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Rules of Water Polo

By Timothy Sexton

Water polo is a fast and furious sport played in a pool between two teams of seven players. The object of the game is to toss a ball into the opposing team's goal. A water polo match consists of four quarters that each last seven minutes. If the game ends in a draw two- more three-minute sessions are allowed. The reason the game is called water polo is that originally players rode atop barrels and hit the ball off the surface of the water with a stick.


To score a point, the ball must cross the line between the goal posts and the crossbar. A goal can technically be scored no matter which part of the body actually propels the ball into the goal, from an elbow to the head. In most cases, however, goals are scored by the ball actually being tossed.


Each team consists of seven players. The goalkeeper is not allowed to move past a line situated 2 meters from the goalline. All other players are allowed to move anywhere within the field. The center forward takes a position directly in front of the other team's goalie. The other five players are called perimeter players and generally move around the field playing offense and defense as needed.

Ball Handling

The goalkeeper is the only player on the field allowed to touch the ball with both hands. They are also allowed to touch the bottom surface of the pool. Field players are only allowed to touch the ball with one hand.

Treading Water

No player except that goalie is allowed to touch the bottom of the pool. Outfield players must therefore tread water even when catching or throwing the ball. The way that momentum and power is gained in a throw is by propelling their bodies slightly out of the water.

Regulation Pool Size

Although a pickup game of water polo can be played in any sized pool, certain requirements must be met for the game to meet tournament regulations. The pool must be at least 5 feet, 9 inches deep. The dimensions of the pool are 96 feet, 6 inches long and 65 feet 6 inches wide. The goal must be placed 9 feet, 9 inches by 3 feet above the surface of the water.

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