post player cannot grab the post guard (US 2, 3/EU 3, 6) and hold her with the hand.  Instead, she strongly rakes the side of her foot down the guard’s lower leg and calf.  This move knocks down the guard’s legs and delays but does not stop the guard from going after the ball.  The leg brush move delays the guard just enough for the post shooter to take a clear shot at the goal before the guard’s hand hits her arm (see Fig. 11).

Knee to Hip Bump


The driver drives half way past the guard and is grabbed by the beaten guard’s hand.  The driver bends her knee and knees the guard’s hip with a sharp blow.  This hip bump move or hip check move causes instant pain in the hip area and the guard immediately lets go of the driver. There is no push off created with this move.  The guard is dead in the water.  If the driver misses the guard’s hip with the knee, she can use a downward directed shin check move on the guard’s thigh that sinks the guard.  The driver does not create a huge gap with a powerful horizontal push off.  It is enough for the driver to be free of the guard and have inside water at the beginning of the drive.  Though the driver is being “manhandled” on the drive, she must be controlled and measured in her effort to get open (see Fig. 12).

Shin Move


A shin move is used when the driver can only get half way around the guard or has gotten past the guard but is being held back.  The shin move separates the guard’s hands from the driver who is only partially open.  The driver bends her knee, places the shin on the guard’s hip or upper thigh, and pushes off.  It is a close-quarters move where the guard is entangled in the driver and swimming cannot get the driver free. A shin push off creates a small gap and knocks down the guard’s legs (see Fig. 13). 

Robert Lynn Backstroke Move    

Robert Lynn, a great driver for USC and the US Olympic team, invented this move.  The driver freestyles down the pool bearing into the guard and moving her over towards the right goal post.  Then the driver rolls on her back, pushes off and backstrokes at an angle away from the guard towards the left corner to free water.  As the driver begins to roll on her back, she lightly pushes off with the inside hand on the guard’s hip.  This is a quick move that is covered up by the splashing of the driver beginning to backstroke.  It is not a powerful and huge push off that makes the move apparent to the referee.  It is a subtle hand “nudge,” a positional check, to the guard’s hip, allowing the driver to change directions and angle off at a 45-degree angle.


The driver swims lap after lap bearing into her partner, ducking under, Wigo bumping, moving to the vertical to hold position and then pushing of the guard’s right “bump” (AIIS or crest of the pelvis) with her right foot to master all of the driving techniques.

In concluding, the woman driver is the master of the pool.  At anytime, anywhere, she can get an exclusion on her guard or score!  Whether the driver sprints away from the former center on the counterattack from 2-meters, is driving at half tank, or is inside the 5-meter line with the ball—nowhere is safe for the guard.  The driver has mastered all of the strategies of driving, the triple option of shots and the numerous push offs to render her guard completely ineffective.  At the same time, she has developed her mind and courage.  She has the will to score, faces her fear with resolve and possesses an unwavering intent.  A strong mind with strong technique allows her to reach her full potential.


Women are great shooters.


Are women poor shooters when compared to men?  The answer is a yes and a no.  The woman shooter has longer legs, wider hips and a weaker arm than the male water polo player.  The wider hips and longer legs create more drag in the water when rotating the body. And the major force for throwing the water polo ball is rotation.  The faster the body rotates, the faster the shot.  Rotation is the shot. This anatomical fact makes it initially more difficult for a woman to rotate her body for throwing.  The well-trained woman shooter, however, throws the ball extremely well; the poorly trained shooter does not.  The well-trained female’s arm throws the ball approximately 25-percent slower than does a man.  However, the untrained female throws the ball 50-percent slower because she square to the goal, does not rotate her hips and drops the elbow and as a result ends up throwing a lob-like shot. The question is why can the woman thrower throw better than the male?  The answer is simple: women are anatomically more suited to throwing the ball correctly.  They just need to be properly trained to be able to throw well.  The woman shooter has long legs and a short torso that makes her balanced in the water.  Add hips that are 6 to 8-inches (15-20 cm) wider than the male, which provide a wider and more stable base to eggbeater.  Finally, the woman floats and the man sinks in the water.  The reason why we see poor woman shooters in the pool is the result of poor coaching and not her body.  Anatomy is not destiny in water polo.  Coaching is destiny in water polo.  The woman shooter has the advantage in balance and stability over the man.

Male and Female Differences


The male shooter is a motorized rock; the woman is a bar of Ivory soap that floats.  He has an unbalanced body structure with short legs, narrow hips and a long heavy torso.  He has a low bodyfat content and sinks.  Staying vertical in the water is difficult for the male shooter whether he is an age group player or an Olympic player.  No amount of yelling by the coach to tell the player “to stay off your back” ever permanently corrects this anatomical defect in the male body posture.  However, the properly trained woman can remain vertical and sustain that vertical body position for a much longer time than the male.  The male throws the ball harder but he also misses the goal more often as he falls over and throws the ball over the top of the goal.  Once the woman shooter masters the left foot forward, tilting the torso forward at 15-degrees with the right leg straight back and slightly bent at the knee, her problems with vertical body positioning are over.  It is much easier to correct throwing errors in the properly trained woman shooter than a man (see Fig. 1).

Swimming, Running and Water Polo

The effect of the drag of the water and the effect of her extra adipose tissue has to be taken into consideration when looking at the woman athlete’s body.  The effect differs in earth-bound athletes and water-bound athletes such as in swimming and running.  In swimming, the world record gap between women and men swimmers is 7-percent.  In track, it is 11-percent.  The extra weight of the fat on the women’s body does not help her when running.  However, in swimming, the extra fat creates greater buoyancy in the water, lifts the swimmer’s body higher in the water and creates less drag in the water.  Even though the woman swimmer has less strength than the male, she does not have the added drag of a sinking body that slows the male swimmer.

In water polo, the difference between the genders is still present but there are different factors involved.  Throwing is not swimming; throwing is a vertical activity and swimming is a horizontal activity.  In swimming, arm strength and upper body strength provides 70-pecent of the force to swim; in water polo, it is about 50-percent of the force to throw a ball.  The legs and the kick are unimportant in swimming; the legs are everything in water polo throwing.  The swim stroke begins in the arms; the shot begins in the legs.  Kick is also different as the swimmer’s flutter kick does nothing for throwing the ball but the eggbeater is everything in throwing the ball.  The effect of the woman’s greater body fat means she floats the water while the man is struggling to stay afloat.  In swimming, flexion and extension of the arms is the main force creator as the arms pull underwater.  However, in water polo, the hips and legs rotating are the major force creators.  The swimming model does not carry over to water polo.  Great swimmers do not make great water polo players.

Differences Between Water Polo Throwing and Swimming

Vertical   Horizontal
Legs important Legs unimportant
Kicking critical  Kicking unimportant           Legs are the shot           Arms are the swim
Balance critical  Balance not so critical
Body rotation No.1 Body rotation is of lesser importance
High vertical jump Not applicable
Vertical stability N/A
Sustain verticality N/A
Throwing N/A
Vertical leg positioning  N/A
Shot over in 1 second  Swim over in 24 seconds or several minutes
Explosive Slower
All fast twitch ms. Some fast twitch muscles
Anaerobic Aerobic
Aim N/A
Touch on ball   N/A
Ball rotation N/A
One quick motion Thousands of motions over minutes

Balance, Verticality and Vertical Height


Photograph by Allen Lorentzen at mywaterpolopics.com

In water polo, balance in the vertical and vertical height out of the water are absolutely critical for throwing the ball.  The correct positioning of the legs creates a powerful hip rotation and great elevation.  Kicking the legs hard is a necessity to lift the body high out of the water to reduce hip drag. This is done to create maximum body rotation that is the major element in throwing a water polo ball.  All of the components necessary to cock the ball correctly have to be present: wide legs, hard leg kick, elevation and hip rotation.  Almost all mistakes are made in the cocking stage (right arm cocks the ball) and not in the acceleration stage (right arm moves forward to shoot).  Too much attention has been concentrated on the acceleration stage where the coach incorrectly believes that all mistakes are made.  Mechanical errors do not occur as the right arm moves forward at 35-50 mph (56-80 kph).  Errors occur in setting up the shot.  For example, the archer takes great care to cock the bow to shoot at the target.  To release the cocked arrow and bowstring all she does is let go.  If the arrow goes astray, she does not look at her right hand like the water polo player.  She looks at her mechanics of cocking the bow and her aim (see Fig. 2). 

Aim is a Cocking Stage Action


Aim does not occur in the acceleration stage.  The left foot aims the ball. Where ever the left foot points is where the ball follows.  The right arm follows the left foot.  The right arm does not aim the ball.  The archer’s right hand does not aim the arrow either.  If the shooter wants to improve her shot she concentrates on the cocking stage.  In addition, the cocking stage elements are: point the left foot, right leg straight back, lean the torso forward, deep left hand pull-down.  The perfect cocking stage sets up the perfect acceleration stage.  The acceleration stage is: kick high and hard with the legs for elevation, rotate the hips and crunch the abs and then shoot.  The rules for the acceleration stage are: elevate, rotate, crunch and shoot.  The coach usually shortens this rule down to elevate, rotate and crunch because the movement of the right arm forward to shoot is automatic.  The acceleration stage is dependent on the shooter’s cocking stage.  If the set up (cocking stage) is not done correctly then the shooting motion (acceleration stage) of elevate, rotate and crunch motion is weak and unstable.  If the coach or player understands this paragraph fully, she is a master of the throwing motion (see Fig 3).

The Woman’s “Natural Stance”


The woman shooter does not “naturally” point the left foot forward and position the right leg straight back and slightly bent at the knee.  Woman’s hip/leg ratio is greater than the men.  Men have narrower hips and shorter legs. The men’s shorter legs make it easier to be positioned in a “baseball stance” because of less water drag.  In everyday life, the woman with her wider hips has a more stable stance and stands with her feet parallel the person she is speaking.  The male, with narrow and unstable hips, will usually point the left foot at the person they are talking with.  The woman jumps in the pool and is square in the water, just as she is square on dry land.  As on land, so it is in the water (see Fig. 4).

The male, jumps into the pool and immediately points the left foot and has the right leg back just like his stance on dry land.  To overcome the woman’s natural tendency, the female shooter needs to be taught the correct technique so the body is angled in the water so the hips can rotate to throw the ball.  A square woman shooter, with both legs under the hips and her hips parallel the goal, cannot rotate her body at all.  It is not true that anatomy is destiny.  It is simply more comfortable for the female to stand square on dry land than to point the left foot at person she is speaking to and be unstable.  Unfortunately, this woman’s square stance carries over into the pool.  This square to the goal posture can be changed with good coaching.

Theories on Girls and Boys Throwing Motion

There are several theories around on why women cannot throw an overhand throw.  The most popular story is Dad never taught his girl to throw a baseball but he did with his son.  The author’s opinion is that the wide hips of the female makes her have a tendency to be square in her stance instead of separating the legs wide with the left leg forward and the right leg back in a baseball-like throwing stance as a male thrower positions his body.  However, the latest theory about thedifferences in gender throwing is quite novel.  The Stone Age woman was holding a baby on her chest and could only throw a rock at a prowling saber tooth tiger with a unified hip and shoulder motion.  It would seem to the author that female rock throwers with poor technique did not live long.  Only the rock throwers with the best technique would survive, but maybe saber tooth tigers do not like any rocks thrown at them.

Dry land and in-the-water throwing is about 25-percent slower for a woman than a man. In the untrained woman, the ball speed is 50-percent slower.  Below is the latest thinking on boys and girls throwing an overhand throw on dry land.  Some of this information applies to water polo throwing and some of it does not.  The latest theory illustrated below on women’s throwing is, well, interesting.  Below is the Figure 5 illustration of a boy and a girl throwing the ball.

Boy and Girl Throwing Technique


In dry land throwing there are gender differences in how a boy and a girl throws an overhand throw.  The water polo coach should note in the pictures that the girl does not move her right leg back very far.  There is no weight transfer with all of the girl’s weight on her right leg.  And there is little hip rotation.  The girl’s right arm is held lower and bent.  There is less torso extension and less hip rotation.  Note that there is no weight transfer onto the left foot as the ball is released.  In a dry land overhand throw the girl can lift the elbow high above the shoulder but poorly trained girl keeps her elbow low when throwing (see Fig. 5).

Angularity, Verticality and the Carrying Angle


All of water polo throwing is summed up in two words: angularity and verticality.  Angle the body with the left foot forward and the right leg straight back and keep the back vertical.  It is that simple and yet that complex.  In water polo, the lack of a wide foot separation (square with both feet are parallel the goal) prevents hip rotation and weight transfer from the right foot to the left foot.  All of this incorrect leg positioning greatly reduces the speed of the shot.    In addition, the square body position causes the girl’s elbow to drop in the middle of her throw.  This action occurs because the female elbow angles inward more than the male.  This elbow angulation is called the “carrying angle.”  It is the reason why a woman shooter with poor technique drops her elbow in the middle of the throw.  The male has a straighter arm and cannot drop his elbow.  Again, anatomy is not destiny.  It is a challenge, one that does not occur if the correct throwing technique is used.  When the shooter’s body has the left foot forward and the right leg back, the correct posture creates the high-speed hip rotation that maintains a high elbow position throughout the shot (see Fig. 6).

Dissociated Hip and Shoulder Rotation


Dissociate rotation is quite a big word that leaves the mouths of babes and coaches wide open.  What is dissociate rotation and how does it apply to the shooter’s hip and shoulder rotation?  All the words mean is that the shooter’s hips rotate separately from the shoulder rotation.  There are two rotations, hip and shoulder, occurring in the shooter’s body at slightly different times.  Women tend to combine hip rotation and shoulder rotation into one throwing unified movement.  The average vertical woman shooter does not have dissociated hip and shoulder rotation.  Since body rotation is the main creator of power in throwing, this unified hip/shoulder motion reduces her rotational force for the shot.  Unfortunately, the vertical shot posture plays into the tendency of the vertical woman’s shooting to have a unified hip and shoulder rotation.  However, the Lean Forward Technique forces the woman’s hips to rotate first and then her shoulders second.  Thus, the effect of the dual but separate rotation in the woman shooter’s body greatly increases the speed of the ball (see Fig. 7).

This is why a vertical shooter with a unified hip/shoulder rotation cannot generate enough force to skip the ball but the Lean Forward Technique shooter can skip the ball. It is the same shooter but with different results when using different techniques.  The author was always puzzled why vertical shooters could not skip the ball and Lean Forward Technique shooters could when he gave a clinic for women.  The answer is dissociated hip and shoulder rotation.  The Lean Forward Technique forces separate hip and shoulder rotation.  To see this in action, have a woman in the vertical throw the ball with bright tape on her hip and shoulder and see if there is a detectable separate motion between the hip and shoulder.  Then the woman player adopts the Lean Forward Technique, disassociated rotation appears.

Lean Forward Technique  





When the author taught women how to use the Lean Forward Technique, he saw that the women excel more than the men with this throwing style.  The Lean Forward Technique is the optimal throwing style for men and women shooters.  The shooter is not vertical with the right leg under the hip but leans forward with the right leg horizontal.  The question that faced the author was why were the improvements in the women’s Lean Forward Technique greater than in men.  The answer is in the leaning forward posture of the shooter.  Once the coach has raised his or her consciousness to see women as great throwers they embrace the Lean Forward Technique (see Figs. 8, 9, 10, 11). 

Once the coach gets over the chauvinistic theories that women have weak arms, weak legs, are “naturally not throwers” and unable to rotate their bodies in the water he (maybe even she) realizes that women can be good shooters.  The alert coach looks at other sports.  In ice-skating, women seem to be able to rotate and spin their bodies easily.  In diving, women spin and twist in the air.  In gymnastics, women flip, spin and twist with ease on the balance beam.  In throwing sports, softball, javelin, discus and shot putt, women seem to throw a ball, spear, disc or shot pretty well.  However, suddenly, in water polo, women cannot throw and rotate their body!  What happened?

The Lean Forward Technique positions of the body so the torso is leans forward at the beginning of the throwing motion.  Rather than the shooter having a vertical torso at the beginning of the throwing motion for a vertical shot, the shooter’s torso leans forward 15-degrees.  A critical difference makes all of the difference in the world when throwing the ball.  Let us go back to the basics: the shooter’s right leg controls body positioning not the right arm.  The right leg controls the left shoulder point, the left foot point and the angle of the shooter’s torso.  To angle the torso forward, the shooter lifts up the vertical right leg that is under the hip and moves it to the horizontal.  A horizontal right leg angles the torso forward. The shooter’s lower body totally controls the position of the upper body–as below so above.  The concept that the right arm does everything in throwing is completely wrong.   The shooter’s right arm is but a small part of the throwing motion and only moves at the end of the throwing motion.  It is better to say that the right leg controls the shot and the right arm is along for the ride.

When the shooter’s right leg is horizontal (straight back and slightly bent at the knee), the left hand can take a deeper and stronger pull-down in the water.  The strong left hand pull-down of the Lean Forward shooter accomplishes three things: more force, more rotation and pulls the torso forward.  One of the great failures of the shooter’s vertical right leg is the player begins to sink and lean backward.  The vertical shooter’s left hand can only mildly scull on the surface of the water and cannot prevent the shooter from sinking or falling backward.  In addition, the vertical body technique promotes the single unified body rotation with the hips and shoulders moving simultaneously. The great advantage for women using the Lean Forward Technique is it prevents the unified hip/shoulder rotation.  The Lean Forward shooter must first rotate the hips before she can rotate the shoulders.  The Lean Forward Technique creates dissociated body rotation…  The greater power generated by dissociate body rotation of the Lean Forward Technique allows the woman shooter to be able to skip the ball with power.

Noteworthy: I Don’t See the Torso Lean Forward


The shot using the Lean Forward Technique begins the cocking stage with the shooter leaning forward 15-degrees before the arm is cocked up and completely back.  When the ball is cocked in the ready-to-shoot position the right arm and right hip rotate back and the torso straightens out to 0-degrees.  This is why all of the lean forward shot illustrations show a cocked shooter with a vertical torso.  If the shooter starts with a zero degree torso and cocks the ball back, there is a chance that the shooter will lean her torso backward slightly and lift the ball up.  The deviation of one to three inches (2.5-7.5 cm) from the perfect vertical may not seem like a lot but it is enough to throw the ball over the goal.  The Lean Forward Technique prevents the shooter from over-extending the torso backward from the perfect vertical.  In all of the pictures, except in the 3-picture photograph spread, it appears the shooter was always vertical.  This is not the case (see Fig. 12).

Weight Transfer


A critical but little talked about subject is weight transfer from the shooter’s right leg to the left leg.  In baseball pitching and in throwing a football, we see the tremendous transfer of weight from the right leg when the ball is cocked onto the left leg when the ball released.  In the vertical shooter, there is some weight transfer from back to front.  In the shooter lying on her back with all of her weight is on the right leg and there is no weight transfer.  In the Lean Forward Technique we have a built-in a weight transfer mechanism.  When the ball is cocked with the right leg straight back and slightly bent at the knee, all of the shooter’s weight is on the right leg. Then as the force from the right leg kick transfers into the torso to throw the ball, the body weight also transfers on to the left leg to release the ball (see Figs. 7, 13).


In concluding, the woman shooter has to abandon her vertical body position and change to the Lean Forward Technique so she can have dissociated hip and shoulder rotation for more power for her shot.  It is a kinesiological fact that this dual rotational action instead of single unified rotation produces more power for the shot.  To accomplish dissociated hip and shoulder rotation the shooter uses the Lean Forward Technique. In addition, the coach must stop teaching left hand passing, which leads to squareness.  Do not allow square shouldered passing in warm ups before a game or during practice.  The woman’s right shoulder must rotate back in catching and bringing the ball back (and the right hip and right leg) and the thrower’s right shoulder must rotate forward in throwing the ball.  Technique is everything.  Technique is the shot.

The woman shooter, when properly trained, has better form than the male shooter.  She does not sink or fall over on her back when shooting.  When she angles the body forward using the Lean Forward Technique with the left foot forward, torso tilted forward and the right leg horizontal, her hip rotation is improved as is the power of her shot. Additionally, the effect of her high-speed hip and shoulder rotation prevents her elbow from dropping. All and all, the woman shooter is simply a better balanced and more accurate shooter than the male.  Sorry guys but it is true.


How to break the swimsuit grab


The women’s swimsuit covers her upper body with cutouts for the two armpits and the neck and with straps to create the ideal place for the guard with sticky fingers to hold on to her heart’s content.  Hold and wait for the slough seems to be the rule for the defense.  Amazingly, the referee does not notice most of the guard’s holds.  The referee, however, notices the escape attempt by the center to get away from the grabbing guard’s hands.  This is an unfair situation: one that rewards the guard’s poor defense and punishes the center’s good offense.  The woman center shooter is at a severe disadvantage, as she is constantly being held and sunk by the center guard.  Due to the center’s reduced upper body strength, the 2-meter offensive player cannot “shake off” the guard’s hands as the man does. The center guard can hold the center and prevent her from getting position and shooting. There is a critical need for the center to have techniques to break the guard’s hold without getting a contra foul called.  The center’s solution to getting out of the guard grasp is to use the twelve hand release techniques, spin or movement shots (Boyer shot, a rollout shot or a layout shot) to get open.  The hand release techniques, spin and any of the three movement shots separate the guard’s hands from the center’s swimsuit and allow the center to shoot the ball.  With center free of the guard’s grasp, the center guard is now is now alone and guarding water.

Twisted Strap


The center that faces the “twisted strap defense” tries futilely to try a fight off a guard off that has a firm grip on the straps of her swimsuit.  The center guard twists one of the center’s straps, sinks the center and is now elevated high out of the water with one hand high in the air almost touching the clouds.  To the referee and bystanders it appears that the center guard suddenly has great legs and the center has weak legs. This is an illusion. This should be an exclusion foul every time that the guard is higher out of the water than the center. The solution to this defensive move called the “twisted strap defense” is a quick 360-degree spin move by the center that frees the strap from the guard’s grasp.  The center uses either a 360-degree spin move and the center remains in place or a mobile 90-degree spin move to the right or left for a Power Turn Boyer shot or a rollout shot.  The anti-strap offensive technique spin move is used frequently at the international level.   One sees about once or twice a year one of the water polo players on the US National team has broken her index finger when the center spun on her when her hand was wrapped around a swimsuit strap (see Fig 1).

Another good combination move that frees the center and creates a shot is a “spin to a shot.”  The center breaks the guard’s grip and is able to shoot at the same time.  For example, the center spins out of the guard’s grasp into a rollout shot. Another possible move is to use a Power Turn Boyer shot by spinning 90-degrees towards the right corner to shoot the ball.  However, layout shots are more difficult to perform as the center guard is sinking the center and this reduces her ability to use her legs to lunge out away from the guard.  In some cases, the center needs a strong horizontal leg push off called a Russian push off (see The Shot Doctor Part 9, 10) to lunge forward and separate from the guard.

Grab and Pull Back


When the center has spaghetti straps or thin straps that cross the back, the guard grabs the straps where they cross and pulls back.  The guard now holds the reins of the horse underwater and can control the center’s movement.  The center must kick up hard to show the referee the guard’s strap grab. Alternatively, the 2-meter player can lunge away from the center guard to show the referee that the guard is holding the straps at mid back. Since this happens so quickly, the referee may miss seeing the guard’s hand fly off the center’s straps.  Another method is for the center to lunge straight out and get the ball for a Humbert shot or layout shot (see Shot Doctor Hole Shots Part IV). The Humbert shot has the center turn the left shoulder 90-degrees into the guard to rip the straps away from the guard.  The layout shot has the center continue moving out and rolls on her back for the shot. The best solution is for this problem is for the center to wear a full body swimsuit that covers the back and has thick straps.  However, many times the center is tired of wearing such a restrictive and tight swimsuit and wants to wear something looser fitting.  Many areas, such as Southern California high schools, require all players except the goalie to have a swimsuit that covers the back and has thick straps (see Fig. 2). 

Grab the Left Armpit


The guard grabs the swimsuit’s left armpit and pulls down.  This grab holds the center’s body so she cannot move.  However, the center guard is susceptible to 180-degree spin move or a Power Turn Boyer towards the right corner of the goal.   The center spins 180-degrees to inside water or turns 90-degrees for a Power Turn Boyer pushes off and shoots a Boyer shot at the high right corner of the goal.  Bad defense is punished by the center (see Fig 3).

Grab the Right Armpit


The guard is offset on the 2-meter player with the guard’s body around the center’s left shoulder with her right arm reaching across the center’s swimsuit to grab swimsuit’s right armpit. This is a very effective defense.  The center cannot move, the guard’s hand is underwater and the guard is on the center’s left shoulder with her left arm extended to block the passing lane.  If the center remains static and does not move, she is finished.  A 360-degree spin in place or a Rollout shot towards the left corner, or a Right Hand Reverse Spin towards the left corner solves this problem.  The guard cannot hold on when the center moves away or spins.  Once the stagnant guard is no longer holding onto the center’s swimsuit she cannot defend against the shot.  Poor defense is punished by the mobile   center scoring (see Fig. 4).

2-Hand Push Down and Show Hands


The guard pushes down with both hands and then lifts them quickly off the center’s shoulder (while sinking her) and moves them high in the air to show the referee she was not holding.  The center has been sunk and is halfway under water and now the guard is high in the air with both her hands almost touching the sky.  The 2-meter player’s body is being used as a trampoline by the guard.  And there is nothing she can do to correct this situation.  The center has to rely on the referee to make the correct call.  Two-thirds of the time the referee does not make the call on the center guard and the two-hand sink defensive maneuver goes unpunished (see Fig. 5).

Drape Arm Over the  Shoulder


The center guard drapes her arm over the shoulder of the center to push down or grab the front of the center swimsuit around the neck.  This forward guard’s arm position allows her to knock the ball away by extending the arm even further over the center’s shoulder.   This is an intolerable situation for the center.  The center grabs the center guard’s thumb and bends it backward. The pressure by the center on the guard’s thumb makes her think her thumb is about to be broken!  The center guard freezes, for fear that her thumb will be broken.   The center is now free to move to the ball, turn and shoot without any defensive interference. Some guards have fast hands and grabbing and bending back the thumb is not possible.  Another technique to use is to grab the guard’s outstretched wrist and pull the guard’s arm over the center’s shoulder.  The center sinks a little and it appears to the referee that the guard is lunging on top of the center and sinking her (see Fig. 6).

Guard in Front Pulls the Front of Center’s Swimsuit


The center guard fronts the center, grabs the front of her swimsuit in front of the neck, and pulls down to control the 2-meter offensive player.  This of course is a foul, however, half the time the referee never calls it.  There are several techniques the 2-meter player uses to break the center guard’s grip.  The first is for the center to grab the guard’s wrist with both hands and twist the guard’s wrist inward into extreme pronation (guard’s right hand turns to the right) to break her grip.  The intelligent center guard lets go of the swimsuit. If the guard does not let go, her shoulder and face dips into the water.

When the guard grabs the front of the suit with their right hand, the center places her right hand on top of the guard’s hand, places her thumb on top of the guards thumb, squeezes and rotates the guard’s hand down.  Continuing the rotation with the center’s left hand will cause immediate pain and forces the guard’s face into the water.  The reason why this technique is so successful is the guard in the process of gripping the center’s swimsuit is the guard has turned her wrist so far inward in grabbing the swimsuit, there is no more range of motion in the wrist or elbow.  The center then twists the guard’s arm passed its range of motion to cause the guard instant elbow pain.  Most of so-called “wrist rotation” is actually elbow rotation of the forearm and “wrist.”   When the forearm turns, the wrist turns and the hand releases the swimsuit (see Fig 7). 

In addition, the center can grab the guard’s fingers with a hand and bend them backward to dislodge them.  To create and even stronger release of the guard’s hand off the swimsuit, the center bends the defender’s hand and wrist back as far as possible into wrist extension (bending back).  Another useful technique is to punch the outside part of the elbow of the center guard’s locked and outstretched holding arm to create a sharp elbow pain that forces the guard to release her hold on the center’s swimsuit.

The last method is for 2-meter offensive player to use a Varga Bear Hug hold.  The center grabs the low back of the center guard with one or two hands and pulls the guard into the center’s body.  When the guard vertical and close to the 2-meter player’s body, the center grabs the side of the guard’s swimsuit around the hip area and spins around the guard for front water.

Fronting the Center



The guard decides to front the center and hold on to both of the center’s arms.  The center can allow this defensive action to occur if the ball is at half tank.  Once the ball is at the point or wing, the center must regain front water so the ball can be passed into set (the center).  The center breaks the front by using a number of techniques: ducking under the guard’s outstretched arms, grabbing the guard’s elbow and swimming over the arm or to spin around the guard.  The center makes a calculated decision on when she is going to make her move to regain front water. There is no reason for the center to fight the guard for position when the ball is at half tank and will not be passed into the center for another 7 to 10-seconds.  The center needs to rest and conserve her energy for getting open when the ball is in a position to be passed into 2-meters (see Fig. 8).

Another way to prevent this situation from ever occurring is to front the center guard and grab both of her arms. The situation is now reversed, and fronts the center guard and holds onto both of her arms so she cannot move or grab onto the center’s swimsuit.  When the ball appears on the perimeter, the center spins to face the perimeter passers.  Lately, the referees are starting to call a contra foul on the center for holding the center guard’s arms.  The center has to “read the referee” and see how he or she is going to call or not call this holding technique.  If the referee is calling many contra fouls in the first quarter, the center must adjust and not hold the guard.  Why the center cannot hold the guard when the guard is holding the center is unknown, but that is life in the 2-meter jungle.

Spin Move



The guard is fronting the center, who must spin around the guard to regain front water.  The rule is to fake, grab and spin. The center head fakes to the left and spins to the right.  The head fake commits the center guard to the left and opens up the right side.  The center grabs the center guard’s hip and spins around the guard for front water.  The guard may attempt to get into a “spinning game” with center.  The guard constantly attempts to spin around the center and the center rotates in the opposite direction to prevent the guard’s spin from being completed.  In the spinning game, there are no swimsuit holds as the players use their arm and legs to spin.  It is a tiring game for the 2-meter player to continue to spin and spin against the guard to hold position but the center must expend the energy so she is open to receive the ball from the perimeter passer (see Figs. 9, 10).

Hold and Slough

The plan for the defense in the dropback zone is for the guard to hold the center to delay the center from shooting or passing the ball out until the slougher arrives to steal the ball.  Hold, sink and steal” is the motto of the defense.  The slougher is 3 to 4-seconds away or 6 to 8 strokes from the ball; the college center takes 2-seconds to pick up the ball.  That leaves the center about 2-seconds to shoot or kick the ball out.  This holding situation arises about 80-percent of the time and prevents the center from ever kicking the ball out or shooting the ball.  “To combat the guard’s holding, the center has to move in the water to get away from the guard.  A static center makes it easy for the sloughers to steal the ball; a mobile center is not.  The mobile center sees that there is a slough on the ball and moves to the right or left to shoot the ball.

 Center’s Move to Freedom


The center guard is holding the center, offset to the 2-meter player’s right shoulder, and is expecting a backhand when the ball comes into 2-meters.  The center grabs the ball, does a Power Turn Boyer to the right corner to score (90-degree turn, forearm ribcage push off, step-out Boyer shot).  The next time the ball comes into 2-meters with the guard holding, the center guard is offset on the center’s left shoulder to prevent the Power Turn Boyer shot.  The center sees that rollout move towards the left corner of the goal is open and she rolls out and scores.  The third time the ball comes into set, the center guard wraps both of her arms around the center.  The center pushes off and moves straight-out into a layout shot on her back.  Whatever defensive technique the guard is using, the center counteracts it and moves away from the guard.  A “hand guard” without legs, cannot react when she does not have a swimsuit to hold to, and watches the open center shooter turn right, left or straight-out for the shot (Fig. 11).

Center Uses the Legs to Block Guard

The 2-meter player blocks the path of the guard to stop her from swimming around her to front by moving the body in front of the guard. The move that the center makes to stop the guard is to step-out laterally with the left leg or right leg to block the path of the center guard.  This technique is called using the legs.  The center uses her legs to reposition her body in the water.  Grabbing the guard with the hands is not a good center blocking offense. Holding on to the guard with the hand, does not move the center’s body into the correct position in the water.  Once the guard is free from the center’s grasp, she can front the 2-meter player.  Only the center’s legs can physically move her body to block the path of the swimming guard.  The players need to be taught, whether or offense or defense, to use the legs to get position and not the hands.   Good defense is good leg work.

In concluding, the swimsuit hold by the guard is the name of the game.  And, it will remain in women’s water polo until the end of time.  The center’s swimsuit is just such an easy target for the guard to grab and slow or prevent the center from getting to the ball. However, the center can use twelve different counter techniques to prevent the guard from holding the center’s swimsuit or fronting the center.  The center can twist the guard’s wrist, grab the draped arm, hit the elbow, spin and use two lateral movement shots such as the Power Turn Boyer shot and the Rollout shot or a straight-ahead Layout shot. The center has to absorb the repeated fouling by the guard and the have skill to exploit the weakness of the guard by using the proper “hand release” techniques, spins and shots to break guard’s hold.


2-Meter Shots


The woman water polo player is superb as an outside shooter and as a driver.  She is also great as a center and 2-meter shooter.  The duty of the center is to locate on the 2-meter line in the center of the goal, holds position and if possible, throws a short quick shot that is 1-meter away from the goalie.  In today’s game, the center must be able to hold position in front of the goal but also be a scoring threat so score points and generate exclusions on the center guard.  In this month’s article, the most commonly used 2-meter shots, the sweep shot, backhand and layout shot, are examined.


  • Right leg steps-out with the ball above foot
  • Right arm straight and locked
  • Left hand pushes forward and rotates the body 90-degrees
  • Hand is under the ball on step-out and slides to side as the arm moves
  • Right arm is carried by the rotating torso 90’and releases the ball


The first shot learned by the 2-meter player is the sweep shot. It is taken when the 2-meter guard is overplays the 2-meter player’s right shoulder, anticipating a backhand shot. The sweep shot is a 90-degree rotational shot thrown towards the right corner of the goal. The 2-meter player sets up the shot with the back to the goal, the body is vertical with the right leg slightly forward. The player steps-out forward with the right leg and pushes water forward with the left hand to begin the shot.  The right arm is locked as the body sweeps toward the right corner with the ball close to the surface of the water. The center’s body position starts the shot with the back to the goal, turns 90-degrees, and releases the ball.  For a low corner shot, the hand remains vertical. A high corner shot has the hand tilted back with the little finger leading. It is unnecessary to lift the arm up in the air for a high corner shot when a slight hand movement is sufficient to lift the ball to the high corner.  The hand position is to start with the hand under the ball before stepping straight out.  The action of the center’s right leg stepping-out creates thrust that lifts the ball up out of the water slightly and then the right hand slides to the side of the ball for the throwing motion.  Do not allow the center to have her hand on top of the ball.  No sweep shot is ever taken with the hand on top of the ball as the sweep shot is unable to be taken (see Fig. 1).


In Figure 2, the center’s left hand has the palm up is held close to the hip and moves forward to assist in rotating the body towards the right corner of the goal.  The old left arm method was for the center to elbow and push off the center guard’s sternum to rotate.  Consequently, there were a lot of offensive fouls called with the elbow technique (see Fig. 2).


The backhand shot is rotation of the body and right arm to the right for a left corner shot at the goal.   There are four types of backhand shots: step-out, scissor kick, lean-over and flexion-extension.  The two most widely used are the step-out backhand and the scissor kick backhand.  The other two backhand shots, lean-over and flexion-extension are rarely used in women’s water polo.

STEP-OUT BACKHAND SHOT Left shoulder push off

  • Step-out, Left shoulder push off
  • Ball clearance
  • Left hand usage
  • Elbow leads and ball is released

The 2-meter shooter places his or her hand on top of the ball and rotates the body towards the right corner with the horizontal arm traveling near the surface of the water to shoot the ball. The backhand shot, like the sweep shot, is a rotational shot. The backhand shot rotates the shooter’s body in the opposite direction of the sweep shot. The rotation of the body is the result of hip rotation, left hand and right leg movement. The backhand shot is thrown from the hips with an assist from the right arm. The backhander’s right arm is part of a whole body shot that uses equal parts of the legs, hips, torso and the left and right arm to rotate to throw the ball. The right arm-only-backhand shot does not exist.

The rotational part of the backhand shot uses the hips to swing the right leg from a step-out position to a step-back position that ends with right foot pointing at the goal. For a demonstration of how the body moves the right arm have the player stand on the deck with the right arm and right leg forward and then swing the right leg back. The right arm swings backward in one rotational motion with the right leg to point the right arm at the goal and shoot the ball.


  • Step-out 45-degrees with right leg
  • Ball over the right foot
  • Pull with left hand


The 2-meter player positions the body by having the right foot forward, the body angled with the left shoulder pressed into the guard’s chest and steps-out with the right leg at a 45-degree angle. The center steps-outs 12-inches (30-centimeters) with the ball placed over the right foot. The left hand pulling back assists the center’s step-out leg motion. The square center (back and feet are parallel the goal) cannot step-out (see Figs. 3, 4).

Left Shoulder Push Off

  • Legs under hips and wide apart
  • Back vertical, arch low back, with left shoulder against guard’s sternum
  • Do not head butt, keep chin down


The backhand shooter’s left shoulder push off occurs simultaneously with the step-out leg motion.  The shoulder  push off creates a small gap of separation from the guard. The backhand begins with the 2-meter player having an angled the body. With an angled body, the 2-meter player places the left shoulder in the center of the guard’s breast bone. The 2-meter player’s legs are wide apart. The shooter’s back is vertical, the low back is arched (do not lean back) with the left shoulder pressed into the guard’s sternum. The player does not become horizontal in the water or head butt the guard. A player with a horizontal back cannot push off with the left shoulder and instead uses the left hand to push off the guard’s hip for an offensive foul (see Fig. 5).

Ball Clearance

  • Left hand pushes down and the feet kick down
  • Lifting up the arm and the hand gripping the ball


The 2-meter player lifts the ball out of the water by having the left hand push down and the feet kick down. The ball is not lifted up 2-feet in the air and the ball is not shot while underwater. If the ball does not clear the water, the backhand shot fails. For a demonstration of ball clearance, the player’s hand is on top and gripping the half-submerged ball. The left hand pushes down and the feet kick down and ball (and body) rises out of the water. The ball is lifted without resorting to using the arm to swing the ball up in the air. The left hand must be used to elevate the ball (see Figs. 6, 7).

Left Hand Usage: Pull, Push, Pull

  • Pull to step-out
  • Push for ball clearance
  • Pull to shoot


The backhand shooter uses the left hand to shoot the ball in three stages: pull, push and pull. In the first left hand stage, the step-out, the left hand pulls to assist the center in moving forward and turning the body.  At the same time, the right hand is placed on top of the ball and submerges it half way underwater. The step-out, left hand pull and left shoulder push off all happen simultaneously. In the second left hand stage, the left hand pushes down to lift up the right arm to clear the ball so it is above the water. The left hand pushes down with the feet kicking down.  This dual action lifts the entire body of the shooter, arm and right hand gripping the ball out of the water. In the third left hand stage, the left hand pulls to rotate the body and the ball is released (see Fig. 8).

The right hand works in combination with the left hand to shoot the ball. The 2-meter player begins the first right hand stage, the step-out, with the right hand on top of the ball as the center steps-out with the left hand pulling. In the second right hand stage, ball clearance, the ball is lifted up on the kick and left hand push and the right hand slides to side of the ball. In the third right hand stage, the shot, the right elbow is bent and moves backward as the left hand pulls again. As the body rotates, the shooter’s bent right arm straightens out as the right leg swings back. The ball is released with the right hand twisting inward to place a backspin on the ball.

Elbow Aims the Ball

  • Elbow aims the ball
  • Wherever the elbow aims, the ball follows


The shooter’s elbow throws the ball and aims the ball at the goal. The rule is: Wherever the elbow points the ball follows. The shooter must be taught to aim the ball at the goal by correctly positioning the elbow. For example, if the elbow points at the sidewall, the ball hits the side wall; the elbow aimed wide of the goal throws the ball into the lane line; and the elbow aimed at the left corner the ball goes into the left corner. The backhand shooter avoids having the ball in front of the face or resting on the ball so the elbow does not point at the side wall or lane line (see Fig. 9).

Failed Backhand Ball Clearance Techniques

  • Dive
  • Torpedo
  • Wide
  • High

In the four illustrations below, the inexperienced backhand shooter uses four incorrect elbow aiming techniques (dive, torpedo, high and wide) as she clears the ball from the water.



In the first figure, Dive, the center swings the ball high in the air for ball clearance.  In the second picture, Torpedo, she submerges the ball but does not use the left hand to lift up the ball and the ball becomes an underwater torpedo. In the third figure, High, the center pushes the ball deep underwater to get a firmer grip on the ball which results in a high positioned elbow.  The ball follows the elbow and goes over the top of the goal.  In the last figure, Wide, the center shooter bends the arm to float on the ball and aims the elbow at the side pool wall.  The ball follows the elbow point and throws the ball wide of the goal (see Figs. 10, 11, 12, 13)


  • Lean to left
  • Push down on the ball
  • Right elbow is high
  • Release the ball


The old-fashioned backhand is still being taught at many age group and high school teams.  It is an outdated shot that is easily blocked by the guard or the goalie.  The throwing motion is slow, telegraphed to the defense and always thrown at the high corner of the goal.  At one time, this was the only technique for throwing a backhand shot.  The old-fashioned backhand technique is for the center to lunge to the left and dip her left shoulder into the water.  This action raises the right shoulder high out of the water and allows the shooter to be able to lift the ball out of the water for the shot.  The center’s right hand is placed on top of the ball and pinches it firmly in the hand.  Or the ball can be palmed between the hand and the forearm.  Either method is okay. The ball is pushed down slightly in the water by the center’s high right elbow.  The shooter then leads with the right elbow moving backward as the right hip and right leg rotate backward.  The ball is released high out of the water and is thrown at the high corner of the goal.  The ball can be shot low, if the center readjusts her elbow and lowers it.  If the woman center wants to shoot cross-cage she over rotates her boy.

The guard reads the old-fashioned backhand by looking for the clues of the center dipping the left shoulder and a high right elbow.  The guard simply places her right hand on the center shooter’s elbow and the shot is blocked.  The elbow leads the backhand shot.  No elbow motion = no shot.  Usually, the center drops the ball or the shot goes wide of the goal when the guard’s hand hits the center’s right elbow.  The goalie reads the center’s backhand shot by observing the same clues: dipped left shoulder and high right elbow and blocks the shot.  The old-fashioned backhand telegraphs the shot to the goalie by leaning over and having a slow arm motion.  The element of surprise by a quick deceptive backhand shot is lost when the old-fashioned backhand technique is used.  Females, because of their longer legs, wider base and short torso, rarely use the old-fashioned backhand shot (see Fig. 14).


  • Lean forward
  • Snap the torso backward
  • High elbow
  • Release the ball at high corner


The Flexion-Extension Backhand is a pure woman’s center shot.  The woman center shooter has wide hips for a wide and stable base for eggbeatering and a short torso that is easy to flex forward and snap back.  The center leans forward with her hand on top of the ball and then snaps her torso back hard to throw the ball.  There is no body rotation.  The power is created by the center moving and cocking her body forward at high speed and taking the momentum along with the contraction of the back muscles to create the power for the shot.  It does not telegraph the shot as the center guard and the goalie only see torso movement and splashing but cannot read what type of shot it is going to be thrown.  The Flexion-Extension backhand shot has been replaced by the modern backhand that rotates the hips and the body for a more powerful and quicker shot.  However, one former starter on UCLA’s women’s team used this shot successfully at 2-meters (see Fig. 15). 


  • Slap both legs together
  • Lead with the elbow
  • Release the ball


The woman backhand shooter using the scissor kick to throw the ball has several advantages over the male backhand shooter.  Due to her wider hips and longer legs, her body has many times more drag in the water than the male backhand shooter.  The increased body drag slows the rotation of her body using a scissor kick and places the ball in the left corner of the goal and not the center of the goal.  On occasion when she does over-rotate, the ball is thrown over the goalie’s head (see Fig. 16).

The greater drag of the woman’s body has led to some misunderstanding among male coaches that are used to coaching boys.  He demands a step-out backhand at a 45-degree angle from the boys and the girl backhand shooters.  The woman’s wider hips slow body rotation in the water and allow for the use of the scissor kick and accurate left corner shot.  The step-out shot backhand is the preferred shot but some centers have adapted to using a scissor kick shot and have had good results.  If it is not broke, don’t fix it.

The male coach, used to coaching narrow-hip boys, has outlawed the scissor kick backhand shot.  The reason is the male center over-rotates his body and throws the ball at the center of the cage and hits the goalie in the stomach.  The narrow hips and short legs of the male scissor kick backhand shooter do not produce much drag in the water.  A body with low drag easily rotates in the water and can over-rotate during the backhand shot.  A backhand shot aimed and intended to go into the left corner of the goal using a scissor kick, now becomes a backhand shot thrown at the center of the goal.   The scissor kick happens so quickly that the backhand shooter has no idea why the ball hit the goalie and center cage when it was aimed at the left corner of the goal.  The only way that the coach knows that the male center used a scissor kick, is that the ball hit the goalie at the center of cage.  If a coach has a female center that consistently hits the goalie in the center of the cage, change her to a step-out leg motion.  However, many women shoot backhands quite well using a scissor kick.  The coach has to look at the accuracy of the center’s backhand before commenting.


The layout shot is a useful shot for moving away from the grabbing hands of the center guard (see Women’s Shooting Part 10 Swimsuit Defense) and moving straight out or at an angle to the goal.  Women have a decided advantage over men in that they float and can remain stable on the water when shooting.  Men, with less body fat, sink when trying to take a layout shot.  Therefore, the layout shot is not a popular shot for men.  However, for women it is a gold standard shot.  There are two types of layout shots: a lob shot and a power shot.  They differ in the fact that the layout lob uses little arm and leg power and the layout power shot uses tremendous arm and leg power.  The layout lob is a good shot for beginners and age group players.  By high school and college, the goalie anticipates the lob shot and blocks the shot.  The power shot layout shot is the preferred shot for women throwing a layout shot (see Figs. 17, 18, 19). 


  • Roll on back
  • Both legs point at goal
  • Lob the ball



  • Roll on back, hand under ball
  • Left leg points, right leg bent
  • Kick down, crunch abs, shoot




  • 55 cm to 65 cm ball women
  • Feet wide a part, body balanced, buttocks off ball, back arched
  • Back tight, shoulder stretched back
  • Explode into the sit up and throw


Plyometric exercises train the muscles to switch from eccentric to concentric contraction as quickly as possible for greater acceleration and power. The best exercise for developing the plyometric crunch layout shot is a combined balance ball and medicine ball drill. The player lies on top of a big 75 or 85-centimeter ball for men and a 55-centimeter or a 65-centimeter ball for women with the body and neck curved around the ball. The feet are spread a part on the floor, the back is arched and tight, the right shoulder pressed hard into the ball with the right arm over the head with a small rubber inflatable medicine ball in the hand weighing from 1 lb. to 4 lbs. or 1/2 kilogram to 2.0 kilograms (see Fig. 20).

The player creates the plyometric effect by curving the body around the ball with the back, right shoulder stretched with the right arm loose. The backside of the body is “tight” in a concentric contraction; the front of the body, the abdominals, are “preloaded” and “stretched” in an eccentric contraction. As the player does a plyometric sit up on the balance ball, she throws the medicine ball at the wall. The ball is caught after it bounces off the wall and the drill repeats. The rule is for the player’s body to be “tight and explode.” The player should never relax and sink into the balance ball. Repeat the sit up drill 10-20 times with perfect form (see Fig. 21).

In concluding, the woman center has a variety of 2-meter shots to use to beat the center guard and score on the goalie. The 2-meter player has a choice of a sweep shot, a layout shot, a layout lob shot. In any situation the center shooter faces, there is a move that exploits the weakness of her guard’s positioning. The center reads the guard’s position on her shoulder and selects the correct shot for the situation. When the guard overplays the 2-meter player’s right shoulder the center takes a sweep shot. If the center guard overplays the center’s left shoulder to prevent a sweep shot, she takes a backhand shot. When the guard presses the 2-meter player, she moves away from the guard for a layout shot.   Every defensive move has an offensive counter move that the resourceful center can use.



In this last article on women’s 2-meter shooting we examine the Power Turn Shot, Power Turn Boyer Shot, two Spin Moves, the Rollout Shot and the Hungarian Rollout Shot.  Each of these 2-meter shots and spin moves are used when the center guard positions herself on the center’s right or left shoulder.  The Power Turn Shots are used whenever the center guard is positioned on the center’s right shoulder.  The Weakside Spin Move towards the right corner of the goal is used whenever the guard overplays the center’s right shoulder.  The Strongside Reverse Spin Move is used whenever the guard overplays the center’s left shoulder to stop the Weakside Spin Move towards the right corner of the goal.  The Rollout shot is also used whenever the center guard overplays the center’s left shoulder to stop the Power Turn shots or the Weakside Spin Move to the right corner.  The last important technique, a visual one, is the center “reads the defense” and selects the correct shot to defeat the center guard’s positioning.  All in all, the center has a 2-meter shot to use no matter how the center guard plays the 2-meter player.


  • Guard left shoulder: Strongside Reverse Spin to left corner
  • Guard right shoulder: Weakside Spin right corner



The center cannot be a one shot shooter.  The one shot only shooter only uses the backhand shot to throw the ball.  The center guard adjusts and overplays the center’s right shoulder and right arm and knocks down the backhand shot.  The intelligent shooter, in this situation, changes the shot to a right corner shot, a Spin Move or Power Turn move and attacks the weakness of the center guard by moving towards the right corner of the goal.  The center does not attack the strength of the center guard by moving into the center guard’s arms.  On the other hand, if the center guard overplays the center’s left shoulder to prevent a Weakside Spin Move or Power Turn the center wisely moves towards the left corner of the goal and shoots a Strongside Reverse Spin Shot or a Rollout Shot. By the center sensing what shoulder the center guard is on, the right shoulder or left shoulder, the 2-meter player can select the correct shot for the situation.  There is never a time at the 2-meter position that the center blindly throws the ball without reading the defense (see Figs. 1, 2).


  • Grab the guard’s right hip
  • Spin 90-degrees
  • Overhand shot

The Power Turn is a 90-degree spin towards the right corner of the goal.  The shooter grabs the guard’s swimsuit at the right hip and spins.  Once facing the goal, the center shoots an overhand shot at the right corner of the goal.  The Power Turn Shot is a “muscle shot” that requires great strength to put the ball in the goal.  The shot is a skim shot to the right lower corner of the goal.  A high corner power shot takes too much strength for the under-attack center to take.  The center guard immediately jumps on the center’s left shoulder and partially submerges the shooter and knocks down her legs.   The Power Turn Shot is a difficult shot to take at any level (Shot Doctor: Hole Shots Part 1).


  • Grab guard’s right hip with hand
  • Spin 90-degrees
  • Push off with the left forearm
  • Boyer Shot

The Power Turn Shot was modified by having a push off and became the Power Turn Boyer. The push off into a Boyer shot frees the center from the grasp of the center guard’s hands.  The guard overplays the center’s right shoulder to prevent a backhand shot. The center reads the defense and moves in the opposite direct towards the right corner of the goal.  The technique that the center uses is to grab the guard’s right hip, spins 90-degrees and then pushes off with the left forearm on the guard’s ribcage and/or hip.  The push off creates a small gap that allows the woman center to shoot the ball without hindrance from the guard.  When there is no guard pressuring the center, she can take a Boyer shot at the goal with all of her strength (Shot Doctor: Women’s Shooting Part 6).  The shot is quick without a fake as the beaten center guard recovers in less than a second. The US center, using this shot, scored the last two goals for the USA in the 2008 Olympic final (see Fig. 3).



  • Grab the left hip
  • Grab the ball on top or on the side
  • Spin 180-degrees with the right arm close to the water
  • Let go of the ball and sink for the exclusion
  • Hold on to the ball for the screw shot


The center guard overplays the shooter’s right shoulder to stop the backhand shot and the center spins towards the right corner for inside water and the shot.  There are three shots available to her: T-shot, Screw Shot or Push-Screw Shot.  The T-shot is a difficult shot to learn, the standard screw shot and the push-Screw Shot are the best shots to use in this situation where the center faces the goalie on the 2-meter line.  The reason is the screw shot for center shooter does not let go of the ball after the spin move.  The center spins and takes the screw shot to the right corner.  The goalie is surprised by the spin move and is unprepared for the instantly thrown screw shot (see Fig. 4).

The center cannot delay when she spins to inside water.  Either she is going to fake the kick out (exclusion foul) or take the shot.  When she is in goalie territory, close to the goalkeeper, she must shoot quickly as the goalie is leaping out to steal the ball from the center.

The Spin Move to a Shot technique requires the woman center to reach way around the center guard’s waist with the left hand and grab the opposite hip.  This farside right hip leverage point allows the center to spin 180-degrees.  By comparison, the 90-degree spin move grabs the guard’s nearside left hip and moves half the distance.  The right hand is on the side of the ball or on top of the ball, the elbow is locked and the ball is kept close to the surface of the water.  The lateral move from the push off frees the center of the guard’s grasp and allows for an unhindered shot at the goal.

Do not jump up high in the air as this does nothing and results in an offensive foul being called on the center.  The referee is suspicious of a center leaping high in the air at 2-meters.  Jumping straight up in the air is not the same as spinning 180-degrees.  In basketball, if the player jumps straight up in the air she cannot spin around her guard.  The muscles involved are very different.  In leaping upward the groin muscles in the leg adduct (move together) in the scissor kick.  In the spin move the legs are wide apart with the right leg forward and use the hip muscles to rotate.  The inexperienced player assumes that the scissor kick that was used to throw the ball can be used to do a spin move—it cannot.



The Reverse Strongside Spin Move is the opposite of the Standard Weakside Spin move.  The Weakside Spin Move spins 180-degrees towards the right corner of the goal; Reverse Strongside Spin Move spins 180-degrees towards the left corner of the goal. The Strongside Reverse Spin Move is used by the righthanded center when the center guard overplays the 2-meter player’s left shoulder to prevent a Weakside Spin Move to the right corner of the goal.  When the center guard overplays the left side of the center to prevent the center from moving towards the right corner she leaves the left corner of the goal wide open.  The guard cannot recover and move over to the left corner to prevent the Strongside Reverse Spin Move for inside water and a shot at the unprotected left corner of the goal (see Fig. 5).

There are two techniques used to reverse spin: a universal one and a woman’s only reverse spin move.  The universal one used by men and women is for the righthanded center to grab the ball on top and spin to her right with the right foot forward, no swimsuit grab, the elbow locked and to use the hips and the left hand to spin towards the left corner.  The right leg moves from facing the downcourt goal to rotating to face the frontcourt goal. A reverse spin can only work when the center guard is off balanced and overplaying the center’s left shoulder.  The disadvantage to a Reverse Strongside Spin for women is they float, and cannot sink after doing this move for the exclusion foul on the center guard.  The referee sees a center, high in the water with the ball, facing the goal ready to shoot.

The second reverse strongside spin is not a reverse spin at all.  It is an over-the-top move.  The center grabs the ball and jumps backwards to open water and then flips on her stomach.  The woman center guard is too slow to react and prevent this sudden move.  This move does not work with male guards who are quicker, and shut down this move immediately. Possibly the woman’s short torso makes this a quick move for them.  The over-the-top move requires some space to perform this move and is best done outside the 5-meter line.  Usually, drivers use this move on the perimeter or when the counterattack has slowed down.  The counterattacker with the ball and has to create offense because no one is free.  It is a new move and from what the author saw in Southern California with the elite women’s 18-under and 16-under teams filled with Junior National Team and Youth National Team players it is a move that works well.  To conclude this Spin Move part, the center must be able to use both hands to spin and to shoot the ball.  The center guard soon understands the moves of the right hand dominant center and can anticipate the move.  One of Southern California’s greatest high school centers and a starter at UCLA, used either hand to turn and to shoot.


  • Lunge
  • Roll
  • Cock legs
  • Shoot


The Rollout Shot is used to move to the left corner of the goal when the guard overplays the center’s left shoulder.  The center guard is attempting to prevent a Spin Move or a Power Turn move towards the right corner of the goal.  The Rollout shot by moving towards the left corner of the goal leaves the center guard alone.  The guard is left guarding empty water near the right corner of the goal.  The Rollout Shot is a difficult shot for age group and Frosh/Soph high school player.  The varsity and college center should be able to master the Rollout Shot after a few weeks of practice.  It is a four stage process: Lunge, Roll, Cock and Shoot.  The center a vertical player, moves to the horizontal on her stomach and then rolls on her side, cocks the ball with the right leg forward and shoots the ball with the right leg kicking back.  There is little power generated by the right arm in a rollout shot.  By comparison, the sweep shot and backhand shot (Women’s Shooting Part 12) are technically simple shots (see Fig. 6).




The Rollout Shot begins with the center moving on her stomach to her right to get to a bad pass thrown wide right.  She reaches underneath the ball to pick it up.  Do not put the hand on top of the ball!  The center must move 45-degrees away from the center guard.  Moving straight out places the guard in the perfect shot blocking position.  The left hand comes into play and it is extended and pulls downward to flip the center from being on her stomach to rolling onto her left shoulder with the right hip straight up in the air.  The ball is lifted into the air as she rolls over with the left arm pulling downward to complete the roll.  The center’s right hip must be straight up; she cannot lie on her back.

While the rollout appears to be a muscle shot/arm shot, it is not.  The rollout is a leg shot.  Almost all of the power to throw the ball comes from the leg kick and the hip rotation.  The right leg swings forward to balance out the shooter’s body.  If the legs are together she rolls backward.  To begin the acceleration phase, she kicks the right leg backward and then snaps the hips forward to generate the force for the right arm to throw the ball.  The force is transferred up the chain of body links to the right arm for the power to throw the ball with a short arm cock (see Figs. 7, 8, 9).

Cock the ball with the legs 

Shoot the ball with the legs

  • Balance out with right leg forward
  • Kick back right leg
  • Rotate hips, use a short arm cock
  • Power transfers from legs to right arm for shot



The center with the long arm cock and is not using the right leg forward to balance out the body with the ball cocked over her head.  She is now finds herself in a lying-on-side position without any power to shoot the ball.  So she uses a long arm cock to create enough power to shoot the ball.  As a result of a long right arm cock she falls flat on her back.  From this awkward position, she throws the ball over the top of the goal.  To prevent this event from happening, the center uses her legs and her hips to generate power to throw the ball.  The concept of the right leg cocking the ball and not the right arm cocking the ball must be learned.  A horizontal rollout shot is NOT a vertical outside shot.  The mechanics of the two shots use the right arm very differently (see Figs.  10, 11).


The rollout shot is thrown at the low left corner of the goal so the shooter has better control of the ball.  In rare cases, the ball is side armed into the right corner of the goal if the goalie moves to defend the left corner.  It is also possible to use the Charlie Turner dolphin kick leg move when the center guard grabs the rollout center’s hips to prevent body rotation.  The Charlie Turner shot has the center’s left hand positioned straight down and sculling fiercely to stop lateral movement as the shooter takes two short dolphin kicks to generate power for the shot.  The non-moving center “pumps” up the body with power, like a coiled spring, from the dolphin kicks and throws a powerful shot at the right corner (Shot Doctor: Charlie Turner Lying-On-The-Side Shot).  Power is power, whether it is generated from hip rotation or flexion and extension of the legs from the dolphin kick (see Fig. 12).

The skip shot is the preferred rollout shot.  Either an index or 2-finger skip shot release (Shot Doctor: Skip Shots Part 1-4).  For the elite player, like the US Olympian Cammy Craig, a topspin skip shot is used.  The advantage of the topspin skip shot is the ball jumps into the high corner of the goal. To throw a topspin skip shot the rollout shooter slides the hand half of an inch (.20-centimeter) forward as the arm moves forward.  The slight hand forward movement places a topspin (ball spins forward) on the ball.  Do not move the hand more than half an inch (.20-cm).  The center practices the topspin skip shot by throwing hard flat topspin passes and topspin skip passes to a partner.


  • Grab the ball on top
  • Hold the ball close to the face
  • Roll on side and quickly shoot the ball


Yep, it is two guys.  There has not been any men in any of my articles for 12 months.  The men are complaining because they have been forgotten for a year.  Too bad.  Get used to it!

The Hungarian Rollout Shot is a quicker version of the Standard Rollout Shot.  It is a super-fast shot that catches the center guard completely asleep at 2-meters.  The Spin and Power Turn Shot are slow movements by comparison.  The Hungarian Rollout Shot is lighting fast—a blur to the center guard and goalie.

The technique for the Hungarian Rollout shot is to grab the ball on top and bring the ball close to the face.  Then the center reaches out with the left hand to quickly roll her right hip up.  As she is rolling she is throwing the ball.  The ball is shot at the lower left corner of the goal without “sighting in” the corner.  The position of the body aims the ball.  The center’s eyes and right hand do not aim the ball.  Trying to sight in the corner and aim the ball slows the shot down and allows the guard to attack the shooter and knock down the shot.  This is a lighting fast shot and there is no time to visually aim the ball at the goal.  In the event that the goalie moves over to the left corner of the goal, the shooter side arms the ball into the vacant right corner.  The Hungarian Rollout Shot is a new shot for women.  It first appeared in the USA in the UC Irvine women’s water polo team in 2010.  Very few women have ever heard or seen this shot.  In the author’s mind it is a shot that has the highest percentage of scoring on the slow moving center guard (see Fig. 13).


The center has four different 2-meter shots and two spin moves to choose from after reading the guard’s positioning on the center’s right or left shoulder.  When the guard is on the center’s left—turn towards the right corner with a rollout shot or a Reverse Strongside Spin Move.   When the guard is on the center’s right—turn towards the right corner of the goal using a Power Turn or the Standard Weakside Spin Move.  The position of the center guard dictates what type of shot is to be taken by the center.  The center “reads” the guard and does not try to dominate the guard.  For example, if the guard is offset on the center’s left shoulder and the center moves to the left with a spin move, the ball is stolen from the center.  Move away from the center guard’s strength and score; do not use the guard to lose the ball.  Scoring is more than just throwing the ball.

This concludes the Women’s Shooting Parts 1-13.  In this series of articles we explored the challenges and advantages that the woman water polo player has in the game of water polo..  The outside shot, drive-in off the water shots, breaking the hold of the woman guard’s grip on the swimsuit and 2-meter shots was covered.  Hopefully, the woman reading this female-dedicated series has found it refreshing to view women water polo figures and tactics instead of the usual male oriented figures and moves.

(c) Copyright 2013 Jim Solum

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