How Does Scoring Work In Water Polo?

How Does Scoring Work In Water Polo

In water polo, teams score goals by throwing the water polo ball into the opposing team's goal. The shot only counts as a goal if the ball completely crosses the goal line.

Even if the ball is tipped off of the goalie or in the goalie's hands, it is still considered a goal if the entirety of the water polo ball crosses the goal line. The ball is out of bounds if it goes outside or around the goal. The goal line extends from goal post to goal post, parallel to the crossbar at the top of the goal. Every goal is worth one point, whether it is a regular goal or a penalty shot.

During a water polo game, a team has 35 seconds to either shoot or score the ball. If they don't shoot the ball or score, then it is ruled a shot clock violation and the ball is turned over. If the team shoots and the ball bounces off of the goal and back into possession of the same team, then the shot clock resets.

Types of Shots

In water polo, there are multiple different types of shots. Each shot type falls under one of two categories: dry shots or wet shots.

Dry Shots

Water Polo Dry Shots

There are four main types of dry shots when attempting to score a goal in water polo; the power shot, sidearm shot, skip shot, and lob shot. The power shot is when the player lifts their body out of the water to help shoot the ball. A sidearm shot is a shot in which there is more backspin on the ball and it slides across the top of the water. A skip shot is when the player bounces the wall off the water's surface and into the net, behind the goalkeeper. Lastly, a lob shot is a slower moving, arched shot that is meant to arch over the goalkeeper and into the back of the goal.

Wet Shots

Water Polo Wet Shots

Outside of dry shots, there is also what is known as a wet shot. A wet shot is when the shot is taken while the player is horizontal in the water, rather than upright and keeping the ball "dry" above the water. The three main wet shots are the screw shot, the tee shot, and the shove shot. Each of these shots can be performed while swimming. There is no need for a high, dry pass since the shot is taken while still positioned horizontally in the water. This is because the shooter's body isn't upright and rising out of the water in order to take the shot.

A wet shot is commonly used when moving towards an open goal, but there is a defender preventing the shooter from going upright to receive a dry pass or shoot.

Penalty Shots

Water Polo Penalty Shots

A penalty shot is a free shot into the goal from the 5-meter line. The goalie can defend the goal, but no field player may be near the shooter. Penalty shots are usually awarded due to the following fouls:

  • A defender fouls an attacker to prevent a likely goal
  • The goalie pushes the ball underwater when tackled by an opposing player
  • When a defender blocks a pass or shot with both hands while past the 5-meter line

A penalty shot must be done in one continuous motion once the ref signals that the shooter may shoot the ball. If not done in a continuous motion, the shot is forfeited and possession is turned over to the other team.


What is the goal line in water polo?

The goal line in water polo runs from goal post to goal post and parallel to the crossbar. The entirety of the ball must cross this line in order to be considered a goal. If the ball "bars out", meaning it hits the crossbar and then shoots out of the goal, it does not count as a goal. If the ball is tipped off of the goalie or in the goalie's possession, once the ball crosses that goal line it is counted as a goal.

How many points are goals worth in water polo?

In water polo, a goal is worth one point. Unlike in other sports where different types of shots might have different point values, each goal in water polo is always worth one point, even if it is a free penalty shot.

What are common shots in water polo?

Common shots in water polo include the power shot, sidearm shot, skip shot, and lob shot. For each of these shots, the attacker is upright in the water, sometimes even propelling themselves out of the water up to their hips, to get more power and accuracy on their shot.

What is a penalty shot in water polo?

A penalty shot is a free shot taken from the 5-meter line. Penalty shots are usually the result of some sort of foul. No defender is allowed to interfere with the shot, and the shot must be taken in one continuous motion. If there is any break in the continuous motion of the shot, the penalty shot is forfeited, and possession of the ball is given to the other team.