10. Subbing Out

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If there is a time when the puck is in a position where you should play it but you’re too winded to hold your breath and go back down to the bottom, you should sub out -- substitute a fresh player in the water. This is especially important around your goal. The sub box is right by your goal – make long, hard drops, and sub out (maybe emerging directly into the box). No need to make many short drops when you’re swimming right next to your waiting sub. Forwards will need to sub more often than backs – in most tournaments, the forwards get more subs than the backs just for this reason. Respond to having the extra sub by playing hard when you’re in the water and subbing out quickly.

At back, when another back subs out, play it safe. Don’t try anything risky until your team is back at full strength. Work the puck to the wall, throw it in the corner, and hang back a little farther. Be conservative, especially if you’re the last man back on a play. Let the other team eat up a little pool, but keep them from getting a sure shot at the goal.

For whatever position you play, know who is in the water and who is subbing out. It’s important that you know what your teammates are doing at all times in the water.

A great strategy when your team is playing in your defensive zone is to push the puck to the wall next to the sub box. This allows each player to completely exert him or herself, then sub out quickly and get a fresh player back on the puck.

When the puck is around your opponent’s goal, be a little more hesitant to sub out.  You are the farthest away from your sub box when you’re at your opponent’s goal. If you sub out in front of their goal, you’re taking a person out of the play for an extended period of time (the time it takes you to swim back, and the time it takes your sub to swim in). Save the energy you would spend swimming back and help your team score a goal, then sub out afterwords.

To summarize: sub right, sub fast, sub often.

Sub Right: Honor the Rules, or Suffer the Consequences

  • There must always be 6 players in the game (unless a penalty is in effect, see below, or in between points).
  • On your way out of the game, on your way in to the sub box, your snorkel must surface inside the box before your sub can leave the box and enter the game.
  • Some mixed games require a specific man/woman balance be kept at all times: figure out your strategy beforehand. E.g. there must be always 3 women in the game.
  • Incorrect subbing is a foul and will impact your team: typically, a player gets taken out of the game for 2 minutes.
    • As a deck ref, it's very easy to spot a bad substitution: 7 players in the water, or your sub didn't wait long enough, or... Don't get caught making such a silly mistake!

Sub Fast: Be Ready

  • Sub out when close to the box.
    • Don't swim all the way back to the box when you're way out there near the opponent's goal. Your replacement is going to have to swim all the way there too!
    • Defenders: emerge directly into the box after defending your goal, without resurfacing.
  • While swimming back to the box: use hand signals to indicate which position you're subbing out of:
    • Closed fist means near, open hand means far, two fingers: center or mid
    • With sub box on the right: near is right, far is left.
  • While in the box: pay attention to the game, watch for players swimming towards you, signalling which position they're in. Be ready to go: repeat the hand signal back to them, but wait for their snorkel to breach.

Sub Often: Share the Fun

  • You can sub at anytime during the play, and game breaks are particularly well-suited.
    • Sub whenever the play is stopped: foul called, goal scored, etc.
    • On goal scored, i.e. in between points, your replacement can leave the box without waiting for you to be in it.
    • Make sure you signal your position (far/near/center) when you pass each other.
  • Leverage your subs:
    • Feeling winded, can't stay down anymore? Sub out.
    • Legs feeling heavy? Sub out.
    • Can't catch your breath? Sub out.
    • In over your head? Want to watch the game instead of getting killed? Sub out, 'scool.

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