There are so many types of AMAZING 2m defenders. Some specialize in fronting, others in staying behind and some even specialize in one very specific type of zone defense. Every specialization is important to the team, but what are some ways to broaden our skills? These qualities are what I believe to be the key ingredients for the makings of a great 2m defender.
1. Skills 1: Powerful legs
A strong eggbeater base is a necessity in this position because you need to be able to hold every inch you have gained in the battle against the 2m player. Breaststroke kick is extremely important because you need that quick power to go for steals, blocks, and opportunities to repress/refront.
Practice – Every opportunity to work on eggbeater stability is an opportunity to improve, try to raise your base level from chin to neck to shoulders and hold a steady position there. How long can you maintain it? Also focus on your breaststroke kicks, add in a few 50s every practice to warm up and mix in long and short kicks. Feel your power and flexibility grow the more you practice, its fun! Count how many kicks it takes you to get across, no arms!
2. Skills 2: Spins & quick recovery
Especially female defenders are going to get in tangles with their 2m players, it is inevitable, sorry coaches and referees… The skill lies in untangling yourself. Perfecting your spins to get out of tough holds is an art that cannot be fully explored via blog. Two key points: (1) spinning can get you out of a hold and/or get you to the correct position (2) whatever moves you make, recover quickly by finding the ball & getting your hips up on the surface and away from the 2m player.
Practice – You need to practice the tough situations you get into. I LOVE my free time with the D-team so we can problem solve different holds and ways to get out of them. Seek out other defenders to get “water polo nerdy” with…I’d be surprised if they weren’t excited to talk about strategies to test out.
3. Leadership: Smart with a strong voice
A 2m defender and her goalie own the defense. It is your job to be a leader and command authority of your teammates, but you have to earn this respect by being a great teammate in and out of the water. In the water, you have to be smart about your decisions and follow the team strategy, but you will make mistakes and owning up to those mistakes is a great way to start earning your teammate’s respect. Share the leadership role, with more help communicating defense you have more energy to focus on destroying the willpower of the 2m player.
Practice – When you need help, communicate it. When you are pressing, communicate it. When you are about to get behind, communicate it. When your teammate makes a mistake in trying to be too conservative or too aggressive in helping you, it is not because she is trying to get you into trouble, she needs to understand WHY she should press longer or WHY she should drop in relation to your positioning at 2m. If you play on an island, you will not be successful, you NEED your team. You need to work together with a common understanding of abilities, desires, and preferences in the pool.
4. Mental Toughness: Make your opponent scared to be guarded by you & keep up the intensity even when you lose battles
This is the most important ingredient to a top defender. If you are emotionally sensitive, this is unlikely to be your niche. You will be exhausted, you will be scored on, you will be ejected, you will be used to make the 2m player tired and it is so much better if you love it. I’m not talking about injuring other athletes, that will only come back to haunt you; just play tougher, smarter, and never give up in any moment of the game.
Practice – When you feel yourself letting your guard down, realize it and put it back up. When you feel your hips sink, notice it and get them back into position. When you feel yourself swimming relaxed when you should be grinding your opponent, notice that you are taking the easy way out and fix it. The more effort you put in early, the more benefits you will receive later in the game, the season or in your future with this competitor.
5. Attitude: Shot blocks are just as awesome as goals
Yes, its true! They don’t count as much, of course, but from a team standpoint, shots that don’t even make it to the cage should be huge momentum builders. Talk about demoralizing shooters when they don’t even get to test the goalie because the ball doesn’t get there. The reason that this is an ingredient is because you have to take pride in the little things as a 2m defender. It isn’t often that this position earns a ton of offensive opportunities, BUT when a defender does earn ejections, score goals or create great movement, you should remember that the little things are what allow you and your teammates to convert.
Practice – Shot blocks, hip positioning, great movement on offense, counter attack offense and defense, defensive communication, great assist passes…. always looks to expand your role on your team, but never forget that it is the little details that make great players so put the effort in!
Have a great week of practice!