How many players are there in a team of water polo game?

Water polo is an exciting team sport that combines elements of swimming, handball, and wrestling. Two teams of seven players each compete to score goals by throwing a water polo ball into the opponents’ net. With six field players and one goalkeeper on each side, a full game of water polo features 14 players actively participating at a time. The fast-paced nature of water polo leads to frequent substitutions, however, so the total number of players on a water polo roster is higher than 14. Most water polo teams have around 13-15 players to allow for adequate substituting while maintaining a high level of play. In this article, we will take a deeper look at the structure of water polo teams and the specialized roles that each of the seven positions plays.

The Seven Player Positions in Water Polo

Standard water polo teams are comprised of seven different positions, each with distinct responsibilities:


The goalkeeper is tasked with preventing the opposition from scoring. They are the only player allowed to touch the ball with two hands, which aids in blocking shots. Goalies will often wear protective gear like helmets and padded vests to help defend the net. They are also the only players that can touch the bottom of the pool during play. This allows them to gain leverage and boost their height when rising up to make blocks. Since this is an incredibly demanding position, most teams have two goalkeepers on the roster who can be substituted in and out between the posts.


The point sits just in front of the goalkeeper and acts as an additional defender who guards the net. They are typically strong swimmers who can quickly turn defense into offense with their ability to steal passes from the other team. The point may also attempt perimeter shots, but their main role is to shut down advances towards the goal.

Two Drivers

Each team has two drivers who position themselves along the sides of the pool. Drivers act as the primary ball handlers who orchestrate the offense. They swim up and down the pool to create passing angles and openings in the defense. Drivers must be strong swimmers with good game awareness and passing ability to initiate scoring opportunities.

Two Wings

The wings line up next to the drivers in the middle of the pool and function as utility attackers. They balance both offensive and defensive duties based on where the ball is currently located. Wings will take perimeter shots when possessions reach the outside but also have responsibilities to press and steal when the other team has the ball. This versatility allows the wings to adapt as needed during matches.


The center forward is the main offensive weapon positioned farthest from the goal. They typically post up in front of the opposing team’s net and use their size and strength to create space for shots on goal. Centers use an array of turns, pumps, and fakes to shed defenders and finish scoring opportunities. They also must be adept at stealing lob passes and securing offensive rebounds.


The flat is a defender who presses up on offense to outnumber the other team and prevent fast breaks going the other way. They can intercept passes, block shots, and mark the opponent’s center. On offense, the flat has freedom to roam and position themselves for perimeter shots while looking for teammates to set up. This flexibility to play both ways depending on the situation makes the flat a utility player.

Complete Roster Size

While only seven players actively participate at a time, water polo teams need more than seven total athletes on the roster. This allows them to freely substitute players throughout the match and when players get into foul trouble. Most water polo rosters contain around 13-15 players. This gives them two to three substitutions for each position to utilize. Let’s examine why having extras at each position is important:


Most teams have two or three goalkeepers on the roster. The starting goalie plays the majority of the game, but backups are useful to give breathers and replace if the starter gets injured or is ineffective. Having a third goalkeeper provides an insurance policy in case something happens to the top two.


With two driver positions, teams ideally want four to five players capable of filling the role. Offensive production often runs through the drivers, so having fresh players to rotate prevents wearing them down. Multiple drivers also protect against potential injuries or fouling out.


Wings play a hybrid offensive/defensive function, so having a few different options for the two spots gives the coach flexibility. Some wings may excel more on offense while others specialize in defense or shooting. Rotating wings allows playing to specific strengths at different moments.

Points and Flats

Points and flats fill similar defensive assignments, with the flat being more versatile offensively. Teams usually have around three to four players earmarked for these spots to account for foul accumulation and fatigue over the course of a full game.


Centers exert a lot of energy while fighting for position against physical defenders game after game. Having a couple of center alternatives beyond the starter allows them to catch a breather and keeps them fresher for finishing around the goal late in contests.

Substitution Rules

Understanding water polo substitution rules is also key for putting together an effective roster:

– Players can be substituted in and out at any point when play is stopped
– There are no limits on the number of substitutions a team can make
– Players must exit and enter at mid-pool near the bench area
– Substitutions must not interfere with the restart of play after a stoppage

Because substitutions are unlimited provided they follow procedural rules, there is significant rotation throughout water polo matches. This allows teams to strategically swap players in and out to gain advantages at different moments rather than relying on set lineups. Having a deep roster of talented backups at each position is key for taking advantage of plentiful substitution opportunities.

Specialization by Position

Water polo teams strive to have a well-balanced roster capable of excelling in every facet of the game. Teams blend size, speed, shooting, defense, and game intelligence at all seven positions. Specialization still occurs, however, based on positional demands:


Goalies need height, quick reflexes, and fearlessness to stare down blistering shots. Strong legs and core strength also help them gain leverage when exploding up for blocks.


Drivers are often speedy swimmers who can race down the pool on fast breaks. Having a powerful throwing arm allows them to zip passes through tight windows. Awareness, vision, and high water polo IQ helps them conduct the offense.


Wings need well-rounded capabilities to shift between offense and defense smoothly. Good size and positional smarts allows them to adapt on both ends. Wings use positioning and physicality over pure speed.


Points benefit from quick swimming to smother opponents’ drivers and wings. The ability to play physically while avoiding fouls aids their defensive stopper role.


Centers use their size and strength to carve out position near the goal. Having finishing ability around the net with both power and touch pays dividends. They also time crashes for offensive rebounding opportunities.


Flats have defensive tenacity and awareness of passing lanes while denying the opponent’s center. Offensively, they use high IQ without being the top shooter to complement the starters.

Balancing Lineups

Putting together the seven starters and complete roster requires balancing capabilities across positions:

– Mixing shooting and playmaking from drivers and wings
– Having size and speed at center and from points defensively
– Rotating fresh defenders to press out on the perimeter
– Allowing different lineup combinations and substitutions

Blending specialized skills, endurance, and complementary traits leads to the most potent water polo teams.


In summary, water polo teams consist of seven starting positions with around 13-15 players on the full roster. This allows for frequent substitutions and rotation throughout matches. Each of the seven positions has distinct duties ranging from goalkeeper to drivers to wings to centers. Teams aim to have balance across the roster with size, shooting, speed, defense, and high water polo IQ. This combination allows them to strategically sub in players and matchups that accentuate their strengths during a game. So in the end, while seven players are in the pool at a time, the complete roster of athletes ready to contribute numbers around 14 for most water polo teams.

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