What Is Water Polo? – Everything You Need to Know About This Exciting Sport

What is water polo? 

Well, it is not surprising if many of you have not yet heard of this sport. After all, I can always consider it as one of the least popular waterborne sports.

But this doesn’t mean that the game is far from being exciting and exhilarating. In fact, once you get yourself into water polo, you’ll never get over it!

And that’s a guarantee!

In this post, I’ll explain the ins and outs of water polo–from its fundamentals down to the rules that you need to master before you play it. Let’s get started!

What Is Water Polo?

water polo

People have different views when it comes to water polo. Every time this word is uttered, people assume that it is the water-based version of polo–a sport where people have to ride on horses while trying to hit a ball with the use of an extended mallet. 

However, water polo is not similar to polo. One of the reasons for this is that water polo is downright difficult

Why? Since it combines multiple sports into one: basketball, football, and swimming. As a matter of fact, you can even relate rugby to it. Hence, for a person to play water polo, they have to have good grasps of those aforementioned sports. 

Specifically, water polo was birthed in Britain. It is also among those original sports that were hosted in the first Olympic Games in 1900

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Essentially, this game requires the following things:

  • Team effort – It is a team game. You need to coordinate properly with your teammates to get over your opponents and score a point.

  • Fitness – You can’t play water polo without proper stamina training. By all means, this game will exhaust you. Keep in mind that moving in the water is not easy. 

  • Rule comprehension – Just like any other sport, water polo requires its players to understand its rules. You can’t possibly enjoy the game if you always hit the penalty. 

Once you get the hang of these things, water polo will offer a degree of excitement that you can’t find in other sports. It can be extremely fast-paced and physical; it leaves you little breathing time to rest. It sends your energy levels up the roof. 

A single match of water polo has four quarters. Players have to execute different skills in swimming, water-treading, passing, catching, and shooting to score a point. Specifically, they have to find a legal way to get the ball into the net of their opposing team. 

General Objectives

What Is Water Polo? – Everything You Need to Know About This Exciting Sport 1

Fundamentally, the goal of water polo is to ensure that each participating member will play as a team. They have to work hand-in-hand to score a goal.

Needless to say, you have to make sure that your team’s score is higher than the opposition’s. Otherwise, you’ll lose. 

There’s one thing that I can affirm here: teams always struggle to score high. It is not very unusual for a team to score more than 20 points, which is pretty impressive considering that the game is played while players are submerged in the water. 

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There are two opposing teams in water polo. Their objectives are the following:

  • Protect and defend their nets from incoming attacks

  • Score as many points as possible before the match is over

The Players

Before we talk about the equipment needed by water polo, I need to discuss a little bit about the players–specifically the composition of the team. 

A single water polo team has seven members. They have to be deployed at the same time.

Six of them are on the field, while the remaining one serves as the goalkeeper. Such a setup is pretty similar to soccer and football. 

However, unlike other competitive team games where players fulfill a particular role or function, water players are free to do what they want. They can move in different parts of the court; they can change positions, depending on the demands of the game. 

The positions are categorized into the following:

  • Offensive – It is composed of a center forward and two wings that are positioned on the various flanks of the pool. There’s also a point position, which usually plays in and out of the 5m line. 

  • Defensive – There are two basic defensive strategies. Man to Man and Zoning.

    Man to man defense is used for high-pressure situations. The game might be down to a tie and your team is desperate to win. Either way, this type of defense does not allow any room for an offense.

    Zoning on the other hand is used for low-key game situations. Each defense player is assigned a zone to defend, and each of these zones corresponds to an offensive position. Whichever offensive players go in and out of your zone, the defensive player is responsible for maintaining good defensive positioning in their respective zones.

Meanwhile, those players who don’t have specific roles to play are called “utility.” If we are going to compare them to soccer positions, they would be on the “midfield.” Basically, they have to execute both defensive and offensive maneuvers

What Equipment Is Used In Water Polo?

What Is Water Polo? – Everything You Need to Know About This Exciting Sport 6
MOSCOW, RUSSIA – May 22, 2010 – Young men playing waterpolo at fitness centre

Interestingly enough, you don’t need to spend big enough to be able to play water polo. It is not similar to other sports that you need to purchase a myriad of amenities such as helmets and protective gear. 

In water polo, the most common things that you can see are nets and balls. Meanwhile, players have to be clad in simple swimming gears, depending on their preference and sex. 

They can also opt to wear goggles and swimming caps, especially if they think that the match will be gruesome. 

In a nutshell, I can surmise that your greatest tools in water sports are your mind and body. Again, I have to emphasize that a person has to be physically fit to play this game. 

And if you are not, then this is the perfect time that you make yourself fit to compete in the challenging but enjoyable waters!

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How To Score In Water Polo?

A team gets a score in water polo if the ball successfully breaches through the goal post of the opposition. Furthermore, the ball has to go under the crossbar for it to be declared as a valid sport. 

There’s a time limit for a team to hold a ball. They can only hold or pass the ball for only 30 seconds. If they do not make an attempt to shoot the ball in the goal, the ball’s possession will be transferred to the opposing team. 

However, if they shoot the ball and it rebounded, the clock resets back to 30 seconds. During this point, the opposing team must do their best to steal the ball to prevent any score from happening. 

How To Win A Game In Water Polo?

What Is Water Polo? – Everything You Need to Know About This Exciting Sport 10

As I said earlier, you only need to score higher than your opponents, so that you can win a water polo match. But always keep in mind that ties are pretty prevalent in a rigorous sport like this. 

If two teams are tied, a penalty shootout happens. Doing this will determine the winner of the match. Five players from each team have to shoot the ball from the prescribed 5m line. They have to shoot alternatively until such time gets higher points than the other.

If the shootout is still tied, then it resets again. It will repeat until such time any of the team either scores or misses. 

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Water Polo Rules

Being a smart water polo player can somewhat make a difference. It lets you get the most of the opportunity of scoring for your team!

Hence, mastering these rules will certainly pay off.

  • The standard playing area for water polo is 30m x 20m. Meanwhile, the depth of the water is 2 meters at the minimum. Therefore, a player must learn how to swim fast and efficiently in this game.

  • A team has thirteen players. Seven of them are on the field–six on the play and one on the goal post.

  • Players are only allowed to use one of their hands to hold and grasp the ball. The only exemption for this rule are the goalies. They can hold the ball using both hands, as long as they are within 5 meters of their own post. This aspect of this sport makes it extremely challenging. It has exceptional finger grip and control.

  • Water polo comes in four quarters. Each quarter has eight minutes. Before a quarter starts, a two-minute break takes place.

  • The ball typically advances in the field by having the players on their front. Given that there are oppositions that would block the advancing ball, the player can choose to pass it to free teammates.
  • One of the tricky aspects of water polo is that players are never allowed to touch the bottom of the playing area. In short, they have to float all the time while the match is on-going. Some players prefer to swim around to prevent themselves from hitting the ground!

    Again, a team can only hold the ball for 30 seconds without shooting it. They have to shoot it and attempt for a rebound so that the clock restarts to 30 seconds.

  • A single goal equates to a single point. A score happens when the ball reaches below the crossbar and between the goalposts. This task makes the game extremely exciting.

  • There are fouls in water polo. They can either be minor fouls or major fouls. A player gets eliminated from the match if he or she acquires three fouls. Despite being a physical and intense sport, you still need to be cautious in water polo. You should tone down your rowdy spirit!

  • Once a game ends up in a draw, a shootout takes place. I’ve explained the mechanisms for this earlier.
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So Why Play Water Polo?

muscular man playing waterpolo

For me, I play water polo because it is fun and thrilling. It lets you bring out your best form–both in the physical and mental aspect, which is something that other sports may not offer. 

If you sincerely love the water and have the desire to experience a brand-new sport, then considering water polo as your next hobby is never a bad idea. 

If that’s not compelling enough, the following reasons should give you a push to try this endeavor!

  • It enhances camaraderie. To put it simply, water polo is a team sport. It cannot be won by a single person alone. And that speaks volumes when it comes to the needed coordination to win this game. If you want to learn the concept of camaraderie, water polo lets you submerge in it. 

  • It lets you swim whenever you want. Some people are hesitant to try land-based sports because they require a lot of running. If you find running extensively uncomfortable, then swimming should be your next best cause. It lets you move around in the water without the need to run!

  • Swimming is not excessive, either. Of course, I am completely aware that swimming can be as tiring as running. A single lap can already make you feel that your lungs are bursting, especially if you are still not used to it. Fortunately, water polo doesn’t require constant swimming. In a regular polo practice, swimming is just a part of the practice. It is not the whole.

  • It trains your endurance. Again, I have to emphasize that water polo requires a solid form. You need to be physically fit to do this. And I am not saying that you need to flex a lot of muscles and bulk in this game. Instead, it requires a lot of endurance. You need to have a lot of tanks to complete all four quarters. The more you play water polo, the more your endurance enhances.
  • It makes you physically strong. Water polo is also about your strength. Sure, we can say that other athletes, such as in the field of martial arts, might be stronger than water polo players. However, nobody can belittle the ability of a person to tread the water, remain afloat, and maneuver the ball at the same time. These things need a lot of bodily strength.

  • Water polo hones your discipline. Overall, water polo is a sport that sharpens your sportsmanship. I believe that winning is just an aspect of the game. Its entire essence is founded on the person’s ability to remain calm, fair, and disciplined during heated moments. You can’t really play the game if you are hot-headed. You’ll get easily expelled from the pool!

  • It is deliberately thrilling. Many of us hunger for thrill and adventure. But at the same time, we are hesitant to try dangerous things, such as bungee-jumping from a cliff. Water polo offers a venue for us to feel these excitement hormones running in our veins without putting ourselves in peril. And for me, that’s already a win-win situation!

Bottom Line

Again, let’s return to our question: what is water polo?

For me, water polo is about having fun in the water and being able to enjoy its ambiance while exuding our competitive spirits. It is a sport that takes every other water-based game on the next level.

And since it incorporates other sports skills and fundamentals, it is undeniable that this seemingly simple game of attack-and-defend is actually dynamic!

I encourage people to try water polo, especially if there are communities or niches in your areas that promote this activity. It is a good activity for the young and adult alike!

I hope that you find this guide useful and enjoyable. If you have other questions, feel free to ask me in the comment section below.

If you still have questions about water polo, or you just wanna talk about water sports in general, do not hesitate to reach out to me on our Facebook or Instagram. I would be more than happy to help you to have fun in the water! Also, don’t forget to leave a comment and follow us! :slightly_smiling_face:



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Review written by: Tom

Hi! My name is Tom. During the year I try to be on a paddle board as much as possible. By reading this blog you'll stay updated on everything I test on the water :)