Can You Steal the Ball in Water Polo? Rules and Techniques Explained

Can You Steal the Ball in Water Polo

Water polo is a sport that requires a unique combination of swimming skills, strength, and strategy. For those who have never played it, the idea of trying to steal a ball from someone while treading water might seem impossible. But for those who have played, they know that stealing the ball can be the difference between winning and losing. So, can you steal the ball in water polo? The short answer is yes, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

In this article, we’ll dive into the tactics and techniques used to successfully steal the ball in water polo. Whether you’re a seasoned player or just curious about the sport, keep reading to learn how to become a water polo ball thief.

Defensive Strategies

Water polo is a game that’s all about possession. The team that has the ball has the power to score, while the other team is left to defend. So, naturally, stealing the ball from the opposing team is a crucial skill to have. But how can you do it?

Water polo is a game that requires both offensive and defensive strategies. While the offensive team tries to score goals, the defensive team tries to prevent them.

In this section, we will discuss some of the defensive strategies that players can use to prevent the other team from scoring.

Stealing the Ball: Is it Allowed?

One of the ways that a defensive player can prevent the other team from scoring is by stealing the ball. However, it is important to note that there are legal and illegal ways to steal the ball.

According to, , “You are allowed to steal the ball if you are in a position to legally do so. You cannot, however, hold, pull, or push the other player in order to get the ball.”

One of the best ways to steal the ball in water polo is to use a technique called the “slide and scoop.” This involves using one hand to push past the opposing player and the other hand to scoop the ball out of their hand. It is important to note, however, that players must avoid committing a foul in the process, such as grabbing or holding the other player.

Legal Ways to Steal the Ball

There are several legal ways to steal the ball in water polo;

One of the most common ways to steal the ball in water polo is by intercepting a pass. This requires quick reflexes and anticipation. If you can read the play and predict where the ball is going, you can position yourself to intercept the pass and gain possession for your team.

If the other player is holding the ball, you can use your right hand to push past them and your left hand to scoop the ball out of their hand. It is important to note that you cannot hold, pull, or push the other player in order to get the ball.

Another way to steal the ball is by “checking” your opponent. This involves using your body to block your opponent’s path to the ball, and then reaching around them to grab the ball. This move requires strength and good timing, as you’ll need to make contact with your opponent without committing a foul.

A third way to steal the ball is by simply out-swimming your opponent. If you’re faster and more agile than your opponent, you can swim around them and grab the ball before they have a chance to react.

Of course, all of these techniques require practice and skill. You’ll need to be comfortable in the water, have good hand-eye coordination, and be able to read the game in order to successfully steal the ball. But with dedication and hard work, anyone can become a water polo ball thief.

Illegal Ways to Steal the Ball

It is also worth noting that there are certain strategies in water polo that are illegal and can result in a penalty. For example, holding the ball underwater to prevent the opposing team from seeing or stealing it is considered an illegal strategy known as “ball under.”

Another way is to hold, pull, or push the other player in order to get the ball.

A third way is to use your legs to kick the other player.

If you use any of these tactics, you will be penalized by the referee. In some cases, you may even be ejected from the game.

Overall, it is important for defensive players to use legal tactics when trying to steal the ball. By doing so, they can prevent the other team from scoring while also avoiding penalties and ejections.

While this tactic may be effective in retaining possession of the ball, it is important for players to understand and follow the rules in order to play the game fairly and safely.

Basic Rules and Fouls

Water polo has several basic rules and fouls that players must follow. These include:

  • Players cannot touch the bottom of the pool.
  • Players must pass, catch, and shoot the ball with one hand only, except for the goalkeeper who can use both hands.
  • Players can hold the ball underwater to avoid being tackled, but only for a maximum of three seconds.
  • Players can only hold the ball for a maximum of 30 seconds before shooting at the goal.
  • Players cannot push, hold, or pull other players in the water.

Fouls in water polo include:

  • Blocking: A player uses their body to prevent another player’s movement.
  • Interference: A player disrupts another player’s movement without making contact.
  • Kicking: A player kicks another player.
  • Exclusion: A player is excluded from the game for 20 seconds due to a major foul.
  • Penalty Shot: A player is awarded a penalty shot if fouled while shooting at the goal.

Overall, water polo is a fast-paced and exciting game that requires skill, teamwork, and strategy. By following the basic rules and avoiding fouls, players can enjoy the game while working towards victory.

Offensive Strategies

Passing and Shooting Techniques

Water polo is a fast-paced game that requires quick thinking and precise execution. To score goals, players must be able to pass and shoot accurately. Passing the ball is done by throwing the ball to a teammate, and shooting is done by throwing the ball into the goal.

There are several types of passes in water polo, including the chest pass, the overhead pass, and the lob pass.

  • The chest pass is used for short distances and is thrown directly to the chest of the receiving player.
  • The overhead pass is used for longer distances and is thrown over the head of the receiving player.
  • The lob pass is used to pass the ball over a defender’s head and is thrown with a high arc. Shooting techniques include the wrist shot, the backhand shot, and the power shot.
  • The wrist shot is used for quick shots and is thrown with a flick of the wrist.
  • The backhand shot is used when the player is facing away from the goal and is thrown with the back of the hand.
  • The power shot is used for long-distance shots and is thrown with a strong arm motion.

Scoring Strategies

Scoring in water polo requires a combination of offensive strategies. One of the most common strategies is the set play, where players move in a specific formation to create scoring opportunities.

The most commonly used formation is the triangle, with one player at the center, two players at the wings, and two players at the drivers.

Another strategy is the counterattack, where players quickly move the ball up the pool to catch the defense off guard. This requires quick passing and swimming skills.

Dealing with Defensive Pressure

When facing defensive pressure, offensive players must be able to maintain possession of the ball. One way to do this is by using fakes and feints to trick defenders into moving in the wrong direction.

Another way is by using the ball under technique, where the ball is held underwater to prevent the defender from stealing it. However, this technique is illegal and can result in a penalty.

Moving the ball is also possible by dribbling or passing to a teammate. It is important for offensive players to communicate with each other to create space and avoid turnovers.

Training and Conditioning

Water polo is a physically demanding sport that requires a combination of strength, endurance, and agility. To become a successful water polo player, it is essential to focus on training and conditioning.

A well-rounded training program should include strength and endurance training, skills and drills practice, and mental preparation and focus.

Strength and Endurance Training

Strength training is crucial for water polo players to develop the explosive power needed to swim fast, shoot accurately, and defend effectively.

Endurance training is also essential to build stamina and improve overall fitness. A combination of weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, and cardio workouts can help players develop the strength and endurance needed to excel in water polo.

Some examples of strength and endurance exercises that can benefit water polo players include:

  • Deadlifts
  • Squats
  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Swimming laps
  • Interval training

Skills and Drills Practice

Water polo requires a combination of technical skills, tactical awareness, and teamwork. Regular skills and drills practice can help players improve their ball handling, passing, shooting, and defensive skills.

It is also important to practice game situations and strategies to develop a better understanding of how to apply skills and tactics in real-life scenarios.

Some examples of skills and drills practice that can benefit water polo players include:

  • Passing and catching drills
  • Shooting drills
  • Defensive drills
  • Scrimmages
  • Game simulations

Mental Preparation and Focus

Water polo is not just a physical sport, but also a mental one. Mental preparation and focus can help players stay calm under pressure, maintain concentration, and make better decisions during games.

Visualization, goal setting, and relaxation techniques can all help players develop a stronger mental game.

Some examples of mental preparation and focus techniques that can benefit water polo players include:

  • Visualization exercises
  • Goal setting
  • Breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Positive self-talk


Water polo is a dynamic sport that requires a combination of physical and mental skills. Stealing the ball is a crucial aspect of the game, and it can be done in a variety of ways. Players can use their speed, agility, and technique to outmaneuver their opponents and gain possession of the ball.

However, it’s important to remember that stealing the ball is not the only way to succeed in water polo. Defense is just as important as offense, and players must work together to prevent their opponents from scoring. Understanding the rules and strategies of the game is essential for success.

Overall, stealing the ball in water polo is a challenging but rewarding task. With practice and dedication, players can improve their skills and become more effective at gaining possession of the ball. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned player, there is always room for improvement in this exciting sport.