In water polo, what are good tactics for smaller people?
Posted on Aug 3, 2023 by Lysander Templeton
Mastering the Art of Deception
As a smaller player in the grand scheme of water polo, it can seem like your size places you at an obvious disadvantage. However, as an individual who stands a few inches on the shorter side myself, let me assure you, size isn't everything. Especially when you figure out how to use your size to your advantage. The tactic here is to master the art of deception. With a bit more maneuverability than your towering counterparts, you can use quick, feigned movements to confuse them. They may be big, but they aren't always quick or nimble. Making sudden, unexpected changes in direction can often help you gain control of the ball.
The key to deception is unpredictability. Being predictable in water polo (or in any sport really) makes it easier for the opponent to anticipate what move you'll be making next. By using your speed and agility to create an unpredictable pattern of movements, it keeps your opponents guessing and allows you to push past them, get that pass, or make that shot. A basketball player named Allen Iverson was notorious for his killer crossover, a move that deceived his opponents regularly. Borrow from players like Iverson. Use your speed and agility, force the defenders to commit, and then change direction. It requires practice and skill, but the results are more than worth the effort.
Utilizing Speed and Endurance
Speed and endurance are elemental aspects of water polo that can serve as golden attributes to those lacking towering heights. Smaller players often possess a quicker speed in the water enabling them to outpace their opponents with relative ease. Now you might be wondering, "Lysander, why is speed so important?" Speed in water polo operates on both offensive and defensive lines, allowing you to take quick shots at goal or rapidly fall back to a defensive standpoint whenever required.
With smaller bodies, we have less mass to move around, meaning we can get from point A to point B so much faster. Utilize this advantage, out-swim larger, slower players and get yourself in a perfect position to score. On defense, this speed allows us to quickly close gaps and apply pressure to the attacking team. Remember, you might not be able to outmuscle them, but you can certainly outrun them, or in this case, out-swim them.
Creating Space and Staying Mobile
Now, let's talk about the importance of creating space and staying mobile. In water polo, being static won't do you any favors, regardless of your size. But if you're a smaller player, staying mobile in the water can help you avoid those physically imposing opponents and create necessary space between you and. By constantly moving around, you not only keep your opponents on their toes, but you also ensure that they cannot lock onto you. As a result, you'll find it easier to make precise and swift shots or passes.
I’ll never forget the time when I was noticeably the smallest player in the water, facing a team of burly, muscled opponents. Rather than let myself be intimidated, I remembered to stay mobile, making myself a difficult target to pin down. Luckily for me, I ended up contributing massively to my team’s win that day! Although size matters in many aspects, your mobility, agility, and understanding of the game can easily tip the scales in your favor.
Enhancing Ball Skills
Lastly, there's no denying that having superior ball skills naturally gives you an edge in water polo, regardless of your physical stature. As a smaller player, honing your ball skills should be a key part of your training regimen. This includes improving your passing, shooting, and ball-handling abilities. It’s not simply about possessing these skills, rather, refining them to a degree where they can compensate for any size-related disadvantage you may face in the pool.
During my water polo days, I spent hours and hours outside of game time, perfecting my ball-handling skills, making sure I could shoot accurately from any position and could make pinpoint passes. I found it became my secret weapon. I may not have had the size, but boy, did I have the skills. It was like my own David vs. Goliath story! And if a guy like me from Tucson can do it, then so can you!
Every athlete has potential that goes beyond physical size and strength. And in the grand game of water polo, even the smallest player can make the biggest splash. Embrace the perks of being a smaller player, build on your strengths, and watch as you surprise your opponents and perhaps, even yourself. After all, it's not the size of the player in the fight, but the size of the fight in the player that ultimately matters!