What is Water Polo?

What is Water Polo?

One of the most energetic, fast paced and exciting sports played today is water polo.

The winner of the game is the team that scores the most goals by getting the ball into the goal at the end of the pool.

Players are not allowed to touch the bottom of the pool and have to tread water the whole time. Water polo players use a leg movement called ‘egg-beater’ to stay afloat throughout a game.

Players can move the ball by throwing it to a teammate or swimming with the ball in front of them. They can only hold the ball with one hand, except the goalkeeper who can use both hands within their 5-meter area.

The match starts with a swim-off where the ball is dropped by the referee from the side of the pool or released in the middle of the pitch with the players lined up along their own goal lines. The first team to reach the ball has the first possession of the game.

After each goal, the team who conceded the goal restarts the game with the ball at half-way. All players for each team must be in their own half at the resumption of play.

Water polo teams consist of 13 players. Each team is allowed to have seven in the water at one time – six ‘field’ players and one goalkeeper.

Except for the goalkeeper, players move continuously around the pool during a game. Most teams structure their outfield players with one centre back in the middle of the pool about 7-meters away from goal, one centre forward who is in the middle of the pool 2-meters from the goal, two drivers who are on either side of the centre back and two wingers who flank the centre forward.

Players can be substituted in and out of the game at any time either on the side of the pool near your team substitute area, or in the exclusion ‘box’

The player coming into the game can only enter the match at the following times:

  • during the intervals between periods of play

  • after a goal has been scored

  • during a timeout

In Water Polo, a goal is scored when the ball completely crosses the goal line between the goal posts and crossbar.

Under FINA rules, a water polo match is divided into four quarters of eight minutes.

Depending on the type of game however, because the clock is stopped when the ball is not in play, the average quarter can last up to 15-minutes.

A team may only have possession of the ball for up to 30 seconds without shooting for a goal, but if a shot is taken and the ball rebounds, the shot clock is reset and the 30 seconds begins again.

Rules of Water Polo

  • The playing area is 30m x 20m with a minimum depth of 2m.

  • Teams consist of 13 players in total, with 7 players in play at any time, 6 field players and 1 goalie.

  • Players are only permitted to use one hand to hold the ball apart from the goalie who can use two hands when within 5m of their own goal.

  • Water Polo is played in four quarters with each quarter lasting for eight minutes with a two minute break between quarters.

  • Players advance the ball upfield by swimming with the ball in front of them or by passing to teammates.

  • Players are not allowed to touch the bottom of the pool and players tread water or swim for the entire match.

  • Teams can only retain the ball for up to 30 seconds without shooting at goal.

  • A goal is equal to one point and is scored when the ball is pushed or thrown completely between the goalposts and under the crossbar.

  • Fouls are made up of ordinary fouls and major fouls. Players are only allowed three major fouls, anymore and they are excluded out of the game.

  • If at the end of the game the score remains tied, a shootout occurs to decide the winner.


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