The Game of Water Polo
Water polo as a team sport began in late 19th century England and Scotland, where water sports were a feature of county fairs and festivals. Men’s water polo was among the first team sports introduced at the modern Olympic games in 1900.
The rules of water polo were originally developed in the late nineteenth century in Great Britain by William Wilson. The modern game originated as a form of rugby football played in rivers and lakes in England and Scotland with a ball constructed of Indian rubber. This “water rugby” became “water polo” based on the English pronunciation of the Balti word for ball, pulu. Early play allowed brute strength, wrestling and holding opposing players underwater to recover the ball; the goalie stood outside the playing area and defended the goal by jumping in on any opponent attempting to score by placing the ball on the deck.
By the 1880s, the game evolved that stressed swimming, passing, and scoring by shooting into a goal net; players could only be tackled when holding the ball and could not be taken under water. To deal with constant changes in rules, in 1888, the London Water Polo League was founded and approved rules to allow team competition, forming the foundation of the present game. The first English championships were played in 1888. In 1890, the first international water polo game was played; Scotland defeated England, 4-0.
Between 1890 and 1900, the game developed in Europe, with teams competing in Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Hungary and Italy, using British rules. A different game was being played in the United States, characterized by rough play, holding, diving underwater, and soft, semi-inflated ball that could be gripped tightly and carried underwater. As a result, European teams did not compete in the 1904 Olympic championships in St. Louis. By 1914, most US teams agreed to conform to international rules An international water polo committee was formed in 1929, consisting of representatives from Great Britain and the International Amateur Swimming Federation (FINA). Rules were developed for international matches and put into effect in 1930; FINA has been the international governing body for the sport since that time.
Over the years, both technical and rule changes affected the character of the game. In 1928, Hungarian water polo coach Béla Komjádi invented the “air pass,” or “dry pass”, a technique in which a player directly passes the ball through the air to another player, who receives it without the ball hitting the water. Previously, players would let the ball drop in the water first and then reach out for it, but the dry pass made the offensive game more dynamic, and contributed to Hungarian dominance of water polo for 60 years.In 1936, James R. (“Jimmy”) Smith, California water polo coach and author of several books on water polo mechanics, developed a water polo ball made with an inflatable bladder and a rubber fabric cover, which improved performance. The previous leather ball absorbed water and became heavier during the game. In 1949, rule changes allowed play to continue uninterrupted after a referee whistled an ordinary foul, speeding up play. In the 1970s, the exclusion foul replaced a point system for major fouls; players guilty of this foul were excluded for a 1 minute penalty and their team forced to play with fewer players. Possession of the ball was limited to 45 seconds before a scoring attempt. Time of penalties and possession have been reduced since then. The direct shot on goal from the seven (7) meter line after a free throw was allowed in 1994, and changed to a five meter throw in 2005.
Read more at http://www.fina.org/discipline/water-polo.