Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mobilty Drill

Tonight I happened to have my digital camera in my backpack and thought of doing a short video of Shae and Breda (Dani and Claire were in the video too but they are in the background). This occurred to me as they did the Mobility Drill, something we use for transitions between swim, vertical catch, stop/start, give & go, basically for mobility. It is sometimes hard to get young players to imagine the movement pattern and this clip should help that.

Watching this reminds me of how effortlessly these girls move through the water and this was after 30 minutes of swimming fly/free and a 30 minute pre-practice warm up. You can see how quickly and smoothly Shae moves her hips to go from one direction to the other. Breda shows the great power she has in her upper body as she catches left handed and turns with so much authority. I'm not sure if Claire and Dani were aware of being recorded but their form was solid and no drops or crappy passes.

Usually we do this in sets of 10 passes before resting and look for precision. Tonight we went longer, seeing what kind of rhythm they would establish. One of the important parts of this exercise is catching the ball high and rotating so the ball crosses the front of the body before being put in the water ie right handers turn to their left. This does 2 important things, 1) it teaches players to catch the ball and turn rather than tip it blindly over their head and chase it - this forces the head (eyes) to lead the ball and prevent turning into danger (opponent), 2) it provides a plant arm as the body falls from vertical to horizontal and this is what gives the initial pull to start movement forward while maintaining ball control.

The Boys almost got recorded doing the Hot Box drill but no goalie and too much water traffic meant less than ideal set up. That drill is one that works the 4 post players and 3 interior defenders from a 4-2 power play configuration. We use it now mostly as an offensive drill as the defensive movement is not a big part of our current 5 vs 6 defense. The blocking is key but the hip positions are not the same as our stationary blocking that we usually do when shorthanded. We'll tape it another time, maybe when Carson is there.

Random notes;

Tonight at the pool a diver beside us practicing on the 1m board had a nasty board collision on a rapid spin. I only saw it in my peripheral vision until I heard the unnatural thud so I don't know how many rotations she did, 2 at least. A few tears, some blood, maybe a few fractures, who knows; it could have been much worse.

Heather informed me today that she has been asked to be the new centre forward on her pro team in Italy beginning with the game this Saturday vs one of the leagues top teams. That isn't making her too happy since she is one of the leagues (and the worlds) best, most explosive, drivers and her size will not be sufficient to dominate at 2m. I will likely get more on Saturday about how she is boiling over with frustration after her game.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More Olympic Qualification

Today we revisit the topic of Olympic Qualification and the Senior National Team. I don't do this to inflame passions or invite argument, it is a cultural and educational exercise I am undertaking. Cultural - to illustrate different opinions, Educational - to help athletes I coach see that there are differing opinions in this country than the status quo. If Bushido players are to continue to move on and play professionally, in the NCAA and on the National Team then they will encounter these different perspectives and strong opinions - so, they should be prepared.

On the popular international website "Water Polo World" there was an article yesterday discussing the FAILURE of the Hungarian women's team because they did not make it to the final (ie 1st/2nd) match of the qualification tournament in Imperia. It was a failure even though the team had qualified for the Olympics by winning their division in the round robin much earlier in the week. Here is what the website wrote about the blame for the loss in the semi-final game that went into overtime and then a shoot out.

"In the penalty shoot-out Hungary´s Barbara Bujka and Italy´s Manuela Zanchi missed the fifth shot each. In the second leg Hungary`s second shooter Ágnes Valkay did not score, so that Tania di Mario netted the winning ball for the home team.
The game was really exciting and great to watch. Unfortunately this was partly caused by some easy mistakes of the teams and the officials. The game was interrupted several times, but was finally lost by Hungarian head coach Gábor Godova who was not able to calm the actions of his team in the final seconds of regulation and extra-time. But today it was much more amazing to watch a game like this than a correct boring game."

Not only did they name the player who missed the final penalty shot but they lay the blame for team performance squarely on the shoulders of the team coach who did not control the team emotions and psyche in tense moments. Contrast that to the Water Polo Canada website and their congratulations today to the team that came 5th and did not qualify for the Olympics at all. Some of those comments are here;

".... the young Sr. Women's National team was unsuccessful in their attempt to gain an Olympic berth for Beijing
We are so very proud of the women, their coaches and the other individuals who helped prepare the team for this important event. The effort the players put into their training - both mental and physical - was both remarkable and phenomenal.

As much as it is difficult now to think of positive outcomes, we want all associated with this team to know how supported and cared for they are. We are proud of them and how they represented our country."

Neither one of these approaches to failure is incorrect. In fact, failure is not even measured the same way in the two countries (unless we talk about hockey, then our perspective is more like that of the Europeans). One approach is open and deals with issues, one is closed and avoids issues altogether. However the biggest difference is once the teams get home. The Hungarians will talk frankly about their performance, make quick and open decisions to address their concerns and move on together, unified. The Canadians will have a very different approach, how different remains to be seen.

Water Polo Canada prefaced it's comments by describing the team as "young". Their average age, by "water polo birth year" is 25. If you know human physiology that is pretty close to the peak athletic age for females. Can we expect that any team review will be tempered with age as a major factor now that we have seen it in writing as a performance qualifier? I hope not since every athlete in the country (or the NCAA or Serie AI, Italy) was eligible for selection.

If you are curious about how that team age breaks down it is like this;
@30% are 22 or younger,
@35% are 24,
@35% are 25 or older.
What is surprising is that there are only 2 athletes between the age of 25 and 29 (the same number that are over 30). I'm curious about how the three 20-21 year olds jelled with the three 29-37 year olds. That seems more interesting to me than the majority of the team that was not young and not old.

People who don't know me might think that summary is negative. Not at all, I am more interested in understanding this process, it's disappointing result and then helping make sure it does not happen again. Wonder how many others feel that way too.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

So Many Hours at the Pool

Today was a better day for the Girls at the pool, as expected. Dani was confident with her shot, Yahoo, finally using what she has! Jaelyn was a different person, great to see. Shae was 100% accurate when shooting at the posts, amazing when you think how small those things are. But her play, superb. Sarah W had breakaways every single counter, super, but never released to the wing to get the goalie pass and nobody ever fed her the ball to take to the net. That will be a group problem we solve but the opening is there for sure. Breda struggled a bit with referees and missed some offense that was there for her to exploit, but still, so much danger when she has that ball in her hand!

Cadet Boys played a pretty good game to begin the day and challenged the Regina Youth Team, controlling play for 3 quarters. Youth guys were a different story, no idea why they fight so hard to not play well. It's like they enjoy the struggle. Mitch could score at will vs any team but instead gets off by pulling the hat strings of some rec guy who is giving up his Sunday to provide game experience for our talented age group teams. So hard to understand.

It was nice to see the boys play an entire day without my hearing them swear at each other, themselves or the space around them. Maybe having the Regina boys around helped that, it couldn't hurt as they were pretty good at fitting in and following game plans.

Finally heard back from Turbo Canada today, boys suits and robes will be ordered this week. Black and white remain the colours for this crew.

Up and Down at the Pool

What a bizarre day at the pool with male and female teams taking opposite routes to and from success as the day progressed. The girls do not want to accept their abilities as individuals, or collectively, and start off slow before they take control in later games. The boys come out gunning, have easy success, then relax, start to chirp at one another, in-fight, swear and act with ZERO self control.

The girls struggled to unite and play as a unit but found tough ways to win (Cadet and Youth taking different approaches). Then, both teams hit a wall and changed tactics to keep the ball in the hands of only 1 or 2 players who dominated and help win with comfort. That is frustrating since they could win with more ease, less effort, no stress and more pleasure if they brought it all together. Why is it that the Cadet ones want to watch Shae carry the load and the older ones are afraid not to pass to Breda? Hard questions that only they can answer (and they will on Sunday!)

The boys are much different; brilliant, fast, strong, confident in one game and then raving lunatics in the next. It doesn't help that some of them don't bother to show up for games and will not communicate that to coaches or team members, starts everyone off with a bad attitude that just gets worse. The amount of improvisation and refusal to follow simple tactics is mind boggling. We are playing controlled scrimmages vs a team that is here to give us competitive reps to prepare for real matches in March and May. Yet, every tactic is ignored as guys try to burn what they see as weaker opponents only to have the broken tactics explode in their face.

I'm curious to see how they all respond to day 2 after having had billets tonight, should be interesting. I only wish they would all listen to what is said to start each game and believe in themselves.

It wouldn't be right to not mention the great scrimmage that Kaylea had with the Bantams tonight. Talk about applying what you are taught and believing in your coaches direction. Wow!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Olympic Sadness

I don't want this blog to ever be a place for negative venting. But, I have to mention my disappointment in the failure of the Canadian women to qualify for the Olympic Games. This was never the fault of a single person so no blame can be assigned; the structure of the National Team program makes this impossible. However, there are some things that need to be discussed openly and honestly by Water Polo Canada if we hope to right this problem any time soon. If that discussion does not take place then there will certainly be some public negativity, people have been holding their tongues for awhile so as to not upset any recent Olympic hopes.

My observations here are not "wisdom from hindsight"; anyone that knows me knows that I openly talk about the problem of national training centres very honestly and provide credible alternatives. It has been hard to have discussion on this when 100% of the NT staff are from Montreal and 80% of the athletes are from Montreal, or Quebec (to acknowledge where Johanne originates). I love and respect the blood, sweat and tears every one of them has given to the sport that last 4 years, they are not the problem with the sport.

So, why am I saying things that are not empty sympathy? Well, that failure in Imperia Italy today impacts all of us, every club and coach in Canada has taken a hit. The dreams of our female athletes are now more distant and the hill they must climb even more steep and with less secure footing. Funding will be shortened or withdrawn all the way down to our various PSO's. If we had been involved in a partnership with clearly articulated goals, published national tactics, accepted age specific skill sets, intelligent domestic competition, then we could share the failure of the Olympic Qualification. But we were not, so we can't.

I hope we can avoid blaming athletes and coaches. Pat, in particular, has lead us to plenty of international joy so this is no time to forget that. Let's keep the focus on the systemic shortcomings, work to fix them quickly, be open to ideas that have not seen wide discussion in years past. China showed us at last summer's World Juniors that you can make phenomenal strides in a very short time with a focussed, meaningful domestic plan. You don't have to look at too many Canadian championship results at the Cadet and Youth level to see that the past 5 years have provided plenty of great talent from outside Quebec, coaches and athletes, maybe some of them can become part of the family that works to make a more solid foundation.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Agon Suits

Today was a big day for many of the girls as they got to try on the new Agon suits to check sizes. This was important since some have worn Agon suits with only a front lining and we are getting both front and back. That is required with the possible transparency issues we might face otherwise. I didn't order small enough suits for some Bantam girls as they are possibly going down as far as size 22 or 24. Kelsea for sure, others, we don't know.

We worked more on press defense and offensive movement to help passes tonight, something we have not done in over a month as it was all about gaps and drops the past few weeks. It may take a quarter to get them into the right frame of mind this weekend but it will happen pretty fast once there is an opponent they don't know well. Some of the Bantam girls were actually surprised to be told to HOLD on to the offense unless they were driving, too many soft kiddie scrimmages the past month I guess.

I am also interested to see how the billet plans work this weekend. It is not something I generally like to do as it splits focus away from team and onto hosting, sharing, exploring new relationships. Quite the opposite of what a competition is about when they turn their focus inward to their own knowledge, skill and ability to perform with a well known team of their own, sometimes at the expense of that new "billet friend".

Another thing I expect to see happen in a big way this weekend is the Cadet Girls stepping up play to show me how they plan to make it very difficult to let other girls take their pool time away as the season progresses. Having added 3 new Cadet team members last week I know the regulars are all checking how that impacts their own role. No worries there, I know who everyone is and what they are capable of.

If you are following the Women's national team in Italy right now they are 1 win away from qualifying for their 3rd Olympic Games. Friday they play Greece to make it to the medal round of the Olympic Qualification event and that is a huge game in all their lives. Let's hope the western girls on that team, Csikos, Braden and Riddell pay a big role and contribute to a win. Heather should be in the stands for that one, bringing Bushido cheers to the team.

Odds and Ends

Hawaii had another close one tonight, 13-12 over Arizona State. Hawaii is now 3-0 and tied for first in their division (MPSF) but so much is based on rankings in the NCAA that means little right now. Here is an excerpt from the University of Hawaii website about todays game;

"Freshman goalie Serena Bredin had seven stops for the Rainbow Wahine, three of which came in the decisive fourth quarter as UH held off the Sun Devils.

UH trailed 8-7 at the half after surrendering six second quarter goals. Behind Bredin, the Rainbow Wahine shutout Arizona State 3-0 in the third and entered the final period with a 10-8 advantage."

It's possible that the games and margin of victory will be more comfortable once they get to play in the familiar surroundings of their home pool on the island paradise. Nobody else has the crazy travel schedule that Hawaii does.

The boys had a bit of a moment at practice tonight, making demands for a new Turbo suit and even wanting a robe to go with it. This is an alternative to track suits like the girls will buy. Not sure I can agree about the white suit choice 'cause, like I said, Brooks will be invisible. But, full marks for speaking up with a unified voice.

I have to admit Dani and Claire looked pretty good in their new Agon suits today, much better fit than the Turbo ones that just don't get built for a women's body. And it is the Turbo suits that were the problem, nothing wrong with any of the girls wearing them. New sizing suits from Agon will be here this week so girls are all pretty excited.

Ok, yesterday we had a visual summary of blocking from Bushido players 10-17 years of age. Also viewed by several people yesterday was a Water Polo World web shot of a National Team athlete blocking during a game at the current Olympic Qualification event in Imperia, Italy. The pictures appeared on the web on the same day, talk about reinforcing the importance of the skill. If you compare the photos it is obvious the young club players have learned this technique very well.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Blocking as a Sign of Peak Performance

Now that we are about to end our first periodization cycle with a "Competitive Season" stage I am reviewing all the parts that have been taught and can now be stressed - expected - in competition. The timing of the various stages has been muddled and it shows my split focus of training both male and female teams simultaneously since they have different needs that were not properly measured.

This is a multi-peak season for everyone, January was the time at which the girls reached Peak Performance and they are currently in a mental and physical down time. This was not the plan and it is not how the boys have reacted to their training, they are just getting ready to peak now. Hmm, what was different?

Well, first, the boys train more casually than the girls and they did not mentally fatigue in the same way. There are a few reasons for that, none I will discuss here. Now my task is to keep them sharp for 3 more weeks as we get ready to attend the big Alberta Open; shouldn't be a problem. But, how they respond to down time, recovery and then rebuilding toward May Nationals will be very interesting as it is a short window (8 weeks) and I will see some big issues in Calgary that need remedy.

Other key gender differences were the creation of the women's Espoir Program, the extra National Team Identification event in December and the involvement of some players in the CSL. That put social, mental and physical strain on top of the modest weekly workouts. They struggled to hold it all together and took a big physical hit with sickness at the beginning of February that is still going on. So, it's a holding pattern toward Alberta Open as we can't take a break right in the middle of a lead-up to the biggest event of the year. Calgary performance might suffer but my focus will be on readiness for Nationals in May, no question.

So, why did I title this blog entry "Blocking as a Sign of Peak Performance"? Simple, everyone, on every team, displayed the same basic technical skill at the same event. That shows a readiness to apply skills without thought since it wasn't ever part of any teams pre-game talk. There were other signs too, of course, but these pictures just jump out from the group as a community effort so I celebrate that fact.

These pictures are all from the Bushido Invitational, our last event in January. I will see if this practice continues this weekend when we host Team Saskatchewan. It will be evident very quickly if this is technique burned into memory as we will experiment with some drop and gap defenses on each team. Blocking will be applied in many forms with the changing tactics and if they forget the block then they are thinking too much about the tactic and that tells me lots!

Shae, Oh that girl is so intense, gotta love it!

Claire, calm & cool; hope she is fit enough to play on Saturday.

Bree, wrong hand but perfect focus.

Ben, also intense even if we can't see what he is blocking.

Brett, with those arms who needs legs for height?

Brooks, no way that is ball is going anywhere but up!

Sarah, couldn't get too much closer.

Finally, a team one. So much fun with this 5 vs 6 defense.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lois Riel Day

Today is a new provincial holiday, one more attempt to slow down commerce and daily stress now that we live in a society with a 7 day work week. I kept to family stuff the past few days so no blog update until I got to relax by the fire tonight. Wireless internet is so convenient!

This past weekend there was better Neptune attendance at the league games so only 1 was an exhibition match - Bushido Open vs Neptune Cadet. This game provided both teams a chance to fool around with line ups and that was needed due to a flu virus that is taking its toll on the whole community. The match was pretty close after the first quarter when I took Breda out at 5-1 for Bushido. She had scored 3 times in under 2 minutes at the end of the 1st quarter when she decided to play at 2m.

The next game, with the Bushido Cadet girls playing Neptune Open, was very close, 6-6, in spite of Bushido leading 5-1 in the third quarter. The first goal of this game was the most interesting as Sarah Mutch scored from 2m while being checked by a former national team athlete. That was a pleasant first goal as a centre forward. The goal that challenged that for brilliance was the tempo shot from the 5 spot by Carissa Ness. She had just heard the talk at the 1st quarter break where tempo shots were demanded if facing a drop defense. Sure enough, she did as requested and in perfect form. All the other goals were from Shae, not surprising other than that she was playing with the flu.

The Youth Boys had a mighty struggle without 4 starters, key among them the Domoney boys who were playing in Florida at a big international event. Mitchell and Ben were also missing so Alex and Mike had to step up the offense after the first quarter when we fell behind waiting for somebody to do something with the ball (ie Mitchell, Domo). They both did that and Alex scored 3 in the last quarter to draw even 7-7.

Cadet boys played Neptune Cadets again and we continue to give the whole team lots of reps. Jesse is using everyone, in spite of game scores, so nobody plays tournament games without experience vs "strangers". This was another game without a goalie as Carson was in Florida and Callum was sick with the flu.

League games take a back seat the next few weeks as we host Team Saskatchewan next week and have an MWPA Shooting Clinic the week after.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Friday and a quiet night at the pool, lots of players still fighting the flu - 5 or 6 at least. Plus, Domoney boys are away in Florida playing with some US teams in a big international event. Carson was missed by the younger goalies who are used to following his lead. However, Claire did take Sam under her wing and was very focussed on the technical side of their work. It was nice to see that a 12 year old girl can so easily shift from follower in a group to leader when it is needed.

I had an interesting observation from a parent tonight after taking her Atom child to the first UofM practice this week. The amount of technical work being done left a positive impression. This is very good for me to hear as we had a coaches meeting last week to specifically talk about the missing or deficient skills from that age. Seems that the structure and reinforcement that I was after has been embraced. It will be good to get the coaches feedback tomorrow after a week of refocussed effort.

The push toward the March Alberta Open is getting all the young players very excited with training and team activities. This is the most exciting month of the season for both 12&u and 14&u squads. Saturday the Bantam girls are going to learn a drop defense to isolate a shooter and eliminate a strong centre. This is something we discourage most of the year as we stress 1 on 1 skills until Cadet. However, in Alberta they will likely meet some teams with a freakishly big girl at 2m who can't be stopped without a drop. Plus, the Bantam boys will draw some drop defense when teams see Dylan so they have to learn to work around that and rehearsing it with the girls is a good start.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Happy Valentines Day

Today I am busy authoring a February club newsletter so tons of little bits of info running around my head. There has been so much activity, day by day, that it has been hard to find a time to stop and write about what has happened. But, I am forcing myself now so it will be done soon.

Agon has now sent a drawing of the custom suit design they are doing for us. Reception was super positive with the girls tonight. Now I just have to outline the order process for families who write the cheques. Since this is a custom design I am pretty sure that it will be used for more than one season, even if the team chooses to alter the colour, the design seems popular.

Boys are being much more difficult about suits so will end up with no new team order. They do not want the same suit as last year, won't agree on a new style and won't offer credible alternatives. Difficult group sometimes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Team uniforms just around the corner

So, today was a day when we had to discuss team clothing, no putting it off. The girls are all really jazzed about team track suits and this is fine, I just wanted to find something that is not crazy expensive and another painful expense for families. I should be able to get them all into an American Apparel track suit for under $60./screened and taxes. The type above will be on both the track suit and the seasonal t's.

That track suit cost will be cheaper than the custom Agon suit we are working on. Girls wanted a change from the Turbo's we had last year as they were crap. Lots of zippers and seams ripped, not 1 or 2, more like 40%. Plus, the cut is such that many have trouble keeping their top half in the suit and that is a hassle girls don't need to deal with. Agon is doing some sample art for us now so I can show parents what they are paying for.

Boys remain fully committed to Turbo, only a few seam faults with their suits. Likely something to do with how small they wear them and how little material there is to fail. However, being teens, they do want to change the style from last year. Never wear the same thing for more than 1 season, until it is "classic" then rules change. Whatever, small price to pay for team unity and group happiness.

Tonight I taught the Cadet Boys the basics of the defense I used as a young coach when I first qualified an Ontario club team for the National Junior Championships (1980 or so). This was a full blocking zone, no real movement, and it was based on the strength of goaltender Erika Dutz. Let me see if I can remember the names of the other key players - Glenys Cavers, Wendy Waterhouse, Julie Braun, Beatrice Arroyas, Agnes Vaguhelyi, a younger Cavers - Brenda I think, Karen Baldwin (or was she already Miss Universe by then?), Jean Janzen and there were others but I don't remember all who played that exact year.

Getting back to that defense, it was 6 players inside 4m and between the posts. 1 on each post at the goal line with outside arms blocking, 1 inside each of those players at 2m, and 2 more just inside 4m side by side in the centre of the goal. The Youth guys shot against that today for about 15 minutes and scored very little. The Cadets had only limited correction, just let them figure it out on their own. It may show up in a game here or there, just for fun, but using it too often would give teams a chance to find gaps and gain confidence to shoot at them. Carson will love to play this system too.

This Monday will be a rare weeknight off for me, new public holiday. I am already thinking about what to cook the family for supper. That is one activity I really miss since having changed my practice routine from after 8:00pm to the current before 8:00pm.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Holiday Coming Up

What's up with the seemingly monthly fouling of Pan Am Pool? I am getting tired of cancelled practice just cause some parent hasn't toilet trained their 12 year old. Tonight the boys lost a full training session due to a 4:00 "accident". Some things just don't have to be the way they are and it's frustrating to deal with that. Sorry to all the boys who went straight to the pool from school.

It was interesting to see the Bushido and Neptune girls socialize in the lobby and then joke around at practice. Joke around a bit too much to be honest, but interesting just the same. There's no going back to being rivals for them, I just hope we can build a training intensity through competition that raises the bar, something very uncharacteristic for Manitoba.

We worked the Cadet 5 vs 6 defense again tonight and I really don't think we need to do any more teaching there, just high intensity reps against opponents they don't know. The 6 vs 5 offense still needs some work but they are getting the patterns now. This offense is one tactical area the boys seem so much more willing to embrace than the girls.

I posted a pic of Heather and her Volturno team today, talking about 6 vs 5 reminded me of her frustrations. She drives and draws kick-outs every game yet her team scores less than 20% of their power plays. Ouch. They are young and inexperienced so it is more common for them to train swimming than tactics. Kinda the opposite training set up for her preference. Meh.

Disjointed post tonight, too much on the go to concentrate.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tactics Taught Thematically

Alliteration in the title seemed to be appropriate for todays topic. Tonight I delivered a 3 stage counter drill to see if the girls could call up past lessons on correct passes for each situation. Some yes, some no, not a surprise but with no clear pattern or reason why some knew what was going on and some didn't.

Stage #1, counter up the middle with a chaser and flip for the ball quickly so the goalie pass is never in danger of sailing over the counter and into the opposing goalie. About a quarter of the girls didn't want to give up the position to he offense to start the drill. Well, without knowing the correct pattern of swim-advantage-pass-finish then doing it later with full defense in a game will not work, no recall of a pattern. Some won't accept that and they are the ones who seem to never recognize the tactic when it pops up in a real situation.

Stage #2, counter with a defender on the left hip and rely on the goalie pass to a relay part way up the pool on the right side. The release was done universally well but receiving the pass with the intent to advance the ball to the ball-side advantage in the centre was seldom automatic. Easy enough to correct as we are doing more give & go drills at this time of the season.

Stage #3, counter advantage is gained by burning the centre forward and a pass to that breakaway is fed late, dry, from a deep wing. The only problem with this stage was the tendency for sharp release of the wing sideways. We were looking for a deep release toward the #1 spot (or #5 to feed the lefty) with a goalie pass wet to the wing and continued movement forward. That way the dry pass to the counter could come from in front and not behind which is just a turnover waiting to happen.

So, this was actually more of a learning practice than I had hoped. There was not as much recall as I wanted but I have identified who the listeners are and who needs some hand holding in future. That was important with this hybrid Espoir team that I was working with tonight.

Tomorrow I will talk about the Give & Go drill that we do to teach fluid movement with passing. Maybe drills and practices are boring for most, I don't really know who reads this blog now that it is an international audience.

Also, later this week, updates on Brendan and Carson who are playing in Florida this week with some US teams they hooked with while at a camp. I encouraged this as we came up empty on a club plan for February travel for all our teams.

PS forgot to mention that Serena stopped another 5m penalty shot vs Stanford this past weekend. It was one of their USA superstars, Lauren Silver. Anyone remember the season a few years ago that Serena went a whole year without letting in a penalty shot?

Sunday Freeze Out

No update Sunday as we had a major power outage as I was writing it. We went without power from 12:20am to 6:15am, it was -35c so guess how comfortable our place was by 6:30. The temp was 5c on the main floor but below freezing in the basement. This is one aspect of 100 year homes that kinda sucks. The basement is so cracked and shifted in many small spaces that cold air comes up there and out the 3rd floor like a chimney. Brrr, imagine Carol and her 6:30 shower before work! I'm pretty close to Pan Am Pool, let's hope their power & heat were not off for 6 hours too, might have to skim ice off the pool before practice.

So, no special water polo news today. A few texts from Cadet girls wondering if it was true that we are adding players; no objections, just wonder about the group dynamics and who plays/who watches. That won't be an issue with this group, I have never coached a team with more balanced talent in my life, they will all play and play major roles. Of course, Shae will stand out from the crew but that is expected when you are on a national team.

Club t-shirts will be distributed this week, much to the relief of many. Then the club suit issue will be resolved after that. I am still waiting for the girls who said they were going to bring me a track suit so I know the make and style that they are looking for.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

More Progress

Today there was another meeting with movement toward a unified future in the MWPA. Marilyn confirmed a Neptune request to add players to our Cadet Girls team for Nationals and I agreed to 3 additions. I have been saving roster spots for in season developments, within Bushido or otherwise, so this is nothing shattering. The new players will join our Thursday practice.

This means we now have 1 Cadet Boy, 3 Cadet Girls and 3 Youth Girls who have joined our training group from the Neptunes. I am viewing this as a partnership under Bushido leadership, not an exodus from Neptunes. Let's all keep that perspective for the health of the relationship.

Our club coaches meeting went well today, could have been longer though. All agreed on skills missing from Atom and Bantam, direction of teams and how to approach the month lead up to Alberta Open. Everyone was also open to the changes we are embarking on with the MWPA in terms of more open and supportive club relationships. I will have a lot more to say on all this is weeks ahead.

If you are following Serena and Hawaii, they suffered the first loss of the season today to #1 UCLA. No big thing, they will improve as the season goes on. This was in tournament play so they are still 2-0 in the MPSF games, what matters most.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Saturday Line up

I finally got my butt in gear and organized a sit down meeting of Bushido Coaches for Saturday. Tough to juggle all schedules but with the older ages having the night off it was easier to get everyone just before the 5:00 practice. We will talk about some missing, or deficient, skills of the Atom and Bantam crew; outline objectives for the Calgary bound teams for the next 5 weeks and then review some roster changes for Cadet and Youth teams.

Today I was very lucky and had a chance to learn some very specific things about our goalies from a sport science perspective. After coaching for 30 years it is not easy to get that much new information in a one hour session. In December we had Serena, Carson and Sandra all video taped and then had a bio-mechanical analysis done. The pictures don't lie, technique is clear, of course, but effort is also obvious and so is flexibility. Carson had exceptional hand positions, just as he has been taught. But out of sight, under water, has been lurking a real lack of hip flexibility. This is holding back his lift by as much as 30%, can you imagine Carson getting 30% higher or getting out to his hips in half the time? Well, give it 12 months and it will be so.

For those keeping score at home, Hawaii is now 3-0 but Serena did not play today. No need, they were only playing a division 3 team and their name is Santa Cruz "Banana Slugs". Really, how serious could they have been.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Hawaii Wins Again

Serena won again tonight, against Cal, big victory against a top school, 7-6. Cal is coached by the former US and Canadian mens national coach Rich Corso. Many Bushido girls have played his teams from LA water polo in Calgary over the years. It was a 5-5 game going into the 4th quarter so she must have made a few of her key saves in the late going (she had 10 in total).

Locally there is lots of stuff happening in the water polo community right now. It will be a quiet weekend but then it takes off a bit from there. 

February 16 we have Metro League games and hopefully will have full Neptune rosters to challenge us. Those games are exciting even if, truth be told, I miss the explosive driving of Heather Carson. There are some yung'uns quickly picking up the slack in that department. Confidence is growing every week so the games are always more interesting than the week before.

February 23 and 24 we host the Team Sask Cadet and Youth teams. There are a couple of games where we play our "Nationals" Bushido/Regina Youth guys against Neptune Men and I will try to get Jesse, Adam and Matt to play those games against us too. Game times are;

12:30 Cadet & Youth Boys
2:00 Cadet & Youth Girls
3:30 Youth Boys (including 3 Regina guys) vs Neptunes
6:30 Cadet & Youth Girls
7:30 Cadet and Youth Boys
Club practice for Bantam and younger still from 5:00-6:30

12:15 Cadet Boys
1:15 Cadet & Youth Girls
2:15 Youth Boys (+ Regina 3) vs Neptune Men
3:15 Cadet & Youth Girls

The next weekend, February 29, March 1, 2, the MWPA hosts a shooting clinic with 2 national team athletes as clinicians. This is for Bantam and Cadet and then some Youth girls. More details on that later.

PS Judging by the picture you can tell who I am thinking about this week.

Serena records 8 saves in 2 quarters of play

For those of you following Serena Bredin and her journey through the NCAA with the University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine you will be happy to hear that she won her first game today, 22-8. She left the game just after 1/2 time with the score around 18-5 and having made 8 saves. For perspective, the goalie she has replaced, Meike De Nooy of the Dutch national team, averaged 11 saves per game for Hawaii last year as a league all-star, but that was playing full games. Serena's numbers are pretty good considering it was her first NCAA game and she is coming off a week long medical break from a slight concussion. The goalie at the other end of the pool, who let in 22, is a former Calgary Renegade. Small world eh?

Today was a pretty positive one, I had good 1 on 1 athlete meetings with Shae and Breda, had a good talk with Carson about training energy systems (he is really ready to move his training to the next level), watched Mitchell train quite seriously and was pleased to see Sandra work hard from the earliest part of practice right through. A good day.

The schedule for our weekend games vs Team Saskatchewan (February 23, 24) is now set. That may be the topic of tomorrows post if anyone actually reads this thing day to day.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Lots of People off sick

This is starting off as a frustrating week of practice for the girls teams (guys are doing ok). Dani in a sling for 10 days, Claire sick for at least a week, Sandra at drivers ed, Shae also MIA. That is some key pieces missing from the puzzle. Only Sarah is there with the older girls, not the route to success in the spring. Arghhh. But, we'll have all the younger girls there for Wednesday and Thursday when they are not at UofM with Bantams. Yeah.

The boys are quite different and today I informed the older guys that we are going ahead with the addition of 3 Regina players to our Youth Team. That will give us an almost full roster for Nationals and everyone is quite happy about that.

I am also happy that my brother, Rich, is having much success rebuilding the engine to my little farm tractor. He is something of a mechanical genius. He not only found the tractor for sale at a farm near Perterborough for me but also agreed to rebuild the engine when he drove it and determined its condition. That's a picture of the engine up there on the left, just so you know my life is not all water polo. There'll be a farm blog one day too.

Monday, February 4, 2008


I came across an old photo of Darryl and I today, from 2001; it was taken 9 years after we started Bushido Water Polo. Quite a lot has happened since that picture was taken, the year I was recognized by Sport Manitoba as their Coach of the Year. There have been plenty of high points in the past 7 years but not as many as there could have been and I want to address some of the missing pieces as I look back and plan forward.

In the fall I began to chart a radical path and initiate foundational changes in Manitoba Water Polo. This is a complex process and requires partners that are not commonly pulling in the same direction. I'm tired of seasons with 8 weeks between games and 20 game seasons. Finally there are regional partners to share solutions and I am trying to seize the opportunity.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Observations on Saturday games

Hmmm, interesting day at the pool. Hormones, teens, skill development and competition make such a colourful mix. It's nice to be involved with players who are passionate and skilled. It's frustrating when they are not all on the same page at game time and when they don't trust their learning in times of stress. But, there is hope from what I saw in today's games.

The Bantam girls had a really nice practice at 5:00 after acting like deer-in-headlights during their 4:15 game. That group has come so far is such a short time that there are no reference points for what they are going  through. However, the experience they are gaining now is wildly beneficial and will be paying dividends in Calgary for sure.

Open Women don't need to change anything, just need to get a few more bodies out to the pool so there is a bench. Toward that end we have now added Shelagh P-A to the squad, expect her at the next game (maybe Kelci will actually show up too).

The next 2 weeks the Girls are going to spend Wednesdays and Thursdays planning how they will play on the 16th vs the Neptune Senior team. There will be a playbook given out this week, a summary of the offense and defense we have worked on to date. Nothing new to be taught, just refined while we work on speed, strength, confidence and timing.

Youth Boys, no big changes by me, just an attempt to get the whole team through 2 weeks of 100% attendance, what a dream that is. Neptunes were asking today if we could add a few Monday night games in a bigger space, with less public around. I am all for it, once we have practiced as a team for a bit. Totally in the hands of the boys, work for it or pass it by.

Cadet boys have issues similar to the Girls. Play is up and down and depends on who is in the water not on what our team tactics are. Two huge improvements in the pool today; Luc was countering and taking the ball to the net, Bon! Huge props to Dylan for doing EXACTLY what he is being taught. Steal, pass, go to the net, receive pass, score, simple! And, he did this more than once so we know it wasn't a twitch or a fluke, no it was skill. Plus, he stepped out when the ball came to him at 2m before he shot, nice change. Honourable mention to Pizey for helping bring leadership to the Neptune Cadets for a very close game.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

I asked the players at the Academy practice tonight what kind of things they would want to read on a coaches Blog. Got a mixed, limited response since I said there wouldn't be trash talking other clubs or gossiping about what happened at practice the day before. They do want details though on my observations about games they play so that will be an immediate focus. 

One thing I will also do is write some practice background every once in awhile. It's not every day that players understand thematic practices and almost never that they understand the cycles of periodized training. We do have a periodized calendar even if Verhoshansky thinks the model is dead or ill conceived. Of course, my application of periodization is blended organically with a modern Serbian school of athlete development so it has evolved somewhat since the Cold War.

An example of confused athlete thinking today was the reaction of players to practicing a deflection shot that they seldom use. This was an Academy practice so it should include things that add breadth to athlete skill sets and that sometimes means rare, or finesse, shots. I loved the questioning of the drill though, as it indicated real thought and critical evaluation, that was great to see. However, I do constantly try to impress that what you do in a game follows what you do in a practice so if you only practice what you are already good at, or what you do often, then you won't advance too far, too fast.

One thing I did not mention in my early post about February 2nd league games is that I am excited  to be able to help coach the Cadet Boys this week and watch them play as a team (since the 3:30 women's game is Neptune vs Neptune). I have heard they didn't play with too much intensity last week, that will change!

PS check out the Rainbow Wahine link to the left of this page and see the updated Hawaii roster with the data on Serena.

Friday, February 1, 2008

League Schedule

Here are the game times and opponents for the 2008 Metro League. Seems some families are not getting all the competition dates via email. Rosters should all be known by now, email me if you don't know what team you are on.

The schedule and scores from the week one games are listed in yesterdays post so look further down if you want that info.

Let's hope the Neptune men bring out some more old guys to push our Youth Team around a bit more this week. It would be nice to have to play really well for 4 quarters to get a win, or even a close loss. I am also wanting to see how far we have progressed in our understanding of the zone defenses we have been learning; to see if we can play a system and not freelance. Soulja Boi is going to step up this weekend, make some waves.

February 2
2:45-3:30 Bushido Youth Boys v Neptune Men
3:30-4:15 Neptune Sr Women v Neptune Cadet Girls

3:30-4:30 TT* Bushido Cadet Boys v Neptune Cadet Boys

4:15-5:00 Bushido Sr Women v Bushido Cadet Girls

February 16
2:45-3:30 Bushido Youth Boys v Neptune Men
3:30-4:15 Bushido Sr Women v Neptune Cadet Girls
:30-4:30 TT* Bushido Cadet Boys v Neptune Cadet Boys

4:15-5:00 Bushido Cadet Girls v Neptune Sr Women

February 23-24 Bushido host Team Sask, games from 12:00 onward, schedule TBA

March 1 No games, MWPA shooting clinic 10:00-4:00?

March 22
2:45-3:30 Bushido Youth Boys v Neptune Men
3:30-4:15 Bushido Cadet Girls v Neptune Cadet Girls

3:30-4:30 TT* Bushido Cadet Boys v Neptune Cadet Boys

4:15-5:00 Bushido Sr Women v Neptune Sr Women

photo credit