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Water polo is a team water sport. The playing team consists of six field players and one goalkeeper. The winner of the game is the team that scores more goals. Gameplay involves swimming, treading water, players passing the ball while being defended by opponents, and scoring by throwing into a net defended by a goalie. Water polo, therefore, has strong similarities to the land-based game of team handball. The frequency of 'man-up' (or 'power play') situations also draws comparisons with ice hockey

Overview

See also: Glossary of Water Polo
Note: Rules below reflect the latest FINA Water Polo Rules 2005–2009.[1]
Seven players from each team (six field players and a goalkeeper) are allowed in the playing area of the pool during game play. Visiting team field players wear numbered and usually White caps, and home team field players wear usually Blue caps (though any other contrasting colors are now allowed); both goalies wear red caps, numbered "1". Both teams may substitute players while the ball is in their possession. During game play, players enter and exit in the corner of the pool, or in front of their goal; when play is stopped, they may enter or exit anywhere.There are 7 people in the field including goal keeper.
The game is divided into four periods; the length depends on the level of play:
Level of play Team level Time each period Authority
Olympics National 8 minutes IOC
FINA Water Polo World League National 8 minutes FINA
Serbian, Russian, Croatian, Italian Water Polo League National 8 minutes VSS
Senior club play Club 8 minutes FINA
US College Varsity 8 minutes NCAA
US College Club 7 minutes CWPA
US High School Varsity 7 minutes NFHS
US High School Junior Varsity 6 minutes NFHS
US High School Freshman/Sophomore 5 minutes NFHS
USA water polo 14&unders 5 minutes
The game clock is stopped when the ball is not 'in play' (between a foul being committed and the free throw being taken, and between a goal being scored and the restart). As a result, the average quarter lasts around 12 minutes 'real time'. A team may not have possession of the ball for longer than 30 seconds[2] without shooting for the goal unless an opponent commits an ejection foul. After 30 seconds, possession passes to the other team. However, if a team shoots the ball within the allotted time, and regains control of the ball, the shot clock is reset to 30 seconds. Each team may call 2 one-minute timeouts in the four periods of regulation play, and one timeout if the game goes into overtime. During game play, only the team in possession of the ball may call a timeout.
Dimensions of the water polo pool[3] are not fixed and can vary between 20 x 10 and 30 x 20 meters. Minimum water depth must be least 1.8 meters (6 feet), but this is often waived for younger age groups. The goals are 3 meters wide and 90 centimetres high. Water polo balls are generally yellow and of varying size and weight for juniors, women and men. The middle of the pool is designated by a white line. Before 2005, the pool was divided by 7 and 4 meter lines (distance out from the goal line). This has been merged into one 5 meter line since the 2005–2006 season. Along the side of the pool, the center area between the 5 meter lines is marked by a green line(if marked at all). The "five meters" line is where penalties are shot and it is designated by a yellow line. The "two meter" line is designated with a red line and no player of the attacking team can receive a ball inside this zone.in other words you cannot be in the red if the ball is not.
One player on each team is designated the goalkeeper, assigned to block any shots at goal. The goalkeeper is the only player who can touch the ball with both hands at any time, and, in a shallow pool, the only player allowed to stand on the bottom.
Players can move the ball by throwing it to a teammate or swimming with the ball in front of them. Players are not permitted to push the ball underwater in order to keep it from an opponent, or push or hold an opposing player unless that player is holding the ball. Water polo is an intensely aggressive sport so fouls are very common, and result in a free throw during which the player cannot shoot at the goal unless beyond the "5 meter" line. If a foul is called outside the 5 meter line, the player is either able to shoot, pass or continue swimming with the ball. Water polo players need remarkable stamina because of the considerable amount of holding and pushing that occurs during the game, some allowed, some unseen or ignored by the referees (usually underwater). There are two types of fouls one (like the scenario above) only results in the "fouler" giving up the ball and backing off. The other results in an ejection or kick out. Ejections are usually given if someone is being a little too aggressive; i.e. drowning or smacking someone. A player can only have 3 ejections before being majored and can not play for the rest of the game. If a player gets a brutality he or she is also not able to finish the game. An example of a brutality would be excessively cruising or intentionally punching someone. Water polo is a physically demanding activity; action is continuous, and players commonly swim 5 kilometers or more during four periods of play.
Water polo is a game requiring excellent eye–hand coordination. The ability to handle and pass the ball flawlessly separates the good teams from the great teams. A pass thrown to a field position player is preferably a "dry pass" (meaning the ball does not touch the water) and allows for optimal speed when passing from player to player with fluid motion between catching and throwing. A "wet pass" is a deliberate pass into the water, just out of reach of the offensive player nearest the goal (the "hole set") and his defender. The hole-set can then lunge towards the ball and out of the water to make a shot or pass. Scoring in water polo can be quite different than in other sports. For example, a "skip" or "bounce shot is fired intentionally at the water with considerable force so it will bounce back up. The ball usually hits the water within a metre of the net, where the goalie cannot anticipate and block the shot. Another shot, called a "lob" is thrown with a large vertical arc. Often these shots are more difficult to stop than a faster shot, as they are usually thrown across a net at such an angle the goalie must not only shift position from one side of the net to the other quickly, but also at the same time propel out of the water more than for other shots. Pump faking is effective when using any kind of shot. The player gets in the position to shoot but stops halfway through the arm-throwing motion, causing the defending goalkeeper to commit too early to block the subsequent shot.
A defender will often foul the player with the ball as a tactic to disrupt the opponent's ball movement. Play continues uninterrupted in most cases, but the attacker must now pass the ball or continue swimming instead of taking a shot. (An exception allows players to quickly pick up the ball and shoot if fouled outside of the five meter mark.) However, as in ice hockey, a player caught committing a major foul, is sent out of the playing area with his team a man-down for 20 seconds, but may return sooner if a goal is scored or his team regains possession. If the foul is judged to be brutal, the player is ejected for the remainder of the game, with substitution by another teammate after four minutes have elapsed. A player, coach or spectator can also be ejected for arguing with the referees. During a man up situation resulting from an ejection foul, the attacking team can expect to score by passing around to move the goalkeeper out of position. A player that has been ejected three times must sit out the whole match with substitution. Water Polo is a very difficult sport.
[edit]Basic skills

Water Polo is a team water activity requiring swimming skills. Players must play both offense and defense, treading water or wrestling before turning back for the opposing team's possession. The front crawl stroke used in water polo differs from the usual swimming style in which water polo players swim with the head out of water at all times to observe the play. The arm stroke used is also a lot shorter and quicker and is used primarily to protect the ball. Backstroke is used by defending players to look for advancing opponents and by the goalie to track the ball after passing. Water polo backstroke differs from swimming backstroke; the player sits up a bit in the water, using eggbeater leg like motions with short arm strokes to the side instead of long arm strokes. This allows the player to see the play and quickly switch positions. It also allows the player to quickly catch a pass.


Goalie eggbeaters up to block a shot.
As all field players are only allowed to touch the ball with one hand at a time, they must develop the ability to catch and throw the ball with either hand and also the ability to catch a ball from any direction, including across the body using the momentum of the incoming ball. Experienced water polo players can catch and release a pass or shoot with a single motion. The size of the ball can overwhelm a small child's hand making the sport more suitable for older children. There are also smaller balls that can be used by younger children when playing.
Treading water: The most common form of water treading is generally referred to as "egg-beater",[4] named because the circular movement of the legs resembles the motion of an egg-beater. Egg beater is used for most of the match as the players cannot touch the bottom of the pool. The advantage of egg-beater is that it allows the player to maintain a constant position to the water level, and uses less energy than other forms of treading water such as the scissor kick, which result in the player bobbing up and down. It can be used vertically or horizontally. Horizontal egg-beater is used to resist forward motion of an attacking player. Vertical eggbeater is used to maintain a position higher than the opponent. By kicking faster for a brief period the player can get high out of the water (as high as their suit—below their waistline) for a block, pass, or shot.
Reflexes and Awareness: At higher levels of the sport the pace of play rapidly increases, so that anticipation and mental preparation is important. "Field sense" is a major advantage in scoring, even if a player lacks the speed of an opponent.[5]
[edit]Positions

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 consist of the center (or hole set), the point (who also usually plays center back or hole defender), the two wings and the two flats. Players who are skilled in all of these positions on offensive or defensive 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 2-sided attacks.
[edit]Offense
The offensive positions include: one center (a.k.a. two-meter offense, hole set, set, hole man, bucket, pit player or pit-man), two wings (located on or near the 2-meter), two drivers (also called "flats," located on or near the 5-meter), and one "point" (usually just behind the 5 meter), 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 goalies 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.
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").
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). The center's position nearest to the goal allows explosive shots from close-range ("step-out" or "roll-out", "sweep," or backhand shots).
Another, albeit less common offense(violation), is the motion offense 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 center who can then either shoot or pass. This form of offense is used when no dominate hole set is available, or the hole defense 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 center. The best advantage to this system is it makes man-coverage much more difficult for the defender and allows the offense 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.
[edit]Defense
Defensive positions are often the same positionally, but just switched from offense to defense. For example, the center forward or hole set, who directs the attack on offense, on defense is known as "hole D" ( a.k.a. set guard, hole check, pit defense or two-meter defense), and guards the opposing team's center forward (also called the hole). Defense 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" defense, in which the point defender moves away ("sloughs off") his man into a zone in order to better defend the center position. In this defense, 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.
[edit]Goalie
The goalkeeper is generally one of the more challenging positions not only in the sport of water polo, but in any sport. A goalie has to be able to jump out of the water, using little more than one's core and legs, and hold the vertical position without sinking into the water, all while tracking and anticipating a shot. The goal is 2.8 m2 in face area; the goalie should also be a master of fast, effective lateral movement in the water as well as lightning fast lunges out of the water to block a shot. Another key job that the goalkeeper is responsible for is guiding and informing his or her defense of imposing threats and gaps in the defense, and making helpful observations to identify a gap in the defense that the defenders may or can not see. The goalkeeper is also the "quarterback", as he or she usually begins the offensive play. It is not unusual for a goalie to make the assisting pass to a goal on a break away.
The goalkeeper is given several privileges above those of the other players, but only if he or she is within the five meter area in front of his or her goal:
The ability to touch the ball with two hands.
The ability to touch the bottom of the pool. (Pool depth permitting- most competitions state the pool has to be at least 2m deep)[6]
In general, a foul that would cause an ejection of a field player might only bring on a five metre shot on the goalie. The goalkeeper also has one limitation that other players do not have: he or she cannot cross the half-distance line. Also, if a goalie pushes the ball under water, it is not a turnover like with field players. It is a penalty shot, also called a 5-meter shot, or simply, a "5-meter".
[edit]Offense strategy



Five meter penalty shooting
If a defender commits a major foul within the five meter area that prevents a likely goal, the attacking team is awarded a penalty throw or shot. An attacking player lines up on the five meter line in front of the opposing goal. No other player may be in front of him or within 2 meters of his position. The defending goalkeeper must be between the goal posts. The referee signals with a whistle and by lowering his arm, and the player taking the penalty shot must immediately throw the ball with an uninterrupted motion toward the goal, no pumping or faking is permitted. The shooter’s body can not at any time cross the 5 meter line until after the ball is released. If the shooter carries his body over the line and shoots the result is a turn over. If the shot does not score and the ball stays in play than the play continues. Penalty shots are often successful.
[edit]Scoring
A goal is scored if the ball completely passes between the goal posts and is underneath the crossbar. If a shot bounces off a goal post back into the field of play, the ball is rebounded by the players and the shot clock is reset. If the shot goes outside the goal and on to the deck (outside the field of play) then the ball is automatically recovered by the defense. If the goalie, however, is the last to touch the ball before it goes out of play behind the goal line, or if a defender purposely sends the ball out, then the offense receives the ball at the two meter line for a corner throw or "two meter" much like a corner kick in soccer or football. When the goalie blocks a shot, the defense may gain control of the ball, and make a long pass to a teammate who stayed on his offensive end of the pool when the rest of his team was defending. This is called cherry-picking or sea gulling.
[edit]Overtime
FINA
If the score is tied at the end of regulation play, two overtime periods of three minutes each are played. If the tie is not broken after two overtime periods, a penalty shootout will determine the winner. Five players and a goalkeeper are chosen by the coaches of each team. A player cannot be chosen if he or she was ejected three times during the match. Players shoot from the 5 meter line alternately at either end of the pool in turn until all five have taken a shot. If the score is still tied, the same players shoot alternately until one team misses and the other scores. Overtime periods are common in tournament play because of the high level of skill of these superior teams.
NCAA
Differing from FINA rules, after the two three-minute overtime periods in American college varsity water polo, the teams play three-minute sudden death periods until a team scores a goal and wins the game.[7]
NHSF
American High School water polo plays overtime as a "sudden death" period of a specified time limit. If this results in a tie, the teams engage in a shootout as described in FINA rules above.
[edit]Defense strategy



Water polo defense: A defender may only hold, block or pull an opponent who is touching or holding the ball.
On defense, the players work to regain possession of the ball and to prevent a goal in their own net. The defense 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.
[edit]Advantage rule

If an offensive player, such as the hole set (center forward), has possession of the ball in front of the goal, the defensive player tries to steal the ball or to keep the center 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.[8]
[edit]Fouls




Male field player swimsuit
Goals: Two goals are needed in order to play water polo. These can either be put on the side of the pool, or in the pool using floaters.
Mouthguard: The use of a mouthguard is recommended due to the extreme amount of contact involved with water polo.
Swimwear: Male water polo players wear swim briefs or jammers. Female players must wear a one-piece swimsuit. Suit-grabbing fouls are common, so players often wear tight-fitting suits, and layer on several suits at a time for additional security. Many swimwear labels also sell specialized water polo suits that feature reinforced stitching and tougher fabric. Most female water polo suits do not have open backs, but zip securely up the back so as to not have straps that can be easily grabbed.
[edit]History

Main article: History of water polo
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.[13][14] 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 Serbia, Russia, Croatia, Italy, Montenegro, Greece and Hungary), 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 waterproof nylon. Water Polo was influenced by a man named Stephane Licina, who also played the sport.


William Wilson, Scottish aquatics pioneer and originator of the first rules of water polo.
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 Indian rubber. This "water rugby" came to be called "water polo" based on the English pronunciation of the Balti word for ball, pulu.[15][16] Early play allowed brute strength, wrestling and holding opposing players underwater to recover the ball; 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.
[edit]Major competitions

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.[17] Women's water polo became an Olympic sport at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games after political protests from the Australian women's team.
Main article: Blood In The Water match
The most famous water polo match in history is probably the 1956 Summer Olympics semi-final match between Hungary and the Soviet Union. As the athletes left for the games, the Hungarian revolution began, and the Soviet army was crushed in 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 organized 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, Russia, Italy, Spain, etc. with the LEN Euroleague tournament played amongst the best teams.
[edit]Water polo federations, teams, and clubs

NCAA Men's Water Polo Championship
NCAA Women's Water Polo Championship
U.S. Intercollegiate Women's Water Polo Championship (pre-NCAA)
Serbia men's national water polo team
Russia men's national water polo team
[edit]Water polo rules

FINA water polo rules
USA Water Polo rules

 

 

 

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