Water Polo Rules by Cory Olcott

As we head into the London Games, a number of people have asked me to explain the sport of water polo. Most people have heard of water polo, but not everyone knows the rules of how the sport is played. In this two-part series, you will get a basic understanding of the game.

There are regulations governing how large the pool should be. Most courses are 25 meters x 20 meters, except at the international level where the men play in pools sized 30 meters x 20 meters. Minimum depth should be no less than two meters to prevent players from using the bottom of the pool. However, many teams, especially in high school, do not have regulation pools and play in nonstandard courses. Each team has seven players: one goalie and six field players. For international play, the home team typically wears white caps, the visiting team wears dark, and the goalkeepers wear red.

The game begins with a “sprint” in which the referee drops the ball at mid-pool and players swim from their own goal lines to the ball to try and control it. Only the field players can cross the mid-pool line; goalies must stay on their respective sides. Teams score points by throwing the ball across the goal line on the opposite end of the pool. The pool also features a 2-meter line, an off-sides line which the offensive player may not cross unless he or she has the ball, and a 5-meter line, outside of which a player may immediately shoot on goal if fouled.

Read the next segment in this series to learn more about fouls.

About the author: Cory Olcott is a former Head of the English Department at Woodside Priory School and water polo coach at Stanford. He recently graduated from Harvard University and has relocated to Lexington, Massachusetts.