Water Polo: A Beginner’s Guide to the Sport

Water sports are not only limited to the art of swimming. As a matter of fact, there are numerous types of events done in and under the water. One of these is water polo.

Although this may not be as popular as swimming, water polo remains a beloved sport around the world. Apart from offering something new to pool activities, this team sport makes for a competitive round that is just as nerve-wracking. This is perhaps one of the reasons why this sport is highly recognized in the Olympics.


If you are bored with training on your own or simply looking for something more exciting in the pool, you might want to try this sport out. Want to know what the rules are? Read on to find out the ins and out of this game.

Water Polo Sport

What Is Water Polo?

Water polo is a type of competitive sport typically played in a swimming pool. Played in teams of seven, the activity resembles football or soccer. Originally from England and Scotland, this event was part of the team sports introduced in the Olympic Games in the 1900s.


To play this, participants must not only be in good shape. While their build and physique factors into the outcome of the game, what matters most is moving swiftly in the water and working well as a team.

End Goal

As with other games, matches, and competitions, the goal of the activity is to score a goal for the team and get the highest number of points by the end of game time. To do this, teams must successfully throw the ball over the net in order to gain a point.

Rules to Live By

  • There are two teams playing against each other. Each team must be comprised of seven players each at any given time while in the pool. Of these seven players, there are six outfield posts and one goalkeeper. Up to six substitutes may also be added to the team.
  • To distinguish one team from the other, members must wear a cap contrasting the red cap worn by the goalkeeper. Normally, white and blue are the chosen colors by the teams.
  • Only the goalkeeper is allowed to use both hands in handling the ball. Meanwhile, the rest of the six players must only use one hand. Passing or moving the ball is either done by throwing it or swimming while moving the ball in front of them.
  • Players must keep moving around and must tread their way. They must not touch the floor of the pool at absolutely any point.
  • There are four quarters throughout the game. Each quarter is placed for seven minutes in total.
  • The ball can only be kept for a maximum of 30 seconds at any time before shooting a goal. However, if the ball is shot prior to the time and it rebounds, the timer will revert to 30 seconds once more.
  • Two referees will oversee the game. One referee is assigned to watching what happens inside the pool, while the other referee is tasked to watch what happens outside of the game.
  • Minimal equipment is required to play the sport. All that is required from players are their wet suits or swimming suits, a net, and a ball. Swimming caps and goggles are also required when playing.
  • To win the game, the winning team must score higher than its opponent. In the case of a tie, a tie-breaker will be observed via a penalty shootout. To do this, five players from each team will shoot in an alternate manner from the five-meter line until a player misses.
  • Deliberately kicking or injuring another player will result in a foul and penalty. Players who participate in foul play will be asked to leave the pool for 20 seconds. However, if they have committed three fouls, they will be asked to exit the game and watch the match from the sidelines.
  • What constitutes foul play includes preventing opponents from swimming; sinking or dunking a player; and physically grabbing another player’s back, shoulders, or legs.


The Bottom Line

Much like other physical sports played on land like football, water polo is just as strenuous and even more fulfilling. As you prepare to engage in this team activity, keep these basic rules in mind, and you will surely enjoy every minute of the game.