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How to Shoot a Backhand in Water Polo

Shooting a backhand in water polo is a "take notice" sort of shot. It's a crowd pleaser and usually gets some serious applause and cheering from the pool deck. Because it is a no-look shot, it usually takes the goalie by surprise, which means mastering the backhand will make you even more versatile as a shooter and more intimidating as an opponent. That being said, it is a difficult shot to execute and only appropriate in select situations. This guide explains how and when to shoot a backhand.

How to Shoot a Backhand

The backhand shot is exactly what it sounds like: A shot fired when facing away from the goal. It is a simple shot to learn, but more difficult to truly master. Most backhands start from a wet pass, with your defender is between you and the goal. Because you are not facing the goal when you shoot, body positioning is incredibly important. The following steps explain how to position yourself and fire a backhand shot.

  1. Get your hips up: Get your hips as close as possible to the surface of the water and lay out so that your shoulders stretch away from the cage. You'll want your hips pointing directly behind you at the goal. It is important to remember that the ball will go straight back.
  2. Get the ball into position: Hold the ball against your forearm with one hand, at the surface of the water. You should be holding the ball thumbs-down, with your arm outstretched in front of you.
  3. Get up: Tread high, so that your shoulders, back, and shooting arm get out of the water. Bend your shooting arm’s elbow, pointing it in the direction you want the ball to travel.
  4. Fire: To shoot the ball, whip your arm behind you and release the ball as your arm straightens. Control the trajectory of the ball by flicking your wrist at the end.
Hot Tip: Move Quickly

A backhand needs to happen in the blink of an eye. Take too long to set up, and your defender will see what you're planning and hit your elbow to throw off the shot. Taking too long also helps the goalkeeper get into position to block these typically-low shots.

When to Shoot a Backhand

Backhands shouldn't be your go-to shot but they sure can come in handy. There are a few select situations during a game when they are appropriate. After gaining some water polo experience, you will get an instinctive feel for when a backhand is the right choice. The most suitable backhand shooting situations are explained below.

From Hole Set

The position that shoots the most backhands is the hole set. Not only are hole sets most likely to be in the ideal place for it (centered in front of the cage), but they also receive the most wet passes. Shooting a backhand from a wet pass is much easier than shooting one from a high, dry pass since you won't have to bring the ball to the water and change your body position. If you are in hole, your defender is playing far off of you, and you know the goalie is hanging to one side of the cage, you've just found the perfect time to fire off a backhand.

Hot Tip: Look at the Other Goal

In order to know where the cage is behind you, you can always look across the pool at the other cage. The two should be lined up, so you can use it a guide for centering yourself.

When a Defender Guards to One Side

Sometimes a defender will play heavily to one of your sides, shutting one arm down but leaving the other open. If this happens to you while playing close to the cage, it is the perfect opportunity to shock them with a backhand. This is also a good reason to master the backhand with both hands, since you will be able to shoot regardless of the side your defender guards.

In a Scuffle

Sometimes a rebound, bad pass, or botched drive turns into a mess of players, all going for the ball at once right in front of the goal. In order to take advantage of the confusion (and probably a goalkeeper who is out of position), and if you don't have the space or the time to get into position for a traditional shot, it's time for the backhand. Try to be aware of the goalkeeper's positioning and shoot away from them if possible.

Backhands Make the Game Exciting

Mastering a backhand shot will make you an intimidating opponent and a valuable asset when your team is on offense. They're easy to learn and even beginners are usually able to fire off a backhand with good power behind it, so there's no reason not to learn them. Practice backhand shots with your teammates and in scrimmages to nail down your accuracy, and soon you'll experience that magical moment in a game when you score a shot that no one was expecting.

The backhand shot is a staple for hole sets and high scorers. This guide breaks down how and when to shoot a backhand during a water polo game.
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