How deep is a water polo pool

Water polo: rules & history

Water polo is tough: this floating mix of handball and rugby is all about getting a ball into the opponent's goal. Because the pool is at least 1.80 m deep, the players have to stay afloat for the entire playing time on their own and, although the ball plays a central role here, water polo is part of the swimming sport. We introduce you to the exciting team sport and the water polo rules.

Who invented water polo?

Water polo was invented in England at the end of the 19th century. But how exactly water polo came about, opinions differ. Back then, the London Swimming Club had the task of transferring the rules of football to a game in the water and thus most likely making swimming more attractive. Other statements claim that an English rugby team invented the game when they played around with their rugby in the water after training in a swimming pool. This resulted in a game in which the ball had to be placed on an opponent's platform.

Water polo spread in Germany from the 1890s, and the first German championships were played in 1912. Water polo has been an integral part of the Olympic Games since 1900 and is also the oldest Olympic team sport. World championships have also been held since 1973 and European championships since 1926. In addition, a World Cup and a World League take place every year.

The water polo rules

A water polo match consists of four times eight minutes of effective playing time. If there is then a tie, there will be two times three minutes of extra time and then a five-meter shooting. There is a two-minute break between the individual quarters and five minutes at half-time. Each team consists of 13 players, seven of whom (six field players and one goalkeeper) are in the water. The other players can be substituted in and out as often as you like during the course of the game. The water temperature must always be above 18 ° C during official games.

The playing field

The men's water polo playing field must be between 20 and 30 m long and between 10 and 20 m wide. For women, the maximum length of the field is 25 meters. At every point on the field, the water depth must be at least 1.80 m so that the players cannot actively use the bottom of the pool. You are also not allowed to jump off it or run with the ball. If a player does not comply, there is a free throw. The playing field is divided into two halves, each of which is equally divided: two meters in front of the goal line, a red line on the edge of the pool marked the so-called two-meter space. In front of it is the five-meter room marked in yellow. The zone between the center line and the five-meter space is marked in green.

The water polo goal is 3 meters wide and 90 cm high. If the water depth at the point where the goal is located is only 1.5 m or less, the crossbar of the goal must be 2.40 m above the pool floor. The goal line under the crossbar is offset 30 cm into the field compared to the goal line. The re-entry room is also located on the short side of the pitch and near the substitution bench.

The course of the game

At the beginning of each quarter, the referee throws the ball into the water at the center line while swimming. At the kick-off, the outfield players swim from the goal line to the center in order to gain possession of the ball. Alternatively, there are also devices that hold the ball on the center line so that it can swim towards it. The team in possession of the ball then has 30 seconds of attack time to throw at the opposing goal. If the team fails to do this, the opponent receives a free throw. However, a goal can only be scored if the ball has been deliberately touched by at least two players beforehand. Free throws and penalty throws are excluded. After a successful goal win, both teams then regroup in their halves of the pitch. The ball is then played at any point in the half of the pitch of the team that now has the ball.

If the ball goes through a block by the goalkeeper into the goal after a shot on goal or if the ball is intentionally thrown there by a player of the defending team, a corner throw is awarded. This takes place on the sidelines on the two-meter line of the defending team. If the ball is blocked out of goal, the goalkeeper will throw the ball away from the goal.

During the game, each team has the option of four time-outs of one minute each (one time-out per quarter).

Punishment of rule violations

If a player hinders his opponent when he is not in possession of the ball, this will be punished with a foul according to the water polo rules. A simple foul results in a free throw, a serious foul a time penalty of 20 seconds. A simple foul occurs when a player pushes the ball under water in distress, obstructs his opponent (with or without the ball) or when the attack time has expired. Incorrectly executed penalty throws, long-delayed throws or a third time-out are also considered simple fouls. Holding or withdrawing an opponent, hindering a free throw, corner throw or goal clearance as well as raising both arms outside the five-meter area are considered serious fouls.

Particularly serious fouls such as brutality, disrupting a penalty throw or insult and disobedience to the referee are punished in the water polo rules with a suspension with replacement (the player concerned may not be reinstated after the time penalty, but the team may continue to play in full). In the event of a suspension without a replacement due to particular brutality, the team must play undernumbered for four minutes. Serious rule violations in the five-meter area are also punished with a penalty.


It is compulsory for every player to wear a water polo cap during the game. The caps are made of nylon or polyester and are tied under the chin. They also have built-in rigid ear protection that protects players from injury. The caps must be worn on the head for the entire duration of the game. Should a player lose his cap, he must put it back on when the game is next interrupted. Each team has its own cap color, whereby the home team usually play with light caps (e.g. white) and the guests with dark caps (e.g. blue). The goalkeepers wear red caps. All caps are numbered for better identification of the players.

According to the FINA and KEN water polo rules, the water polo ball must weigh between 400 and 450 g. The circumference of the ball is between 68 and 71 cm. The women's ball is a bit smaller. The beach ball must be clearly different in color from the caps, which is why it is usually yellow, orange or another signal color. It consists of a rubber bladder with a waterproof and non-slip plastic cover. The water polo must always be inflated tightly, as it complicates the touch-up throws, which are difficult for goalkeepers to predict. The water polo can be touched with any part of the body, but the field players are only allowed to use one arm or one hand. Only the goalkeeper is allowed to touch the ball with both hands in the five-meter area.

Water polo in action

This video gives you a little insight into what water polo looks like in action: