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Water Polo Resources


Water polo, a team water sport, consists of seven players on each side of the ball. The winning team scores the most points by throwing it into a goalpost defended by the goalkeeper. The game is played by swimming, passing the ball over their opponents, and treading water. Many athletes have drawn comparisons to the team sport of handball. During the late 19 th century, water polo emerged as a sport that tested the strength, endurance, and swimming skill of athletes native to England and Scotland. These two countries were known for their competitive sports and races, including both land and water-based activities. Water polo became one of the first team sports introduced at the modern Olympics in 1900. Today, water polo has become one of the most widely practiced water-based sports around the world, notably in the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia.


Water polo involves a strict set of rules that each team must adhere to in order to win the game. Each team has six field players and one goalkeeper. Each team may only substitute four players per game. Visiting team players typically wear numbered white caps, whereas the home team wears blue caps. Spectators can identify the goalkeepers by the red caps with a number "1" on them. The goalkeeper is the only player who can stand in shallow water, and the only play who can touch the ball with both hands. Each team may substitute players after scoring, during timeouts, after fouls or injuries, and at the start and finish of each quarter. Players get into and out of the pool from the corner or in front of the pool and only between each play. Each game is split into four quarters; however, the duration of competition depends on the competitiveness between opposing teams. As with many other team sports, the game clock stops after the referee has whistled the play dead. Therefore, the average quarter lasts about twelve minutes without interruption.

A team cannot legally possess the ball for more than thirty seconds before they must shoot for the goal. If a team holds onto the ball for more than thirty seconds, then they forfeit the ball to the opposing team. However, a team may regain possession of the ball after making an attempt at shooting for the goal. This results in the resetting of the shot clock back to thirty seconds. Each team may take advantage of two one-minute timeouts in the four quarters of play. In addition, each team is allotted one timeout in overtime. Only the possessing team can call a timeout during game play.

Players can advance the ball by passing it to a teammate, or they can swim with it to their desired location. Players cannot immerse the ball underwater to avoid the defending team. In addition, they cannot push or hold an opponent unless that player has the ball in their possession. Referees may call one of two fouls, including one where it results in the player forfeiting the ball or ejections. Ejections occur when a player has acted too aggressively on their opponents. However, many times referees cannot see fouls when they occur underwater. This means that water polo participants must have incredible stamina and strength to continue playing the game. A player can only have three ejections before they are permanently removed for the remainder of the game. If a player commits a brutality, such as cruising or punching another player, then he or she will not be allowed to play for the rest of the game.



Water polo athletes communicate by using different terminology to understand the rules and objectives of the game. Some of these terms refer to rules, regulations, and restrictions on what a player or team can or cannot do during the course of the game. Others refer to certain positions, maneuvers, and strategies. Lastly, other terms are associated with the uniform and equipment used during each game.


Water polo differs from other team sports, especially in regards to its positional play. In fact, there is little positional play in this sport as field players often fill multiple positions throughout the game. Field players may play one of several positions, including center, the point, the two wings, the two flats, and the goalkeeper. The most skilled of these positions, often called utility players, tend to come off the bench more frequently than the lesser skilled. In addition, certain utility players may find themselves in certain positions more than others. This varies according to the player's body type, flexibility, and right or left-handed dominance.

Basic Skills

Water polo involves some basic skills that every player uses to advance their way past the goalkeeper, including treading water and wrestling to keep possession of the ball. Competitors often swim with their head above the water at all times to scope out their surroundings and concentrate on the play, utilizing a swimming technique known as front crawl stroke. Water polo athletes also employ the arm stroke to protect the ball. Defending players use the backstroke to scope out advancing opponents. Goalkeepers also use the backstroke to locate the ball after passing. All players incorporate a commonly used form of water treading known as "egg-beater" to avoid touching the bottom of the pool. The egg-beater allows all players to remain at water level and maintain a stable position. Other forms of water treading, such as the scissor kick, tend to wear out athletes. Water polo athletes can use egg-beater vertically and horizontally. A horizontal egg-beater allows the athlete to resist forward motion of an opponent. A vertical egg-beater allows a player to maintain a position higher than their opponent. All players must exercise awareness of the playing field to obtain a scoring advantage over the opponent. Therefore, every player must mentally prepare before each game to heighten their field sense and gain sharper reflexes to score against the goalkeeper.

Defensive Skills

Defensive strategy mainly consists of ways for players to regain possession of the ball and prevent a score from happening. The defense may attempt to knock or steal the ball from their opponents while avoiding fouls. In some cases, defensive players may intentionally foul their opponents to avoid them from advancing to the goal. Defenders typically stay between the attacker and the goal, a tactical position known as inside water . Therefore, defensive players must have the stamina and strength to protect the goal before an attacker reaches the goalie.

Offensive Skills


Offensive players employ various strategies to advance the ball to the goal, including passing and shooting. Offensive players may make a dry or wet pass to advance their positional play. A dry pass mainly consists of throwing a ball through the air to a team-mate, whereas a wet pass consists of splashing it directly into the water. Each of these passes carries their own purpose to improve the advantage over the defending team. After maneuvering into a scoring position, offensive players will take a variety of shots. Shots may include several techniques, including power shots, bounce shots, skip shots, lob shots, inside water shots, pop shots, t-shots, bat shots, screw shots, spring shots, and more.

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