This is NOT an exhaustive set of rules. Just an introduction to the sport.
Game and Course Basics:
Two teams of 7 players (one goalie and 6 “field”) plus substitutes…four quarters of 5-8 minutes (length depends on age group, single game or tournament play, etc)…substitutions can be made at any time but are usually only made during a break in play (after goal, between period, timeout, etc)…regulation course size for age group water polo is 25 yards by 14-18 yards…goals are 3’ high by 10’ wide…there are several markings on the side of the pool (denoted with cones at Rio Americano): at 2 meters from the goal (an offensive player cannot inside unless they have the ball or are behind the spot of the ball)…at 5 meters from the goal (players fouled outside may shoot their free throw so long as it is immediate…players fouled inside 5M can NOT shoot their free throw)…
Important Rules: There are two classes of fouls: Minor and Major
Examples of Major Fouls:
1) interfering with a free throw
2) sinking, holding, or pulling back an offensive player,
3) misconduct (foul language, etc).
A player called for a major foul is ejected or excluded for 20 seconds and has to swim without interfering with play to the ejection area (corner of the pool by the team bench)…players are allowed 3 major fouls (they are not allowed to re-enter the game after their third major foul)…an excluded player may re-enter the game after the 20 second exclusion ends, a goal is scored, or his/her team recovers possession.
Referees use the whistle and hand signals to indicate fouls…a minor foul will be signaled by a single whistle blast if the offensive team keeps the ball and one short-one long whistle blast if the defensive team gets the ball (offensive foul)…if a minor foul is called, the referee will point to the spot of the foul and with his/her other arm point in the direction of the team that is awarded the free throw…a major foul is signaled by a series of short whistle blasts followed by one long one…the referee will point to the player that was excluded (the one that committed the major foul) and will point to the exclusion area.
In age group games, the referees will often explain calls to the players (but not always to the parents!)
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Examples of Minor Fouls:
1) playing the ball with two hands (unless it is the goalie)
2) putting the ball under water (even it is the defensive player pushing the player’s hand down),
3) being inside the 2M line (without the ball),
4) making contact with the body of a player that is controlling (but NOT holding) the ball,
5) hitting ball with a clenched fist…
There is no limit to the number of minor fouls that a player may commit in a game…the result of a minor foul is a free pass by a player on the opposite team from the offending player…the player making the free pass may:
1) pass the ball to a teammate
2) dribble the ball him/herself
3) shoot on goal if outside 5M and it is immediately and without delay…the defensive team cannot interfere with a free throw.