Water polo is a game of skill, discipline and extreme aerobic conditioning. The game consists of four 8-minute periods. Athletes, who aren't allowed to touch the sides or bottom of the pool, sometimes swim up to three miles per game.
Men and women play in different size pools, called pitches, and the pools sometimes vary from tournament to tournament. At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the men will play on a pitch that is 20 meters wide and 30 meters long. The women will play on a pitch that is 20 meters wide and 25 meters long. The pool is 2 meters deep.
Olympic Water Polo: The Basics
Number of Players per Team: Teams are made up of 13 players, though only seven players per team can be on the pitch at any given time. Those seven players are made up of one goalkeeper and six outfield players.
Substitutions: Teams can make as many substitutions as necessary, though the changes can only be made in a specific area of the pool. That area is located in the corner, behind the goalkeeper and near the team bench.
Length of Each Play: In order to keep the game of water polo moving and intense, each team is only allowed 30 seconds to try to score. After 30 seconds, the ball is turned over to the opposite team, which then gets its own 30 seconds to try to score.
End of Period Switch and Choice of Ends: The teams change ends at the end of each period, and a coin flip before the game determines where a team will play the first quarter.
About Individual Fouls in Olympic Water Polo
Major fouls are some of the most serious rule infringements in the game of water polo. Usually, a player is awarded a personal fault and an ejection after committing a major foul. It takes three personal faults to be removed from a game.
The following are just a few major fouls:
Brutality: Brutality includes kicking, striking, or otherwise endangering a player from the opposite team. Brutality is usually met with an immediate dismissal from the game for the offending player.
Defensive Dead Time Foul: A defensive dead time foul is a defensive foul committed outside of play. Offending players are sent to the ejection area.
Offensive Dead Time Foul: An offensive dead time foul is exactly the same as the foul listed above, only it's committed by an offensive player. As a result, the ball is turned over to the opposing team. An offensive player committing a dead time foul does not receive a personal fault.
Double Dead Time Foul: A double dead time foul is committed when both an offensive and defensive player commit a foul at the same time. Both players are sent to the ejection area, and the offensive team retains control of the ball.
In addition to major fouls, players can also commit ordinary fouls. When an ordinary foul is committed, the opposing team gains control of the ball.
Ordinary fouls include, but are not limited to:
Ball Under Fouls: A ball under foul occurs when a player hold the ball underwater after bodily contact.
Impeding: Impeding occurs when a player pushes or pushes off from a player who does not have the ball.
Standing: Players cannot stand on the bottom of the pool during the game.
Sandra Johnson is a longtime Olympic fan. While working for the United States Olympic Committee and living in the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Johnson had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46.