Written by Steve Garcia
Water polo is sport that is team oriented and combines rules from soccer, basketball, ice hockey, and rugby. No other activity compares to water polo as it is both an invigorating and addictive sport that gets your body moving. The unique characteristics of the game are what make water polo such an interesting sport. It is played in a deep pool that measures 30 x 20 meters and involves a lot of swimming.
From a fitness stand point, you get all the benefits of swimming. The swimming style is different to normal swimming as the game is played while treading water. It requires extremely high fitness with emphasis on upper body strength and high power accelerating.
Water polo originated in the mid-19th century England as an aquatic version of rugby. The first games were played in rivers and lakes. In 1870, the London Swimming Association developed a set of water polo rules for indoor swimming pools. At present, water polo is played world wide and include soccer players who play water polo in their off season training. At a competitive level water polo is played as an Olympic sport.
The playing area for water polo is 30 X 20 meters and 2 meters deep. Seven players (a goalkeeper and six field players) complete at a time with each team having 13 players. Players can only handle the ball with one hand with the exception being the goalkeeper. There are four quarters in a game, with each quarter being seven minutes in length. There is a two minute break between each quarter. If the game is tied after four quarters, two periods of overtime are played, with each period being three minutes in length. Sudden death overtime is played if the score is still tied after overtime.
Teams can substitute players after a goal is scored, between periods, for an ejected player, or by swimming to their bench corner and tagging an entering player. There are three time-outs per team during the game. A goal is scored when the ball completely passes the face of the goal. If a goal is scored from more than seven meters out, then two points are awarded. As in basketball, the offensive team has a time limit to shoot the ball. In water polo the shot clock is set at 35 seconds.
Fouls can occur during the game and range from touching the ball with two hands, taking the ball under water when tackled, and pushing off an opponent. The offended team is awarded a free throw at the point of the foul. Major fouls include kicking or striking, and holding, sinking or pulling back an opponent not holding the ball. Major fouls result in the player being excluded for 20 seconds.
As only a good pair of swimming goggles and trunks are required, water polo is a very inexpensive sport to play. The combination of swimming and team competition are what makes water polo an extremely thrilling sport to play.
Water polo is offered at several indoor pools and facilities in the region. Contact Water Polo Alberta (403) 289-4426 or your local parks & recreation department.