Water poloThe characteristics that make you stand out

November 9, 2020

Every athlete has unique characteristics that play a huge role in their success. During competitions and practices, athletes showcase their individual, unique strengths. These strengths reveal themselves during competition and away from competition because it’s a fundamental part of who they are.

There are some really valuable attributes from prominent athletes that you can learn, as well. So today we wanted to focus on a few well-known players from the NBA and discuss some characteristics they display. And then we’d like to show how you can apply them to water polo. 

These athletes are all very different from each other. But they all stood out in their own ways. What are some ways you can learn these characteristics and help yourself stand out?


Tim Duncan – Fundamentals, Coachability

Many regard him as the greatest power forward in the history of the game. But a large part of what made Tim Duncan so unforgettable was his reliability on basic basketball fundamentals. More specifically, his consistent use of the ‘bank shot’ off the backboard. The most fundamental shot ever created. It explains how he got the nickname the “Big Fundamental”. Even late into his career, Tim Duncan never stopped practicing and improving on all of his basketball fundamentals. And in return, his flawless execution of fundamentals made him an all-time great.

What also made Tim Duncan unique was his coachability, even late into his career after winning five NBA championships and having many years of fame and success. He consistently remembered his place and always listened to his coach.

Application to water polo athletes: You shouldn’t stop working on the fundamentals of water polo. You will never reach a point when practicing the fundamentals becomes a waste of your time. This is true regardless of how high-level of a player you are. We must continue to practice the reliable fundamentals such as wet passing, dry passing, releasing for the ball, pressure passing, swimming with the ball, ball-in-hand, ball-faking, defending with your hips up, and other important fundamentals. In addition to that, we should always trust and listen to our coach.


LeBron James – Versatility

If you don’t know who this basketball player is, you’re probably living under a rock. LeBron James is widely regarded as one of the most dominant players in the history of the game. But part of what makes him so great is his versatility. LeBron’s build and athleticism gives him the unique advantage of being able to play all five positions on the court if he wanted to. And he can hold his own in every position, making him one of the most well-rounded players to have ever touched a basketball.

Application to water polo athletes: We should become more versatile and learn skill sets from every position. If you’re an outside player, you should learn how to play center or how to defend center. And if you usually play center, you should learn to play on the outside. If you’re a goalie, you can learn how to pressure pass and swim with the ball. All of these are helpful because you never know when you will end up in a position that you aren’t used to playing. An ability to play more than one position will make you an immensely more valuable player. Another lesson we can learn is to pay attention to the extra details outside of practice and games. Find some extra ways to invest in yourself and keep your body healthy and competition-ready. 


Jason Williams – Creativity

Nicknamed by many “White Chocolate”, Jason Williams is one of the most entertaining, creative, and crafty players to have handled a basketball. Throughout his career, Williams was always looking to add to his basketball ‘bag of tricks’. In practices, he was constantly coming up with new ways to pass his teammate the ball or dribble past a defender. He made a habit of watching other players to pick out any new skills he could try himself. He relentlessly practiced these new skills and added them to his game. And he was incredibly good at it, which made him very difficult to guard and very fun for spectators to watch. Jason Williams was a human highlight reel.

Application to water polo athletes: You should be open to creativity when you play. Think of some ways you can shake it up a bit. Also, watch and learn from what you see other talented players do. We can also learn by watching creative plays performed by other teams. You should always learn from those around you. Don’t be afraid to try out some new moves during practices. Creativity and thinking outside the box helps the game evolve, and makes it fun.


Kobe Bryant – Work Ethic

One of the saddest days of the year for many around the world was the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant. He is regarded as one of the best players of all time. In hindsight, many say Kobe Bryant’s work ethic was the biggest contributor to his success as an athlete. There are many stories about Kobe’s work ethic told by teammates and fellow competitors. For instance, when Kobe Bryant was in high school, he would enter his school’s gym as early as 5am to get in an extra practice by himself. And after his school’s team practices, Kobe would ask teammates to stay late on the court with him so they could play a one-on-one game to 100 points. As a professional, Kobe Bryant consistently demonstrated incredible work ethic and continued to do much more than what his coaches expected of him.

Application to water polo athletes: It’s important to remember that you can always find ways to work harder at practice. There is also the time you can find for extra practicing if you’d like. A great work ethic is widely considered the most important variable in separating yourself from other athletes. The only thing that’s stopping you from doing that is yourself. Are there ways you could work harder?

Image courtesy of Pixabay.



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