Article written by @WolfWigo - Head Water polo Coach at UC Santa Barbara
With the power play being one of the most important aspects of water polo it is essential to give time in your trainings to improving on both offense and defense. There are of course many drills that you can choose from, and it is up to each individual coach to determine how much time of the workouts they will dedicate to this part of the game. Typically “in-season” you will want to spend more time with your power play in a 6v5 setting. In the off season you can use station training more, and work on core fundamentals of the power play, as well as 1-1 shot blocking and beating the shot block. These building blocks are essential to a successful power play but we are not focusing on them in this article.
Here we will go over one specific drill that can be used to help increase your percentages in attack and defense for your team. This is quite useful because it provides a “game like” aspect to the drill, similar to a 6/5 scrimmage that you may do. The reason that I like this one so much is that it is effective for a number of reasons, which I will detail at the end of the article. I typically use this drill “in-season”. Dante Dettamanti used to run this drill at Stanford, and I have made a few small changes to it. I always liked this drill as a player, and now as a coach I think it is great as well.
Cap up with one group on offense and one on defense. This will involve 11 field players and 1 GK. If you have more players you can sub them in throughout the drill if you wish to involve more players. The group on offense will do hard swimming prior to attacking the power play. The group on defense will do hard legs. If you have a lot of players you can have 2 different groups going at once at different cages - this involves 22 field players - plus subs for each group if you desire.
Have your group on offense line up on the wall. Discuss or diagram with the offense what plays you would like to run, or what you need to do if the D runs something that you have scouted that your opponent may do, etc. Or simply ask the O to focus on certain aspects that they are struggling with. Have the offense swim a MAX 100 as a group, once done throw the ball into play and the ball will be live when the first player touches the ball. Have the offense do 4 (this can of course vary) power plays. Once completed have the O return to the wall. discuss what transpired - and make any changes to tactics you may want to see. Have the O swim a 75 MAX, then attempt 3 power plays. Repeat this process with a 50 MAX then 2 power plays, than a 25 Max and then 1 power play. I like to mix up which end the players end the swimming. If you are short on time you can do 25 MAX each time or any variation.
The D will be in 5-6 positions at the cage. While the O is swimming the D will do some variation of hard legs. This can be lunges, hands locked on head or any variation you can think of. Your assistant coach can cover tactics for the D team, while you do the O group or vice versa. Discuss what you want the D to focus on before the start of the drill. You can make adjustments after each series of attacks by the offense. For example if a team you are facing does a “rush” defense, you may want to run that a few times to give your O group some experience against that - or any other defense you may run up against. Or you can simply work on what you will be running defensively. Again, customize this drill to what works best for your team and your needs.
After you have completed a number of attacks (in this example I have used 10). Switch offense and defense and repeat.
Here are some reasons that I like the drill:
1) Conditioning - you get some good conditioning involved in a way that does not burn out the players - they are always excited to get to the 6/5 training aspect of the drill.
2) Tactics - you get to work on certain plays or defenses with one or both groups involved as you can meet with them without the opposing team hearing what you are working on. Before the offense swims you can cover with them what you want to focus on for those power plays. As the defense is doing their legs you can give them some things to focus on as well. In this scenario both teams need to adapt to the situation presented after some conditioning.
3) Realistic - The players are very tired, and this gives the power play a realistic game like feeling when trying to convert for a goal - or to get a big stop. Watch the percentages go down as opposed to just running regular 6/5 attacks with no conditioning immediately prior - even with the defense working hard in the conditioning phase as well.
4) Engagement - The players are always excited and engaged fully during this drill. They enjoy it, in addition they get a sense that they are accomplishing something really important in the drill that will directly help them in specific game situations.
Good luck with your power play!
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