My Newest Team Member: Watlicam

Today I want to introduce the newest member of my team, except there’s a catch. It’s not a person…it’s a camera. The camera, called Watlicam, will revolutionize the way I train and evaluate players at my clinics and tournaments.

Watlicam is the first camera that simultaneously films both above and below the waterline. These two views are integrated into a perfectly defined image that can be analyzed and recorded. Watlicam can also move along the pool’s edge and rotate 100% to follow a moving target. If you want to visualize what I’m taking about check out this awesome video created by the Watlicam company:

I first learned about Watlicam from my business partner Adam Wright (UCLA water polo). Adam and I are working together to run both the first-ever youth Aquatic Games, and a high-level training academy this June. At these and other related events, we are committed to leveraging the newest sports-based technologies. That’s because doing so allows us to train participants in ways that were previously difficult or impossible.

In water polo an athlete’s body is underwater about 90% of the time. With Watlicam, I can finally see exactly how a player’s body is moving during these periods. This means I can coach players on how to best move their legs. I can also evaluate how “efficient” a player is – when moving forward are they actually grabbing enough water, opening their legs correctly, and maximizing flexibility? At the end of the day, it’s these movements that determine how fast a player can move forward.

At both the Aquatic Games and the Summer Academy, Adam, myself, or other expert staff will use Watlicam to work one-on-one with players. In addition to providing direct feedback, we will use the camera to record videos of each participant. They will then be shown this video footage in a session geared at improving technique and positioning. Some of the data we collect using Watlicam will be added to our new Combine.

As far as we know, Adam and I are the first USA-based team to use Watlicam. But our friends at the Barcelona International Water Polo Academy say it’s awesome. I think so too, and hope the camera will play a serious role in helping me grow the sport of water polo in both the USA and abroad.

The New Mikasa Hybrid 4.5

Over the last years, FINA has been considering several major rule changes for water polo. These include a shorter course, fewer players, and the use of a smaller ball. The goal of these modifications is to create a faster game that is more exciting to watch.

I am onboard with FINA’s attempts to innovate the game. However, my American teammates and I have practiced often with the size 4 women’s ball recommended by FINA. Most of us agree that this smaller ball is simply too light. It doesn’t throw correctly, which leaves our shoulders feeling more sore than ever.

Consequently, I have worked with Mikasa to create an alternative. We have developed a new product that is not as big as the standard men’s size 5 ball, but not as small as the women’s size 4 ball. It is a 4.5 size ball called called the Hybrid.

In other major sports, ball quality has been adapted to help players maximize their potential. For example, dimples that improve grip have been added to basketballs. Footballs are now made in a more aerodynamic shape that reduces drag and creates a perfect spiral. These changes also benefit fans – no one wants to see receivers dropping passes, or basketballs slipping out of player’s hands.

The same logic applies to water polo. Watching a 6 on 5 with the ball zipping from player to player is much more entertaining than two passes and a drop or other similar schemes. Because the Hybrid’s weight falls between the heavy 5 and the overly light 4, players can focus on executing interesting plays with less risk of shoulder problems and/or an ugly passing game.

I’ve used the Hybrid often, and while it took some getting used to, it now feels much better than the 4. Women may also prefer the Hybrid over the 4. A women’s team who used the Hybrid in a Sao Paulo Brazil tournament loved the ball because it was easier to skip. Apparently the Hybrid’s size allowed the ball to shoot more quickly off the water.

In order for sports to advance, players, coaches, and referees must all be willing to evolve. As the water polo world works to accommodate the upcoming FIFA rule changes, the Hybrid ball is positioned to become the product of the future.

The new Tony Azevedo Hybrid ball was just released for preliminary sale on the Mikasa website. Get it Now!

I want to know about your experiences with the Hybrid, so send me an email and let me know what you think:

Mitrovic, Azevedo, Perrone to blog for Waterpoloworld

Waterpoloworld is proud to announce that three players already sure of participation in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro will be blogging their experiences towards the biggest tournament of their year, if not career. Team USA captain Tony Azevedo, Serbia goalkeeper Branislav Mitrovic and Brazil’s Felipe Perrone, each once a month starting in October, will take the reader into their journey towards Rio. Three different but each on its own very interesting perspectives. And you will learn what their 2016 season building up the 2016 Olympics looks like.

Tony Azevedo, captain of the USA men’s team but born in Rio de Janeiro, is going for his incredible 5th consecutive Olympic games in what marks the full-circle return to his birthplace. Azevedo is still very connected with Brazil, a nation close to his heart, as he plays professionally for the club team SESI from São Paulo with whom he became Brazilian vice champion in 2013 and Brazilian league champion the following year. The 33-year old was already active at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and led Team USA to a silver medal in 2008 in Beijing. While playing professionally in Europe Azevedo made it to three Euro League Final Fours where he finished 2nd twice and 3rd once playing for Jug Dubrovnik and VK Primorac Kotor from 2009-2013. Azevedo was top scorer of the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne and most recently led the USA men’s team with 15 goals during the 2015 World Championships in Kazan where the Americans finished 7th.

Tony Azevedo Kazan 15 1 Tony Azevedo Kazan 15 2

Current world and European champion Branislav Mitrovic, goalkeeper of the Serbian men’s national team, starred at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan where he was a standout in the team that dominated competition on the way to the first world title for Serbia since 2009 in Rome before being awarded Best Goalkeeper of the final. Mitrovic previously was part of the Serbian team that won the European championship in 2012 in Eindhoven, and in 2014 in Budapest while also claiming three straight World League gold medals, in 2013, 2014 and 2015. This season not only brings in the Olympics but a first highlight is expected in January, 2016 where Serbia defends its European title at home in Belgrade from 10-23 January. Branislav ‘Bane’ Mitrovic since becoming part of the national has been a part of an intriguing battle for the starting spot in the cage together with fellow goalie Gojko Pijetlovic. The 30-year old has played in the Hungarian league since 2010 and currently is in his second season with ZF-Eger.

Bane Mitrovic Kazan 15 1 Bane Mitrovic Kazan 15 5

Felipe Perrone is the veteran and undisputed leader of the Brazilian men’s national team. Perrone, also born in Rio de Janeiro, left his home country in 2002 to play in the Spanish league and a few years later also obtained Spanish citizenship in order to play for the Spanish national team. The relatively small but notably fast and technically gifted Perrone went on to become a cornerstone of the Spanish team with whom he won the bronze medal during the 2006 European Championships in Belgrade, bronze the following year at the world championships in Melbourne and silver at the 2009 world championships in Rome. With the 2016 Olympics in his hometown Rio de Janeiro coming up, 29-year old Perrone decided to return home to play for Brazil and last season led the team, coached by Croatian legend Ratko Rudic, to a bronze medal at the World League Super Final in Bergamo and scored a team-high 13 goals during the 2015 World Championships in Kazan where Brazil was ranked 10th. Playing in Spain and Italy Perrone was part of the teams that won 7 Spanish national championships (CN Atletic-Barceloneta), 2 Italian championships (Pro Recco) and a Euro League/Champions League title with Pro Recco (2011-2012) and Barceloneta (2013-2014) while also being awarded Most Valuable Player of that year’s Final Six. Perrone currently plays for Jug Dubrovnik.

Felipe Perrone Kazan 15 1 Felipe Perrone Kazan 15 2

Photos by Gertjan Kooij / Beeldboot.