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How to Eggbeater for Water Polo

Learning to tread water or eggbeater is one of the first things a water polo player should learn. It allows players to keep their heads above water without expending too much energy, and provides enough stability in the water to catch, pass, shoot, and defend. A good eggbeater is the foundation on which the rest of your water polo skills will be built, so it’s important to get it right.

Eggbeater will probably feel awkward at first, and may take some time to master. Don’t worry — you’re not alone. Practice enough though, and it will soon become second nature to tread while passing the ball, listening to your coach, or guarding someone in a game.

What is Eggbeater?

Eggbeater is the most efficient way to tread water. Your legs make large circles in towards each other one at a time like an eggbeater (hence the name), while your upper body stays upright. Keep your thighs at a 90 degree angle from your torso — as though sitting in a chair — with your knees bent and feet hanging down. Your legs should never touch, since as one circles in the other circles out. Lightly sculling is fine, although eventually you will need your hands for catching and passing, or guarding an offender.

How to Eggbeater

Treading water utilizes a fairly simple set of motions (legs circling, body upright), but it can take some getting used to. Here are some basic tips that will help you find the right body position, and get comfortable treading for long periods of time:

Find the Right Body Position

Start by sitting on the edge of the pool with your legs dangling in the water. Scoot to the very edge so that most of your thighs are suspended over the water and not resting on the deck. Practice making large circles inward with your lower legs, one at a time.

If you’ve swum breaststroke before, the motion is similar to that of a breaststroke kick except for the fact that your legs will kick one at a time (instead of simultaneously).

Try It in the Water

Once you’ve gotten a feel for the correct body position on the pool deck, try it in the water. Make sure that you’re practicing in water deep enough that your feet don’t touch the bottom. Let your hands scull as you practice making large circles with one leg, then the other.

Put on some goggles and look at your legs in the water to see if the motion looks right. Remember that the right leg circles counterclockwise, while the left leg circles clockwise.

Hot Tip: Flex Your Feet

Keeping your feet flexed (rather than pointing your toes) helps to “grab” the water with your inner legs and makes for a stronger, more stable eggbeater.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you’ve got the basic motions of eggbeater down, you’ll need to work hard to make eggbeatering a habit in the pool. It will also be important to build up the muscles that these movements require. Make sure that every time you pass, guard, or shoot that you also eggbeater… no matter how tempting it is to scissor or breaststroke kick!

Treading water is tiring at first, which is why it will help to increase the endurance of the leg muscles it uses. There are a few ways to increase leg stamina:

  1. Do leg sets: Tread with your hands, then elbows, then entire arms out of the water for specific intervals (probably around 10-20 seconds initially). Gradually increase the amount of time you hold them out to build endurance.
  2. Tread with weights: Hold water bottles, weighted balls, or — popular for goalie training — milk jugs filled with water above your head as you eggbeater backwards, forward, left, and right.
  3. Keep your shoulders dry: Whenever passing, shooting, or running a drill that involves treading, try to keep at least your shoulders out of the water.

Eggbeater is a Building Block

Watch any underwater video of a water polo game, and you’re guaranteed to see all the players doing one thing: Eggbeater. This is the skill that allows them to keep their heads and shoulders above water while passing, to defend strongly, and to get their bodies literally feet out of the water while shooting. Whether you’re a goalie, a driver, or a hole set, eggbeater is an integral part of water polo. Mastering it early on will allow you to advance to the more exciting aspects of the game.

Treading water is one of a water polo player's most important skills. Check out this guide for advice on how to develop a strong eggbeater.
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