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Women’s Water Polo World Championships: Technical and Tactical Aspects of Winning and Losing Teams in Close and Unbalanced Games

Lupo, Corrado1,2; Condello, Giancarlo1; Capranica, Laura2; Tessitore, Antonio2

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: January 2014 - Volume 28 - Issue 1 - p 210–222
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182955d90
Original Research
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Lupo, C, Condello, G, Capranica, L, and Tessitore, A. Women’s water polo world championships: Technical and tactical aspects of winning and losing teams in close and unbalanced games. J Strength Cond Res 28(1): 210–222, 2014—This study aimed to compare the technical and tactical aspects between winning and losing teams in close (i.e., 1–3 goals of difference) and unbalanced (i.e., >3 goals of difference) elite women’s water polo games. A notational analysis was performed on 45 games to evaluate occurrence of action, mean duration, action outcome, origin and execution of shot, offensive and defensive role, and arrangement of even, counterattack, power play, and transition situations. Independent 2-sided t-tests were applied to show differences (p < 0.05) between teams. Regarding close games, effects emerged for action outcome (counterattack: lost possessions; power play: goals, no goal shots), origin (even: zone 1, zone 4; counterattack: zone 1, zone 5) and execution (even: off-the-water shots; counterattack: shots after > than 2 fakes; power play: drive shots) of shots, offensive even arrangements (6 vs. 6/5 vs. 5; 2 vs. 2/1 vs. 1), and role. Regarding unbalanced games, differences emerged for the occurrence of action (even, counterattack), duration (even; power play), action outcome (even: goals, penalties; counterattack: goals, no goal shots, penalties; power play: goals, no goal shots; transition: lost possessions), origin (even: zone 2, zone 4; counterattack: zone 5) and execution (even: free throws, drive shots; counterattack: drive shots, shots after > 2 fakes; power play: drive shots, shots after 1 fake) of shots; offensive even arrangements (2 vs. 2/1 vs. 1), and role; and defensive even arrangements (pressing, zones 1–2, zone M, zones 2-3-4). Differences between close and unbalanced games underlining that water polo performance should be analyzed in relation to specific margins of victory. Therefore, water polo coaches and physical trainers can plan a sound training session according to the most important aspects of close (opponent’s exclusion, center forward play, and power play actions) and unbalanced (defensive skills) games.

1Department of Movement, Human and Health Sciences, Division of Human Movement and Sport Sciences, University of Rome Foro Italico; and

2Motor Science Research Center (SUISM), School of Exercise & Sport Sciences, Department of Medical Sciences, University of Turin, Turin, Italy

Address correspondence to: Corrado Lupo, corrado.lupo@uniroma4.it.

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Introduction

Although men’s water polo originated in the late 1800s and is one of the oldest team sports of the modern Olympic Games, women’s water polo sourced later. In particular, the first Olympic Game edition of women’s water polo was introduced only in 2000 (Sydney, Australia). Nevertheless, since 1986 (Madrid, Spain), the Federation Internationale de Natation organizes the women’s water polo world championships. In 2009, this international competition has been organized in Rome (Italy) and counted the participation of 16 national teams coming from every continent.

Independently from gender, water polo games are played by 2 teams consisting of 6 field players and 1 goalkeeper. In particular, since 2005, a game consists of four 8-minute clock time quarters, in a 25- × 20-m court (7), and other new rules (i.e., 30 seconds of clock time allowed to conclude a single action, 5 penalties determine the winner in case the score remains tied after two 3-minute extra times, the 5-m penalty area from goal line, and the corner throw changed in goal throw when a defending player involuntarily sends the ball over the goal line) have been introduced (7).

Although the water polo literature reported several articles that focused on heart rate and lactate accumulation parameters (8,21,24,25,28) and swimming capability (6,20,22) during training, tests, and simulated games, only few technical and tactical studies have been provided. In particular, the situational nature of water polo does not encourage the play analyses in terms of replication (17). However, the technical and tactical aspects of water polo have been mostly investigated for men’s official games, considering elite (1,2,5,10,15,17,23,26,30) and subelite levels (17), specific roles (12,13,15,16), game outcomes (1,2,5,26,30), international rules evolution (23), and youth competition codes (14). Despite the women’s water polo performance has been investigated, providing data related to either playing physical demands (27) or technical and tactical aspects (1,2,5,16,17), only one of these studies (5) considered the new international rules.

Recently, the literature highlighted the importance of considering playing aspects in team sports by means of specific margins of victory. In particular, in basketball (4,9) and rugby (29), the discrimination of games with limited and high number of point difference in the final score between winning and losing teams has allowed coaches and physical trainers to be more aware of different game profiles and potential training plans. Similarly, interesting and useful practical impacts after the analysis of the game of teams with different margin of victory might be expected also for water polo. In fact, technical and tactical aspects of women’s water polo competitions have been investigated in terms of game outcome (1,18), whereas no data have been provided for the games played with the new rule (7), leading to infer this rationale only from the old rule competitions. Even though differences for the playing aspects could emerge from the discrimination of winning and losing teams, the reference to close and unbalanced games could provide further points of view and a better interpretation of game (11) and increase the applicability of findings to improve training plans.

Therefore, the present study aimed to analyze the women’s water polo games played during the 13th edition of the world championships (Rome 2009), comparing technical and tactical data of winning and losing teams playing close (i.e., winning with 1–3 goals of difference, W; losing with 1–3 goals of difference, L) and unbalanced (i.e., winning with >3 goals of difference, MW; losing with >3 goals of difference, ML) games. It has been hypothesized that (a) a close game is not influenced by differences of technical and tactical teams’ profile and (b) an unbalanced game is determined by a different technical and tactical profile of the teams.

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Methods

Experimental Approach to the Problem

Although the games of the world championship were considered as a highly homogeneous competition level (2), it could be also expected a relevant portion of games with a high number of goal difference in the final score (i.e., unbalanced games). In particular, examining the final score of the women’s water polo games played during the Melbourne 2007 world championships (i.e., the previous edition with respect to Rome 2009), in general, the margin of victory was 5 ± 2 goals (range, 0–25 goals), with a relevant occurrence (38%) of games ending with a large difference (more than 6 goals of difference) in the final score. Moreover, in the games ending with 4 goals of difference in the final score, winning teams reported a clear advantage (i.e., 4 ± 2 goals, range, 2–6 goals) at the end of the third quarter, whereas in the games ending with a 3-goal difference in the final score, winning teams did not show a large partial score difference (i.e., 2 ± 1 goals; range, 1–3 goals). Therefore, in the present study, it has been established that the games ending with 1–3 and >3 goals of difference in the final score were classified as close and unbalanced games, respectively. Nevertheless, the situational nature of water polo (17) could limit the presence of clear differences (i.e., effect size [ES] ≥ 0.4 and SDs lower than mean) and favor slight effects (i.e., ES ≤ 0.3 or SDs higher than that mean) for teams playing either close or unbalanced games. Thus, only results showing clear differences (i.e., SDs lower than mean and ESs ≥ 0.4) have been considered appropriate to be discussed.

In line with the experimental rationale, the sample included games with winning and losing teams at the end of the fourth quarter, excluding all games with an even score at the fourth quarter to avoid the analysis of extra quarters. For the purpose of this study, all technical and tactical parameters (Table 1) related to different playing situations (i.e., even, counterattack, power play, and transition) have been considered as variables for the comparison between winning and losing teams relatively to close (i.e., W vs. L) and unbalanced (i.e., MW vs. ML) games.

Table 1

Table 1

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Subjects

The local institutional review board approved this study to analyze the technical and tactical aspects of the women’s world championships water polo games. A notational analysis was performed on 45 women’s water polo games of the 13th FINA world championships (i.e., Rome 2009), excluding 3 games because of their even score at end of the fourth quarter. This championship included 7 European (i.e., Italy, Hungary, Russia, Greece, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands), 3 Asian (i.e., China, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan), 2 Northern American (i.e., United States and Canada), 1 Southern American (Brazil), 1 African (South Africa), and 2 Oceanian (Australia and New Zealand) teams.

According to the coaches of the women’s water polo national teams, players had at least 10 years of previous experience with a training volume ranging from six to nine 120-minute units per week (excluding strength training sessions performed in a gym, which may vary from a minimum of 2 to a maximum of 5 sessions per week).

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Procedures

A video camera (GR-DVL 107; JVC, Yokohama, Japan) positioned at a side of the pool, at the level of the midfield line, at a height of 12 m and at a distance of 10 m from the pool, with fixed court of vision, was used to record 48 games. Subsequently, a Video Home System (SLV-E1000VC; SONY, Tokyo, Japan) was used to perform a notational analysis structured according to the following technical and tactical parameters (Table 1).

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Action

The frequency of occurrence of the actions in relation to playing situation (i.e., the ratio between the number of even, counterattack, power play, and transition actions, and the total number of actions of game). In particular, an action is defined from the moment that a player gained possession of the ball until possession was lost to the opposing team, reobtained after shot, or in coincidence of other play events determining the resetting of the 30-second action time. An even situation is characterized by a number of offensive players related to the ball position never larger than that of the defensive players, within the offensive half-court. A counterattack refers to playing situations where, relatively to the ball position, the number of offensive players is larger than that of the defensive players, determining, therefore, at the moment of the end of the action, a real numerical advantage for the offensive players. A power play situation originates after an exclusion foul committed by a defensive player who has to be out from the play for 20 seconds clock time. A transition situation is defined by that offensive playing phase performed further to a defensive action and before the arrangement of the more advanced offensive player within the offensive half-court.

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Duration

Mean duration of each playing situation (i.e., mean clock time of game that was electronically registered by referees during the offensive actions in relation to even, counterattack, power play, and transition playing situation).

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Action Outcome

The frequency of occurrence of goals, no goal shots, offensive fouls, lost possessions, and exclusions and penalties achieved (i.e., the ratio between the number of goals, no goal shots, offensive fouls, lost possessions, and exclusions and penalties achieved, occurring at the moment of the end of action, and the total number of actions in relation to even, counterattack, power play, and transition situation). In particular, goals were considered only if established by referees; no goal shots coincided to all shots not determining a goal; offensive fouls and lost possessions coincided to fouls committed by offensive players and steal balls, respectively (which determined changes of the ball possession in favor of the opponents); and exclusions and penalties achieved referred to fouls (committed by an opponent player) that determined a power play action and a penalty throw, respectively.

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Origin of Shot

The frequency of occurrence of shots in relation to the origin (i.e., the ratio between the number of shots performed from zones 1–6 [Figure 1] and the total number of shots).

Figure 1

Figure 1

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Technical Execution of Shot

The frequency of occurrence of shots in relation to their technical execution. In particular, the ratio between the number of free throws (i.e., overhead shots with no fake performed after a sanctioned foul committed outside the 5 m area), drive shots (i.e., overhead shots with no fake), shots after 1 fake, shots after 2 fakes, shots after more than 2 fakes, backhand shots, and off-the-water shots (i.e., shots attempted while the ball is controlled in the water and the total number of shots) was recorded.

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Center Forward Vs. Perimeter Players

The ratio between even actions performed by the center forward or the perimeter players and the total number of concluded even actions was computed. In particular, the center forward role refers to the most advanced offensive player, who centrally occupies the offensive zone located at 2- or 3 m distance from the opponent goal, whereas perimeter player role refers to players externally located with respect to their center forward teammates.

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Offensive Arrangement

The ratio of even offensive arrangements (i.e., 6 vs. 6 and 5 vs. 5, 4 vs. 4 and 3 vs. 3, 2 vs. 2 and 1 vs. 1) occurring at the moment of a concluded action and the total number of even actions was considered. Furthermore, with respect to offensive arrangements (i.e., 4:2, Figure 2A; 3:3, Figure 2B) for the 2 playing roles (i.e., center forward and perimeter players), the ratio of the power play occurring at the moment of a concluded action and the total number of power play actions was computed.

Figure 2

Figure 2

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Defensive Arrangements

The ratio of even defensive arrangements (i.e., pressing, Figure 3A; zones 1–2, Figure 3B; zone M, Figure 3C; and zones 2-3-4, Figure 3D) occurring at the moment of a concluded action and the total number of opponent’s even actions was considered. Moreover, with respect to defensive arrangements (i.e., cluster, Figure 4A and anticipating, Figure 4B), the ratio of the power play occurring at the moment of a concluded action and the total number of opponent’s power play actions was recorded.

Figure 3

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 4

To avoid any interobserver variability, a single experienced observer (who already experienced the notational analysis of more than 300 water polo games) scored all the world championship games. Moreover, before the study, the observer scored one of these games twice, where each observation was separated by 7 days, showing a high intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) (ICC = 0.98).

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Statistical Analyses

Descriptive statistics included mean, SDs, and ranges (i.e., minimum and maximum) for each dependent variable. Then, statistical analyses were conducted using an SPSS package (version 17.00; SPSS Institute, Inc., Cary, NC, USA) with a criterion for significance set at p ≤ 0.05. An independent 2-sided t-test was applied on all technical and tactical parameters listed in Table 1 to evaluate the differences between winning and losing teams during close (i.e., W vs. L) and unbalanced (i.e., MW vs. ML) games. To provide meaningful analysis for comparisons, the Cohen’s ESs were also calculated (3), considering an ES ≤0.2 as trivial, from 0.3 to 0.6 as small, from 0.7 to 1.2 as moderate, and >1.2 as large.

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Results

Games with close, unbalanced, and even scores were 44% (n = 21), 50% (n = 24), and 6% (n = 3), respectively. Three games were excluded from the notational analysis because of their even score at end of the fourth quarter. The actual margins of victory were 1.7 ± 0.9 (range, 1–3) goals and 9.9 ± 5.6 (range, 4–22) goals for the close and unbalanced games, respectively. For close games, actions showed no difference between winning and losing teams for the considered playing situations. Conversely, unbalanced games showed effects relative to game outcome for even (p = 0.003, ES = 0.4) and counterattack (p < 0.001, ES = 0.6) actions only (Figure 5).

Figure 5

Figure 5

Regarding mean duration of actions, no effect emerged between winning (even: 21 ± 2 seconds, range 19–25 seconds; counterattack: 11 ± 5 seconds, range 0–15 seconds; power play: 16 ± 3 seconds, range 13–22 seconds; transition: 4 ± 3 seconds, range 0–9 seconds) and losing (even: 20 ± 2 seconds, range 17–23 seconds; counterattack: 10 ± 5 seconds, range 0–16 seconds; power play: 15 ± 2 seconds, range 12–19 seconds; transition: 4 ± 3 seconds, range 0–10 seconds) teams playing close games. For unbalanced games, differences emerged in relation to even (MW: 20 ± 2 seconds, range 17–22 seconds; ML: 21 ± 2 seconds, range 18–24 seconds; p = 0.012, ES = 0.2) and power play (MW: 13 ± 3 seconds, range 9–18 seconds; ML: 16 ± 3 seconds, range 10–22 seconds; p = 0.004, ES = 0.4) situations. No difference for counterattack (MW: 11 ± 4 seconds, range 0–14 seconds; ML: 12 ± 4 seconds, range 0–17 seconds) and transition (MW: 5 ± 3 seconds, range 0–9 seconds; ML: 6 ± 3 seconds, range 0–12 seconds) was found.

Table 2 shows results related to action outcomes. Regarding close games, differences between winning and losing teams emerged for goals (power play: p = 0.022, ES = 0.3), no goal shots (power play: p = 0.035, ES = 0.3), and lost possessions (counterattack: p = 0.01, ES = 0.4). For unbalanced games, effects emerged for goals (even: p < 0.001, ES = 0.6; counterattack: p < 0.001, ES = 0.5; power play: p < 0.001, ES = 0.6), no goal shots (counterattack: p = 0.022, ES = 0.4; power play: p < 0.001, ES = 0.6), lost possession (transition: p = 0.015, ES = 0.4), and penalties (even: p = 0.002, ES = 0.4; counterattack: p = 0.006, ES = 0.4).

Table 2

Table 2

The analysis of the shot in relation to the origin (Table 3) reported effects for zone 1 (even: p = 0.019, ES = 0.3; counterattack: p = 0.013, ES = 0.4), zone 4 (even: p = 0.009, ES = 0.3; power play: p = 0.003, ES = 0.4), zone 5 (counterattack: p = 0.038, ES = 0.3) during close games and zone 2 (even: p = 0.039, ES = 0.3), zone 4 (even: p = 0.021, ES = 0.3), and zone 5 (counterattack: p = 0.009, ES = 0.3) for unbalanced games.

Table 3

Table 3

Regarding the technical variables (Table 4), differences between winning and losing teams emerged in terms of drive shots (power play: p = 0.047, ES = 0.3), shots after more than 2 fakes (counterattack: p = 0.047, ES = 0.3), and off-the-water shots (even: p = 0.009, ES = 0.3) for close games. Conversely, unbalanced games reported differences for free throws (even: p < 0.001, ES = 0.5), drive shots (even: p = 0.014, ES = 0.2; counterattack: p = 0.011, ES = 0.4; power play: p = 0.003, ES = 0.4), shots after 1 fake (power play: p = 0.008, ES = 0.1), and shots after more than 2 fakes (counterattack: p = 0.01, ES = 0.4).

Table 4

Table 4

Data related to the specific offensive even action arrangements (Table 5) reported differences for either close (6 vs. 6/5 vs. 5: p = 0.019, ES = 0.3; 2 vs. 2/1 vs. 1: p = 0.048, ES = 0.3) or unbalanced (2 vs. 2/1 vs. 1: p = 0.011, ES = 0.4) games. In terms of defensive even action arrangements (Table 5), effects emerged only for unbalanced games (pressing: p = 0.012, ES = 0.3; zones 1–2: p = 0.002, ES = 0.4; zone M: p = 0.004, ES = 0.4; zone 2-3-4: p = 0.024, ES = 0.3).

Table 5

Table 5

Effects emerged (close games: p = 0.049, ES = 0.3; unbalanced games: p = 0.02, ES = 0.4) for the frequency of occurrence of even actions in relation to tactical role during both close (W: center forward: 48 ± 11%, range 33–65%; perimeter players: 52 ± 11%, range 35–67%; L: center forward: 55 ± 12%, range 35–76%; perimeter players: 45 ± 12%, range 24–65%) and unbalanced (W: center forward: 58 ± 10%, range 46–76%; perimeter players: 42 ± 10%, range 24–54%; L: center forward: 50 ± 11%, range 37–78%; perimeter players: 50 ± 11%, range 23–63%) games.

Regarding power play, no difference emerged for the offensive arrangements and roles related to close (W: 4:2, center forward 21 ± 17%, range 0–56%; 4:2, perimeter players 70 ± 21%, range 33–100%; 3:3, center forward 0%; 3:3, perimeter players 8 ± 16%, range 0–40%; L: 4:2, center forward 22 ± 12%, range 0–38%; 4:2, perimeter players 70 ± 19%, range 29–100%; 3:3, center forward 0%; 3:3, perimeter players 8 ± 17%, range 0–57%) and unbalanced (MW: 4:2, center forward 24 ± 16%, range 0–54%; 4:2, perimeter players 70 ± 16%, range 46–100%; 3:3, center forward 0%; 3:3, perimeter players 6 ± 14%, range 0–50%; ML: 4:2, center forward 24 ± 27%, range 0–100%; 4:2, perimeter player 69 ± 26%, range 0–100%; 3:3, center forward 1 ± 3%, range 0–9%; 3:3, perimeter player 6 ± 9%, range 0–25%) games. Moreover, no effect has been reported for the power play defensive arrangements of close (W: cluster 64 ± 18%; range 40–92%; anticipating 36 ± 18%, range 8–60%; L: cluster 62 ± 25%, range 23–100%; anticipating 38 ± 25%, range 0–77%) and unbalanced (W: cluster 55 ± 33%, range 14–100%; anticipating 45 ± 33%, range 0–86%; L: cluster 60 ± 24%, range 25–100%; anticipating 40 ± 24%, range 0–75%) games.

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Discussion

To our knowledge, this is the first study decoding technical and tactical profiles of women’s water polo world championship games in relation to the margin of victory. In line with the experimental hypotheses, the present findings showed that the technical and tactical aspects did not report clear differences between winning and losing teams for close games, whereas several effects emerged for unbalanced games.

Although the comparison between winning and losing teams playing close games reported several slight differences (i.e., goals and no goal shots during power play and lost possessions during even; shots from zones 1 and 4 during even, from zones 1 and 5 during counterattack, and from zone 4 during power play; off-the-water shots during even, shots after > 2 fakes during counterattack, drive shots during power play; 6 vs. 6/5 vs. 5 and 2 vs. 2/1 vs. 1 even offensive arrangements; and center forward vs. perimeter players during even), their low ESs or high standard deviations might denote incidental effects exclusively because of the situational nature of water polo (17). Despite previous studies (1,2,5,26,30) reported several differences between winning and losing water polo teams, the introduction in this study of a specific margin of victory determined the absence of clear effects that discriminate W and L teams. In particular, this effect can be explained because W teams often (i.e., 11 out of 21 games, 52%) reported a draw or a disadvantage score at the end of the third quarter, determining their success only toward the end of game. Coherently, slight differences between MW and ML (i.e., duration during even; penalties during even and counterattack and lost possessions during transition; shots from zones 2 and 4 during even, and shots from zone 5 during counterattack; free throws and drive shots during even, shots after 2 fakes during counterattack, and shots after 2 fakes during power play; offensive 2 vs. 2 and 1 vs. 1 arrangements during even; and pressing, zone M, and zone 2-3-4 during even) could also be attributed to the situational nature of this sport.

Occurrence of actions in relation to playing situations during close games showed no effect between winning and losing teams, in line to a previous study on women’s National Collegiate Athletic Association water polo championship (18). Conversely for unbalanced games, the lowest frequency of even actions and the highest portion of counterattacks of MW could be ascribed to the limited ability of defensive ML players in covering the opponents after own offensive actions. As expected, no clear effect emerged between W and L teams for goal occurrence during each playing situation (5,18). Conversely, MW teams not only scored more than ML but also reported a reduced occurrence of failed shots with respect to their counterparts for no goal shots during counterattack and power play, indicating their ability to profit from potential numerical advantage for the offensive players. Furthermore, MW players are also able to defend ML players during counterattacks and power plays, inducing them to fail their shoots.

The lack of clear difference between teams in terms of origin of shot further underlines the situational nature of water polo. In line with the literature on men’s (10,14,17) and women’s (18) water polo, drive shots resulted the most frequent. However, during counterattacks and power plays, MW performed more drive shots than ML, substantiating their ability to quickly finalize these favorable actions.

The crucial responsibility of the center forward (16) emerged especially in unbalanced games. However, during even actions, MW players systematically rely on playing strategies favoring conclusions with this role and preventing the involvement of the opponent center forward with a double-mark defense on it (i.e., zones 1–2 defensive arrangement). In general, the prevalent use of pressing defensive arrangements for even situation indicates the dynamic and aggressive nature of modern water polo. In line with the literature on men’s elite water polo (10), during power play, offensive teams made most frequent use of the 4:2 arrangement and opponent teams were defending with the cluster arrangement. In this specific playing situation, findings showed that perimeter players performed more shots than central players positioned along the 2 m line, probably limited in their capability to receive the ball because of the close presence of several defenders.

In conclusion, the present findings confirmed the hypotheses that no clear technical and tactical aspects determine game outcome in women’s water polo in close games. However, differences between winning and losing teams in unbalanced games highlight the need to analyze water polo games in relation to specific margins of victory. Although the situational nature of water polo (17) renders difficult data interpretation, there is a need to specifically analyze performances according to gender, playing situations (i.e., offensive and defensive phases during even, counterattacks, power plays, and transitions), roles (i.e., center forward, perimeter players, and goalkeeper), competition levels (i.e., elite and subelite), age (i.e., adult, youth, and master), and margins of victory (i.e., draw, close, and unbalanced games). Finally, the technical and tactical evolution of this sport supports further research in this area.

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Practical Applications

According to the present notational analysis of official water polo matches, coaches could plan sound training sessions considering specific technical and tactical aspects for elite women’s water polo teams. To enhance technical and tactical abilities of their players for generating power play actions, which reported the highest frequency of scored goals, coaches should administer drills favoring players (with particular reference to the center forward role during even actions) to obtain an opponent’s exclusion (13,15,16). In particular, physical trainers should focus on training sessions aiming at enhancing strength of center forwards who need to fight against 1 or 2 defenders. Thus, exercises should improve lower-limb and upper-limb strength to maintain an effective body position and to upset the body position of the opponent.

In considering the exclusion of opponents that determines power play situations with scoring opportunities for offensive perimeter players, drills should encourage effective ball handing; positioning of players with respect to the ball, teammates, and opponents; and identification of the most opportune position to score a goal. Thus, physical trainers should focus on training sessions aimed at enhancing lower-limb power for in-water-jumps, which are crucial to perform effective shots when attacking (22) and to steal the ball or to disturb the opponents’ action when defending. Furthermore, strengthening also upper-limb strength could improve throwing velocity (19), necessary to perform effective drive shots. Because unbalanced games showed differences between winning and losing teams mainly for defensive tactical abilities, coaches of teams often losing games with a high disadvantage should focus their training to reduce the high frequency of the opponents’ counterattacks.

Thus, decision-making and timing skills should be enhanced through drills, promoting prompt identification of the end of an offensive action and consequent beginning of the opponent’s counterattacks. In particular, physical trainers could focus on changes from vertical body position to high-speed swimming bouts, which are crucial to promptly move toward the opponent goal in attack or to cover the opponents’ transition in defense.

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Keywords:

notational analysis; margin of victory; playing situation

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