Water polo is a team sport played in a pool. The sport itself is extremely physical and takes great endurance. The game involves passing or swimming with a ball, with the goal of scoring on the opposing team's goal. Water polo is thought to have been created in the late 19th century in Scotland. Originally, it was called "aquatic football" and was a combination of countless land sports, while treading water. Some of the most notable water players in the world are Maggie Steffens, Tony Azevedo, Brenda Villa, and Dezs Gyarmati. The biggest water polo tournament is the Olympic Games. Another large tournament is the Water Polo World Championships which is held every 2 to 4 years.
Water Polo is played within a pool. Players active in the game are not allowed to get out of the water. Pool size may vary, but professionally, pools are required to be 30 meters long and 20 meters wide. In the pool, there is a two-meter line, a five-meter line, and a mid-pool line. If an offensive player is found inside the the two-meter without the ball or without a defender also inside the line, then the offensive player will be whistled. The yellow lines indicate the options for a fouled offensive player. If the player is fouled behind the line, the offensive player can either take a free pass, or shoot the ball immediately. If the player is fouled inside the yellow line, then the fouled player must take a free pass.
While playing water polo, players are not allowed to touch the bottom of the pool at anypoint. Throughout the entire game, players must continuously tread water or swim. Treading water entails moving your arms and legs to keep your body afloat and head above the water. This rule does not apply to goalies, but does apply to all other players in the pool. Although players are never allowed to touch the bottom of the pool, this rule is usually only enforced when the player gains an advantage in going for the ball or in another way. When the penalty is called, the result is an ordinary foul and the ball being given to the opposing team.
Water polo games are divided into quarters. The length of games depends on the level the game is being played. Youth and High School games may be shorter in length, but college and professional games have 8 minute quarters. Due to stoppage, fouls, and timeouts, quarters usually last around 12 minutes each. If overtime is required, college and younger leagues utilize two consecutive 3 minute periods to determine a winner. Professionally, the game goes straight to a shootout.
When a team gains possession of the ball, they have 35 seconds to shoot the ball. If they do not shoot the ball within the allotted 35 seconds, the ball is given to the other team. If the team shoots the ball within the 35 seconds and gets the rebound, then the clock resets to 20 seconds.
Ordinary fouls, also called minor fouls, are penalties in water polo that result in a free throw for the opposing team. These fouls are extremely common and happen multiple times per game. Ordinary fouls most commonly take place around the ball . These fouls are often called when a defender is attempting to steal the ball, but accidentally stretches over the opponent and creates contact with their body. On offense, ordinary fouls include pushing a defender to create an open shot or pass attempt, touching the ball with 2 hands at the same time, or taking the ball under water while being tackled. There are other ways a foul can be called on offensive and defensive players, but these are the most common. There is no limit to how many ordinary fouls a single player may get throughout a game. Opposed to many sports, in water polo, committing fouls is not a bad thing and is often a key part of teams' strategies.
Major fouls result in the temporary ejection of a player. If a player is called for a major foul, the player is required to sit out of the game for 20 seconds. If a player receives 3 major fouls in one game they are unable to return for the remainder of the game. Common major fouls result from defensive players sinking, grabbing, or limiting an offensive player before the offensive player is able to get to the ball. A major foul may also result from talking back to a referee, interfering or obstructing a free pass, kicking/hitting a player on the opposing team, or penalty fouls. Penalty fouls occur when a defender fouls the offensive player within the 5 meter line to prevent the offensive player from scoring an open goal. A penalty foul results in the offensive team getting a penalty shot from 5 meters away.
Players are only allowed to use one hand to control the ball. The goalie is allowed to use two hands as long as they are within the 5 meter line. With the ball in their possession, players are allowed to swim with the ball. Dribbling is a technique used by many players when moving the ball up the pool. While dribbling, a player keeps the ball in front of him or her while swimming forwards. The waves created by the player's swimming strokes keep the ball moving forward. While in possession of the ball, players may take the ball underwater as long as a defender is not guarding them.
Players also pass the ball back and forth to move the ball up the pool. Players use dry and wet passes to move the ball around. Wet passes involve throwing the ball to a certain area and allowing a teammate to swim to the ball. Opposingly, dry passes go directly from one teammates' hand to another teammates' hand.
There are usually 13-15 players per team. However, each team is allowed to have seven players in the pool at any point. Teams have 6 field players and 1 goalkeeper. Teams are made up of one Center, two Drivers, two Wings, and one Point. When in position, the offensive players make up a triangle. The Center is the forward most player and takes the majority of the team's shots. The two Wings are usually positioned on the sides of the Center and focus on attacking offensively. They also are in excellent position for rebounds. The Point is the furthest player back from the goal, this player has an excellent view of the pool and is a great passer. The Point also often acts as a leader, yelling strategy and instructions to teammates. The Drivers, also known as flats, are very active players. This position requires the player to be a fast swimmer and also an efficient scorer.
Each team is allowed to substitute an unlimited amount of times throughout the game. Players can come in at any part of the game, but most frequently do following a stoppage of play. These stoppages include the beginning of a quarter, immediately after a foul or injuries. A player can only substitute into the game once the exiting player has visibly exited the surface of the water. If a player is being substituted whie play is still occurring, they must get out within the team's re-entry area. When the player is out of the water, a teammate may replace them by getting into the pool via the re-entry area. If play is stopped, players may enter the field of play from any place around the pool. Substitutions cannot be made following a foul call, prior to the ball being thrown.
Prior to beginning a game of water polo, teams are required to wear specific caps that match their teammates. Once in the pool, players must lineup on their team's goal line. Players line up about 1 meter apart . Players must line up at least one meter away from the goal post. Only two players may lineup within the goal posts. No body parts are allowed to be lined up past the goal line. Further, players are not allowed to use the wall to push off in any way. When the referee blows the whistle, he or she throws the ball into the center of the pool. When the referee blows the whistle, players are allowed to begin swimming towards the middle. This is called a "swim-off." The team to get the ball first starts with the ball. If the throw is ruled unfair, then the entire process is repeated.
When the fourth quarter ends, the team with the highest amount of points wins. Water polo is a timed game, so the fourth quarter ends when the clock runs out. If the game ends in a tie, the two teams will enter an overtime to determine a winner. Water polo games cannot end in ties, so the game goes on until a team wins. Professionally, teams immediately enter a shootout tournament to determine a winner. Each team is given 5 shots. Each shot is taken by a different player. After the five players have shot, the team with the most scores wins. If the game is still tied, they go into a sudden death shootout. The NCAA and american high schools utilize an overtime period, two overtime periods at 3 minutes each. These overtime periods are followed by shootouts. Ultimately, the team that scores the most points will win the game.