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Water Polo Terms Explained

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Your child will have a tough time getting the hang of water polo if they don’t understand the game’s lingo. Communication between players, coaches and referees is crucial to the game. Here are a few terms you and your child will come across in the pool.

Advantage Rule

Permits the referee to refrain from calling a foul if, in their opinion, the foul would be an advantage to the offending team.

All Rounder

A well-rounded player that is able to play most, if not all, the positions for their team.

Ball Under

A technical foul that occurs when a player holds the ball underwater while being held or tackled by an opponent.

Bunny Shot

A goal that’s scored by a hard shot aimed at, or close to, the goalie’s head.

Corner Throw

Awarded when the goalkeeper deflects the ball out of bounds, or a defensive player intentionally sends the ball over the back line.

Counter Attack

An offensive strategy that tries to give the offense an advantage by quickly moving the ball down the pool after a turnover.

Dead Time

Refers to the time between the whistle after a foul, which stops the clock, and the resetting of the clock after the ball returns to play.

Double Post

An offensive strategy that uses two players in the post, with one positioned in front of each goal post.


Swimming while controlling the ball in front of the head.


Similar to a zone defense where the defensive players drop back to protect the middle of the pool and block shots, while also making shooting more difficult.

Dry Pass

A pass made where the ball is caught without touching the water.


A kicking stroke used for stability and support in treading water, similar to an alternating breaststroke kick.

Field Player

A player other than the goalkeeper.


Refers to the positioning of an offensive player. The flats are usually the area 15 to 20 feet to the side of each goal post, from which most drives are initiated.

Free Throw

The method of putting the ball in play after the team is awarded the ball by the referee. It must be taken from the spot the infraction occurred (or anywhere behind that point),unless otherwise specified. The free throw can be taken by any player, and they may pass or dribble the ball. They cannot shoot on net unless the foul occurred outside the 5-meter zone.


Defensive positioning where the defender stays in the passing lane between the ball and the 2-meter man.

Goal Throw

A free throw by the goalkeeper, awarded when the ball goes over the end line after being touched by an offensive player other than the goalkeeper. Also awarded if a defensive player unintentionally tips the ball over the back line.


A quick and sudden shot taken by a perimeter player following a pass from the 2-meter man in an effort to catch the defenders and goalkeeper off guard.

Inside Water

A situation when the offensive player has an advantageous position in front of the defender, with nothing but open water between them and the goalkeeper.

Lane Press

A defensive strategy where defensive players are positioned in the passing lanes (between the ball and their man), rather than between their man and the goal.

Lob Shot

A high-arcing shot that is intended to fall above the goalie’s hands and below the crossbar.

Neutral Throw

Similar to a jump ball in basketball; the referee drops the ball between players from each team.

Penalty Shot

A free shot taken by an offensive player upon the referee’s whistle from the 5-meter line. Awarded for a foul that occurs inside the 5-meter line preventing a goal.


Creating a screen to impede a defender and free another offensive player for a shot attempt.


A position at the top of an offensive set.


The most commonly used defensive strategy, a man-to-man defense.


A free throw by the 2-meter man where the ball is passed to a teammate on the perimeter.

Wet Shot

A shot that is attempted while the ball is touching the water, usually a quick, wrist shot; also called an off-the-water shot.


An area on the perimeter of the offensive set, away from the center of the pool.

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