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Fan's Guide to Water Polo Rules and Basics Page 3 of 5
water polo player

1- History & Object
2- The Essentials (Offense & Defense, Scoring, Etc.)
3- Fouls
4- Field Diagram and Positions
5- Glossary of Water Polo Terms

Common Referee Signals

Whistles and Fouls

Water polo is a physical sport. There is a considerable contact under the water. Unlike many sports where play is stopped anytime a whistle blows or a foul is called, in water polo the speed of play often increases following a whistle.

Foul Type

There are three types of fouls: ordinary, exclusion, and penalty fouls.

Ordinary foul: Violation of minor rules. Results in free throw for fouled team. Accounts for the majority of the fouls in game. Examples include: Using two hands, impeding the movement or pushing off of an opponent, 2-meter violation; shot clock violation. Signaled by one whistle for defensive, two for offensive. Referee points in direction ball will be playing.

Exclusion foul (kickout): More serious violations of the rules. Often called for ’playing the player, not the ball.’ Results in the exclusion of a player unitl 20 seconds has passed, a goal is scored, or possession has changed. Examples include: interfering with a free throw or holding, sinking or pulling a player not ’holding’ the ball or committing and ordinary foul during dead time. Signaled by several consecutive whistles. Referee points at a player and then to the re-entry area.

Penalty foul (4-meter): Called inside the 4- meter line, in which a goal was probable if a foul had not been committed. Results in a penalty shot from the 4-meter line. An example is during a fast break attempt. When a defender sinks a player that has possession of the ball immediately in front of the goal. Signaled by a long whistle. Referee holds up four fingers.

Note: Fouls will not be called if the offensive player is holding the ball in hand. Often, a player who is holding the ball may be pulled, pushed, dunked, etc., and no foul is called. Although spectators may become upset, there is no foul to call until the player drops the ball.

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