Ask the Coach: Roles of Perimeter Players

Question:

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

Answer:

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

Question:

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

Answer:

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

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

Question:

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

Answer:

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

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

Question:

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?

Answer:

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

Lunging and jumping while using the Global Band for resistance.

Ask the Coach: How do I effectively train a two-meter man?

Question:

How do I effectively train a two-meter man?

Answer:

(For simplicity, this answer will use only the masculine form, although everything noted can also relate to female players).   

Step 1: Identify your player

As a coach, the first step is to identify what type of center you are going to be training.  There are many different kinds of centers, and as much as everyone would like a 6’6”, 220 lbs, fast and smart machine, it is not always possible to find such a player. Throughout water polo history, many smaller centers such as Jordi Sans (5’10”, 180lbs, Spain) and Roberto Calcaterra (6’1”, 190lbs, Italy)– just to name a few– were medal winners and considered top athletes in their positions.  What made these players special was their ability to use their intensity and legs to maintain position.  It is not always the body that holds position, but instead well-placed movements, timing and leg drive.

Step 2: Understanding the center position

Following the first step, the coach and player must fully understand the position.  In modern water polo schemes a center is a must because the entire offense is based on the ability of this player to position himself at the two-meter line and maintain the defender behind himself for 10 to 15 seconds.  This forces the defense to scramble with the choice of continuing a press defense or taking a step back to a zone defense, allowing perimeter players to prepare their shots and move the ball more freely.

Step 3: Building the two-meter man

After a player and his coach understand his job as a center, the coach can begin to build the two-meter man. Begin by teaching the two-meter man how to gain position.  There are a few moves recommended for this: a reverse stroke over the hip is widely used by Serbian and Croatian players and consists of moving in one direction, then reversing over his own hip, which provides extra momentum to gain position.  Another technique is to get in front of the defender and push him forward, creating space between the two-meter man and the goal and forcing the defender to get behind the center for safety. (This technique is well suited for quick and agile centers). The second step is maintaining the position, but as defenders today are a blend of size and speed, this is probably the most difficult task in the game today. However, it must be mastered, and this depends mainly on leg strength and torso/hip position.

Step 4: Developing strong legs

A coach should begin training with the development of strong legs.  A good dry-land program that strengthens both lower and upper legs to withstand the amount of work required for the position is a must, but most of the work should be done in the water.  Heavy balls, weight belts, car tires, chairs and other tools have all been used to strengthen a center’s legs, but it is not the weight that matters but rather how efficiently that weight is used.  Coaches must be very careful not to damage a center’s knees or back, and must also understand the relation of body weight versus added weight.  Below is the chart I use to determine the recommended weight for training:

1. For movement drills including swimming, jumping, and walking I recommend a tool with between 1% to 3% of a player’s body weight.  (A 200 lb player would wear 2lb to 6lb, depending on his age and physique).

Lunging and jumping while using the Global Band for resistance.
Lunging and jumping while using the Global Band for resistance.

2. For stationary drills including thrusting forward, throwing a heavy ball or short interval drills of 10 to 20 seconds, I recommend a tool with 3% to 6% of a player’s body weight.  (A 200lb player would wear 6lb to 12lb, depending on his age and physique).

Core work with the Global Belt and the Global 3kg Heavy Ball—players rise up out of the water and crunch with the heavy ball over the shooting shoulder.
Core work with the Global Belt and the Global 3kg Heavy Ball—players rise up out of the water and crunch with the heavy ball over the shooting shoulder.
Core work with the Global Belt and the Global 3kg Heavy Ball—players rise up out of the water and crunch with the heavy ball over the shooting shoulder.
Core work with the Global Belt and the Global 3kg Heavy Ball—players rise up out of the water and crunch with the heavy ball over the shooting shoulder.

3. For resistance leg drills I use a medium strength heavy band, with drills ranging from 45 seconds to 3 minutes.

Explosive vertical jumping with the Global Belt and Global Band.
Explosive vertical jumping with the Global Belt and Global Band.

4. For posture leg drills I recommend a 1 kilo ball in the opposite shooting hand and a tennis ball under the chin.

Use of tennis ball under the chin and the Global Belt around the chest—for strengthening legs for position, traps and core simultaneously.
Use of tennis ball under the chin and the Global Belt around the chest—for strengthening legs for position, traps and core simultaneously.

5. A center should work on these drills for around 20 to 30 every day– not all at the same time but through an intelligent program (Ex: M.W, F (points 1 and 3); T, TH and S (points 2 and 4)).

Working on turning for power and control by placing the Global 1kg Heavy Ball in the off-hand and the Global 4kg Heavy Ball on the shooting shoulder.
Working on turning for power and control by placing the Global 1kg Heavy Ball in the off-hand and the Global 4kg Heavy Ball on the shooting shoulder.

Step 5: Positioning and posture drills and building technique

The position of a two-meter man requires that the player use many different types of hand and arm wrestling, not to mention grips and locks commonly used by many centers.  The best way to avoid ”offensive fouls” being called against the center is by working on posture drills.  For example, place a tennis ball under his chin to keep his head forward and shoulders rolled forward, making it impossible to for him to “head butt” or partake in “elbowing fouls”.

Posture drills are also important when training hip/torso rotation.  By constantly keeping the shoulders in a locked and rolled position, the whole body must move to keep the legs under the center and not to the side, where a loss of driving power could take place.

Step 6: Mastering recovery swimming

The final step is recovery swimming.  It is not essential that a center swims very fast, what is important is that he recover-swims quickly.  (Recovery swimming is the ability of a center to anticipate the defender and power stroke the first few meters after the transition from offense to defense takes place).  He must also be aware of his line of return, which is established by a well-thought-out counter defense scheme.

Step 7: Continuing with various drills

Finally, a well-designed series of shooting, passing and reading offense drills will make any center not only a capable player, but ultimately a dangerous threat to the opposing team.

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