How To Play Water Polo

Learning how to play water polo is like learning to play soccer in a swimming pool. Soccer and water polo are comparable with the difference of soccer being played with the feet and water polo play is played with one hand. The game is played in seven minute quarters. In the event of a tie, there are two overtime periods of three minutes. If the tie continues, teams try to break the tie with a penalty shoot-out. To play water polo, you must be a strong swimmer and strong enough to keep yourself afloat during the entire game.

To play water polo, you will need:

  • Two to seven player teams
  • Swimming Pool
  • Polo ball
  • Two goal nets
  • Two referees


  1. Play begins with six players and one goalie in the water. The field players are not allowed to touch the bottom of the pool during play and must stay afloat at all times. Players line up on each side of the pool. The referee starts the water polo play, and players swim to get control of the ball. The players pass the ball, using one hand, and attempt to shoot the ball for a goal. To move the ball, a field player will float the ball in the wake in front of him as he swims. Each team is allowed two time outs per game.
  2. Turnovers. A player may touch the ball with one hand only, except for goalies who are allowed to use both hands. Touching the ball with both hands is considered a turnover and the opposing team takes possession of the ball. Players without the ball will cause a turnover if they cross the two meter line of the opposing team.
  3. Fouls. A foul is called if a player hits another player, swims across another player, or creates shot interference resulting in the clock stopping a foul shot given to the player that is fouled. The penalty shot is initiated at the four meter line when the foul happens inside that line. When a foul happens outside the four meter line, it results in the clock stopping and the fouled team getting a five second free throw. An ejected player is removed from the game for two minutes or until a goal is scored.
  4. Scoring. Each time a ball is successfully thrown into the goal, that team scores one point.



Each quarter of play begins with the referee placing the ball in the center or halfway point of the pool. The field players from each team sprint from the sides of the pool and the first one to reach the ball will have possession and put the ball into play.


Take the time to learn the rules and strategies of water polo and make certain you are physically fit enough for this strenuous game.

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