Ask the Coach: Roles of Perimeter Players


What are the roles of perimter players in the halfcourt and how can I break training into specific pieces to address those roles?


In today’s modern form of water polo, participation of the perimeter player has greatly increased.

A perimeter player is responsible for ball movement, the entry pass into the center position, but more important, they must control the offense. Perimeter players are divided into 3 categories:

1- Position #3 or the point man – this player is responsible for calling the offense, controlling clock management and must be a smart shooter; it is paramount that this player understand defense and transition.
2- Position #2 and #4 – on most teams these are shooters and drivers (offense by moving and creating angles for passing and shooting); #2 is often a defensive player with great passing skills; in transition this player will guard the other team’s best shooter.
3- Position #1 and #5 or wings – these players are used mainly for balance, they must work with the drivers in transition and balancing their drives or shots; in many offenses these players are also utility and can be used as second centers.

As you prepare to field your team, a careful look at the perimeter is important—place a shooter that has leadership skills at position #3 – this will result in opponents giving up many counter attack goals against your team.

Submitted by:

Randy Galza

Ask the Coach: Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Training in Water Polo


What is the difference between aerobic and anaerobic training in water polo?


The terms “aerobic” and “anaerobic” refer to the presence and absence of oxygen, respectively. Most of our cells prefer to get their energy by using oxygen to fuel metabolism. During exercise with adequate oxygen (i.e. aerobic), muscle cells can contract repeatedly without fatigue. During anaerobic or non-oxygen conditions (i.e. higher intensity exercise), muscle cells must rely on other reactions that do not require oxygen to fuel muscle contraction. This anaerobic metabolism can impair muscle contractions and this deterioration in performance is called fatigue.

Fatigue causes you to experience added discomfort and weakening muscles. Eventually you will need to slow down and lower your exercise intensity. Slowing down allows the muscles to once again rely solely on aerobic metabolism.

The problem with the terms “aerobic” and “anaerobic” when applied to water polo is that we actually never switch from total aerobic to total anaerobic metabolic conditions. In reality, the more intensely we train, the greater the need for anaerobic energy production. Consequently, it is best to view the terms aerobic and anaerobic as transitions in metabolism, where the proportion between aerobic and anaerobic metabolism changes depending on exercise intensity.

As training intensity increases, the need for energy release eventually exceeds that which can be supplied by aerobic metabolism. Our muscles simply need more reactions to support the energy demand. Therefore, anaerobic contribution to metabolism increases. When this happens, we refer to this change in metabolism as a metabolic threshold. This metabolic threshold represents the exercise intensity where we start to produce those waste products of anaerobic metabolism that can eventually lead to fatigue.

So how do these terms relate to water polo? Well, it depends on your circumstances and your goals. Aerobic training conditions enable you to exercise for long periods of time, with you potentially benefiting from the sustained energy expenditure (i.e. calories burned). Aerobic exercise tends to be less stressful on muscles, so during the “Base Phase” and early stages of your cycle, most of your training will be aerobic. However, in order to rapidly improve your exercise capacities, tolerance, and performance, anaerobic training is a necessity. Therefore performing anaerobic exercise is typically used more frequently during the competitive and intense phase of your training.

High reliance on anaerobic metabolism is unavoidable for some types of exercise or activities. For instance, lifting weights is an anaerobic exercise (this is why muscles fatigue so rapidly with this type of training). Other types of activities, such as heavy ball training, can also be anaerobic – especially if you are unfit.

Fortunately, we do not need sophisticated equipment to detect when we transition from aerobic to anaerobic exercise. As we approach and pass our metabolic threshold intensity and start to breathe harder, we are forced to rely more on concentration on drills and situations, and training simply becomes uncomfortable. However, a simple heart rate check can help you determine personal thresholds– if the heart rate value is below or above the prior established metabolic threshold of each individual athlete, this reflects an increase of anaerobic contribution.

I hope this helps, just remember to always pay attention to your athletes. Just because a written workout looks professional does not necessarily mean it’s a great workout– the human factor must be taken into consideration at every stage of training. They say there is no “I” in team, but there is an “I” in Fit.

Submitted by:

Daniel Johnson

Complete Weight Training Program (used with Chinese National Team)

By: Ricardo Azevedo

Weight training is an important part of any program. It is vital to the development of a water polo athlete, but you also have to be careful not to overdo it– instead collaborating with a strength coach to design a program that best fits your team.

By clicking on the downloadable link below, you can access an example of a weight training program used by the Chinese National Team this past year. Our goal was to introduce a more complete training regimen, as in the past a very old fashioned program was in place—most of the exercises were based on maximum effort, creating too many injuries.

The program is designed to cover all aspects of player development including back, torso, core, legs, and injury prevention. The frequency of execution was 3 times per week for 1:1 minutes.

Coaches must also remember that weights and dryland training are complementary workouts—meaning you need to take into consideration the water time and effort (a common problem with young coaches is the “more is better” attitude). For example, if you have a strong session in the weight room that concentrates on legs, then water time should be geared towards the back or upper body—remember that muscles need recovery to achieve good results.

Downloadable Chinese Weight Lifting Program

Strength Training for Young Water Polo Athletes

Me with the guys at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Me with the guys at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

By: Kenny Schroeder

As the trainer for US water polo from 1993 to 2008, I’ve seen many changes in the sport regarding injury prevention and strength conditioning in both the men and women’s programs. Today there is more of a focus on dry land conditioning—this recent combination of dry and wet training has been developed in order to optimize the athlete’s ability to excel in the sport.

Traveling the world with the US team over that 15 year period and being exposed to the techniques of various other countries has given me the opportunity to see how the most successful teams approach the sport in regards to training.

In Eastern European countries, athletes begin to build a foundation in wellness and fitness at a much earlier age. It is not uncommon to see children as young as 7 years old involved in a comprehensive fitness program designed to create a solid base for their progression in the world of sport.

The exercises at an early age are generally low impact in nature– they involve elements of static and ballistic stretching, cardiovascular endurance and strength conditioning. At an early age the children are lead through exercise routines by their age group instructors which involve exercises that utilize gravity and the child’s body weight as the main element of resistance. This can be achieved by a combination of activities that make the training less boring and more exciting for the younger athlete. The lower impact exercises are performed at a high repetition and include a variety of exercises to make the overall training more enjoyable.

They may also involve elements of competition to further enhance the element compliance. For instance, the kids may be split into groups of 5 at the edge of the pool. The first participant may perform 10 pushups, 10 situps and 10 jumping jacks and then sprint a lap. When he or she touches the wall the next kid will perform the same routine. The whole time there is a lot of cheering, screaming and encouragement until the 5th and final participant touches the wall. The teams may be changed up and repeated 5 times.

To add a higher level of difficulty, the children are asked to wear cotton sweat pants with a speedo type swim trunk over the sweats to add additional drag in the water. This is one example of training for the younger athlete that makes it fun and competitive as well.

Me and the some of the USA guys climbing the Great Wall.
Me and the some of the USA guys climbing the Great Wall.

When Tony was a 15-year-old sophomore in high school, he approached me at the dinner table at his family’s house and asked if I could train him. He said he was going to try out for the National Team and needed to get more fit. I agreed and we began to work out in the gym 6 days a week, 80 minutes a day. The program included abdominal work, stretching, cardiovascular and strength work.

I felt I didn’t want him to be the strongest kid in the pool, I wanted him to be the fittest. If there was an emphasis I would have to say it was to strengthen his legs. Over the years I had seen many international athletes with large upper bodies and little thin legs. With my background in Kinesiology, I believed that the legs were most important element to enable the water polo athlete to remain stable in an unstable environment (the water).

Our program has lasted through Tony’s HS, College and international career. He still emails me to ask questions about his exercise program or how he should tailor it for upcoming games or tournaments. The game has grown and so should the athlete. Staying stagnant in the sport will only grow barnacles. Stay ahead of the game. Keep progressing so you can become the player you want to be.

AWP Note: This summer, Tony and Kenny will be co-publishing a book titled ‘Strength Training for the High School Olympian’. It will include a comprehensive fitness training regimen for high school aged water polo athletes, complemented by over 100 pictures of Tony in the gym, as well as supplemental material on diet, cross-training and more. The book will be available in both print form and as an e-book and sold directly through this website. To get updates about new content posted to this site, please sign up for our AWP Newsletter.



Ask the Coach: How a lightweight can turn against heavier players?


I play top left flat as a driver and I am light weight. How can I work on turning against heavier players?


As a 1 – 2 player you will usually defend the best right-handed player from the other team, so your thoughts and preparation should be defensive in nature. As a play-maker you need to stay free and ready to go, you must use movement both vertically and laterally.

Try to be difficult–most players don’t like when a player keeps moving. Also spend more time developing your legs, as quickness comes from leg strength and also ball handling ability. Do not square out to the defender– that gives him too much of your own exposure body—instead lean with your shoulders, elbows and knees.

Another important thing to keep in mind is to anticipate the defenders, recognize the defense set up, and keep ahead of the defense. They will try to force you outside so position your legs away from the defender– this keeps the defender from grabbing you around the shoulders and getting physical—the opposite can be done for forcing you inside.

Also make sure to read the articles that I post about drivers and get busy becoming a pest! Good luck.

Submitted by:

Joshua Vasquez

Counter Attack Series – 2nd installment (of 4)

By: Ricardo Azevedo

As covered in the first installment, counter attacks are very important for team success. In this second installment, I will outline the top, perimeter or outside positions of the counter attack.

When the ball is shot from these positions, the counter attack takes the form of a fast break, with 1 on 0, 2 on 1, or 3 on 2 , opportunities that have a much higher percentage of success for the offense (as mentioned in the first installment). It is also important to note that offensive players must also remain aware and recognize the needs of the defense.

The success of this type of counter attack is more individual, with anticipation on the part of the perimeter players being the most important. Another major factor is the outlet pass by the goalie, since a mistake of a couple of inches can be the difference of a goal or create a missed opportunity.

As players position themselves for this fast break, it is important to understand the concepts of “time and space”. The angles of passing and quick recognition will determine success, but players must be careful not to have “tunnel vision” and only think about the goal. Sometimes an athlete’s best opportunity is behind him, and he should maintain his head in a swivel and continue to communicate with his teammates.

The number one problem with this type of counter attacks is bad passing. I recommend that a player get his legs below himself, finds his teammate, and executes the pass. It doesn’t pay to be tricky and fancy—players should just focus on the play they have practiced hundreds of times in training.

Last but not least, the players on the back, bottom or first line must remain aware of what is happening, as they are arriving late to the offense and must read and adjust accordingly if the counter attack is not successful.

Basic Counter Attack Chart #3

Basic Counter Attack Chart #4

Basic Counter Attack Chart #5


Counter Attack Series – 1st Installment (of 4)

By: Ricardo Azevedo

‘Counter attack’ or ‘fast break’ are terms borrowed from basketball and soccer and, much as in other sports, the maneuver referred to by these terms makes up an intricate part of the tactical game of water polo. I believe that it is necessary to follow a tactical approach to be successful, beginning with an understanding of the philosophy of this specific maneuver.

Over the years, the way to counter has developed along with rule changes. Before 1976, the goalie could not pass the ball past half-court, and there was no time limit on how long a team could hold possession of the ball (with the ball reversing to the other team only for an infraction). During those days, counter attacks were more of an individual-break-away, with the ball having to be handled by 1 or 2 players to reach the open player.

As the rules changed, the water polo counter attack began to morph into what it is today–a transition to offense in an efficient manner to set up an offensive scheme. This transition has also been a work in progress, as the rules concerning possession time clocks have changed 4 times in the last 40 years:

1:00 minute – 1970s
45 seconds – 1980s
35 seconds – 1990s
30 seconds – current

With these time changes, counter attacks have become extremely efficient and characterized by a very strict tactical approach. An important philosophical point to remember is that “ transition goes both ways “, meaning a successful counter attack is not measured by how many goals a team scores, but instead by how quickly and efficiently the team uses the possession clock without creating a turnover that would give the other team an easy-scoring opportunity.

A transition chart goes as follows:

1 – 0 and 2 – 1 around 85% chance of scoring
3 – 2 and 4 – 3 around 35% chance of scoring
5 – 6 and 6 – 5 around 15% chance of scoring– in the case of failure remember that a 1 -0 or 2 -1 will be going the other way with an 85% chance of success!

Taking the last few Olympics as an example, very few teams score on the counter attack, but the teams whose counter attacks are based on efficient time management create more opportunities and therefore win more consistently.

Through a series of downloadable charts, I will attempt to illustrate different counter attacks from around the world. Every counter attack has a starting point that usually begins with a shot, turnover, steal or contra foul (offensive foul). I will try to illustrate how some of the top teams in the world deal with this situation.

Basic Counter Attack Chart #1

Basic Counter Attack Chart #2

“Drive, Drive”: The Proper Technique for Training your Drivers

If you go to any water polo game in the USA, you will most likely hear the words “drive, drive” being screamed by a coach or sometimes even by the crowd, often throughout the entire game. Bystanders often wonder what this means, but I’ll go as far as to say that oftentimes players and coaches don’t actually fully understand the meaning of this phrase either.

The word “drive” was borrowed from basketball in the late 50s, when water polo began to use movement as a way to attack the goal. Before that time, water polo was a static game and very little movement took place– it was more about posting up or 1 on 1 individual attacks. Games were typically low scoring, both because of the lack of a shot clock, but also because the leather ball was heavy and did not allow for many perimeter shots.

In the rest of the world, various different terms are used in place of the word “drive”, including  “attack”, “penetrate”, and “enter”. Regardless of the terminology, the “driver” position in water polo is extremely important for the game. Unfortunately in the US, we often consider drivers to be a ‘dime a dozen’ and instead choose to emphasize goalie, center and defender training. The drivers are often left out there to fend for themselves, based on the idea that driving is a skill everyone is born with.

Let’s take look at this position: to begin, there are 3 different types of drivers and these are named according to the position they play and their strength and characteristics:

1-   1 or 2 drivers (USA Right hander side) are usually the best shooters on the team; they are fast and quick; the 2 driver is usually more offensive than the 1 driver.

2-   4 or 5 drivers (USA Left hander side) should be good defenders and able to shoot across their bodies; your best passers should play this position; left-handed players will play this position as well.

3-   3 drivers (USA Point) are usually defenders or strong shooters; some teams also use this position for a quick player to create movement.

Besides the different types of drivers there are also different drives that are and should be dictated according to the time, defense and tactics used by different teams:

1-   Perimeter driving (when a player drives from positions 2, 3, 4).

2-   Wing driving (also known in the USA as “back door” or “baseline”, both terms adopted from basketball).

3-   Post up driving (when a player looks to muscle a smaller player by playing as a second center).

4-   Picking or Screening (“picks” were very popular in the 70s and 80s until they were deemed illegal; coaches adapted by creating moving picks now known as screens; these are when 2 or more players use a drive as a way to create and open a player or to exchange defenders).

5-   Other types of drives are double or diagonal (double is when synchronized or timed 2 players initiate drives for tactical purposes; diagonal is when players 2 or 4 exchange sides– widely used for creating motion and attacking zones).

Following all this comes the most important part of driving—the skills required to play the position successfully that in my opinion are often not taught and worked on sufficiently. The specific training for drivers is very varied: they require quick hands and fast strokes; they must be able to react with quick explosive movements when going from the horizontal to the vertical position; they should be able and must be able to pass under pressure and shoot the quick shots; movement to the right or the left should be worked on during training, allowing for the driver to be of multi-use.

Drivers should also be able to control the game and call offenses (defenders call defenses). In the last few Olympics, the leading scorers (for the most part) have been drivers, examples include: Sukno and Boskovic from Croatia, Prlainovic and Sapic from Serbia, Perrone from Spain, Azevedo from the USA, Biros from Hungary, Kasas from Hungary and Felugo from Italy, just to name a few.

Here are a few of the drills that I use to train the driver position:

1-   Ball handling skills (remember that drivers will handle the ball on offense 80% of the time; precision and accurate passing are very important; drivers should be able to deliver a pass from any body position and under pressure).

2-   Leg strength and explosive movement upwards (both defensively and offensively the driver is often used to create lanes or intercept plays; high body position on passing and shooting is a very important tool for success).

3-   Hand speed (I use a wrist hand weight that I created weighing 250 grams; I have players pass, lunge and stroke with the weigh to help build strength and not only speed; but this also helps with power).

4-   Stroke speed (using the wrist weight and some resistance bands will develop quickness and explosive movement).

5-   Heavy ball (using this while following a shooting motion will strengthen the core and legs and at the same time work on the vertical game).

The final piece of the puzzle is to work on the mind of the player– this might be the most difficult part, but nonetheless a must.  A good driver must possess a strong awareness of his/her surroundings and an in-depth knowledge of tactics. An analog I use with my players to emphasize these skills is as follows:

D – Decode the defense

R –  React according to the situation

I  –  Intelligence; read the clock and situation

V – Vision; be aware of teammates and score

E  – Execution of the drive needed

In conclusion, driving is very important for the game of water polo today. But one must also take into consideration that with a 30-second clock, highly defensive schemes, and the physicality of the game, driving should be used intelligently with specific needs in mind. Make sure to go over with each driver his/her strengths and weaknesses, allowing him or her to be positioned in the right place. The most common mistake in high school water polo is players playing in the wrong position.

At the higher level there are specific positions that need to be filled. If my 2 player is very offensive, I will make sure to pair him up at position 1 with a more defensive-minded player. Players will also change their positions for different teams — a center in high school might become a driver in college, so make sure to evaluate the true position of a player to help him/her succeed at the higher level.

Ask the Coach: Outside Shooter Techniques for a quick shot outside 5 meters?


What are some techniques that a player can use to create separation one-on-one with the defender and effectively use that separation to get a quick shot off outside five meters?


First of all, it’s important to create the separation in an efficient manner, without committing an offensive foul. You want to stay as mobile as possible, constantly moving, having your legs in position for a quick change in direction or stop and go effort.

A good player has awareness of the ball and places himself in a position to be able to drive or pop up for the quick shot at any time. Hand speed and strong leg thrusts are a must—you have to be able to get from horizontal position to vertical position at lightning speed.

For example, if you are in a horizontal position, take a big breaststroke kick and 2 or 3 quick strokes to the right or left of the defender—this will force him to play off of you. This is when you also need to time your move with your teammate who has the ball (and is going to pass it to you) so that you can take a couple fast strokes and pop for a quick shot.

Submitted by:

Will Kim

AWP Hosting Chinese Teams in Italy

rari nantes

Azevedo Water Polo Italy, run by Cassandra Azevedo Maggiolo and Stefano Maggiolo, is scheduled to host a whole roster of new teams this year, including several from China. As a sport, water polo in China is quickly gaining momentum, and the Chinese Team hopes to make a strong showing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. It doesn’t hurt that Ricardo Azevedo has been Head Coach of the Chinese National Team since 2011, creating a liaison between clubs and athletes in China, the US, Italy and beyond.

The following Press Release (translated into English) discusses the Shanghai Team currently training in Italy this week. Next week, yet another Chinese team from Guangzhou will arrive in Italy to practice with Rari Nantes Camogli.

The Azevedo Water Polo team is excited to be hosting so many new and interesting teams this year, and we only plan to continue expanding from here on out. Don’t forget to sign up for our Email Newsletter for future updates!


The Chinese Shanghai water polo team trained yesterday night at the Zanelli Pool with the Blu Shelf Carissa Savona Team. The Shanghai team had already traveled to Italy last year to train, and wanted to return again this year to practice at this notable Savona water polo school. The Shanghai team includes several members of the current Chinese National Team as well as a few former members. “Physically, they are very talented and well-prepared ”, said Savona Coach Andrea Pisano. “We have experienced a good level of training both physically and tactically.”

Next Wednesday Rari Nantes Camogli will host yet another Chinese Team—this time from Guangzhou.

Laura Sicco

20022012 savona rari nantes


La squadra cinese dello Shangai si è allenata ieri sera nella piscina Zanelli con la Blu Shelf Carisa Savona. Lo Shangai era già venuto lo scorso anno ed ha voluto ritornare ad allenarsi all’ombra della Torretta vista la bontà della scuola savonese di pallanuoto. Nella formazione cinese militano diversi giocatori facenti parte della Nazionale attuale ed alcuni che ne hanno fatto parte nel recente passato. “Fisicamente sono molto dotati e ben preparati – commenta l’allenatore savonese Andrea Pisano – E’ stato un allenamento di buon livello sia dal punto di vista fisico che tattico”.

Mercoledì prossimo la Rari ospiterà un’altra squadra cinese: lo Guangzhou.

Laura Sicco