Water Polo is the coolest real sport on the planet. It is played lengthwise in a 20mX30m pool. It is deep enough that you cannot stand on the bottom! Because the referees are not in the water, they have difficulty seeing everything that happens, so subtle pushing and holding is easy to get away with. This is one thing that makes it different from most other sports. The biggest difference is that in water polo a whistle, signalling a minor foul means GO!, not stop.

Water polo is essentially like soccer, using your hands, in a pool that you can't stand in. Fine, so maybe waterpolo is not like soccer. It's played with a ball about the same size and material as a volleyball, but with enough texture that you can easily hold it. The goals are probably about 10 feet wide and 5 feet high (estimate).

Water polo is actually an Olympic Sport, which is not too surprising considering the other esoteric sports that are out there. Some people were able to play water polo in highschool (thereby skipping out on other sports *grin*) and it's often offered as an intramural college sport. However, often as such, it is played with inner tubes. This, although it can be fun, and less physically demanding than "real water polo", can be derided by people who play the sport. Playing in an inner tube is almost as kludgy as playing in a banana boat.

Water polo is actually an incredibly tough sport, and requires an amazing amount of body strength and endurance to play. Goalies, which in a regulation-sized pool have no bottom to stand on, must use their legs to tread and propel themselves upwards with at least half of their body out of the water to block the ball. Fouls are generally encouraged, because it stops the person with the ball, and allows play to continue down the pool. Only fouls from behind, or using two hands on a player are call for a kick out.

The main difference between water polo and other sports is that due to the water slowing play down, there is a lot more emphasis on raw ability, endurance, and strategy as opposed to pure speed.
College water polo and highschool water polo differ greatly. In highschool, the "coaches" (which, in any state other than California, were varsity swimmers and P.E. majors at low quality universities) basically teach you how not to drown. The common practice is to use a skill called the eggbeater, in which you tread water by using your legs as propellors in an eggbeater-like fashion. It is difficult to learn, but once mastered is quite powerful.

After having made sure that you do not die in the freezing water (which sometimes makes you want to die), highschool coaches instruct you in basic water polo strategy. The typical offense resembles an umbrella with one man two meters in front of the goal, the two meter man, while five other players surround him in a semi-circle with a radius or approximately 10 meters. At this point, the coach will tell players that getting the ball in the goal is good. Do it often. And, ala little league soccer, the kids play kill the cow in the pool.

College water polo is much more brutal and requires a lot more skill than could be acquired in most highschool programs (with the exception of schools in Southern California because they have programs the equivilent of some colleges). Offense is much more strategic and clever in that most teams have designed plays and many skillful players that will work very hard to embarass the other team's goalie.

Good college players usually try out for the U.S. National Team, a group of elite players from all over the country that competes with other national teams from all over the world. And, of course, the best of the best is the U.S. Olymic Team, a group of players that range in age from 18 to 38. The eighteen year old player is Tony Azevedo, a product of Long Beach's Wilson Highschool and a player for Stanford University. He will most likely be one of the best players in the world once he develops more and gets more experience at the Olympic level.

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