Friday, August 11, 2006

Water Polo Clinic in Crafton -- a smashing success

Today we played our fifth and final day of a one week water polo clinic at Crafton Swim Pool. We gathered from 9:30 to 11:30 am from Monday to Friday.

All in all, we had 20 people play. One was Coach Mike, the head swim coach. So, I didn't charge him the $5 fee. We collected a total $95 -- enough to pay for the lifeguards.

The last day was the lightest in terms of participation. But throughout the week, most of the kids came most of the days.

In the final day, we did a lot of game playing. But with 5 on 6, I opted to use the shallow water course, with a few interesting twists to the rules. Being the coach, offfical and league czar, -- I could do whatever I felt was best.

No goalies were played. People had to match-up on defense and could not just hand at the goal's mouth. Plus, offense could not cherry pick. If a soft shot or close shot hit the water -- I'd call, "GOALIE COVERAGE," and the defense would get the ball there to play on. So, for shots to score a goal, they had to be legit shots, not too long and not too close either.

The goals were attached to the base of the lifeguard stands. The goals were plywood, 1 foot tall and about 4 foot wide. The sat in the gutter, so a ball could not float into the wood goal, but had to be tossed. Hitting the wood was a goal. If the ball hitt the guard chair and bounce back into the water, the play continued as if the goalie made a blocked shot or the shot went off of the cross-bar.

Using the bottom was okay -- but springing off the bottom to make a play was not okay and resulted in a turnover (loss of possession). Funny thing -- Erik, 11, got out of the water after the final game and had blood dripping from both of his big toes. He had worn off the skin on the bottom of his feet under his big toes playing the game and gripping the bottom of the pool.

The game (white vs. purple) saw a 4 goal comeback and a double-overtime. It was exciting. Kids from HS age to age 7 were playing, boys and girls. After the game -- we went to the deep end (except Erik, who we discovered had some feet to dry) and held a round of shoot-outs, 1-on-1, penalty style shooter vs a goalie.

Today was the first day we used the shallow end of the pool. The kids were good at reading open spaces, using one hand, playing defense in good positions, not sinking the ball, and passing to get a good shot at the goal.

The first activity for today's practice was a 3 on 1, counter attack, square out drill. The 3 start at the wall, out of the water, and one holds the ball like a QB and tosses to one of the two others who are breaking in a counter attack and do 'square outs.' The offense tried to complete two good square out patterns. Two guys played fulltime defense, switching turns.

It was a successful week. Polo is good as it teaches players how to 'read' -- how to 'hustle' -- and how to make good decisions. It is a teamwork game and that is lost on those who only do 'competitive swimming.' Sure, I know and understand that swimming is a team sport. Swimming is a great team sport, but playing water polo puts new team dynamics into the game on a moment by moment basis.

Next year, I hope to do a water polo clinic with 50 or 60 or 70 kids for 2 or more weeks.

To make the clinic and team a really fun experience, the participation numbers are needed in the program. I felt that 20 allowed for a critical mass. But we were short with subs, line shifts, quality match-ups, goalie play and some other experiences. I'm not sure I could coach 60 in one practice -- but that is another problem.

No comments: