Water Polo Analysis

Coaches about new rules: Changes are unnecessary and dangerous

water polo players in the pool
Photo: Szolnok vizilabda/facebook

The proposal of changes to the water polo rules made a big noise in the past year and a half. FINA Bureau proposed radical changes, which will be discussed at the Technical Water Polo Congress(Budapest, July 13th)

But, International Olympic Committee already made its step. IOC Executive Board accepted the programme of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and reduced the water polo team size to 11 players.

Coaches and players are mostly disappointed after IOC’s decision, but this isn’t the end of the story. We’ll see what will happen on “Day D” (July 13th) in Budapest. Some of the most important changes in the last FINA’s proposal of the new rules are: 25-meter playing course (instead of 30 meters), 25 seconds duration of attack (instead of 30 seconds), 15 seconds exclusion period (instead of 20 seconds), two timeouts per match for each team (instead of four), 3-minute rest between 2nd and 3rd quarter (instead of 5).

A unique opinion of most of coaches and players is that in this system water polo will become a much tougher sport. Many coaches are confused because it is still unclear whether the rule of 11-players roster will be included in all LEN and FINA competitions or only in Olympic programme

Savic: Nobody asks coaches and players

Dejan Savic . Photo: mtb-sport.net/photos.

Serbia head coach Dejan Savic recently said:

– I am sad because nobody ever really asked coaches and players for an opinion, although they are the most important in sport.

Analysing changes Savic in interview for “Sportski zurnal” added:

– Players will suffer much bigger strain then now. If rule by which player can have 3 exclusions remains, it is expected that the refereeing standards will be different. Some fouls that are for exclusions now will become ordinary fouls. Don’t forget that players would have two minutes less to rest between the 1st and the 2nd half. It is cruel.

In the roster of 11 players, coaches will probably put just one goalkeeper.

– It is a big risk. I remember that Croatia, when Ratko Rudic was its coach, won the European gold in Zagreb 2010 with only one goalkeeper in the team.

Serbia won the gold medal at the 2009 World Championships with only 12 players because FINA didn’t let Serbian team change Stefan Mitrovic, who got ill after the first game and he returned home. But, this is only rare example.

Fatovic: Changes aren’t necessary

Elvis Fatovic

Elvis Fatovic Photo: mtb-sport.net/photos

Elvis Fatovic, Australia head coach, hopes that the IOC’s decision isn’t final until the meeting in Budapest

-In recent times water polo community talked the need to have a game that fosters the team which plays on attack, in order to make our sport more spectacular. However thanks to these new rules we could have an even more physical water polo and a higher chance of injury. Also, if FINA will not change the referees’ interpretations, many teams could risk ending games with less than 7 players in the pool- said Fatovic for the website wpdworld.

Fatovic thinks that the changes aren’t necessary.

-Many people went to watch water polo at the Champions League Final Six in Budapest, at the Olympic tournaments in Rio de Janeiro and at the European Championships in Belgrade and nobody complained about the current rules. When we promote water polo in the right way, people come to watch it. Now, before the meeting in Budapest, we are talking about rules that have never been tested. We haven’t seen the consequences of those changes on the game. Probably we’ll have an even tougher and more physical game.

Campagna: A defeat of FINA, harmful new rules

Alessandro Campagna, head coach of Italy, said that the 11-players roster rule is “a defeat of FINA”.

-I hope that rule will only apply at the Olympic Games. Having fewer players and fewer substitutions is risky for a sport with a lot of contacts. The injury rate is higher, players lose their mental alertness, game rhythm becomes slower, pugnacity increases. Still having the three fouls limit, we will see more definitive exclusions- said Campagna for “Gazzeta Dello Sport”.

Campagna is against all other proposed new rules.

– I don’t consider myself conservative, but these “cosmetic” changes are not only useless, they are harmful indeed. Refereeing standards should rather be modified, nowadays too much of refereeing is about interpretation.

Marcz: Injury risk could increase

Tamas Marcz

Tamas Marcz Photo by: Sandor Stuber / vlv.hu.

Tamas Marcz, new head coach of the Hungarian national team said that water polo with 11-players roster could increase the injury risk for players.

-It’s still unclear whether we can have 2 more players out of the Olympic Village and in what cases they could play, if only because of an injury of a teammate or also because of turnover. In the first case, a competition with 7 or 8 games would become really stressful to a team with only 11 players. Will it be mandatory to have 2 goalkeepers in every roster or will it be a free choice of every coach? In that last case, many coaches are likely to bring just one goalkeeper. But even 4 players on the bench are few if every player could have just 3 exclusion.

Marcz appeals that water polo community can’t keep quiet.

-We must do everything is possible to have the largest number of players and teams to the Olympics. There is a serious risk that 11-player rosters increase the number of injuries. This reduction will put more stress on players: I’m afraid of repercussions on their health – said Marcz for wpdworld.com

He has other proposal how to promote water polo

-Promote our sport better and move it towards the summer, especially the national leagues for clubs. International competitions such as World Championships and European Championships could be played in other seasons and national leagues could be played in the winter only during the Olympic years –added Marcz.

WWPCA analyses on the other way

World Water Polo Coaches Association hasn’t announced any official opinion or comment, but WWPCA made a comparison of the number of teams and number of participants in each team sport at the 2020 Olympics, based on the new quota system. WWPCA published the overview on its website

Olympic team sports

Source: wwpcoach.org (Click to enlarge)

Men: 132 players (12 teams)
Women: 110 players (10 teams)

Basketball 3 x 3 (first time at Olympic Games)
Men: 32 players (8 teams)
Women: 32 players (8 teams)

Men: 144 players (12 teams)
Women: 144 players (12 teams)

Men: 288 players (16 teams)
Women: 216 players (12 teams)

Men: 168 players (12 teams)
Women: 168 players (12 teams)

Men: 192 players (12 teams)
Women: 192 players (12 teams)

Rugby Sevens
Men: 144 players (12 teams)
Women: 144 players (12 teams)

Beach volleyball
Men: 48 players (24 teams)
Women: 48 players (24 teams)

Men: 144 players (12 teams)
Women: 144 players (12 teams)

Baseball/softball (weren’t in programme in 2008 and 2012)
Men: 144 players
Women: 90 players

We will add few examples more to the comparison of WWPCA. Waterpolo team will have 7 players in the field and 4 on the bench. In other sports nothing have been changed:

-Basketball: 5 players in the field and 7 on the bench.
-Volleyball: 6 in the field and 6 on the bench.
-Handball: 7 in the field and 7 on the bench.
-Football: 11 in the field and 7 on the bench.
-Hockey: 11 in the field, 5 on the bench.
– Rugby 7: 7 in the field and 5 on the bench.

(IOC hasn’t published yet how many teams will compete at the baseball and softball tournament, but it is supposed that there will be 6 or 8 male and 6 female teams. It means that baseball team will have 24 or 18 players and softball 15 players

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