Water polo is a competitive team sport played in the water between two teams. The game consists of four quarters in which the two teams attempt to score goals by throwing the ball into the opposing team's goal. The team with the most goals at the end of the game wins the match. Each team is made up of six field players and one goalkeeper. Except for the goalkeeper, players participate in both offensive and defensive roles. Water polo is typically played in an all-deep pool meaning that players cannot touch the bottom.
A game of water polo consists of the players swimming to move about the pool, treading water (often using the eggbeater kick technique), passing the ball and shooting at goal. Teamwork, tactical thinking and game awareness are also highly important aspects in a game of water polo. Water polo is a highly physical and demanding sport and has frequently been cited as one of the toughest sports to play.
Special equipment for water polo includes a water polo ball, a ball which floats on the water; numbered and coloured caps; and two goals, which either float in the water or are attached to the side of the pool.
The game is thought to have originated in Scotland in the late 19th century as a sort of "water rugby". William Wilson is thought to have developed the game during a similar period. The game thus developed with the formation of the London Water Polo League and has since expanded, becoming widely popular in various parts of Europe, the United States, Brazil, China, Canada and Australia.
Greece (white) vs. Hungary (blue) play a water polo match at the World Junior Championships 2004 in Naples, Italy.
|Highest governing body||FINA|
|Nicknames||Polo, wopo, waterfootball, poolball|
|Created||Late 19th century|
|Team members||7 (6 field players and 1 goalkeeper)|
|Type||Indoor or outdoor, aquatic|
|Equipment||Water polo ball, water polo goals, water polo caps|
|Venue||Water polo pool|
|Glossary||Glossary of water polo|
|Country or region||Worldwide|
|Olympic||Part of the Summer Olympic programme since 1900; women since 2000|
|World Games||Women's: 1981|
The history of water polo as a team sport began as a demonstration of strength and swimming skill in late 19th century England and Scotland, where water sports and racing exhibitions were a feature of county fairs and festivals. Men's water polo was among the first team sports introduced at the modern Olympic games in 1900. Water polo is now popular in many countries around the world, notably Europe (particularly in Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Russia, Italy, Greece and Spain), the United States, Canada and Australia. The present-day game involves teams of seven players (plus up to six substitutes), with a water polo ball similar in size to a soccer ball but constructed of air-tight nylon.
One of the earliest recorded viewings of water polo was conducted at the 4th Open Air Fete of the London Swimming Club, held at the Crystal Palace, London on 15 September 1873. Another antecedent of the modern game of Water Polo was a game of water ‘handball’ played at Bournemouth on 13 July 1876. This was a game between 12 members of the Premier Rowing Club, with goals being marked by four flags placed in the water near to the midpoint of Bournemouth Pier. The game started at 6:00 pm in the evening and lasted for 15 minutes (when the ball burst) watched by a large crowd; with plans being made for play on a larger scale the following week.
The rules of water polo were originally developed in the late nineteenth century in Great Britain by William Wilson. Wilson is believed to have been the First Baths Master of the Arlington Baths Club in Glasgow. The first games of 'aquatic football' were played at the Arlington in the late 1800s (the Club was founded in 1870), with a ball constructed of India rubber. This "water rugby" came to be called "water polo" based on the English pronunciation of the Balti word for ball, pulu. Early play allowed brute strength, wrestling and holding opposing players underwater to recover the ball. Players held underwater for lengthy periods usually surrendered possession. The goalie stood outside the playing area and defended the goal by jumping in on any opponent attempting to score by placing the ball on the deck.
The rules of water polo cover the play, procedures, equipment and officiating of water polo. These rules are similar throughout the world, although slight variations to the rules do occur regionally and depending on the governing body. Governing bodies of water polo include FINA, the international governing organization for the rules; the NCAA rules, which govern the rules for collegiate matches in the United States; the NFHS rules which govern the rules in high schools in the US and the IOC rules which govern the rules at Olympic events.
There are seven players in the water from each team at one time. There are six players that play out and one goalkeeper. Unlike most common team sports, there is little positional play; field players will often fill several positions throughout the game as situations demand. These positions usually consist of a center forward, a center back, the two wing players and the two drivers. Players who are skilled in all positions of offense or defense are called utility players. Utility players tend to come off of the bench, though this is not absolute. Certain body types are more suited for particular positions, and left-handed players are especially coveted on the right-hand side of the field, allowing teams to launch two-sided attacks.
The offensive positions include: one center forward (also called a "set", "hole-set", "center", "setter", "hole", or "2-meter man", located on or near the 2-meter, roughly in the center of the goal), two wings (located on or near the 2-meter, just outside of the goal posts, respectively), two drivers (also called "flats", located on or near the 5-meter, roughly at the goal posts, respectively), and one "point" (usually just behind the 5 meter, roughly in the center of the goal, respectively), positioned farthest from the goal. The wings, drivers and point are often called the perimeter players; while the hole-set directs play. There is a typical numbering system for these positions in U.S. NCAA men's division one polo. Beginning with the offensive wing to the opposing goalie's right side is called one. The flat in a counter clockwise from one is called two. Moving along in the same direction the point player is three, the next flat is four, the final wing is five, and the hole set is called six. Additionally, the position in which a player is can give advantages based on a player's handedness, to improve a shooting or passing angle (for example, the right wing is often left handed).
The center sets up in front of the opposing team's goalie and scores the most individually (especially during lower level play where flats do not have the required strength to effectively shoot from outside or to penetrate and then pass to teammates like the point guard in basketball, or center midfield player in soccer). The center's position nearest to the goal allows explosive shots from close-range.
Defensive positions are often the same, but just switched from offence to defence. For example, the centre forward or hole set, who directs the attack on offence, on defence is known as "hole D" (also known as set guard, hole guard, hole check, pit defence or two-metre defence), and guards the opposing team's centre forward (also called the hole). Defence can be played man-to-man or in zones, such as a 2–4 (four defenders along the goal line). It can also be played as a combination of the two in what is known as an "M drop" defence, in which the point defender moves away ("sloughs off") his man into a zone in order to better defend the centre position. In this defence, the two wing defenders split the area furthest from the goal, allowing them a clearer lane for the counter-attack if their team recovers the ball.
The goalkeeper has the main role in blocking shots against the goal as well as guiding and informing their defense of imposing threats and gaps in the defense. The goalkeeper usually begins the offensive play by passing the ball across the pool to an attacker. It is not unusual for a goalkeeper to make an assisting pass to a goal on a break away.
The goalkeeper is given several privileges above those of the other players, but only within the five-meter area in front of their own goal:
In general, a foul that would cause an ejection of a field player might bring on a five-metre shot on the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper also has one limitation that other players do not have: he cannot cross the half-distance line. Also, if a goalkeeper pushes the ball under water, the action will not be punished with a turnover like with field players, but with a penalty shot.
The most basic positional set up is known as a "3–3", so called because there are two lines in front of the opponent's goal. Another set up, used more by professional teams, is known as an "arc", "umbrella", or "mushroom"; perimeter players form the shape of an arc around the goal, with the hole set as the handle or stalk. Yet another option for offensive set is called a 4–2 or double hole; there are two center forward offensive players in front of the goal. Double hole is most often used in "man up" situations, or when the defense has only one skilled "hole D", or to draw in a defender and then pass out to a perimeter player for a shot ("kick out").
Another, albeit less common offense, is the "motion c", sometimes nicknamed "washing machine offence", in which two "weak-side" (to the right of the goal for right-handed players) perimeter players set up as a wing and a flat. The remaining four players swim in square pattern in which a player swims from the point to the hole and then out to the strong side wing. The wing moves to the flat and the flat to the point. The weak side wing and flat then control the tempo of play and try to make passes into the player driving towards the centre forward who can then either shoot or pass. This form of offence is used when no dominate hole set is available, or the hole defence is too strong. It is also seen much more often in women's water polo where teams may lack a player of sufficient size or strength to set up in the centre forward. The best advantage to this system is it makes man-coverage much more difficult for the defender and allows the offence to control the game tempo better once the players are "set up". The main drawback is this constant motion can be very tiring as well as somewhat predictable as to where the next pass is going to go.
Advancing the ball
When the offence takes possession of the ball, the strategy is to advance the ball down the field of play and to score a goal. Players can move the ball by throwing it to a teammate or swimming with the ball in front of them (dribbling). If an attacker uses his/her arm to push away a defending player and free up space for a pass or shot, the referee will rule a turnover and the defence will take possession of the ball. If an attacker advances inside the 2-metre line without the ball or before the ball is inside the 2-metre area, (s)he is ruled offside and the ball is turned over to the defence. This is often overlooked if the attacker is well to the side of the pool or when the ball is at the other side of the pool.
Setting the ball
The key to the offence is to accurately pass (or "set") the ball into the centre forward or hole set, positioned directly in front of the goal ("the hole"). Any field player may throw the hole set a "wet pass". A wet pass is one that hits the water just outside the hole set's reach. A dry pass may also be used. This is where the hole set receives the ball directly in his hand and then attempts a shot at the cage. This pass is much more difficult because if the pass is not properly caught, the officials will be likely to call an offensive foul resulting in a change of ball possession. The hole set attempts to take possession of the ball [after a wet pass], to shoot at the goal, or to draw a foul from his defender. A minor foul is called if his defender (called the "hole D") attempts to impede movement before the hole set has possession. The referee indicates the foul with one short whistle blow and points one hand to the spot of the foul and the other hand in the direction of the attack of the team to whom the free throw has been awarded. The hole set then has a "reasonable amount of time" (typically about three seconds; there is no FINA rule on this issue) to re-commence play by making a free pass to one of the other players. The defensive team cannot hinder the hole set until the free throw has been taken, but the hole set cannot shoot a goal once the foul has been awarded until the ball has been played by at least one other player. If the hole set attempts a goal without the free throw, the goal is not counted and the defence takes possession of the ball, unless the shot is made outside the 5-metre line. As soon as the hole set has a free pass, the other attacking players attempt to swim (or drive) away from their defenders towards the goal. The players at the flat position will attempt to set a screen (also known as a pick) for the driver. If a driver gets free from a defender, the player calls for the pass from the hole set and attempts a shot at the goal.
Man-Up (5 on 6)
If a defender interferes with a free throw, holds or sinks an attacker who is not in possession or splashes water into the face of an opponent, the defensive player is excluded from the game for twenty seconds, known as a 'kick out' or an ejection. The attacking team typically positions 4 players on the 2 metre line, and 2 players on 5 metre line (4–2), passing the ball around until an open player attempts a shot. Other formations include a 3–3 (two lines of three attackers each) or arc (attackers make an arc in front of the goal and one offensive player sits in the 'hole' or 'pit' in front of the goal). The five defending players try to pressure the attackers, block shots and prevent a goal being scored for the 20 seconds while they are a player down. The other defenders can only block the ball with one hand to help the goalkeeper. The defensive player is allowed to return immediately if the offence scores, or if the defence recovers the ball before the twenty seconds expires.
On defence, the players work to regain possession of the ball and to prevent a goal in their own net. The defence attempts to knock away or steal the ball from the offense or to commit a foul in order to stop an offensive player from taking a goal shot. The defender attempts to stay between the attacker and the goal, a position known as inside water.
Even with good backup from the rest of the defenders, stopping attacks can prove very difficult if the goalkeeper remains in the middle of the goal. The most defensible position is along a semicircular line connecting the goalposts and extending out in the centre. Depending on the ball carrier's location, the goalkeeper is positioned along that semicircle roughly a metre out of the goal to reduce the attacker's shooting angle. The goalkeeper stops using his or her hands to tread water once the opponent enters at about the 7 metre mark and starts to lift their upper body using the eggbeater technique to prepare to block the shot. Finally the goalkeeper tries to block the ball down, which is often hard for the longer reaches, but prevents an offensive rebound and second shot. As is the case with other defensive players, a goalkeeper who aggressively fouls an attacker in position to score can be charged with a penalty shot for the other team. The goalkeeper can also be ejected for twenty seconds if a major foul is committed. Also inside the five metre mark, the goalie can swing at the ball with a closed fist without being penalised.
Advantage rule If an offensive player, such as the centre forward, has possession of the ball in front of the goal, the defensive player tries to steal the ball or to keep the centre from shooting or passing. If the defender cannot achieve these aims, he may commit a foul intentionally. The hole set then is given a free throw but must pass off the ball to another offensive player, rather than making a direct shot at the goal. Defensive perimeter players may also intentionally cause a minor foul and then move toward the goal, away from their attacker, who must take a free throw. This technique, called sloughing, allows the defense an opportunity to double-team the hole set and possibly steal the inbound pass. The referee may refrain from declaring a foul, if in his judgment this would give the advantage to the offender's team. This is known as the Advantage Rule.
Water polo is a contact sport, with little protective gear besides swim suits and caps with ear protectors and thus injuries are common. Among the most frequent serious injuries are those affecting the head and shoulders. Those induced to the head are usually caused by elbows or the ball itself, while shoulder injuries are a result of grabbing or pushing while shooting or passing. Other injuries take place underwater, such as leg and groin injuries, as many things can not be seen from above the surface and not much padding is used to protect the players.
Sunburn is a common minor injury in outdoor matches. The irritation of the sunburn can be restrictive because of the sheer amount of movement involved in the sport. Players will often neglect applying sunscreen as this will impair the player's ability to grip the ball and rapidly deteriorate the ball's physical grip due to the oily nature of sunscreen. Having large amounts of sunscreen on during an official match is banned by FINA and most other state/national governing bodies.
Inner tube water polo is a style of water polo in which players, excluding the goalkeeper, are required to float in inner tubes. By floating in an inner tube players expend less energy than traditional water polo players, not having to tread water. This allows casual players to enjoy water polo without undertaking the intense conditioning required for conventional water polo.
Surf polo, another variation of water polo, is played on surfboards. First played on the beaches of Waikiki in Hawaii in the 1930s and 1940s, it is credited to Louis Kahanamoku, Duke Kahanamoku's brother.
Canoe polo or kayak polo is one of the eight disciplines of canoeing pursued in the UK, known simply as "polo" by its aficionados. Polo combines paddling and ball handling skills with a contact team game, where tactics and positional play are as important as the speed and fitness of the individual athletes.
Flippa ball is a precursor variant intended for younger and beginner players to learn the basics of polo. It is played in shallow water and permits touching the bottom of the pool. Players rotate positions after each score.
Water polo balls: old (left) and new designs
Little player equipment is needed to play water polo. Items required in water polo include:
Male swimsuit (left) and Female swimsuit (right)
Men's water polo at the Olympics was the first team sport introduced at the 1900 games, along with cricket, rugby, football, polo (with horses), rowing and tug of war. Women's water polo became an Olympic sport at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games after political protests from the Australian women's team.
One of the most historically known matches often referred to as the Blood in the Water match, was a 1956 Summer Olympics semi-final match between Hungary and the Soviet Union, played in Melbourne. As the athletes left for the games, the Hungarian revolution began, and the Soviet army crushed the uprising. The Hungarians defeated the Soviets 4–0 before the game was called off in the final minute to prevent angry Hungarians in the crowd reacting to Valentin Prokopov punching Ervin Zador.
Every 2 to 4 years since 1973, a men's Water Polo World Championship is organized within the FINA World Aquatics Championships. Women's water polo was added in 1986. A second tournament series, the FINA Water Polo World Cup, has been held every other year since 1979. In 2002, FINA organised the sport's first international league, the FINA Water Polo World League.
There is also a European Water Polo Championship that is held every other year.
Professional water polo is played in many Southern and Eastern European countries like Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Russia, Spain, etc. with the LEN Euroleague tournament played amongst the best teams.
The Australian national water polo team represents Australia in men's international water polo competitions and is controlled by Australian Water Polo Inc. The national men's team has the nickname of "The Sharks". It is organised into the Asia/Oceania regional group.Australia women's national water polo team
The Australian national women's water polo team represents Australia in women's international water polo competitions and is controlled by Australian Water Polo Incorporated. It is currently organised into the Asia/Oceania regional group.Australian National Water Polo League
The National Water Polo League is the premier Australian domestic water polo competition. The men's league began in 1990 and the women's league started in 2004. Twelve clubs compete in the league, each fielding a women's and a men's team. As of 2012 five clubs are based in Sydney, two in Brisbane, and one each in Adelaide, Fremantle, Melbourne, Newcastle and Perth.The first history of the sport in Australia was launched in February 2009, under the title 'Water Warriors: Chronicle of Australian Water Polo', by Dr. Tracy Rockwell. The 592-page publication features over 1,300 images and is an in-depth reference on water polo in Australia from its very first match in 1879 to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. An updated edition is being planned.European Water Polo Championship
The European Water Polo Championship is a sport competition for national water polo teams, currently held biannually and organized by the Ligue Européenne de Natation (LEN), the governing European aquatics federation. There are both men's and women's competitions.
The first European Water Polo Championship was held in 1926 in Budapest, Hungary, with just a men's competition. The women for the first time competed in 1985 (Oslo, Norway) for the European title. The water polo tournament was part of the European Aquatics Championships up to and including 1997, and from 1999 the event was separated and got its own independent tournament.FINA Water Polo World Cup
The FINA Men's Water Polo World Cup is an international water polo tournament, organized by FINA and featuring eight men's national teams. It was established in 1979, initially taking place on odd years. Since 2002 it is held every four years, in the even-year between Olympics.FINA Water Polo World League
The FINA Water Polo World League is an international water polo league organized by FINA, which plays annually, typically from winter through to June. League play features continental tournaments for men and women, from which the top teams emerge to play in the championship tournament (the "Super Final") where the league champion team is crowned.
Men's league play began in 2002, to capitalize on increased worldwide popularity of water polo created by the 2000 Olympic Games, especially in Europe, North America and Australia. The women’s league was added in 2004, based on growing interest in women's play.Germany men's national water polo team
The Germany national water polo team represents Germany in international men's water polo competitions and friendly matches. It was named Germany's Sportsteam of the Year in 1981.Hungary men's national water polo team
The Hungary men's national water polo team represents Hungary in international men's water polo competitions and is controlled by the Hungarian Water Polo Association. They are considered the world's top power in the history of water polo, having won 15 Olympic, 11 World Championship, 10 FINA World Cup , 8 FINA World League, 24 European Championship and 16 Summer Universiade medals in total of 84.LEN Champions League
The LEN Champions League is the top-tier European professional water polo club competition with teams from up to 18 different countries. It is organized by the Ligue Européenne de Natation.
The competition started in 1963 as Champions Cup. A change of name and format occurred in 1996, with the competition being renamed Champions League and the final four system being established as the format of choice, for the first time during the 1996–97 LEN Champions League. From 2003 to 2011 the competition was named LEN Euroleague (with the change of name being simply a re-branding) and from 2011 and on LEN Champions League, its current name.
LEN Champions League is the most popular water polo league in the European continent. It has been won by 24 different clubs, 10 of which have won the title more than once. The most successful club in the competition is Pro Recco, with eight titles. The current European champion is Olympiacos, who secured their second title after defeating Pro Recco in the 2017–18 LEN Champions League Final in Genoa.Loyola Marymount Lions
The Loyola Marymount Lions are the athletic teams that represent Loyola Marymount University, a Jesuit institution in Los Angeles, California. The school competes in NCAA Division I and the West Coast Conference.NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship
The NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship is an annual tournament to determine the national champion of NCAA men's collegiate water polo. It has been held every year since 1969. With a limited number of NCAA water polo programs at the national level, all men's teams, whether from Division I, Division II, or Division III, are eligible to compete each year. The tournament was expanded from a four-team bracket in 2013 by adding two play-in games that are contested by the bottom four seeds, effectively creating a six-team bracket with a first-round bye for the top two teams.
While the championship often includes teams from around the country, most programs are located within the state of California, and no school from outside California has ever surpassed third place or participated in the NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship game.
The four California based PAC-12 schools have been the most successful. California is the most successful program with 14 titles, followed by UCLA with 11 titles, Stanford (10 titles), and USC (10 titles). One of these four schools has won the championship every year since 1998.NCAA Women's Water Polo Championship
The NCAA Women's Water Polo Championship has existed since the 2001 season. Seven conferences have teams competing in women's water polo: the Big West Conference, the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA), the single-sport Golden Coast Conference, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF), the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) and the Western Water Polo Association (WWPA). Some teams compete at Division III either as members of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference or independently.Serbia men's national water polo team
The Serbia men's national water polo team represents Serbia in international water polo competitions and is controlled by the Water Polo Association of Serbia. FINA considers Serbia to be the inheritor of the records of Yugoslavia and Serbia and Montenegro. They have won gold medals in the Olympics, World and European Championships, World Cup, FINA World League, Mediterranean Games and Universiade.
They are Serbia's most successful national team, having won more titles than all other Serbian national teams combined. In 2016, they became the second team after Hungary to hold titles in all five existing major championships: European Championship, World Championship, World Cup, World League and Olympic Games.United States men's national water polo team
The United States men's national water polo team is the representative for the United States of America in international men's water polo.
The team is the only non-European squad to win medals in the water polo Olympic tournament, most recently during the 2008 Summer Olympics, where they won a silver medal after losing the final to Hungary 14–10.United States women's national water polo team
The United States women's national water polo team represents the United States in international women's water polo competitions and friendly matches. It is one of the leading teams in the world since the late 1990s.
On March 27, 2009, USA Water Polo named Adam Krikorian the head coach of the USA Women’s National Team. Krikorian was the UCLA men's and women's water polo team head coach.Water polo at the 2008 Summer Olympics
Water polo at the 2008 Summer Olympics was held from 10 August to 24 August 2008 at the Ying Tung Natatorium in Beijing, People's Republic of China.Water polo at the 2012 Summer Olympics
The water polo tournament at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom was held at the London 2012 Water Polo Arena in the Olympic Park from 29 July to 12 August. The venue's capacity held 5,000 spectators. Twelve teams competed in the men's tournament and eight teams in the women's tournament.Water polo at the Summer Olympics
Water polo has been part of the Summer Olympics program since the second games, in 1900. A women's water polo tournament was introduced for the 2000 Summer Olympics. Hungary has been the most successful country in men's tournament, while the United States is the only team to win multiple times at the women's tournament since its introduction.Water polo at the World Aquatics Championships
Water polo at the World Aquatics Championships is an international water polo tournament held every two years as part of the FINA World Aquatics Championships. The reigning champions are Croatia in men's and the United States in women's competition.
|Stick and ball sports|