I use a sponge when centering, opening up, and when making the first pull and usually the second pull. It is in my hand, not on the clay. After I have established a cylinder to my elbow I walk away from the cylinder for 30 min still allowing the wheel to move slowly. I return, and throw the rest of the pulls without water of any sort. I usually dampen any tools during shaping, so to cut the drag.
With students I explained that the less water, the more strength in the form. Use the sponge, but don't rely on it. In the beginning extra water helps with centering, and with opening up and pulling, but as you get more skilled cut back on the water to suit your style of working.
Thank you for your reply. I am making goblets right now. I will try your method. I like the idea of waiting 30 minutes with the wheel spinning. It will be interesting to see how this works. I do worry about my over reliance on the sponge. I can see I use it a bit too much. I do dampen my tools before they touch the surface of the clay. To ensure extra strength in the vessel in formation I also compress with an appropriate rib or similar tool. Know I will try your method tomorrow in making one piece goblets. They are tricky. They wobble. Your pulls and use of water have to be fairly precise and you have to compress the upper cup portion before you squeeze the stem. Squeezing the base again requires water to make the three point pull up. But this stem pull is only on my hands and not the sponge. So, like others, I am paying close attention to what I am doing with the sponge. I do agree, the less water you apply, the more strength in the form as you alter. Thank you for your response.