This month I am going to give you two drills that combine passing and leg work. These are two of my favorite drills because the leg work in these drills teaches the athletes to work on going over their hips to move between team mates. This is a great way to use repetition to re enforce this all important skill. As I have said before I feel that this “in and out” skill is one of the major weaknesses in our American game (when compared to the Europeans). I truly believe that water polo athletes (young and old) should do some “over the hips” or “in and out” leg work daily. This is the only way that we will get better at it. This skill is really a vital part of the game and I believe it is a major reason why the Europeans have dominated the medal platform in the Olympic Games. Before I tell you about the drills, I am going to take a minute to review this “in and out” skill so that everyone who reads this article knows exactly what I am talking about. The skill is primarily used on the perimeter on front court defense and on the 5 man defense. Here is the breakdown on this skill. Steps of the in and out skill on the perimeter
- Head out/feet in “ready” position (feet towards the center)
- Scull backwards (push water with your hands) and pull/gather water with your legs
- Coil your legs under your body
- Rotate over your hips
- Spring towards 2 meters with a big breaststroke kick
- A lateral jump with another breaststroke kick - 1-2 freestyle strokes may be necessary when you are learning the skill
- Push water with your hands and pull/gather water with your legs
- Coil your legs under your body
- Rotate over your hips
- Find the perimeter player and spring out into his/her shooting angle using a big breaststroke kick
- 1-2 freestyle strokes (not necessary but may be needed)a another breaststroke kick into the shot blocking position * do not get vertical
- Continue to move towards the shooter with a split eggbeater in a 30 – 45 degree angle checking him/her if possible with your sculling hand to knock him/her off balance *you may have to leg up and become more vertical if the shooter is really getting up high preparing to shoot.
- Be ready to return to 2 meters if necessary (meaning that if you are in a 3/4 drop as the ball goes between the 3 and the 4 position you may have to go in and out between your perimeter player and the center a few times in one front court situation)
As you progress and get better with this skill you will be able to eliminate the freestyle strokes. The goal is to create as much distance as possible by moving in and out by using your legs and sculling motion under the water.
So here are the drills that can help you work on this very important skill. Both of these drills combine passing as well so they are very time efficient and can be a part of your daily training.
Put four players in each passing group. Out of the four players one player will be in the middle – the other three spread out around him/her approximately 3-4 meters a part. The drill works like this. The middle player is instructed to jump over his/her hips (using the above steps) into a shot blocking position and move towards the player with the ball. In this drill the player who receives the ball gets up and pretends to be a shooter on the perimeter. To increase the leg work of the perimeter players once they receive the ball they can get up on their legs and work on their fake as the middle player moves at them. The ball does not get passed until the middle player has checked (with the sculling hand) the player with the ball.
Note that the player with the ball should move back slightly using his/her legs to avoid being knocked down and then as soon as he/she passes the ball to move back forward using legs to their original position. Once the ball is passed the player in the middle now quickly resets his/her legs towards the player that the ball was passed to and tries to jump out towards the players with the ball into a shot blocking position. Once again, moving (with legs only) towards the player with the ball while maintaining a shot blocking position. The player with the ball does not pass again until he/she is checked by the middle players. Repeat this process for 8 -10 shot blocks (per player) maintaining good intensity. Then rotate a new middle player in. All players should be using strong legs in this drill with the middle player really working hard to move in and out towards the player with the ball.
The key on this first drill is that the middle player is not swimming towards the perimeter player. Instead he/she is jumping towards the player with the ball using good over the hips technique and maintaining a good shot blocking position. Done properly this is a great “game situation” drill. The perimeter players can pass the ball anywhere within the group and the middle player must quickly read the situation adjust their body position and get their hips up pointing towards the direction in which they want to jump over the hip. The perimeter player’s position can be adjusted in or out to make the drill appropriate to the skill level of the athletes involved. Once again, the idea of this first drill is that the middle player can move in and out over their hips without having to swim towards the player with the ball. As you advance in this drill the perimeter players can also move laterally once they have received the ball making it even more challenging for the middle player to stay in a shot block and cover the angle of the potential shot. I would recommend that each player gets 3 turns in the middle position before moving onto drill # 2.
Same four players per group – now have the perimeter players spread to about 5-6 meters with one player still in the middle. Everything is the same in this drill except that the players are bit farther apart so now the middle player has to jump over their hips with a big breaststroke kick and take 2-3 quick strokes before transitioning into the shot blocking position and moving at the perimeter player with the ball. This transition is also very important to practice because this will also happen in a game where the perimeter player is too far away to just jump at with legs so now the middle player has to jump with a big breaststroke kick then take a quick stroke or two (freestyle) including flutter kick then go right into a big breastroke kick and up into a shot blocking position while moving at the player with the ball.
It is important in this drill to realize the while you are taking a stroke or two it is very difficult to shot block so you are vulnerable to allowing the perimeter player to shoot on your side. So the key is to move out as far as you can and as fast as you can while giving the shooter on the perimeter (the player with the ball) as little time as possible to shoot. Each player should do 8-10 shot blocks before rotating out to the perimeter. Also I would recommend each player doing 2-3 rotations in the middle before moving to the next drill. If you want to make it more challenging to the middle player than allow the perimeter players to move laterally once they receive the ball.
Both of these drills require focus and good leg work and can mimic a vitally important past of the game. These drills are both favorites and I have been using them at least 2 times per week to build the over the hips “in and out” skill.
I hope that you find value in these drills and use them with your team. As always if you have any questions or comments please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear about your favorite leg drills also – please send me your thoughts.
See you at the pool.