Water Polo: History, Rules, Types, Equipment, and more

In this article, we have mentioned information related to the sports Water Polo, its history, rules, types, equipment, and more about it in detail.

Water polo is a fun and challenging team sport played in a pool with two teams of seven players each. The goal is to throw a ball into the goal of the opponent to score points. There is a goalie who defends the goal. It is a fast and physical game where players swim and move in the water using different strokes and kicks. They can pass, dribble, or shoot the ball to score while also defending their own goal.

The game is divided into four quarters, each lasting about eight minutes with short breaks in between. The teams try to outscore each other by using smart strategies to create scoring chances and by defending their goal well. The goalie is important in blocking shots and starting counter-attacks. Playing water polo requires being in good shape, having strength, and speed, and being smart about the game.

There are rules like exclusion fouls where a player has to leave the water for a short time. The players wear caps to show which team they are on, and the pool has marked lines to keep the game fair. Water polo is not just about individual skills, teamwork is important too. It is a sport enjoyed by people at different levels, from casual play to competitive international matches.


History of Water Polo

Water Polo: History, Rules, Types, Equipment, and more
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Water polo has been around for a long time as it was started in the late 1800s, and is thought to have started in Great Britain. It is a mix of rugby and soccer but played in the water. The official rules were made in 1877 by William Wilson who made water polo one of the first team sports with official rules. It spread to other European countries. In 1885, England and Scotland had the first international match. Water polo became an Olympic sport in 1900 in Paris, Summer Olympics and since then, it has been known worldwide. They have changed some rules over the years, like making a two-meter rule to limit rough play and encourage more strategy. Nowadays, water polo is played at different levels, from local clubs to big international competitions like the Olympics. 

Rules of Water Polo

1. Playing Field and Teams

  • Played in a pool with specific dimensions depending on the level of play (typically 20-30m long, 10-20m wide, and 1.8m deep).
  • Each team consists of 7 players in the water (6 field players and 1 goalkeeper) with substitutes available.

2. Objective

  • Score goals by throwing the ball past the opponent’s goalkeeper.

3. Basic Gameplay

  • Players can only use one hand to handle the ball, except for the goalkeeper who can use two hands.
  • Players cannot touch the bottom of the pool except for the goalkeeper.
  • The ball can be advanced by passing, dribbling (holding the ball on top of the water while swimming), or throwing.
  • Teams have 30 seconds to shoot the ball after gaining possession.

4. Fouls and Penalties

  • Fouls are common and occur for various reasons like holding, pushing, or sinking the ball underwater.
  • Minor fouls result in a free throw awarded to the opposing team.
  • Major fouls (e.g., third ejection foul) lead to a player exclusion and a penalty throw.

5. Game Duration and Scoring

  • The game is divided into four periods, with the length varying depending on the age group or competition level.
  • There’s no overtime in international water polo; games tied after regulation proceed to a shootout if a winner is required.

6. Additional Points

  • There are specific rules regarding goalkeeper movement and actions within the penalty area.
  • Offside rules apply within 2 meters of the opponent’s goal.
  • Substitutions can be made throughout the game.

Types of Water Polo

Here are some of the different types of water polo:

1. Traditional Water Polo

Water Polo: History, Rules, Types, Equipment, and more
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This is the most widely recognized and played version of the sport. It is played in a deep pool with two teams of seven players each. Players use their hands to throw and pass the ball, and they are allowed to use physical contact to gain an advantage.

2. Inner Tube Water Polo

Water Polo: History, Rules, Types, Equipment, and more
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This is a less physically demanding version of water polo that is often played for fun or recreation. Players, except for the goalkeeper, are required to float on inner tubes while playing. This variation allows people of all fitness levels to enjoy the game without the intense conditioning required for traditional water polo.

3. Surf Polo

Water Polo: History, Rules, Types, Equipment, and more
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This variation is played on surfboards in the ocean. It originated in Hawaii in the 1930s and is a popular activity for surfers and beachgoers. The game is similar to traditional water polo, but the use of surfboards adds an element of challenge and excitement.

4. Canoe Polo or Kayak Polo

Water Polo: History, Rules, Types, Equipment, and more
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This variation is played in canoes or kayaks instead of on foot. Players use paddles to maneuver their boats and hit the ball. Canoe polo is a physically demanding sport that requires a high level of paddling skill and teamwork.

Equipment of Water Polo

Water Polo: History, Rules, Types, Equipment, and more

Water polo is a physically demanding team sport played in the water, and players require specific equipment to participate. Here is a list of essential equipment used in water polo:

1. Water Polo Ball: Similar in size to a soccer ball, water polo balls are designed to float on the water’s surface. They are typically made of waterproof material, such as rubber or similar materials.

2. Water Polo Goals: These are structures placed at each end of the pool and consist of a metal frame with a net. The goals are designed to float on the water and are positioned approximately 3 meters (10 feet) apart.

3. Swimsuit: Players wear tight-fitting swimsuits, often referred to as water polo suits or trunks, for better mobility in the water. Women may also wear one-piece swimsuits.

4. Swim Cap: Players often wear swim caps to reduce resistance in the water and to help teammates identify each other in the pool.

5. Goggles: While not always worn, some players opt to wear goggles to protect their eyes and improve visibility in the water.

6. Mouthguard: Due to the physical nature of water polo, players wear mouthguards to protect their teeth and jaws from accidental collisions.

7. Ear Guards: Also known as earplugs or ear guards, these are used to prevent water from entering the ears and to protect against ear injuries.

8. Nose Clip: Some players use nose clips to prevent water from entering their noses, particularly during underwater play.

9. Water Polo Caps: Caps are worn by each player to distinguish between teams. They also help protect the players’ heads from the impact of the ball and other players.

10. Goalie Cap: The goalie wears a distinctive cap that often has additional padding to protect against shots and provide visibility.

11. Goalie Blocker and Glove: The goalie uses a large padded blocker to deflect shots and a glove to catch or block the ball. The goalie’s equipment is specifically designed for protection.

12. Whistle: Referees use whistles to signal the start and stop of play, fouls, and other game-related events.

Events of Water Polo

1. Olympic Games

Water polo is one of the summer Olympic sports. The next Olympic Games will be held in Paris in 2024.

2. World Aquatics Championships

The World Aquatics Championships are held every two years and feature competitions in a variety of aquatic sports, including water polo. The next World Aquatics Championships will be held in Fukuoka, Japan, in 2023.

3. FINA Water Polo World League

The FINA Water Polo World League is an annual competition for national teams. The league is divided into several divisions, with the top division featuring the best teams in the world.

4. NCAA Men’s and Women’s Water Polo Championships

The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Water Polo Championships are the highest level of collegiate water polo in the United States. The championships are held each spring.

5. High School Water Polo

Water polo is a popular sport at the high school level in many countries around the world. There are many regional, state, and national championships held for high school water polo teams.


In conclusion, water polo was rooted in the late 1800s and has evolved into a dynamic and global sport. Its rich history, rules, diverse variations, and essential equipment make it a challenging yet enjoyable team endeavor. From local matches to prestigious events like the Olympics, water polo continues to captivate players and fans alike.

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