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  • Pre-Summer Focus for Goalkeepers

    May 15, 2023 4 min read

    Guest Author, Jack Bowen gives his expertise on how to prepare for the summer tournaments. 

    As the Summer Season kicks off, I want to reflect on 3 areas of importance for goalies at this particular time of the year. With Junior Olympics just two months away, along with the start of the high school season soon thereafter, now is the time to prepare so we’re ready to perform at our peak both as goalkeepers and as a team.


    Before ramping up the intensity of full leg conditioning and daily water polo training and games, it’s important to “pre-condition” your legs. This allows us to protect our hips, muscles, and knee ligaments while strengthening our eggbeater. That pre-conditioning focus should include:

    1. 10-15 minutes of good stretching daily, primarily focused on the hips and major muscles in the legs (what we call the “Barnacle” stretch)
    2. Some focus on eggbeater Range of Motion: big, slow, wide eggbeater focused on stretching the hips. This not only focuses on keeping our body healthy but, with increased Range of Motion, your eggbeater kick “grabs” more water, thus increasing the power per kick. And what inhibits your heel from reaching out to grab water is the tightness through your legs and, primarily, your hips.
    3. Some short bursts of RPM—leg speed—focus. Nothing more than 3-4 seconds of 100% leg speed which you can do simply with your arms straight up out of the water, hips up along the water, or holding on to the gutter of the pool.
    4. Some slightly longer laps of eggbeater as you build into your core leg training throughout the summer. With JO’s in mid-July, you need to precondition your legs now, so you’ll have 4-5 weeks of good intense leg conditioning (3 times per week) while allowing a short taper the days leading up to JO’s.


    Now is the time to set the tone for your team and your place on the team as the defensive leader. A few things to think about here: 1. Your job is not to point out mistakes of teammates but to facilitate a true team approach to defense. Before you point out a defender’s mistake, try to first highlight when a goal scores that was your responsibility and let them know it. 2. Make your communication clear and consistent. Try to avoid monotonous barking, such as the goalie who constantly calls out the placement of the ball regardless of whether any action needs to be taken. 3. Develop a consistent vocabulary so your teammates get used to understanding exactly what you want. In addition, it can help to personalize it by using a teammate’s name, i.e. “Jim, drop!” Then, communicate in practice the exact way you will communicate in games. 4. Develop an “alarm” sound for when the ball turns over while on defense. Your teammates should come to rely on that and immediately instigate the counter attack, garnering an advantage over their defender, creating a much more efficient counter-attack.


    At a recent Goalie Combine, I began the session with a quick “public service announcement” about sunscreen. I was essentially channeling my own mother as I was growing up and I’m thankful she was diligent about sunscreen with me now that I continue to have such youthful, damage-free skin! With summer kicking off this week, we’re going to be in the sun a lot. Don’t start the summer with a sunburn because then it only gets worse as the weeks go on. A few notes about sunscreen:

    1. Apply before coming to the pool: While the tendency is to apply it immediately prior to jumping in the pool, this essentially renders the sunscreen ineffective. It needs at least 22 minutes to bind to the skin.
    2. SPF should be at least 30 if not higher and should block both UVA and UVB (“broad spectrum”). You’ll want a sunscreen with ingredients that either reflects (titanium dioxide, zinc oxide) or absorbs (avobenzone, also known as Parsol).
    3. If at a tournament or days with multiple training sessions, reapply after each session.
    4. If using a spray, a. apply outdoors (sunscreen is good everywhere except inside your lungs) and, b. have the spray nozzle close to the skin and rub in after spraying. 5. To make it simple: apply sunscreen before you walk out of the house every day. And don’t forget a lip balm with SPF as lips have very little natural pigment. With the kickoff of the Summer Goalie Focus, I don my sun-suit: an SPF shirt with hood and wide-brimmed hat. I partly do this to impress my dermatologist at my annual check-up as she’s always amazed how little damage my skin has after years of being in the sun all day! But obviously, the hope is to keep our skin healthy not just now but for the many years to come.

    I hope these items are helpful as you begin a new season of goalkeeping. I look forward to seeing so many of you in the goal over the summer. Remember, every day, become just a little bit more explosive: Be Quick, Like a Cat.

    By, Jack Bowen
    Menlo School Water Polo Coach, Author, & Head of Bowen Goalie Combines
    Twitter & Instagram: @1jackbowen
    Water Polo & Goalie Training: https://www.sopenwaterpoloclub.com

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