Water Polo 101

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By Tamara Hoyt

By Tamara Hoyt

Women’s water polo was the only sport that won a state championship last year at RCC. 28-0 this season and 71-1 over the past two years, water polo has proven itself at our college. But how much do we all know about water polo?

Water polo is an evolution of the English sport, Rugby. This form of Rugby was played in rivers and lakes in Europe. This “water rugby” came to be called water polo from the European word for ball, pulu. Although is was spawned from Rugby, it is best described as a combination of soccer, swimming, rugby, hokey, wrestling, and cage fighting. This brutal sport lives and dies by the term, “No blood, no foul,” and, “If there is blood, and the referee dosen’t see it, you’re good.”

Water polo is played in a pool 25-meters long by 15-meters wide by 3-meters deep. There are typically no hard walls along the perimeter of the play area, although they are allowed if the pool will not permit for the suggested setup. The center of the pool is denoted by a white line on the sidelines and deck of the pool.

There is a five-meter line on either side of the pool five meters from the goal line where penalties are shot. There is also a two-meter line two meters from the goal line that no offensive player can enter without the ball.

Six field players and one goalie line up on the goal line. The referee, recognized by head-to-toe white attire, blows the whistle to began the sprint off. The fastest swimmer on either team, called the sprinter, swims from the goal line to the center of the pool in hopes of beating the other team’s sprinter to gain control of the ball. Whichever team wins the sprint will be on offense first.

The team swims down to the opposite side of the pool and has a 35-second shot clock to score the ball. If they shoot and rebound the ball or the goalkeeper blocks it out of bounds, the shot clock is reset and they get another chance to score. If they shoot and lose the rebound or if a field player on either team blocks the ball out of bounds they must swim back to the other side of the pool and play defense. They do this for eight minutes, or until the end of the first quarter. The game is 32 minutes long with a two minute break between each eight-minute quarter.

So now we know what a water polo game is, right? Not even close. Outside of the basic structure of the game are penalties. Aside from sprint offs, referees are responsible for calling fouls, ejections, penalty shots, brutalities, and goals.

Fouls are committed by touching a player that is not touching the ball. If a player is holding the ball and lets go of it the referee will call a foul. If the foul is committed outside of the five meter line the offensive player may shoot the ball if it is done in one move. If the offender fakes a shot and then shots it, the ball will be turned over to the defensive team. The ball is put in play by placing the ball in the water and picking it back up, or passing the ball.

If the fouler approaches the goulie before the ball is in play, they will be ejected. Another way to be ejected is to swim over a player on the other team. The third way to be ejected is if you “play” a player rather than a ball. This means if you swing or hack at a player with an open hand rather that at the ball. If you close your hand however, you will get a brutality. A brutality is a deliberate attack against another player. This includes kicking, punching, or elbowing a player on purpose. Accidental contact is allowed to an extent. You are allowed one brutality or three ejections before you are kicked out of the game permanently.

On either an ejection or brutality call, there is a 20-second power play. Like in hockey, the offensive team play one man up from the defense. This is referred to as 6 on 5. They move the ball around between open players until there is a shot or the 20 seconds run out. Another possible outcome for either of these calls is a penalty shots. They are called if a defender takes away the offensive players advantage. They could do this by pulling down the offenders arm to keep them from catching a ball or swimming over the back of an offender when they have the ball and are inside of five meter line. The referee signals by blowing a long whistle and holding up an open hand.

The offensive team then gets a penalty shot. They get a goal if it goes into the cage, and they can play the rebound if they miss. Every goal in the game is worth one point.

But what is an Eggbeater? Egg-beatering or treading is a technique that is named as such because of the circular movement of the legs resembles the motion of an eggbeater. It is the most efficient for staying afloat and keeps the player from bobbing up and down as happens when using a scissor kick or using the kicking motion associated with breaststroke.

The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

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