A Spectator’s Guide to Water Polo “Quick Start”, By Peter W. Pappas Field of Play
  • In a 25-yard (meter), six- (or eight-) lane pool, the entire pool constitutes the field of play. In larger pools, the perimeter of the field of play may be indicated by lane lines. The maximum size of the field of play is 75 feet (25 meters) long by 66 feet (20 meters) wide.

  • The pool (field of play) is divided into areas by colored cones (or markers) along the side of the pool. The colored cones are placed as follows:

    • Goal line – white cone: A goal counts only when the ball goes completely across the goal line and into the goal (close does not count); the ball is out of bounds if it goes completely across the goal line and not into the goal.

    • 2-meter line – red cone: No offensive player is allowed to swim inside of the 2-meter line unless he/she has possession of the ball.

    • 5-meter line – yellow cone: If a defensive player commits a foul inside of the 5-meter line which prevents a “probable goal,” the defensive player is charged with a penalty (personal) foul and the opposing team is awarded a penalty throw (a “5-meter”). If an offensive player is fouled outside of the 5-meter line, the offensive player may pick up the ball and take an immediate shot at the opponent’s goal (i.e., two players do not have to touch the ball before a goal can be scored).

    • Mid-pool – white cone: After each goal is scored, play is re-started at mid-pool; the goalkeepers are not permitted to go across the mid-pool line. Players

  • Each team must have seven players (six field players & one goalkeeper) in the water when the game starts.

  • Either team may substitute players freely after a goal is scored, during a time-out, or between periods.

  • During actual play, substitutions must occur through the team’s re-entry area (the corner of the pool in front of the team’s bench).

  • If an illegal player (i.e., an 8th player or a player who has fouled-out of the game) enters the field of play, that player is excluded from the remainder of the game and the opposing team is awarded a penalty throw.

Fouls
  • Ordinary foul: The most common type of foul called is the “ordinary foul.”

    • For an ordinary foul, the referee blows the whistle once and points in the direction of the attack (i.e., the direction that the offensive team is moving).

    • The player who was fouled (or a teammate) puts the ball into play by taking a free throw.

    • If the ordinary foul is against a defensive player, the offensive team retains possession of the ball and takes the free throw. If the ordinary foul is against an offensive player (an “offensive foul”), the defensive team takes possession of the ball and takes the free throw.

    • If a defender interferes with the taking of the free throw, the defender is excluded (ejected or “kicked out,” see below).

    • In most cases, a player taking a free throw cannot take a shot at the opponent’s goal. o During the period of time between the referee’s whistle and the taking of the free throw (“dead time”), players may continue to swim and strive for position (i.e., play does not stop).

    • Examples of some common ordinary fouls include (but are not limited to):

      • Touching the ball with two hands (does not apply to goalkeeper inside of the 5-meter line).

      • Walking on or pushing off the bottom of the pool (does not apply to the goalkeeper inside of the 5 meter line).

      • Impeding a player who is not holding the ball.

      • Throwing the ball out of the field of play.

      • Failing to take a shot within 35 seconds (letting the shot clock expire).

      • There is no limit to the number of ordinary fouls that a player can commit during a game.

  • Exclusion foul (a.k.a. ejection or kick-out)

    • For an exclusion foul, the referee blows the whistle several times, points in the direction of the attack with one arm, and with a sweeping motion of the other arm signals the player to the team’s re-entry area (the corner of the field of play immediately in front of the team’s bench).

    • The player who was fouled (or a teammate) puts the ball into play with a free throw. As above (“ordinary foul”), play does not stop during “dead time.”

    • The excluded player must swim to the team’s re-entry area without interfering with play.

    • If an excluded player interferes with play, that player is charged with a penalty foul and the offended team is awarded a penalty throw.

    • An excluded player may re-enter the game when:

      • There is a change in possession.

      • A goal is scored.

      • 20-seconds of playing time elapses.

      • The referee signals a change in possession.

      • When re-entering the game, a player may not push off the side or bottom of the pool.

    • An exclusion foul is a “personal foul.”

      • If a player receives three personal fouls (exclusion + penalty fouls), he/she is excluded from the remainder of the game with substitution.

    • Examples of exclusion fouls include (but are not limited to):

      • Holding, sinking, or pulling back a player who is not holding the ball.

      • Interfering with the taking of a free throw.

      • Splashing water in an opponent player’s face.

      • To commit an act of misconduct (e.g., obscene or abusive language) or disrespect.

      • If a player exits the pool from anywhere other than the re-entry area during actual play (i.e., climbs out of the water along the edge of the pool), it is considered disrespect. The player would be excluded from the remainder of the game with substitution.

    • Brutality (a player who commits an act of brutality is excluded from the reminder of the game and can’t play next game within that division). The team in which the excluded player was on plays a man down (5 on 6) for four minutes. After 4 minutes a substitute can enter the game through the re-entry area.

  • Penalty Foul

    • For a penalty foul, the referee blows the whistle twice and then raises his/her hand above the head with five fingers extended.

    • It is a penalty foul to commit any offense within the 5-meter line that prevents a team from scoring a “probable goal.”

    • When a penalty foul is called, the offending player is charged with a penalty foul (a “personal foul”) and the opposing team is awarded a penalty throw (a “5-meter”).

    • If a team is awarded a penalty throw, any player on that team in the water, except the goalkeeper, may take the penalty throw.

    • The player taking the penalty throw must take the throw, with zero hesitation on the referee’s whistle, from the offensive 5-meter line

    • With floating goals, the defending goalkeeper must be entirely inside of goal (i.e., inside of the goal and behind the goal line). With wall-mounted goals, the goalkeeper’s hips must be on the goal line.

Time-outs
  • Each team may call two time-outs during the four quarters of regular play. An extra timeout is rewarded to each team for overtime. All time-outs are 1-minute long.

  • When the ball is in play, only the team in possession of the ball may call a time-out.

  • Either team may call a time-out after a goal is scored or before the taking of a penalty shot.

Southside Water Polo Club, Houston, TX    Email: southsidewpc@gmail.com

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