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Canoe Polo - An Introduction to Positional Play

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(Last Updated:  25 Jun 2000 )

Canoe Polo is a relatively young sport, especially here in New Zealand, and in a lot of ways it has not yet developed into a form where there is a commonality of terms and a consensus on jargon.  One of the aims of this website is to help contribute to the systematising of canoe polo, at least in this country.  This is for the simple reason that once everyone is speaking the same language, communication becomes a whole lot easier.

I should point out that it is the untiring work of Troy Lipsham, past NZCPA President, that is the primary reason that canoe polo in NZ has come to a point where a systematic discussion about positional play can even take place.  Much of what I present below is stuff I have learned from Troy.

There are two important concepts to bear in mind when we discuss positional play in canoe polo, and I guess this is the same in most team sports: these concepts are locations, and roles.  Like any other sport, canoe polo has locations in the playing area to which common sense tends to direct the reasonable player.  Similar, there are also roles that each player ought to perform.  Intelligent positional play involves performing the correct role, and sometimes this role is dependent upon location.

In this article I will concentrate on defining the location.  A discussion of the roles which may relate to the locations will be covered in detail in the articles on offensive and defensive play.  However before offensive and defensive strategies can be sensibly discussed, you need to have an appreciation of the names for the different pool locations that are used to run each strategy.

Probably the simplest way to illustrate and define the different locations is to draw a picture.

Figure 1:  Defensive Positions

Figure 2: Offensive Positions

Note: The offensive positions are shown in blue below, with the defensive positions in green for comparison.

Offensive positions.

On offence, the location of a position is more important than on defence, because it is the team in control of the ball that can be most proactive in determining where players go, and the attacking team has a definite fixed objective they are working towards - the goal.  Figure 2 shows the different locations players can move to when setting up a structured offence.  It is obvious that in reality only five of these locations can be filled at any time.  In addition, some of the locations are never used within certain strategies.  These strategies are discussed in more detail on the Offensive Strategies page.

Centre:  This is an inside attacking position, directly in front of the goalkeeper, facing goal, ideally with the nose of the boat just to one side of that of the goalkeeper’s.  This is a good scoring position, provided the player can get the ball.

Low Post:  This position is with the nose of the kayak as close as possible to just below the upright of the goal, with the boat angled to face the goal.  This position is good for scoring from, or for passing off to the centre.

High Post:  This position is about 6 to 8 metres out from goal, in line with the goal upright.  It is a good position around which other attacking players can create moves.

Forty-five:  This position is on the sideline, facing goal, at a 45° angle to the goal.  It is a good position for moving the ball around the outside of the offence, and is also an ideal place from which to drive for goal or feed to an inside player.

Point:  A player in this position is able to control where the ball moves to, and decide upon which side of the pool the offence will focus.  It is also an important position for covering a break by the other team if they should gain possession.

Baseline:  This position is on the goal-line, near the edge of the pool.  Most offensive strategies do not use it (except when taking corner throw-ins), but it can be useful for drawing out a defensive player.

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