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Water Polo Positions

A water polo team is made up of a goalkeeper and 6 field players. There are 13 players in a team but only 7 in the water at any one time.

Cap Colour

Traditionally the away team wears blue caps and the home team wears white, with the goalkeepers wearing red.

Cap Numbers

A player is not allowed to change cap number during a game except with the permission of the referee and notification of the scoring table.

Cap numbers are used by the referees to identify the players.

Numbers 1 and 13 are reserved for Goalkeepers.


Positions in the pool are extremely fluid and each member of the team should be comfortable playing them all, even goalkeeper!


The defensive player who plays closest to (nearly in) the goal. The goalie is excepted from several rules, as long as he/she remains inside the five-meter line. For example, the goalie may touch the ball with two hands simultaneously, and can punch the ball. The goalie is also allowed to stand during play. Outside the five-meter line, goalies must adhere to field player rules. They are not allowed to cross the half-distance line.

Goalies stay within or very near the goal for the entirety of the game. Their responsibilities include blocking shots, making long passes on counter attacks, and communicating with and directing their team during defence. They are the only player that is allowed to touch the ball with two hands and — in pools with a shallow end — stand on the bottom. While they swim far less than field players, goalies should still have a quick stroke in the event that they need to swim a ball away from a defender.

Important Skills

Strong eggbeater
Quick reflexes
Ability to make long, accurate passes
Loud voice and good sense of the game

Centre Forward or Hole Set

The offensive player who establishes a position directly in front of the opponents' goal, between the two- and five-meter lines. This position is usually played by someone who has superb leg-strength and is one of the larger players on the team. Also called hole sets or 2-meter men, these players must have excellent passing and shooting skills.

The Centre Forward is one of the most crucial players in the offensive set up. Positioned directly in front of the goal, they are often guarded by the best opposing defender. Hole sets need to draw lots of fouls, have an excellent eggbeater, and be ready to take quick shots. The hole will also be responsible for making good passes to perimeter players and communicating with the team.

Important Skills

Strong legs
Toughness and endurance
Reliable sweep shots and backhands
Ability to draw fouls
Ability to spot open teammates on both sides of the goal
Ability to make good pressure passes
Loud voice and good sense of the game

Perimeter Players

Wings, flats, and the point are positioned around the hole set in a semicircle. They are also known as perimeter players and drivers. Wings play on either side of the goal along or near the two-meter line. Flats are above the wings, on or near the five-meter line. The point is between the two flats, usually a little outside the five-meter line. Because of their place in the water, the point will often be the first one back on defence and therefore the opposing hole set’s defender. The job of all these perimeter players is to set the ball, initiate drives or picks, and to get open for passes and shots.


Drivers are field players who specialise in escaping their defenders by swimming toward the goal. Drivers have outstanding hand-eye coordination, are good shooters, and by definition, must be fast swimmers.

Important Skills

Knowledge of drives and picks
Shooting, including wet shots and dry shots
Excellent passing, especially under pressure
Communicating plays and changes in defensive coverage

Defensive Positions

The only defensive position (somewhat) set in stone is that of the hole set’s defender, also known as the “hole D.” This player should be skilled at stealing the ball and strong enough to defend the other team’s hole set. The rest of the field players will match up with an offender as they swim down the pool. As the other team sets up their offense, it may be necessary to for defenders to switch players, to put two defenders on one person, or to play in zones.

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