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The Basics of Water Polo

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Authored by Neal F. Litherland in Water Sports
Published on 09-09-2009

For those who think that water polo is a cruel game because it may involve the accidental drowning of horses, what you probably need is a guide to just what water polo is and isn’t. First of all, unlike polo that takes place in a field, water polo involves both teams in a pool. It also involves a ball and two goals, one at either end of the pool. Like any other game set up like this the goal is for one team to throw the ball through the other team’s goal and score points. As usual, the team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Water polo starts off simply enough. Both teams line up on the center goal line in the middle of the pool and one team is given possession of the ball. For those who don’t know, in water polo a player can only ever touch the ball with one hand at any given time. The team in possession of the ball then advances by swimming forward with the option of passing the ball between players. When an offensive player crosses over the 7 yard line (which is located 7 yards from the goal) he may then shoot the ball in a single, smooth motion without faking or stuttering. Once a player crosses the 4 yard line then the goalie may act as a regular field player.

Once the advancing team has made it past the 7 yard line they will attempt to score by throwing the ball into the goal. Once a point is scored this way both teams return to the center line in the middle of the pool and the team who did not score is given possession of the ball. This system of play will continue until the end of the game when the team with the highest number of points is declared the winner.

A single game of water polo is also divided into 4 separate, 7 minute quarters. A game clock will count down the time that’s left in each quarter and a shot clock will keep count while a single side is in possession of the ball. Both of these clocks will stop immediately once a foul is committed and they won’t be started again until the ball has been put back into play. With these clocks constantly stopping and with the breaks in between quarters, a single game of water polo usually lasts well over an hour.

Water polo may not be the game for everyone, since it can feel like a bizarre love child of a three way mating between swimming, basketball, and soccer, but it is becoming more popular. Ever since it was added to the Olympic games in 1990, water polo has more or less been legitimized as a sport. If you’re interested in joining a team, then local YMCA’s or other public pools would be the place to look to try out your skills. For more information on the game of water polo, including rules, fouls, whistles, and terminology visit this website.

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