Little is known about the origins of water polo. However, it is known that the sport originated in the rivers and lakes of mid-nineteenth century England as a water version of rugby. Early games used an inflated, rubber ball from India known as a "pulu,"pronounced "polo" by the English. Both the ball and the game became known as water polo.
In 1870, to attract more spectators to swimming events, the London Swimming Association created a set of water polo rules for indoor swimming pools.
The U.S.A. started playing Water Polo in 1888. However, the American version of water polo resembled American Football in the water. Games were so spectacular that by the late 1890s it was one of the nation's most popular spectator sports. In 1890 the New York Athletic Club started playing the game Water Polo, and at the Sydenham Swimmers Club, J.H. Smith and Arnold Heilban started a Water Polo team (1900). The sport has been popular ever since.
Water Polo is a team sport. You have to shoot a buoyant ball into a netted goal. The goals are rectangular with a wood, metal or plastic frame.
There are 6 people on a team and a goalie. You can have 6 subs. The teams have two different colored caps. White for one team, blue for the other, and red for goalies. The goalie canít hang on the goal or on the side of the pool. The goalie can use two hands. The team members can only use one hand when handling the ball.
There are 2 referees, 2 goal judges, 2 time keepers, 2 minute breaks, and the game is divided into 4 periods, 7 minute each. Each goal is one point.
In the Olympics
Water polo was entered in the Olympics of 1900. The only two teams were Great Britain and Belgium. Great Britain beat Belgium 7-2 in the final.
Water polo had been a medal sport for men only, but that is about to change. After a long wait, women's water polo will be an official sport in the Olympic Games in the year 2000 in Sydney. Six teams will compete in the Olympics.
Maureen O'Toole is an accomplished female water poloist, who retired but has returned to the sport to compete in the Olympics.