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.