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Basic Rules of Water Polo

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Following these four guidelines will help your child as he or she gets ready to play water polo.

New to Water Polo - Starting the Game

Starting the Game

Games are started with both teams on their own sides of the pool. The referee will then place the ball in the center of the pool and then both teams race to the ball. The first one to reach it gains the first possession of the game. These sprints will start play at the beginning of each quarter.

New to Water Polo - Moving the Ball

Moving the Ball

When trying to get down the pool quickly, players will perform a basic front stroke, while keeping their head above water and looking forward, with the ball in front of them. This allows them to continually push the ball ahead of them without slowing their pace. Players are also allowed to pass the ball to their teammates, however, players are only allowed to handle the ball with one hand, except for the goalie who can use two.

New to Water Polo - Out of Bounds

Out of Bounds

If the ball goes out of the playing area, or hits the edge of the pool and then falls back into the water, a free throw is given to the team that did not touch the ball last.

New to Water Polo - Fouls


There are two different types of fouls in water polo: minor (ordinary) fouls, and major (personal) fouls. There is no limit to the amount of minor fouls a player can commit, but they will be removed from the competition after recording three major fouls and may not return.

Minor Fouls

After a minor foul, a member of the fouled team starts play back up by taking a free throw. If the foul is committed outside the 6-meter line, though, then the player may take the free throw as a direct shot at the goal. There are numerous minor fouls in the game of water polo, which coaches will continually teach.

Major Fouls

A major foul is assigned to the player who commits it, and therefore they are often referred to as a personal foul. A major foul can result in the player being excluded from play for 20 seconds, or from the remainder of the game. Major fouls are often handed out for violence or disrespect towards other players. A player fouls out of the game after three major fouls.

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Water Polo

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