About the game
The game of Water Polo evolved in England in the early 1870’s and quickly spread across Europe and into the USA. In 1900 it became the first team sport to be brought to the Olympic programme.
Since 1895 Cheltenham has been the home of a top Water Polo team and this strong tradition continues to this day with players from as long ago as the 1950s continuing to be actively involved with the club. Jack Jones, a former Cheltenham player was Captain of the British Olympic team in 1956 which until 2012 was the last time Britain was represented at the Olympics. Jack recently travelled to Manchester with his brother Phil Jones, himself a club elder statesman to support the junior squad in the 2011 club championships in which they finished runners up to Lancaster.
According to the ASA website Water Polo is an incredibly physical sport and it is regarded as one of the most demanding of all team games. A water polo player can cover up to three kilometers in a game so they need to train very regularly to maintain their fitness. Water polo is a fast-paced sport played by two teams in a swimming pool. There are goals at each end of the pool and the winner is the team that scores most goals by getting the ball between the posts.
Each team is allowed to have seven players in the water at any one time (six outfield players and a goal keeper). Other than the goalkeeper, you will see the other players moving continuously around the pool playing in both attack and defence. Players are not allowed to touch the bottom of the pool and must tread water the entire time- they use a movement called egg beater which is more efficient than the normal action of treading water and it allows them to jump up out of deep water without touching the bottom.
Players can move the ball by throwing it to a team mate or swimming while pushing the ball in front of them. They can only hold the ball with one hand, other than the goalkeeper who is allowed to use both hands.
Water polo players need remarkable stamina because of the considerable amount of holding and pushing that occurs during the game. Because it’s such a fast game and can be exhaust each team is allowed a maximum of six substitutes and players can return to the pool after a time on the substitute bench.
Under FINA rules a water polo match is divided into quarters. Each of the four quarters is eight minutes long but because the clock is stopped when the ball is not ‘in play’ the average quarter in fact lasts around 12 minutes.
Each team is only allowed to hold onto the ball for a maximum of 30 seconds before shooting for the goal. Timers on the side of the pool show the players how much longer they may have possession and a hooter will sound if 30 seconds elapses and possession passes to the other team.
Water polo is a very physical sport as players jockey for position or aim to knock away or steal the ball from the other team Fouling is very common and free throws are awarded whenever the referees see a minor foul. There is also a lot of activity under the water that the referee doesn’t see as each team tries to dominate the opposition.