Although there have been variations of water polo since about 1870, the game never really became organised until the mid 1880s in England. The London Water Polo League was instituted in 1888, and in 1900 the game became an Olympic event. Until the 1920s the US played water polo with a slight variation of the rules. A semi-deflated ball was used (as opposed to a fully inflated one) and there was much more violence. Eventually the US started following the same rules as the rest of the world.
Playing Field and Equipment
Water polo may be played indoors or outdoors, in a pool or open water (such as a lake). The size of the pool may vary, but there must be two floating goals and some boundary lines marked out. The length of the pool from end to end must be between 20 and 30 yards and the width must be between eight and 25 yards. In regulation games the water must be at least six feet deep. The goal nets or cages are located at either end and are ten feet wide, three feet above the water's surface and sticking out one foot from the end of the pool. Markers along the side of the pool mark the two and four yard marks from either end of the pool.
Players and Officials
The teams consist of seven players; one goalie, three backs and three forwards. All players wear numbered caps. One team wears blue, and the other white. Both goalies wear red. The goalie is number one, the halfback is number four. Up to four substitutes are allowed.
There are either one or two referees who stand on the sides of the pool. The referees carry a stick with a white flag on one end and a blue flag on the other. When a foul occurs the referee will blow his whistle and point the stick towards the area where the foul was committed. The referee will hold out the end that displays the flag representing the team against which the foul was committed. Two goal judges sit at the goal lines to determine when a point has been scored. A timekeeper will keep track of the time left in play.
There are four six-minute periods with two minutes of rest in between. At the beginning of a game the six field players line up at the two-yard line in front of the goal with at least one yard of space between each player. The referee will toss the ball into the centre of the pool and the players will try to get possession of the ball. Once a player has possession of the ball, the player's team has 35 seconds to attempt a goal. If the player succeeds in throwing the ball between the goal posts and under the crossbar, then his team gets a point. At the end of the fourth period the team with the most points wins.