Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kraken Summer League!!

Some of the great pictures from this summer! I took way too long to post these! The ones in the day are the Middle School kids, and the pictures at night are of the High School group.








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Look for a post soon about everything I’ve learned from organizing and coaching this summer league program!

More pictures can be viewed on the Kraken Water Polo website at:

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Two Types of Coaches

Parents of young athletes generally respect two different types of coaches:

-The ones that are nice
-And the ones that push athletes to be better

The nice coaches will always have something encouraging to say even about the most embarrassing loss. If an athlete had an off game, the coach will still find something to praise them about. The nice coach is always a friend to every player he works with. He does not discipline, because most players do what he asks because they like him. You often find him coaching groups of athletes that aren't necessarily the greatest at their sport, but he always ensures that every player will enjoy practice and feel good about themselves no matter the circumstances, which parents like.

The pushing coaches will usually be the ones who can be heard yelling at their team for making mistakes that they have practiced to avoid. A pushing coach doesn't let athletes get away with anything but perfection in practice, and players who make mistakes are often required to re-run the drill or action until they get it right. Players obey the coaches instructions because they are afraid of being disciplined; a pushing coach will make athletes do things like push-ups or laps if they don't listen. A player who refuses to be disciplined is more often than not kicked out of practice, or benched at games. The pushing coach produces very competitive players, which parents like.

Both coaching types come with weaknesses.

A nice coach tends to let players get away with talking during practice, lets small mistakes go, and can end up letting athletes establish bad playing habits. He is liked by every player on his team, but is not respected. He is taken advantage of by players who want to avoid challenging drills or difficult exercises. Players with this type of coach miss out on learning important skills of the game. They do not establish a good work ethic in young adults, (something that makes youth sports teams great). Players with this coach compete in an environment where they don't have to try their hardest to be praised. The nice coach, (not by conscious choice), can endanger young athletes' potential to be successful later in life.

The pushing coach demands perfection and will discipline his players if he does not see hard work and focus every second. Coaches that use this style are easily frustrated during matches and are more likely to yell at the team and be overly negative. Athletes playing under a pushing coach are afraid of their coaches, and many even develop a hatred towards their coach. His players will oftentimes criticize him behind his back or even openly. Athletes playing for this kind of coach start to associate bad memories and experiences with the sport they play. This coach can and usually will force players with great potential to quit the sport for good.

The tricky part of being a coach is deciding which kind of coach you are. Most people don't decide to be one way or the other, their personality decides that for them. To be an effective coach you must Choose your Coaching Style before you ever meet the athletes. When you actually choose your coaching style, this is called your Coaching Philosophy.

My advice to coaches is to try to combine both styles. They both have their advantages, that when put together, can develop very competitive players (who turn into respectful and ambitious adults). The encouraging and sympathetic style of the nice coach coupled with the rigor and high standards of the pushing coach, forms a third type of coach:

-The well rounded coach

Which is what I encourage every coach strive for. And that is the type of coach I choose to be.

Dr. Alan Goldberg has some great articles about Coaching Philosophy on his sports psychology blog, visit

Saturday, August 29, 2009

New post coming soon!

Expect a new post in the next few days. I have alot to share on the ups and downs of running a water polo summer league. This summer has been quite an experience!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Using Heart Rate in Water Polo/Swimming

I bet most swimmers or polo players below Olympic level have never given any thought to their heart rate while training, but in sports like cross country heart rate monitors are frequently utilized in high level training. Runners for example use heart rate monitors so they can keep their rate in an "optimal zone". By keeping their heart rates in the optimal zone, they can ensure that their workouts are more effective.

When swimming, it's not normally possible to use a heart rate monitor, but that doesn't mean athletes of the water can't also be benefited by heart rate training. It just takes using more ancient methods to find the heart rate: Count the beats over a 15 second period, multiply by 4, and voila

The optimal heart rate range differs by age, and to find yours, refer to the picture, or use this method:

"To calculate your target heart rate, you will first need to know your maximum heart rate (MHR), which is calculated by subtracting your age from 220. Then multiply your MHR by 0.6 to get your lower exercise range and by 0.8 to get your higher exercise range. Now that you know your range, you can monitor your heart rate to ensure it stays within the low and high values." [link]

Check your heart rate periodically throughout your workout. If it isn't up in your range, you know you need to up the intensity of your workout. The longer you can remain in your range, the more effective your workout is, and the more your endurance will rise.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The most important skill in water polo

The most important skill in water polo is also the most neglected, its true! And that skill would be... PASSING!

Coaches these days don't teach passing. The only work specifically on passing is during warm up, and the players have no accountability or even guidance because most likely the coach is worried about other things during this time. Most of the passes are weak, inaccurate, and just in general sloppy because the players don't care. The sad truth however is that how you play in practice becomes the way you play in games.

Thats right. So during practice, try to do the following:

  • Get your arm and shoulders high out of the water on every pass
  • Make sure the ball rolls off your middle finger (any other finger creates spin, which is difficult to catch)
  • Always pass hard and straight. No "rainbow" arcs.
  • When catching, catch in front of you and let the momentum of the ball carry your arm back into the shooting position.
When practicing wet passes, always do so with a defender. Being accurate at passing when nobody is pressuring you is a useless skill for competitive water polo. Work on passing under pressure for equal time that you pass without pressure.

Passing is perhaps the most neglected skill in water polo, but perhaps this new generation of players can bring back the basics. I know my team won't be passing sloppy this season. All it takes is effort.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mark Spitz feels sorry for Phelps

Recently, Spitz was asked to speak at a dinner in Little Rock sponsored by the Development Council of Central Arkansas Christian Schools. He had a chance to remark on the Michael Phelps bong photo controversy:

"As a fan, I feel sorry and I feel badly for him at this time," Spitz said. "Nobody would want to wish that upon him, I'm sure. He's obviously dealing with it in a way that he feels appropriate, and I'm not one to comment on whether it's right or wrong because I'm not with his management team." [Link]

I'm glad to hear about some sympathy from the one guy with a career similar to Phelps'. He knows the amount of pressure and stress involved with being the world's best athlete because he himself was that at one point.
Regardless of your stance on Phelps' marijuana use, its always interesting to hear Spitz comment on Phelps considering he took Spitz's gold medal record. I always wondered if there were hard feelings, but apparently not!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Exercise your body AND your mind. While killing boredom!

While we swim laps, quite often its not the fatigue that we ultimately end practice because of, its the boredom. This is especially true if you are swimming laps by yourself. The best way to keep boredom at bay is to occupy your mind with something other than swimming. If doing laps is on your mind, you'll be bored to death and swim slower also!

Things you can think about:
  • The rest of your day.
  • Work/School.
  • Hot girls/guys that you know/want to know/wish existed.
  • Making up a sci fi story.
  • If you could create a video game what would it be like?
  • Your coach as a kid.
  • Your coach as a parent (haha).
  • If you had 3 clones, what your 200 free relay would be like?
  • If you had 13 clones how awesome would your water polo team be?
  • Who would win, 300 Spartans or 300 Hells Angels?
  • The perfect water polo play.
  • The perfect 400 medley relay.
  • If you could fight any celebrity, who would it be? (yes, this is from fight club)
  • If you could marry any celebrity, who would it be?
  • Design a roller coaster in your head.
  • Invent a new sport in your head.
  • Etc.
This list was just a random collection of whatever popped into my head first, but it shows that anyone can come up with something to think about, no matter how random! There is a lot to occupy your mind with! Nobody is going to judge what you distract yourself with, it's in your head! Whenever you begin to feel sluggish and bored, just put your mind in another place, and keep on swimmin'.

For more ways to combat boredom in the pool and out, check out Letitia's Blog called The Power of Boredom [Here]

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Vice President Biden Says "No Swimming Pools"

Today Vice President Biden defended the stimulus package at the White House Conference by saying that :

'the administration would keep stimulus spending on a tight leash to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse' Link

He went on to be quoted saying, to prove spending will not be frivolous, that there will be "no swimming pools in this money". Now its obvious that building pools would not directly stimulate the economy, but as far as mentioning pools specifically as something that the administration is not concerned about, I do feel a little offended. Biden, what's your beef with swimming pools?

There IS a magic word to make you swim faster!

Competitive swimming is such a mental sport. Everyone knows that the mental aspect plays a part in races, but did you know the same mental preparation is useful in practice as well? With the right mindset you can push yourself harder in practice, and gain far more from each session.
The trick is to use your imagination, picture yourself as the elite swimmer you want to become. Use positive self talk to boost your confidence. Repeat this phrase during your workout, and believe it: "I am fast."
If you let this get ingrained into your mind, you will be even faster. Positive thinking during a set helps you work through the pain and fatigue. What you believe you are, you will become. Just remember, you are fast.

The Training Tip That You Forgot

Its no secret. I almost feel embarrassed writing this. But the truth is the majority of swimmers forget this one little detail.

What is it? Its easy:

If you want to swim faster in meets, swim faster in practice.

Yes, that's the number one best way to improve.

The easiest way to do this is to practice with somebody else your same ability level. Get competitive. Don't let them finish first. That old dude across the pool? Beat him into the wall. Making your intervals? Make them by more. Any chance you can, turn up the heat in practice. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You Can Help USA Bring Home Olympic Gold in Water Polo

If you didn't already know, California has no lack of water polo clubs. The same might apply to most areas of Florida. Basically what this mean is kids are made aware of the sport the same way kids know about baseball or football. Venture north of Florida or east of California and the game becomes a mystery. Polo? Like on horses? How do they get the horses in the water?

Before 2006, the Atlanta was all but void of water polo. An adult team existed, riding on the coat tails of a local swim club, but in more than a decade had done little to nothing to increase involvement in the sport. The team was more like an elite club, open only to those who came from somewhere else, somewhere where the sport was known. Well, as a local boy, its obvious the opportunity to play wasn't even offered to me. I found my way into the water polo 'brotherhood' by a less typical path, so I felt more inclined to give kids like me the opportunity sooner in life.

I'll spare you the details, but over the next 3 years I built up a summer league program with teams for middle school aged kids and for high school age kids; Founded, managed, and played in the Georgia high school club league; and basically created the opportunity for Atlanta kids to get involved in the sport.

Whats this got to do with the Olympics? Numbers! I'm adding numbers to the recruiting pool. The more players given the opportunity to play water polo, the more talent you'll discover. You can help too, support causes like mine. Teach kids about the sport wherever you go. Give everyone the same opportunity to play as you had. And someday the good ole U S of A will rise to glory.

Edit: I'm going to leave the text the way it originally was written, but I want to make a note that the adult team I was referring to has been very active in supporting youth water polo, and recently it has become increasingly obvious what its great support is doing for the sport in Atlanta!

USA Men's National Water Polo Team Returns Empty Handed from Europe

March 28th, after putting on a stellar clinic for high school players in the Atlanta area, the Men's National Team departed for Germany to begin their tour of Eastern Europe. The trip was made in order to play a few scrimmages against current water polo giants like Serbia and Hungary mainly for training and experience. They put up a good fight but ultimately the team, still high off their silver medal run in the summer games '08, failed to deliver in all four games.

Quoted from the USA water polo website:

"Team USA stopped first in Germany for several days of training losing to the Germans 10-6 on March 3. Rick Merlo led the scoring attack for the United States tacking on two scores while Adam Wright, Juan Delgadillo, Thomas Hopkins, and Kevin Witt all added tallies. Merrill Moses did the job in net halting 12 shots. Following their stay in Germany the team headed to Hungary to particiapte in the Volvo Cup. On March 6 the United States played Serbia falling in the match 11-5. It was the first meeting for the two since the United States' stellar victory in the semi-finals of the Olympics. Team USA then lost to Romania 8-7 on March 7 before rounding out the trip with a loss to Hungary on March 8 by a score of 13-4. The match against Hungary was a rematch of the Gold Medal game from the Olympics."

Now, I don't personally think that losing all four games is a bad sign for the silver medal squad, the whole trip was a learning experience anyway. Terry Schroeder, their head coach, is very confident in the team and continues to be optimistic. Of course he saw alot of things to improve on but also he saw many positive things happening in the water as well. Only time will tell if the US will be prepared for the World Championships, taking place this summer.