Elements of water polo

In the last couple of articles we have talked about teaching skills and how to implement the elements of the water polo game. The big trap for most coaches is that they are trying to teach kids too much too fast. Learning is slow process and it takes time to build up on the acquired skills. Kids that have inherited good psycho motor abilities will be able to learn faster than the others. However, training needs to be designed to accommodate all of the kids regardless of their pace of learning. 

Following is the list of skills that need to be mastered by the each age group. It is important to work on the basic water polo elements even after the skill is acquired. The load of skill learning is aligned with the Peak Height Velocity (PHV). This list is for boys. The difference with boys and girls is that PHV appears before in girl athletes at around 12 years old. Therefore the skill load that is for boys at 14u would be for girls at 12u level. There is an equation to predict the athletes Age of Peak Height Velocity. Here’s the link

List of technical-tactical elements which have to be mastered and perfected while practicing at age groups:

1. Water polo school (8-9 years old):


Free style

Back stroke

Breast stroke kick

Double breast stroke kick


2. Age group (10 & under)


Back stroke w/breast stroke kick

Horizontal eggbeater in place

Horizontal eggbeater w/ moving

Vertical eggbeater in place and moving

Vertical breast stroke kick in place and moving

Elevating body w/ eggbeater

Manipulation of the ball:

Picking the ball up underneath

Picking the ball up on top (rotating the hand under the ball)

Transfer of the ball

Stopping the ball

Catching the ball (with slight arch)

Throwing and shooting in place


Basic tactics (set up offense & defense)


3. Age group (12 & under)


Water polo freestyle


Change of strokes (free to back, back to free)

Under water swimming

Change of direction (zigzag, front back)

Jumps (using breast stroke kick)

Start & stop


Releasing to the ball


Half v-out

Faking the drive

One arm block

50 m free under 34 s

Manipulation of the ball:

Picking the ball up by pushing the ball against water

Caching the ball (straight pass, high pass)

Dribbling the ball

Moving with the ball in the hand

Faking the shoot

Lateral moving with the ball

Passing and shooting:

‘Cross face passing and receiving

Catch and shoot

Catch and shoot with the spin

Shooting after faking

Off the water shooting (t-shot, screw-shot, pick up & shoot)



4. Age group (14 & under)


Fly w/ breast stroke kick

Fly w/ flutter kick

Grabbing in the water (hand, fore arm, suit)

Playing defense (from behind, on the side, front, with movement, covering space in zone defense)

Pushing off, pulling and holding of the opponent


Releasing from defenders

Making separation by swimming

Making separation w/ legs

Swimming in place

Movement of players in every individual position

50 free under 30 s

Manipulation of the ball:

Stealing the ball by using jumps

Stealing the ball of the water by using breast stoke kick

Stealing the ball while swimming

Stealing the ball by pushing the opponents hand under the water

Passing & shooting

Backhand from the wrist

Backhand while moving

Passing and shooting after releasing on their back

Sweep-shot in place w/ stretched arm and body rotation

Sweep-shot from the wrist

Redirecting the ball in place

Redirecting the ball after moving

Lob shot

Passing from the wrist

Passing an shooting w/ hesitation

Passing over the defender

Lateral movement w/ the ball around defender

No look pass

No look shot

Releasing by stopping and quick start

Releasing and driving by spinning around defenders

Passing to yourself (flipping the opponent)



Counter attack 1:0

Counter attack 2:1

Counter attack 3:2

Counter attack 4:3

Counter attack 5:4

Counter attack 6:5

Switching the players

Man up (4:2, 3:3)

Man down (back, storm)

Two man up




Attack against pressing

Attack against zone

5. 16 & under

Perfecting individual skills

Introducing different offenses and defenses, 6 on 5

Strength training

50 free under 28 s

6. 18 & under

Strength training

Combining different offenses and defenses

50 free under 25 s

All the workouts need to be planned and designed according to these elements.