In water polo, players actively keep themselves above water, making sure they have the correct body position all the while throwing the ball precisely in order to goal. Now to throw the ball accurately, athletes are required to know the essentials in ball-handling because as we know, it’s all about the ball. Let’s discuss water polo balls, how to use them, the different types and brands available.
Now, don’t be confused with water ball vs. water polo ball. They are, in fact, different as a water ball is an inflatable giant sphere that fits an average human inside while a water polo ball is distinguished by its rubberized exterior and bright yellow color. Usually, the standard water polo ball is around 400 to 450 grams with 680 to 710 mm (size 5) for men and 650 to 670 mm (size 4) for women.
Initially called “water rugby”, the water polo ball was made with rubber imported from plantations in India and was used in the rivers of England and Scotland. The rubber exterior is essential to provide an easier grip when used in the water with only one hand.
James R. Smith, a water polo coach from California designed a ball produced with a rubber cover with fabric and an inflatable bladder. It was originally red, then for better visibility, it was changed to yellow in 1948. This became the official water polo ball in the 1956 Olympics.
A water polo game is divided into four parts or “quarters”. Each part is around eight to 12 minutes long. With each team, the allowed time to hold on to a ball is 30 seconds maximum before shooting. Possession will be passed to the other team if the 30-second rule is not observed.
Fun fact: Building good throwing habits is worth the practice to avoid unwanted incidents or injuries, as well as securing a better overall performance. Now how do we throw this ball properly?
Remember to pick up the ball from underneath every time. Why? Because…
A. If you pick up the ball from the top, you will be gripping with your fingertips alone and we don’t want that. This is a rookie mistake best avoided. Ensure that you cradle the ball, feeling your palm and fingertips in contact with it.
B. By making sure you always pick up the ball from underneath, you are preventing ball “turnover” if a defender presses your hand down which can cause “ball under”.
Turnover – When the ball is handed to the other team
Ball under – If a player pushes the ball underwater
2. Maintaining a correct body position
Similar to other sports, in playing water polo, your eyes and body should be facing whatever your target is. Example: If you plan to land the ball on the goal, face in the direction towards the goal.
The ideal body position will depend on your dominant arm. Whichever that may be, your opposite shoulder should be facing your target with the corresponding hip and leg in the front as well. The dominant arm should be above the water, holding the ball behind the head.
Keeping most of your body out of the water will put a lot of pressure on your legs making your eggbeater become faster. To provide stability, make sure your free hand is sculling in front of you.
3. Throwing the ball, passing, and shooting
When you throw the ball at your target, keep your elbow above the water. Let the ball roll out of your fingertips while your torso, dominant hip, and leg are rotated towards the target. Tip: To know if you threw the ball correctly, check if it has a clean backspin.
When passing the ball, keep the aim above your teammate’s head and towards their dominant side. Make sure you pass it in a straight manner rather than in an arc.
Now when it comes to shooting, you have to keep most of your body above the water to prevent defender blockage and to increase the force of your shot. Do not forget to face the goal then aim the ball towards the net, snapping your wrist to direct it.
You’ll sooner or later notice numbers indicated right below the ball’s brand. You might want to take note because these numbers are an indicator of your polo ball’s size. In water polo, different sizes also mean different weights which correspond to the level of the water polo player. In this guide, I’ll be listing down which size is assigned for a certain level.
Size 1: Splashball
The size 1 is the smallest among the other sized balls. They are usually used by children aged 2-6 who may just be starting to take an interest in water polo. Being the smallest ball in this list, the size 1 ball makes it easier for small hands to handle.
Size 2: Junior
This second ball, size 2, is a bit larger compared to the first ball and it is geared towards beginner water polo players aged 5-9 who are still learning their way into water polo.
The Federation Internationale de Natation (FINA) recognizes this ball, however, as the official size ball used for junior-level water polo tournaments.
Size 3: Intermediate
Next on the list is the size 3 ball. This ball is often used as the ball that facilitates the transition to the regular-sized balls used for competitions, which is the size 4 ball.
With the size 3 ball, players can use it to practice their ball handling and improve on their technique. These sized balls are recommended for boys and girls aged 12 and under.
Size 4: Compact
Size 4 balls are commonly the balls used for women’s open competitions. They are regulated to be 65-67 cm in circumference and are used by 14U (14 & under) boys; 16U (16 & under) girls; and 18U (18 & under) girls.
The size 4 ball is also the official ball used by women in the collegiate level (NCAA) and the international level (FINA) for water polo tournaments.
Size 5: Men’s
The largest ball on this list—the size 5, is normally the ball used for men’s open competitions. They are slightly larger than the size 4 ball, regulated to be 68-71 cm in circumference, and are used by 16U boys and 18U boys.
These sized balls are also the official ball used by men in the collegiate level (NCAA) and international level (FINA) for water polo tournaments.
Once you get into water polo, you’ll notice that female water polo players and male water polo players require different ball specifications.
As listed in the previous portion, size 4 is officially used by women in competitions, while the men officially use size 5 in competitions. Why the difference?
The reason is more biological than skill-based. Women are just generally thought to have smaller hands in comparison to male hands. In a sport where grip and ball-handling take the game, getting comfortable with the size of the ball you’re playing with can make or break your whole playthrough.
Apart from the ball specifications though, there’s not much difference between women and men in terms of the official competition rules.
Mikasa Sports or just simply Mikasa is a Japanese sports company and is a household name when it comes to athletic goods. The first sport that comes to mind when hearing this brand name is Volleyball, of course! But, it is also one of the highly recommended brands when it comes to Water Polo balls mainly because of their balls’ soft grip.
Who better understands Water Polo than Water Polo players themselves? So, through direct sponsorships to organizations such as the USA Water Polo, American Water Polo, and NCAA, KAP7 company continues to innovate their products as the years go by and as the sports become slowly more highlighted than before, making the balls they manufacture good, if not the best!
How to Pick a Water Polo Ball
The first thing to consider is the size of the Water Polo Ball you’re going to use. This will depend on the gender of the players and their ages. The ball typically has 5 sizes in the market.
A size 5 ball or one with a circumference between 680mm and 710mm is used for the men’s game. A size 4 ball with a circumference between 650mm and 670mm is used for both the women’s game and youth boys aged 12-16.
Size 3 is perfect for the youth of both genders ages 11 to 13. It’s considered as the intermediate size. While size 2 is for the youth under 11 years old. Lastly, Size 1 is just for recreational Water Polo or for learning the basic skills of the sport.
Next to consider is the material that the Water Polo ball is made of because this will affect how good the grip of the ball would be when used. Needless to say, it has to be made of waterproof material to avoid the ball being filled with water which will make it more difficult to grip.
Aside from grip, softness can be considered too, especially when the players are young and just beginning to play the sport. This is not needed for advanced players, though.
Durability of the ball is a factor to consider too, because, of course, you don’t want to waste your money on something that won’t last long.
The final thing to consider is the price of the ball. You want to choose the one with a price that translates well to the quality it provides. Cheaper does not always mean better, and good does not usually mean cheap.
Top 6 Water Polo Balls
Below are the top 6 Water Polo balls on Amazon which I have rated based on: (1) size; (2) grip; (3) softness; (4) durability; and (5) price.
W5000 – Mikasa Sports Competition Men’s Water Polo Ball
This is the best standard size water polo ball approved by the NFHS. It’s made out of rubber making it well-buffed and allowing it to offer you maximum grip. The typical circumference of this ball is around 68 to 71 cm with pressure from 90 to 97 kPa. Out of all the standard-sized balls in the list, this is the one with the best quality that doesn’t break the bank.
Mikasa, as a brand, has a long-standing history with the quality of its manufacturing. Whether you’re a casual player or a competitive player, you can never go wrong with this one. Of course, you may want to consider that this is a size 5 ball built specifically for male water polo players.
Item Weight: 1 lb
Size: Size 5 (Standard Size)
KAP7 Size 5 HydroGrip Water Polo Ball
As I mentioned in the beginning, KAP7 is well-known for its experience and the proprietary technology it uses to develop their water polo balls, and the HydroGrip Water Polo Ball is one of the best ones they’ve created. They used the highest quality materials in making this product so you will really get a run for your money on this one.
Though this ball leans slightly on the expensive side, the KAP7 HydroGrip does not disappoint with its water reactant grip and hand buffed surface to make sure their ball holds true to its name—Hydro Grip. Apart from this, the KAP7 brand takes pride in their balls that’s proved to be the longest-lasting balls in the world. So if you’re looking for a good ball that’ll last you for a long time, this ball is for you.
Brand: KAP SEVEN (KAP7)
Item Weight: 0.95 lb
Size: Size 5 (Standard Size)
Mikasa Men’s Heavy Weight Water Polo Ball
With its 3.3lbs weight, this ball is definitely designed for heavy training in the pool. It helps you improve your strength and accuracy when playing the sport. to develop grip strength, passing strength, and shooting accuracy. It comes in black with yellow lines and also has the standard yellow version with black lines.
So are you training for a competition? Well then, Mikasa’s Heavy Weight Water Polo Ball may just be the answer to your prayers. With it being much heavier than your normal size 5 ball, training with this ball will surely help you develop the skills you need to take a win at that competition.
Item Weight: 3.3 lb
Size: Size 5 (Standard Size)
W5009 Mikasa Sports Competition Women’s Water Polo Ball
This is the “Women’s” counterpart of Mikasa’s W5000. It is also made from the same material and is hand-buffed making it sturdy to withstand any conditions during play or practice. The ridges on this ball will allow you to grip it easily with one hand. This ball is officially approved by the USA Water Polo Organization and the NFHS).
Female water polo players won’t have to miss out on Mikasa’s W5009 Women’s Water Polo Ball! With the same weight and high-class quality as its male counterpart, this ball will surely suit your needs as a casual player or a competitive player.
Item Weight: 1 lb
Size: Size 4
Mikasa W6608.5W Competition Intermediate Water Polo Ball
For young players over the age of 12, the Mikasa W6608.5W Competition Intermediate Water Polo Ball is the ideal ball for both training and competition.
Unlike the standard balls in this sport, Mikasa made this one with different colored panels to make it easier for the young players to see during a game. It is made of double-layered no leak nylon carcass with a laminated butyl rubber bladder giving it the perfect sealing to avoid water filling up the ball.
Mikasa has the right ball for every level player, and the Mikasa W6608.5 Water Polo Ball is just perfect for intermediate players just starting out! With the top quality materials used to ensure better play, training to improve your skills won’t have to be a challenge.
Item Weight: 0.3 kg
Size: Size 3
Mikasa Sports Water Polo Ball Junior
Although this one is smaller in size and actually designated for junior players, this ball is also good for advanced players to practice on. It’s made out of buffed rubber construction that provides non-slip grip and great durability. It comes in colors red and yellow. It is also officially approved by the USA Water Polo Organization and is exclusively used on U10 Tournaments.
The Mikasa Sports Water Polo Ball (size 2) is yet another foolproof ball in Mikasa’s arsenal. As a size 2 ball, this Mikasa entry is the perfect ball for junior water polo players to train and play with.
Item Weight: 0.99 lb
Size: Size 2
To assure you that the Water Polo Balls I have included in the Top 6 are truly the best of the best, here are other reviews about them:
Bestreviews.com said that the W5000 Mikasa Sports Competition Men’s Water Polo Ball has Maximum grip buffing making it easier to grip when wet. When it comes to standard-sized Water Polo Balls, It’s the best choice for both play and practice.
The same website said that the KAP7 Size 5 HydroGrip Water Polo Ball uses both experience and proprietary technology in making this ball long-lasting and provide great grip to players. This is the perfect one for both amateur and advanced players.
Lastly, it also reviewed W5009 Mikasa Sports Competition Women’s Water Polo Ball stating that, like the W5000, which is its Water Polo Ball counterpart for men, it is also buffed for maximum grip making it the best choice for women and children of middle school age given that it is slightly smaller in size.
The reviews on Swimoutlet.com for the Mikasa Sports Water Polo Ball Junior Size 2, in summary, said that this water polo ball offers a much kid-friendlier size and grip. The red version is quite useful for younger players because it’s much easier to be seen in the water during play and practice.
Proiest.com said that the Mikasa Men’s Heavy Weight Water Polo Ball since it is a heavyweight water polo ball, allows you to enhance your shooting accuracy, gripping strength, and passing strength in water.
Finally, Bestreviewstips.co.uk provided great feedback on Mikasa W6608.5W Competition Intermediate Water Polo Ball saying that it is the most excellent ball for young players at an intermediate competition level. It has fun summer colors which also makes it easier to spot in the water during games.
FAQ about Water Polo Balls
What’s the difference between a water polo ball and any other ball?
The main difference between a typical water polo ball and a normal ball is its ability to float on water and be easily handled by players. Since this ball is made specifically to be used in water polo, the ball is mainly water-resistant with buffed surfaces for easy gripping even on water.
Do water ball sizes really matter?
The short answer is yes. This is mainly because ball sizes are assigned to a player’s age and skill level. For example, a size 4 ball would obviously be too big for junior players to handle, while a size 2 would be too small for 18U players to play with.
Must all ball sizes strictly correspond to player age and level?
Not necessarily. Though this is what’s recommended, you may choose to play other sized balls as long as you’re comfortable. If a junior player decides to try a size 3 intermediate ball to train, then why not? Just take note though that you can only do this when practicing privately as competitions strictly adhere to ball size rules.
With the brand comparisons and product reviews that I have included, I hope this article helped you find the best water polo ball to score with on your next game. Don’t forget that in water polo, you can’t just use any ball you want. You have to be specific as it will ultimately affect the overall performance during a match. If you would like to know more about water polo or you just want some good watersports content, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
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