Water Polo 101

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The History of Water Polo

The game of waterpolo was first played in Britain in the 1860’s and has been an Olympic sport since 1896. The first time it appeared in an Olympic games was in Paris in 1900, and was given permanent status in the games held in London in 1908. Since it’s inception, waterpolo has become very popular all over the world, as it is not restricted by climate. If you have a pool it can be played winter or summer and by all ages.

Here in Canada the first waterpolo tournament was held in 1887. The first Ontario waterpolo league was formed at the university level in 1909, and continues to be a popular university sport being played throughout Canada today for both men and women.

Canada sent it’s first men’s team to the 1972 Olympics held in Munich, and the first women’s team went to Sydney in 2000.

Waterpolo is also played in the Pan-Am games, the Commonwealth games, and The World Championships. The first time waterpolo appeared in the Commonwealth games, Canada won the gold medal.

Currently our women’s team is ranked among the top five in the world, and our men’s team is ranked in the top sixteen.

How to Play

Waterpolo is a game that can be played by all age groups, both men and women, and is played co-ed at the younger ages. It is played at the recreational or competitive levels. Waterpolo is a low impact sport that gives you a vigorous workout. Most participants will be unaware that they are getting themselves into great shape because they are having so much fun with their friends and team mates.

The game is played with 7 players per team in the water at a time, 6 swimmers and 1 goalie with substitutes awaiting their turn on the side of the pool. The game is played in a deep water pool, 30 x 20 meters. (Younger teams such as Atoms will play in a shallow and smaller pool).

The game is similar to hockey, basketball and soccer in how it is played, with one net at each end of the pool. The teams maneuver the ball up and down the pool by throwing to each other, through sets of plays designed by the coaching staff. Players are only allowed to touch the ball with one hand at a time. There is also a 35 second time period in which the team must attempt a shot on net or forfeit the ball to their opponents. There is a centre line where play begins after each goal. There are also offensive and defensive players and plays set out by the coaching staff.

There are two referees, one on each side of the pool, who follow the play up and down the pool watching for infractions. The referees are also watching for violations going on under the water, such as kicking and holding. As in other sports, there are penalties for these infractions, ranging from losing the ball to the opponent, to being removed from the game for a short time [called a kick-out] during which the team plays short-handed. In the case of a serious infraction [brutality] a player may be removed for the remainder of the game.

The game has 4 periods, which will range in time from 4-7 stop time minutes to 4-5 minutes running time for the younger teams. If the game is tied at the end of regulation time, they may play additional overtime periods, and if still tied they will go into a shoot-out similar to soccer.

At the higher and more competitive levels the game becomes very technical and physically demanding. A player could be in the water for over an hour, swimming more than 3 kilometres in a single game and may play up to three games in a day.

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