Basic Water Polo Shooting Drills
Most water polo practices start off with a swim set, then some leg work, then passing, and end with some shooting drills. There are a few basic shooting drills that help get players arms warmed up and target specific body positioning and shooting techniques. They also serve as a chance for goalkeepers to warm up their arms and legs. Because they address water polo shooting's most basic techniques, the shooting drills described in the guide are simple — yet effective — for both field players and goalkeepers.
Rear-backs (RBs) are a good way to warm up shooters, the goalie, and the hole set. Start the drill with the hole set in position in front of the goal. The rest of the players can form a line starting from roughly the point position (at the five-meter mark, centered in front of the goal). Each player in line should have a ball.
The first player in line makes a wet pass into the hole set. As soon as the ball leaves their fingers, they drive to the goal. They should drive to their strong side (their strong arm is closer to the hole set), and between the three- and four-meter marks they quickly pop up, call for the ball, get a pass, and take a shot.
Coaches can add defenders to the hole set and the shooters for an extra level of complexity. The players should then begin in a game-like setup, with the shooter on the point and the defender positioned between them and the goal. Another tweak to this drill is to allow shooters to swim to either side of the hole set. In this case, if they drive to the weak side they need to call for a wet pass and take a wet shot.
Hot Tip: Pick the Ball Up from Underneath
Remember that even when starting from a standstill in line, players need to pick the ball up from underneath. Shooting drills are one of the primary places water polo players get into the bad habit of picking the ball up on top.
The triangle drill is also known as "UCLA" or "Hot Potato." It makes a good warm-up drill because it incorporates passing, swimming, and shooting.
The drill begins with three players forming a triangle in front of the goal: One on each post and another at the point position. Players line up at the point position and every player in line should have a ball. The ball starts at the player in the point position, who passes it to the player on their left. That player in turn passes it across the cage to the player on the opposite post, who then passes it back to the player in the point position. The point position takes a shot, and then everyone rotates clockwise. The player who made the final pass moves to the back of the line.
To switch the drill up a little bit, go for 10 minutes passing the ball in a clockwise direction, and then switch to counterclockwise. This will require the shooter to catch the ball cross-face, which makes it a bit more challenging. Left-handed players will be happy to go in their "strong" direction.
Hot Tip: Shag the Ball
"Shagging the ball" means retrieving balls that got blocked out of the cage or missed their mark. It's guaranteed that there will be more than a few wayward balls during shooting practice, so players not busy passing or shooting should help out their teammates (and the goalie) and snag the outliers when they can.
Also known as "catch and shoot," this straightforward drill encourages good passing and fast, reactive shots. It makes an excellent pre-game warm up for both the goalie and the players.
Players form two lines on the posts, a little outside the five-meter mark. Players in both lines should have balls. The player in the front of one line pump fakes a few times, and then passes to the player in the front of the other line. As soon as they catch it, this player shoots. Shooters should mainly do high-corner and cross-cage shots. After shooting, they go to the back of the other line. The player that just passed the ball waits for a pass from the other line, and then goes to the end of the other line themself.
Hot Tip: Goalkeepers Need to Honor Fakes
In this drill, make sure that the goalies honor the pump fakes of the passers, and don't simply camp out on the side of the goal that they know the shooter is on. This drill is also for them, and develops their leg endurance, lunging, and reaction time.
This drill teaches players how to shoot from every position on the perimeter. To set up, players form a semicircle in front of the cage. They can create one large U-shape, or fill positions one through five (no hole set). Each player should have a ball ready.
Starting at one post, the first player shoots. After the shot, the player to their right (or left, depending on where the shots start) goes. This continues, until everyone in the line has shot their ball. Then everyone shifts one position to the right (or, again, the left). This continues until everyone has shot from every position.
Coaches can allow players to pump fake or move before taking their shot. Another way to mix up this drill is to incorporate a pass or two prior to each shot.
Revisit the Basics
Whether performed by seasoned players or ones still fairly new to water polo, practicing these basic shooting drills reinforces good technique. Not only do the drills serve as good warm ups for practices and games, but they mimic the most common kinds of shooting opportunities. Coaches can use and adapt these drills as much as they like to help their players establish strong shooting skills.