Water Polo League and Team Philosophy

The Seattle Summer Water Polo League was started by a very dedicated group of people that promote the game for the love of the sport. Most notably, the growth and success of the league is due to the tireless efforts of Stan “Doc” Zimmer, former University of Washington Men’s Water Polo Coach. Nearly all the coaches and referees have played water polo in college at some point. All of us are committed to coaching and want to see water polo develop as a legitimate sport throughout the entire Northwest. The league wants to provide as much water polo playing opportunity for as many kids as possible in the Seattle area. The basic league and team philosophy can be summed up like this:

1. Have Fun!
Water Polo IS fun - mix the best elements of basketball, soccer, and hockey and just add water! It allows for the development of individual skills while retaining the elements of teamwork, camaraderie, and sportsmanship.

2. Play Hard!
Water Polo is a competitive sport with a league championship at the end. We do play to win games,
however we hope that all athletes will come to understand that doing your best is more important than winning or losing. True athletes love a challenge, and always winning probably means that you aren’t really challenging yourself. Learning to be a good, gracious loser and respecting your opponents is an extremely important part of the game. Win or lose, we encourage kids to play their best and that’s all that really matters.

3. Play Safe!
Accidents happen. A stray elbow might find its unintended mark just like in basketball or soccer, but water is still a much more forgiving playing field than a hardwood court or a hard dirt field. We all strive to play as safely as possible by avoiding reckless play and controlling our tempers. All games have referees that have the authority to calm down a game that seems to be getting too rough. Unnecessary aggression, rude behavior, and lost tempers will result in exclusion from a game. Coaches will remove players for a “cooling off “ period if necessary. Again, the ultimate goal is to have fun!

Water Polo FAQ

When does the water polo team practice?
Practices are scheduled from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Typically, boys and girls of all ages will practice together.

When are the games?
Each age group will play one regular game per week at the times posted. Games last about 45
minutes, and you should arrive at least 15 minutes early so allow about an hour per game. Usually, each player will play at least two games on a game day, and frequently players are invited to play up an age bracket if we are short players in a particular age group.

How many players are there per team?
7 (1 goalie and 6 field players)

How long do the games last?
About 45 minutes
Four 7-minute quarters that actually last around 12 minutes or so depending on the referee.
2 minutes rest between quarters

How is the game scored?
1 point per goal (like soccer).
Scores are in the range of 6-15 goals per game. With a decent goalie, shooting percentages are in the 30% range so there are usually lots of shots and blocks to keep things exciting. A good goalie is the most important part of the team.
You can only use one hand to touch the ball (except the goalie)

What is the field of play?
30 meter all deep pool if available. We use 25-yard half-deep pools.
Players are not supposed to touch the bottom so lots of
treading is required.

What is the strategy of the game?
Water Polo is a team sport that mixes the best aspects of soccer, basketball, and hockey. Like soccer, goalies defend a large netted goal. Instead of using feet, water polo players are allowed to use only one hand at a time to pass or shoot the bright yellow, soccer-sized ball.

Like basketball, there are fast breaks and a set offense that uses a center-like “hole man” that can either make powerful offensive shots or dish passes off to a player driving towards the goal. Driving, setting picks, and working to get inside lanes (inside water) is very reminiscent of basketball. “Hole men” tend to be big because they need to plant themselves in front of the goal without being pushed out.

Guard-like “drivers” tend to be smaller, quicker, and good ball handlers, and outside shooters – like 3-point shooters - have good arms to peg the high corners of the goal with accuracy whenever a defender sloughs off to cover a driver breaking towards the goal.

Like hockey, there is a somewhat physical aspect to the game and water polo players can be temporarily ejected in a “penalty box” for short periods of time if the referee deems it necessary. Occasionally, if possession is contested there can be a “face off” between two players to decide who regains possession of the ball.

Is this game too rough for kids?
it’s reputation water polo is really not meant to be a contact sport. The level of contact is much like basketball: you might see some pushing and
leaning going on around the center (or hole man), but any grabbing, pushing, or hitting of any kind is a foul. The potential for injury in a spirited soccer game is much greater than in water polo.

Like basketball or soccer, accidental hand or elbow contact can happen, but water is much more forgiving than a hardwood floor or a dirt field. If you feel comfortable letting your kids play soccer, then water polo is easy.

How are fouls committed?
Ordinary fouls are committed rather frequently and the referee will blow the whistle and award the ball to the opposing team. After a foul is whistled the team with the ball is allowed a free throw: three seconds to put the ball in play without interference from the defender. (The ball normally can’t be shot at the goal until it has been passed to another player.

An exception to this is when the foul is committed outside the 7-meter line, then a quick shot is allowed). When played properly with good refereeing, unnecessary contact of any kind quickly results in a foul being whistled. In fact, refs are so eager to keep the game “clean” that most refs seem to blow a whistle almost every 15 seconds.

Refs will call lots of fouls but will try to keep the game flowing –the ball is usually back in play within three seconds of the foul.

What are some ordinary fouls?

  • Grabbing
  • Reaching over anyone’s head or shoulder
  • Pushing off of someone else
  • Kicking
  • Splashing water in the face
  • Touching the ball with two hands (except goalie)
  • Pushing the ball under water when under attack

What is a major foul?
Major fouls result in a temporary 20-second ejection (also called a “
kickout”) in the penalty box. If a player gets three major fouls, they are ejected from the entire game.

Any ordinary foul committed by a defender when the opposing player is in a scoring position (like fouling a “driver” or the hole man if they have inside water) is considered a major foul.

Blatant, unnecessary fouls committed away from the action are also considered major fouls worthy of a kickout. (For example, grabbing an ankle when someone is trying to swim away).

What is a penalty shot?
Penalty shots are taken from 4 meters directly in front of the goal. The referee will award a penalty if a major foul is committed when someone is in strong, imminent, scoring position in front of the goal (for example: if the hole man or a driver has the ball and also controls ”inside water” within 4 meters of the goal, and the defender comes over their back).