Water polo may not be the most popular sport in the world—it certainly doesn’t get its own spotlight on ESPN—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a sport to take lightly. It’s grueling in its own right, but many people don’t know it because they’re unfamiliar with the sport itself. Let your ignorance end today: here are some facts about water polo that you didn’t know.
- Water polo is an older sport than you might think. In fact, it existed long before the NFL, NBA, or NHL did, cropping up in the late 19th century. It became one of the first team sports to be in the Olympics in 1900.
- Players don’t touch the bottom of the pool when they’re practicing or in a game. This sounds easy enough, but matches can last nearly 40 minutes, and it can get tiring treading water for that length of time. Players also swim nearly two miles every game, so the physical conditions of each player must be extremely high. Their practices make sure of that, with each player practicing a minimum of 20 hours a week.
- You cannot touch the ball with two hands. No matter your position, it’s illegal to grab the ball with both of your hands while playing, with the exemption being the goalie. This rule teaches players to become ambidextrous as a necessity.
- Water polo can get messy underwater. Anything goes once you’re below the water’s surface, and they mean anything: punching, kicking, and scratching are all frequent mishaps during matches. If a punch is intentional or has malicious intent behind it you can be penalized, but even then the penalty is only applied if an official sees it happen.
- There’s no protective gear underneath the swimsuits. Considering the amount of physical assault that occurs in the sport, that thought alone is a bit frightening. The swimsuits themselves, however, look more uncomfortable than they actually are—the general player consensus is that the speedo is tight-fitting, but comfortable.
- Some players wear two speedos instead of one. Not only does this help prevent public exposure, but—falling under the messy category mentioned above—it’s not unheard of for someone to have their speedo yanked off underwater. Wearing two of them will at least save you the flailing around while you try to find your swimsuit after a scuffle.