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Here’s a quick guide to understanding the rules and game of water polo. This way, when we start practice you’ll have some idea of what’s going on.

Number and positions of players

Positions - Water Polo

There are seven players on a team; six field players and one goalie.

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Ashleigh Johnson, USA team goalie. One of the best in the world.

The goalie can use two hands to catch, throw or stop the ball. Otherwise, players can only use one hand on the ball.

Players can go anywhere in the pool and play any position. However, there are a few specialty positions.

Water Polo Positions – Waterpolo

The first is the “Hole” position. Sometimes it is called the “Hole set” position. Similar to a center in basketball, they are usually your biggest and strongest player. They will position themselves directly in front of the opponents cage (goal) about two to four meters away from the front of the cage.

One the defensive side, the player that covers the Hole is called the “Two Meter Defender”. They are usually the bigger and stronger players as well.

Some of the fiercest tussling and wrestling in the game is when these two players are tangling for position and trying to score.

To either side of the Hole are the wings. Ideally, the right side of the pool will have a left-handed player (for a better shooting angle).

Then further way from the Hole is the “Flat” position. And at the top of the formation is the “Point”.

The Flats and the Point besides being good passers are always thinking about defense and preventing the counter-attack.

Notice in the diagram that there are numbers for the position. This helps communicate position and movement both with and without the ball.

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Umbrella Formation

The overall formation is called an “umbrella” and it’s an ideal formation that we will strive to create.

However, water polo is dynamic and players are constantly swimming and moving around.

At any point, you may have to be the Hole. And most likely, you will definitely have to a 2 Meter Defender. Even if you’re only 5 feet tall and weight ninety pounds!

Rules and Regulations

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There are lots of rules (and they are being changed all the time). But here are the very basic rules.

There are a few types of fouls in water polo:
a. Minor or ordinary. Awarded with a free throw to the opposing team.
b. Major or Personal Foul. These are more serious. There are three types:
1. Exclusion: Commit an exclusion foul and you are removed from the field of play for 20 seconds.
2. Penalty: If you commit an Exclusion foul within five meters of the goal, the opposing team gets a penalty shot (free shot on the goalie, five meters away).
3. Exclusion: If you commit three personal fouls during a game you will be removed from the game. Also, if you fight, talk back to the referee, are commit a dangerous act, you will be removed from the game.

“Coach Ron will be VERY upset if you lose your temper at any point in the game or practice.”

n some cases, your team will have to play out the remainder of the game a player down. Usually in this situation you will be suspended from playing in the next game as well.

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  1. Field players can only use one hand on the ball at all times. This is a common rule for beginners to break, especially if they are learning how to catch and throw.

    If you break this rule, the ref will blow the whistle two times and the ball will be turned over to the other team.
  2. Putting the ball under water while being pressured from a defender.

    This is another very common problem with beginners. It’s why you will learn to do a “hand transfer” and other ways to pick the ball up safely and securely.
  3. Impeding a player with your hands. This is where much of the skill and strategy of polo takes place.

    You may not impede or slow down a player who does not have the ball with your hands. You can of course, use your body and sometimes arms.

    If the opponent has the ball you can use your arms to stop or slow them down. However, if they drop the ball then you have to immediately release them. You then show the referee both hands to prove you are innocent.

    Sometimes you may want to foul an opponent on purpose. This stops the clock and gives your teammates time to get in position.

Are you ready to play? The next page is how you can get ready to play. You may not have a pool, but there’s lots of ways to make sure you’re ready to begin!

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