The basics of water polo

A beginner's guide to water polo

If you’re thinking of starting out in water polo, check out this quick guide to this fast-paced water sport. Water polo is a great sport for improving your health and fitness, as well as refreshing your mind, so why not get involved?

The aim of water polo

  • Generally speaking, water polo is a simple game – the aim being to push, carry or throw the ball into the opponent’s goal.

The water polo pool

  • The water polo pool is at least 1.8m (5.91ft) deep, with a goal 3m (9.84ft) wide and at least 0.9m (2.95ft) high. The goal is marked by vertical posts, a crossbar, and nets – which is the same as in football or hockey.
  • For the men’s version of water polo, the pool is 30m long x 20m wide. Women play in a smaller pool which has dimensions of 25m x 17m.
  • There are important lines on the pool deck which mark out specific areas in which the rules of play are special. The most important are:

2m lines – These are 2m out from the goalposts on both sides of the pool. Only players with possession of the ball are allowed within the 2m area – otherwise possession of the ball is lost.

5m lines – The locations from which penalty shots are taken on the goal. A penalty shot is given to a player who is fouled within the 5m line while he/she is in an active attempt to score.

The teams in water polo

  • Squads are made up of 13 players, with a maximum of seven allowed in the pool at any one time.
  • The goalkeepers are the only players who are allowed to touch the bottom of the pool. Goalies are not allowed in the other half of the pool.
  • In front of the goalkeeper are two banks of three players: three guards in defence, two wingers, and a centre forward in attack.
  • One team wears approved coloured caps with white numbers from two to 13, and the other team wears white caps with blue numbers. Each goalkeeper wears a red cap with a number one on it.

The game of water polo

  • Water polo games consist of four eight-minute periods.
  • A game begins with the ball in the centre of the pool, and both teams sprint for it from their own goal lines.
  • If the scores are level at the end of regular time, two extra periods of three minutes each are played.
  • If no side has won then a sudden-death period is played, where the first team to score wins the match.

Comments (1)

  • Rory_Coleman_Heard 'Many thanks for a very neat and clear snapshot of Water Polo. Very simplistic language with a structure that's nice and easy to follow. Water Polo has always been one of those Olympic sports that I watch with interest without considering the fundamentals. I had no idea the squads were so big, and that only the goalkeeper could touch the floor. Also great to note the 'golden goal' is still in use. Really instructive post. '

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