top of page

The Sport

Water Polo is a team water sport. A team consists of six field players and one goalkeeper. the winner of the game is the team that scores more goals. At the National Water Polo League level there are 4 quarters of 8 minutes duration.


The clocks are stopped each time the referee blows their whistle and restarts on the taking of the free throw.  Teams have a 30 second possession clock which is reset after a shot, exclusion, corner or change of possession.

Seven players from each team (six field players and a goalkeeper) are allowed in the playing area of the pool during game play. Visiting team field players wear numbered and usually dark blue caps, and home team field players wear usually white caps (though any other contrasting colours are now allowed); both goalies wear quartered red caps, numbered "1". Both teams may use substitute players. During game play, players enter and exit in front of their team bench or from the exclusion box; when a goal has been scored they may enter or exit anywhere. 

Teams are allowed one timeout per quarter.

Olympic Water Polo - A Beginner's Guide

By Olympic Channel

Published on 23 April 2014

Australia's Bronwen Knox and Aaron Younger present a beginner's guide to the intense sport of Water Polo. Giving an insight into the games rules, physical demands and tactical requirements, Bronwen and Aaron discuss what it takes to compete in Water Polo on the Olympic stage.

Please reload


A Water Polo ball is constructed of waterproof material to allow it to float on the water. The cover has a special texture so it won't slip from the hands of a player. The size of the ball is different for men's and women's games.


A Water Polo cap is used to protect the players heads and ears, and to identify them. Home team field players wear numbered light or dark caps, and visiting team field playeres wear contrasting caps. Both goalkeepers wear red caps, numbered "1", and substitute goales caps are numbered "13". Caps are fitted with ear protectors.


Most players wear mouthguards to avoid damage from accidental elbows or kicks. 


Two goals are needed in order to play water polo. These can either be put on the side of the pool, or in the pool using floaters.


A goal is scored when the ball crosses the goal line fully.  It should pass between the goal posts and under the bar.


There are minor and major fouls.  Some fouls lead to the awarding of a penalty; this is a major foul. Penalties are taken from the 5m line and must be taken with one clean movement and with no hesitation. Players can only accumulate 3 major fouls before being excluded from the game.  You may be excluded immediately for brutality or desention, with or without immediate substitution.  If it is for brutality a substitution may enter from the exclusion box after 4 minutes of actual play.  If you are excluded for a major foul you must swim to your team's exclusion box and wait for the expiration of 20 seconds or a change of possession.


Male Water Polo players often wear swimming briefs. Some players prefer to wear 2 briefs for more security during play. Female players must wear a one-piece swimsuit. 


There are 2 referees who walk along the sides of the pool.  They have specific areas that they watch to award fouls. They blow their whistle and indicate with their arms the direction of the foul awarded.

Table Officials

There should be a timekeeper and a secretary as a minimum on the table to keep accurate records of the score and fouls awarded.

bottom of page