Water Polo Goal Keeper


Goalkeeper in any sport, and particularly in water polo, has one of the most important and most responsible roles in the team. There is truth in the old saying, perpetuated through the water polo circles that a good goalkeeper is worth “half of the team”. Coach’s technical and tactical ideas are imperatively based on the abilities of the goalkeeper, particularly in zone defence and some aspects of it (eg. partial zone and leaving a “weaker” player to shoot). Instant decisions in which the goalkeeper plays the main role are frequently made during a game. Goalkeeper’s successful intervention is a prerequisite for the initiation of individual and team counter attack. In this instance goalkeeper then becomes the first attacker. The speed of his reaction, his tactical maturity and correct passing to a teammate directly affects the efficiency of the attack and indirectly results in a goal being scored. The confidence and support that the goalkeeper offers to his fellow players in such moments is priceless. The average of goals scored in today’s international water polo is between 6 and 8. Most of the important matches almost inherently finish with a minimum difference and goalkeepers timely save in the key moments of the game, when the result “breaks”, often gives the advantage and decides the winner. As the last player in defence, the goalkeeper corrects all mistakes made by the players of his team while the opposition is in attack. Unfortunately the uncorrected mistakes are recorded and remembered as the final score of the game. Goalkeeper is often left alone to do this unforgiving and responsible job himself, particularly in situations where there is objectively no help from his defenders. The success of the entire team largely depends upon his ability, individual characteristics and overall quality of his game. Professionally organised clubs have noted this a long time ago. Specialised goalkeeping coaches work with goalkeepers while the head coach works with them directly during the team’s situational training and practice games. This way the goalkeeper receives special treatment relative to his effect and role in the game. Elite goalkeepers have, almost as a rule, very “strong” personalities with accentuated psychomotor qualities, strong psyche, heightened perception and notable intellect. They are an authority in their teams, respected by their coaches and fellow players and as such dominantly influence team behaviour and atmosphere before and during a game. A player with goalkeeping predispositions should work on specific technical and tactical points and complement this knowledge by converting it to the physical form. According to my statistical indicators average success rate of saves of a good goalkeeper is between 40-50%, quality goalkeeper from 50-60% and elite goalkeeper from 60-70% and very rarely over 70%. This percentage directly affects the reduction of the effectiveness of the opposition’s shots on goal. Thus we can statistically show the effect of a goalkeeper to the final result of the game. 10 The choice of technique and tactical activity of a goalkeeper during the game is strictly guided by his personal characteristics. That is why we say that every goalkeeper has his own style and tactic. In the past there have been two recognisable styles of goalkeeping - the so-called “calm” and “aggressive” styles. The former was distinguished by a group of elite goalkeepers who, apart from their physical abilities, dominated with their thinking abilities, rational and “calmer” movements. Apart from exceptional physical abilities, the goalkeepers with the latter style were noted for their goalkeeping intuition, fullness and “aggressiveness” of their movements. The feature of this style is very hard legwork, high jump and the covering of the entire space between the bars. In such style the goalkeeper’s effectiveness depended exclusively on his personal quality and ability to command the entire goalkeeping space without much reliance on the defenders. However, this was also their biggest disadvantage. Last ten years have seen the development the third style of goalkeeping. This style is totally subordinated to technical-tactical positioning of the goalkeeper in the game. In these coordinated and well-trained schemes of goalkeeping and accurate positioning, goalkeeper is not left to his own devices any more, but is often actively helped by his defenders. Modern aids such as video and computer technology, together with the statistical analysis and calculations of the probability of players shooting to a particular part of the goal, have ensured good grounds in selecting the right goalkeeping style and appropriate tactics. This ensures greater efficiency of the goalkeeper in a “reduced” style of goalkeeping with simplified movements and smaller, shorter jumps. The area of goals to defend lies within the arm span and from side positions the area is even smaller. The defenders block the remaining area of the goal with their arms. Therefore, the third style of goalkeeping belongs to the newer generation of goalkeepers, adapted to modern water polo and will be discussed in this handbook. The drawback of this type of goalkeeping is in gradual “diminishing” of the goalkeeper, who increasingly depends on the help from his defenders and takes his duties literarily limiting the maximal range of saving shots. Problems arise when the attacker shoots in the space blocked by the defender, particularly if he had previously managed to move the defender from the ideal blocking line, and (statistically rare) with surprise, illogical shots from “unreasonable” situations. Under the current rules of today’s water polo, the goalkeeper’s role has become increasingly important. Therefore, goalkeeper must not limit himself only to his “narrow” range of actions but must totally adapt and connect to his team’s defensive tactics. He must contribute his share in the moments when the help from defenders fails and when he has to show his personal strength and quality. In this sense the handbook stresses the adaptability to new water polo in terms of technique and tactics but with consideration of the basic premises and rules that must be equal to all goalkeepers and which directly determine their quality. This way the charisma of great water polo goalkeepers will remain alive and with a good chance to be continued.

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