How to Make a Pressure Pass in Water Polo

A pressure pass is any pass made while being closely defended. It can be a stressful situation in a game, and often causes new players to panic and make poor passes. Getting comfortable passing under pressure — before being forced into it in a game situation — is important. This guide explains how to execute a pressure pass and what to keep in mind throughout the process.

Protect the Ball

The first and most important thing to do when being closely guarded is to protect the ball. This means keeping your body between the ball and your defender at all times. The most effective way to do this is to turn your body perpendicular to your defender’s. Press the shoulder of your free arm into their chest, forming a “T.” This body position:

  1. Adds distance between the ball and the defender.
  2. Makes it easier to look around the pool for open teammates.
  3. Allows you to push off the defender to create space to pass.

Get Your Hips Up

While protecting the ball, keep your hips up and pointed away from your defender. This body position gives you better traction in the water to push against your defender. It will also make it easier to flip over your hips, and move away from your defender when it comes time to pass.

Look Around

If you’re going to pass the ball, it needs to be to an open teammate and they have to be expecting it. While protecting the ball, look at your teammates. Check whether the set open, if you can pass to the side the set open to, or if there are teammates on the perimeter releasing to get open. Choose the best option, and make eye contact with the person you want to receive the pass.

Mental Edge

If no one looks open, stay calm. It can be easy to get flustered and panic in a pressure passing situation. The defender, the shot clock ticking away, the ref who isn’t calling anything… don’t let these factors lead to a wild pass. Take the time to make a controlled, accurate throw.

Create Space to Pass

Once you know where you’re going to pass, press into your defender with your shoulder then push off of them. Flip over your hips so that your legs are facing the defender, with the ball and your torso stretched away. Eggbeater back to maintain the space, and make your pass.

The defender may lunge at you and will probably have a hand up to block the ball. Get used to passing accurately around or over a defender’s arm. This is one time when passing off your back is acceptable—stay laid out and use your feet to keep the defender at bay.

If You Cannot Pass, Draw a Foul

Sometimes a bigger, more skilled defender can completely prevent you from making a pass. Alternately, you may be ready to pass, but none of your teammates are open. If this is the case, do your best to draw a foul. There are a few different ways you can accomplish this. Check them out in the iSport guide How to Draw a Foul in Water Polo.

Don’t Panic

The truth is that during any game of water polo, you’ll probably have to make a pressure pass at some point. Keep control of the ball and wait for someone to open up or try to draw a foul. Incorporate pressure passing into practices so that you’ll stay calm and collected in a game. Remember that better players take the time to make a calculated, accurate pass and never throw the ball just to get rid of it.

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