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Understanding Water Polo


Water Polo is a competitive team sport played in the water between two teams. The game consists of 4 quarters, usually 8 minutes each, where both teams attempt to score goals by throwing the ball into their opponent's goal. The team with the most goals at the end of the game wins the match. If it’s a draw, they will proceed to a best of 5 penalty shootout. If it is still a draw, they will go to a sudden death shootout where 1 player from each team gets to shoot at goal and the player that misses or shot gets blocked loses the match for his/her team. Each team is made up of 6 field players and 1 goalkeeper. Players must attack and defend at both ends of the pool. Water Polo is typically played in a 1.8 meter deep pool. Players will play with a Water Polo ball while wearing a numbered and coloured cap to differentiate the teams, identify the player and protect their ears with the ear guards in the event of a direct impact from a Water Polo ball. There will be 2  goal posts floating on the water or attached to the side of the pool.

Brief History

Water Polo as a team sport began as a demonstration of strength and swimming skill late in the 19th century in England and Scotland. Men's Water Polo was among the first team sports introduced at the modern Olympic games in 1900. The longest running Water Polo competition is the annually held game between the English university teams of Oxford and Cambridge. The game has been played since 1891. The rules of Water Polo were originally developed in the late 19th century in Great Britain by William Wilson. The first games of 'aquatic football' were played at the Arlington in the late 1800s, with a ball constructed of India rubber. This "water rugby" came to be called "Water Polo" based on the English pronunciation of the Balti word for ball, pulu. Early play allowed brute strength, wrestling and holding opposing players underwater to get the ball. Players held underwater for lengthy periods usually surrendered possession. Men's Water Polo was the first team sport introduced at the 1900 Olympic Games. Women's Water Polo became an Olympic sport at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games after political protests from the Australian women's team.

The most famous (infamous?) Water Polo game in history is without doubt the game between Hungary and the Soviet Union on the 1956 Summer Olympic Games in Melbourne. Just after the Hungarian delegation left for the Olympics, the Hungarian Revolution started. The Soviet Union occupied the country with 200.000 soldiers to suppress the uprising. Faith decided that the Hungarian and the Soviet teams played each other in the semi finals. What followed was the most brutal and bloodiest game in water polo history know as Blood in the Water match. The Swedish referee had to call off the game in the final minute at a 4-0 score in favour of Hungary, because angry Hungarian supporters were about to join in with the fights in the pool after Russian player Valentin Prokopov punched Hungarian player Ervin Zador in the eye. The Russian team had to be escorted from the swimming pool by the police. Hungary eventually went on to win the gold medal, the Russian team won bronze. After the games, half the Hungarian delegation defected to the West.

Every 2 to 4 years since 1973, a men's Water Polo World Championship is organized within the FINA World Aquatics Championships. Women's Water Polo was added in 1986. A second tournament series, the FINA Water Polo World Cup, has been held every other year since 1979. In 2002, FINA organised the sport's first international league, the FINA Water Polo World League. There is also a World Club Water Polo Challenge and also a European Water Polo Championship that is held every other year. Professional Water Polo is played in many Southern and Eastern European countries like Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Russia, Spain, etc. The LEN Euroleague tournament is played amongst the best teams in the world.


Water polo is a contact sport, with little protective gear besides swimsuits and caps with ear protectors and thus injuries are common. Among the most frequent serious injuries are those affecting the head and shoulders. Those induced to the head are usually caused by elbows or the ball itself, while shoulder injuries are a result of grabbing or pushing while shooting or passing. Other injuries take place underwater, such as leg and groin injuries, as many things can not be seen from above the surface and not much padding is used to protect the players. Sunburn is a common minor injury in outdoor matches. The irritation of the sunburn can be restrictive because of the sheer amount of movement involved in the sport. Players will often neglect applying sunscreen as this will impair the player's ability to grip the ball and rapidly deteriorate the ball's physical grip due to the oily nature of sunscreen. Having large amounts of sunscreen on during an official match is banned by FINA and most other state/national governing bodies.

Equipment needed to play Water Polo:


Provided by Pacer Water Polo Academy

Ball:  The Water Polo ball is constructed of air-tight nylon and a waterproof coating to allow it to float on water. The cover is textured to give players additional grip. The size of the ball is different for men's, women's and junior games.

Goals: 2 goal posts are needed to play Water Polo. They can either be put on the side of or attached to the pool, or floated in the pool.

Caps: A Water Polo cap is used to protect the players' heads and ears, and to make them identifiable from afar. Home team field players wear numbered dark-colored caps; Visiting team field players wear numbered white caps. Both starting goalkeepers wear red caps, numbered "1" (substitute goalies' caps are numbered either "13" for FINA international play) Caps are fitted with ear protectors.


Not Provided by Pacer Water Polo Academy

Swimwear: Male Water Polo players wear Water Polo trunks which is tougher than the regular swimming trunks as it is able to withstand against all the pulling and twisting of the trunk that is unique to Water Polo as a sport. Purchase them at Pacer Merch!


Female players must wear a one-piece swimsuit. Suit-grabbing fouls are common, so players often wear tight-fitting suits, and may wear a few layers at a time for additional security. Many swimwear labels (Turbo, TYR, Delfina) also sell specialized Water Polo suits that feature reinforced stitching and tougher fabric. Female Water Polo suits are generally one-piece outfits which do not have open backs, but zip securely up the back so as to not have straps that can be easily grabbed. Purchase them at Pacer Merch too!


Mouthguard: Not mandatory, but is recommended.

Useful Links (Highly Recommended)


Referee Rule Book

The rules of Water Polo cover the play, procedures, equipment and officiating of Water Polo. These rules are similar across the world, although slight variations to the rules do occur regionally, depending on the governing body. The main governing bodies of Water Polo include FINA, the international governing organization for the rules and the IOC rules which govern the rules at Olympic events. We Strongly recommend all players and parents read through the following rule guide.


The following text is a general guide. For full & exact rules, please read the document as attached above.


Positions usually consist of a center forward, a center back, two wing players and two drivers. Certain body types are more suited for particular positions (e.g. big, fat & strong players as centre forwards), and left-handed players are especially coveted on the right-hand side of the field, allowing teams to attack effectively from both sides.


The offensive positions include: one center forward (also called a "center", located on or near the 2-meter line, roughly in the center of the goal), two wings (located on or near the 2-meter, just outside of the goal posts), two drivers (located on or near the 5-meter, roughly at the goal posts), and one "center back" (usually just behind the 5 meter line, roughly in the center of the goal), positioned farthest from the goal. The position in which a player is can give advantages based on a player's handedness, to improve a shooting or passing angle (e.g. the right wing is often left handed). The center sets up in front of the opposing team's goalie and the position is nearest to the goal which allows for explosive shots from close-range. When the offence takes possession of the ball, the strategy is to bring the ball down the field of play and to score a goal. Players can move the ball by throwing it to a teammate or swimming with the ball in front of them. If an attacker advances inside the 2-metre line without the ball or before the ball is passed to him/her when (s)he is inside the 2-metre area, (s)he is ruled offside and the ball is turned over to the other team.


Defensive positions are often the same, but just switched from offence to defence. E.g. the centre forward, who is the centre of attack on offence, defends the opposing team's centre back when they are on offenseA defender may only hold, block or pull an opponent who is touching or holding the ball. On defence, the players work to regain possession of the ball and to prevent a goal in their own net. The defence attempts to knock away or steal the ball from the offense or to commit a foul in order to stop an offensive player from taking a goal shot. The defender attempts to stay between the attacker and the goal.


The goalkeeper has the main role in blocking shots against the goal as well as guiding and informing their defense of imposing threats and gaps in the defense. The goalkeeper usually begins the offensive play by passing the ball across the pool to an attacker. The goalkeeper is given several privileges above those of the other players, but only within the five-meter area in front of their own goal: (1) The ability to punch the ball with a clenched fist & (2) The ability to touch the ball with two hands. The goalkeeper also has one limitation that other players do not have: he cannot cross the half-distance line. Also, if a goalkeeper pushes the ball under water, the action will not be punished with a turnover like with field players, but with a penalty shot. Even with good backup from the rest of the defenders, stopping attacks can prove very difficult if the goalkeeper remains in the middle of the goal. The goalkeeper stops using his or her hands to tread water once the opponent enters at about the 7 metre mark and starts to lift their upper body using the eggbeater technique to prepare to block the shot. Finally the goalkeeper tries to block the ball down, which is often hard for the longer reaches, but prevents an offensive rebound and second shot. As is the case with other defensive players, a goalkeeper who aggressively fouls an attacker in position to score can be charged with a penalty shot for the other team. The goalkeeper can also be ejected for twenty seconds if a major foul is committed. Lastly, inside the five metre line, the goalie can swing at the ball with a closed fist without being penalised.

Minor Fouls

When a minor foul is called, the referee indicates the foul with one short whistle blow and points one hand to the spot of the foul and the other hand in the direction of the attack of the team to whom the free throw has been awarded. The player will then have a "reasonable amount of time" (typically about three seconds; there is no FINA rule on this issue) to re-commence play by making a free pass to one of the other players. The defensive team cannot hinder the free throw until it has been taken. The player can shoot/attempt at goal after a foul outside the 5m line, but not when the foul was taken inside the 5m line. If the player attempts a goal when inside the 5m line without first taking the free throw, the goal is not counted and the defence takes possession of the ball.

Major Fouls

If a defender interferes with a free throw, holds or sinks an attacker who is not in possession or splashes water into the face of an opponent, the defensive player is excluded from the game for twenty seconds, known as an ejection. The attacking team typically positions 4 players on the 2 metre line, and 2 players on 5 metre line (4–2), passing the ball around until an open player attempts a shot. Other formations include a 3–3 (two lines of three attackers each). The five defending players try to pressure the attackers, block shots and prevent a goal being scored for the 20 seconds while they are a player down. The other defenders can only block the ball with one hand to help the goalkeeper. The defensive player is allowed to return into the court of play immediately if the offence scores, or if the defence recovers the ball before the twenty seconds expires.


Each team is entitled to one time out per quarter by sounding the air horn when in possession of the ball and/or by showing a T shape with both hands to the referee/official table. If the air horn is sounded when the team is not in possession of the ball, a penalty shall be awarded.

Players Guide
Athlete Code of Conduct

Learn the Water Polo rules thoroughly by reading the Fina Water Polo Rule Book. Treat everyone fairly regardless of gender, race, ability, body type, disability, age, nationality, color, sexual orientation, religion, political belief or economic status. Display high personal standards by demonstrating good sportsmanship at all times so as to project a favorable image of yourself & Pacer Water Polo Academy. Do not publicly criticise other athletes, coaches, parents or officials. Treat opponents and officials with respect when you win and even if you lose. Encourage your teammates to do the same. Remember to always shake hands firmly after a match. Never argue with the referee, just follow what was whistled. If you disagree, have your captain, coach or manager approach the technical officials after the match or competition. Control your temper. Do not verbally or physically abuse or take unfair advantage of your opponents or officials. Recognize & applaud all good plays by your team or the opposition. Cooperate with your coach, teammates and opponents. Without them there would be no game. Participate for your own enjoyment and benefit, not just to please parents and coaches. Report any medical problems immediately. Arrive at training 15 minutes before the officially stated timing to warm up. Ensure you are well-nourished, and prepared to participate to the best of your ability in all trainings and competitions. Do not use any unwelcome remarks, jokes, comments, innuendo, taunts, obscene gestures or condescending/patronizing behaviour intended to undermine self-esteem. No Sexist jokes, display of sexually offensive material, sexually degrading words used to describe a person, inquiries or comments about a person’s sex life, unwelcome sexual flirtations, advances, or propositions and persistent unwanted contact. All other Singapore Laws are applicable when in the compound.

Strength & Conditioning
Did you Know?

In 1972, an Olympic Water Polo match between Hungary & Italy saw 8 Hungarian players ejected in just 38 seconds.

The entire United States of America Water Polo team in the 1988 Summer Olympics suffered from exercise-induced asthma! 

Hungary won no less than 15 Olympic medals, of which 9 are Gold (1932, 1936, 1952, 1956, 1964, 1976, 2000, 2004 & 2008). They also won 3 Gold, 4 Silver & 1 Bronze medal in the World Championships. Hungary is a 12 time European Champion where they also won 5 Silver & 2 Bronze medals.

Water Polo is the national game of Hungary and the country brought forth many legendary players. Dezso Gyarmati (according to the Hungarians "the greatest player ever"), Tamas Farago ("the Pele of water polo"), one-legged Oliver Halassy, who - in spite of his handicap - was European swimming champion in 1931. The Hungarian coach, Bela Komjadi, invented modern Water Polo & was a great part of Hungary successes. He passed away at the age of 41... playing in a Water Polo game.

Parents Guide

Code of Conduct


First & foremost, remember your child plays Water Polo for their enjoyment & benefit, not yours. Do not scold or ridicule your child or any player for making a mistake that caused your team to lose a game, everyone makes mistakes & it will be a learning point. Learn the Water Polo rules thoroughly by reading the Fina Water Polo Rule Book if possible, do so with your child. Treat everyone fairly regardless of gender, race, ability, body type, disability, age, nationality, color, sexual orientation, religion, political belief or economic status. Support all players with positive comments as it motivates better performances. Applaud good performances and efforts from all players, teams, coaches regardless of the game’s outcome. Respect the decisions of officials and teach others to do the same. Do not publicly criticise other athletes, coaches, parents or officials. Control your temper. Do not physically or verbally abuse anyone. (No jeering, curse/swear words, offensive gestures, fighting, slapping, choking, biting, beating, kicking, pushing, throwing of objects, bickering, taunting, teasing, intimidating, bullying, harassing, humiliating, sexual acts, spreading false rumors via any medium). Let’s be the bigger person & not stoop to a lower level. Remember, your kids look to everyone in this safe environment as a role model. Ensure your child arrive at training 15 minutes before the officially stated timing to warm up. All other Singapore Laws are applicable when in the compound.

Frequently used terms/phrases/terminology

“Sack” - When a player is ejected from the play due to various reasons such as (1) excessive blocking (2) not allowing the attacker to make a pass after a foul has been called. Please refer to the Fina Water Polo Rule Book for more information on when an ejection is called. 

“Six Five” - When a player from one team has been ejected from the game, both teams will have to change the way they attack and defend. As such, players will shout "Six Five" and set up their offensive/defensive strategy.

“Drop Center” - A pass that hits the water around the centre forward or is received by the centre forward in his/her hand. The centre forward will then attempt a shot at the goal.

“Fall Back" - When the centre forward is too much for a centre back to handle, he/she may call for his/her teammates defending the perimeter players to "fall back" or move closer to the opponents centre forward so that he/she can help in the event that the ball drops into the centre.

Your Child's Nutritional Needs

Parents are advised & suggested to bring the following foods and drinks for their children so that they can stay fuelled, hydrated & nourished for training & aid recovery post-training/competitions. 

Parents can purchase a mixture of the following from supermarkets - Muesli Bars (preferably without unhealthy coatings), Shelf-Stable Bread, Assorted Plain Biscuits, Milk/Soy Milk (Fresh/UHT), Fresh Fruits, Dried Fruits, Nuts & Yoghurts.

If the supermarket is too far away, feel free to purchase Assorted Pancakes with Peanuts in them, Buns, Homemade/Pre-packed Sandwiches from 7-11 and even Soy Milk, beancurd & Pancakes from Mr Bean.

Why is it important that your child eat healthy?


Your child needs a nutrient-packed diet to support his/her overall development & support energy demands for Water Polo. The Healthy Diet Pyramid translates nutrient requirements into actual food & is a useful tool to guide you & your family to healthier eating.


3 Goals for Good Nutrition 


1. Maintain Balance. Your child should include the main food groups in his daily diet in the right proportions, consuming more food from the bottom of the pyramid & less from the top. 


2. Variety in Choices. Ensure your child includes different food from the carbohydrates, protein & fruits & vegetables groups.


3. Eat in Moderation. Ensure that your child consumes food in the right amounts. Excessive consumption can lead to weight gain while insufficient intake can lead to nutrient deficiencies. 

Healthy Diet Pyramid

Water Polo, Flippa Ball, Swimming

Fats, Oils, Sugar & Salt when consumed in excess can lead to weight gain which will affect your child’s performance in Water Polo. Limit salt intake to influence your child’s preference for salty food, to help prevent hypertension in later years. 

Protein provides your child with the building blocks for his/her body to build & repair muscle tissue. It also supports your child’s growth & development. Protein comes from both animal & plant sources. Animal examples - dairy products (milk, yoghurts & cheese), lean meat (chicken, beef, lamb & pork), seafood (fish) & eggs. Plant examples - Soy products, beans, lentils, nuts & seeds.

Fruits & Vegetables provide your child with fibre, vitamins, minerals & anti oxidants for overall good health, immunity & reduces risk of heart diseases & some cancers. Different fruit & vegetables are rich in different nutrients, so ensure that your child consumes a variety for maximum health benefits.

Carbohydrates should form the bulk of your child’s diet as they are the main fuel for the brain & muscles. Eating enough nutritious carbohydrates like breads, rice, noodles, pasta & unsweetened cereals will help in concentration & sport performance. 

Direct School Admission (DSA)

The following Pacer Water Polo Academy Players have successfully been admitted into the respective Secondary School / Junior College through the Water Polo DSA. We share their joy & wish them well in both their academic & Water Polo pursuit. 

Water Polo, Flippa Ball, Swimming
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