Spectator guide

Spectator’s Guide

An introduction to the rules of Water Polo…

Here is a brief introduction to the rules of Water Polo, put together by jmuwaterpolo.com, remember, these are just the basic rules, to help give you an understanding of the game.  At the bottom of the page are links to the official rules and interpretations of the official rules.



Minor Foul - The whistle is blown once and play stops. If the player who is fouled has the ball, they get a free throw. If the player who is fouled is a defender, they are awarded the ball and get a free throw. The referee will point to the player who has the free throw with one arm and the direction of the team with the other.
Major Foul - The whistle is blown twice. Play stops, and the player who commits the foul gets ejected for 20 seconds. This usually happens to a defensive player. The referee will point to the player who commits the foul (and blow the whistle), and point to the ejection area (and blow the whistle again).
Brutality - A brutality is called when a player kicks or strikes (or attempts to kick or strike) an opponent or official with malicious intent. The player who is charged with a brutality is excluded from the rest of the game. (See WP 21.10).

Important Rules:

1. Players can touch the ball with only ONE HAND
2. Players cannot stand on the bottom of the pool. (This is not entirely true, but it is the way we will play).
3. Players are allowed only TWO major fouls during a game. On the third, the player is ejected.
4. If a defender interferes with a free throw, it is a MAJOR foul (ejection).

Examples of Minor Fouls:

1. When a player pushes off the side of the pool (or the bottom).
2. A “False Start” at the beginning of play.
3. Holding the ball under water (even if the defensive player is holding your arm down):

Holding the ball underwater

4. Touching the ball with two hands.
5. Hitting the arm or body of an offensive player who has the ball:

Contact with offensive player

6. Hitting the ball with a clenched fist.
7. Pushing off of a defensive player:

Pushing off defensive player Push Turnover

8. When a player is within 2 meters of their opponent’s goal (and the ball is behind them). (This is considered off-sides).
9. When the player throws the ball out of bounds.
10. If the team keeps the ball for more than 35 seconds (the length of the shot clock) without taking a shot on goal.

Examples of Major Fouls:

1. If the offensive player intentionally comes in contact with the defensive player:

Intentional contact with defensive player

2. Holding on to the offensive player:

Holding offensive player

3. Interfering with a free throw:

Interfering withe a free throw

4. Pulling back on a player:

Pulling back

5. Sinking a player:


6. Misconduct (foul language, etc.)
7. Leaving the ejection area illegally.


Examples of Referee Signals:

Ref Ball Under
Ref<br />
Ref Off Bottom
Ball Under
Minor Foul
Off the Bottom

Ref Ejection
Ref Jumpball
Ejections – Single and Double
Jump Ball (Neutral Throw)

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