Water Polo

What’s the deal?

Handball, meet water. This sport pits teams of seven against each other, and they try to throw a ball into their opponent’s goal. On top of this, they can only touch the ball with one hand (except the goalkeeper–they can use both hands or block the ball away with their fist). Games consist of four eight-minute periods, and when teams have the ball, they have a 30-second shot clock.

At the end of the game, the team with the most points wins.

Who’s competing?

Men and women each have their own tournament.

Why should I watch?

Hey, how long can you tread water? These players aren’t allowed to rest during play! No holding the side, no touching the bottom. You swim and claw for the ball and tread water for eight minutes straight, and then let’s talk. Water polo is rough and tumble–and watching the players launch themselves into the air to shoot on goal is mightily impressive.

Potential drinking game:

If a swimmer gets three fouls in the game, meaning they’ve fouled out, drink.

The perfect snack:



Water Polo is one of the disciplines overseen by FINA, the international swimming federation. You’ll find rules and international information at its site, but for information about how to try out this sport, look local. England’s Amateur Swimming Association has some great information on playing and finding a local club in that country. Look at your local swim clubs or swimming organizations for more information.

Games need referees too! Refereeing also starts at the local level, so look to your local national organizing committee for more information. In the US, the USA Water Polo Referee Association can get you started.

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