What is Water Polo

Water Polo is considered by exercise physiologists to be the most physically demanding of all sports. Players cover up to 3 kilometres in the pool over the course of a single game. As a result of the physical demands of the sport frequent substitutions are common. Water polo combines elements of a number of different sports including soccer, basketball, hockey and rugby.

The Rules

Water polo is played in a deep pool, with a goal 3 meters (9 feet, 10 inches) wide and at least 0.9 meters (2 feet, 11 inches) above the water. The goal is marked by vertical posts, a crossbar, and nets, as in soccer and hockey. For men, the pool is 30 metres long and no less than 17 metres wide. Women play in a somewhat smaller 25 metre long pool.  Referees walk up and down the side of the pool, following the players as they swim back and forth.

Youth girls shooting drill

A team is made up of 13 players. There are seven players per team, six swimmers and a goalie in the water at one time. The home team wears light caps, the visiting team dark caps, and goalies wear red caps.

A game is divided into quarters ranging from 5 to 8 minutes in length, depending on the level of play. After a tie, there are two overtime periods of 3 minutes each. If the game is still tied after the overtime periods, teams continue to play 3-minute overtimes until there is a decision.

A game begins with both teams lined up on their own goal lines and the ball in the center of the pool. One player from each team sprints for the ball from their respective goal line. The ball can be advanced up to pool by passing to a teammate with one hand or swimming with the head above the water and the ball between the arms. Only the goalie can touch the ball with two hands. A goal is scored when the entire ball crosses the goal line within the goal posts.

There are three types of fouls awarded in water polo: minor fouls, exclusions and penalty fouls. Minor fouls include such things as impeding or preventing the movement of a player without the ball and holding or pushing a player without the ball.  A free throw is award to a player when their opponent commits a minor foul. The player taking the free throw does so from the spot in which in foul occurred; the opposing team cannot interfere with the taking of the free throw.

Exclusion fouls will be called for more serious conduct such as holding a player underwater, pulling a player back or splashing water in the opponents face. When an exclusion is called, the player who committed the foul is ejected from the pool for 20 seconds. After the expiration of the 20 seconds the player is allowed to swim back into the field of play from the penalty box. If a goal is scored by the opposing team before the expiration of the exclusion the player is immediately allowed back into the game. If a player is excluded three times, they are barred from player for the remainder of the game.

A penalty foul is awarded for conduct which would constitute a major foul, but is committed close to the net (within the 5-metre area). For this type of foul a penalty shot is awarded. A penalty shot is taken at the 5-metre line. During a penalty shot all players with the exception of the opposing teams goaltender must be outside the 5-metre area away from the player taking the shot. The goaltender cannot be in front of the goal line.

Players can also be ejected from game for a misconduct or a brutality. A misconduct may include the use of inappropriate language and disrespect for officials. Players guilty of a misconduct are excluded for the remainder of the game and a substitute may immediately enter the game. A brutality is called if the referee determines that a player deliberately strikes or attempts to strike another player using any part of their body. The player who committed the brutality will immediately be excluded for the remainder of the game, and a substitute may only enter the game at 4 minutes of play (the opposing team will have a man advantage for 4 minutes).