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Water Polo Drills for Beginners

author image Jack Kaltmann
Jack Kaltmann is a Las Vegas-based writer with more than 25 years of professional experience in corporate communications. He is a published author of several books and feature articles for national publications such as "American Artist" and "Inside Kung-Fu." Kaltmann holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Miami University and is a retired nationally certified personal trainer.
Water Polo Drills for Beginners
female water polo player in pool Photo Credit: boggy22/iStock/Getty Images

Water polo is a demanding team sport that involves throwing and catching a ball while alternating between treading water and short but intense swimming sprints. The sport has rightfully been compared to hockey in the pool, but without the pads. Those new to the sport should emphasize conditioning, ball handling, passing and receiving, and shooting in their training.

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To practice starting sprints and improve anaerobic conditioning, start by treading water about two yards from the end of the pool. On a whistle command, swim as fast as you can to the center of the pool and return to your starting position. Complete the drill 10 to 20 times in each training session.

A second drill involves teammates dunking one another in a game of survival. All players start in the middle of the pool, treading water. On a whistle command, the players attempt to dunk one another under the water. As soon as a player's head goes under water, that player is out and must sprint to the edge of the pool. The last person to survive is declared the winner.

Ball Handling

Because working with a slippery ball is a challenge for most beginners, practice various solo ball-handling exercises such as lifting underneath, toss pickup, rolling pickup and press pickup. Start with these drills while standing in water, then while treading water and finally while moving the ball across the pool.

Passing and Receiving

Pair players into two-person units, about four feet apart, treading water. Each pair is given two balls that have to be passed back and forth while players keep their hands dry and above the water. Continue this drill for 10 minutes.

For a second drill, have the players form a large circle in the pool and begin swimming in a clockwise direction. The coach will then throw in a ball and call out how each player should pick up the ball and where it should be passed next. This drill can last for 10 to 20 minutes.


Practice basic shooting drills from five yards from the net, increasing the distance one yard at at time until you are confidently shooting from 15 yards.

To improve corner shots, hang a cow bell from each corner of the net and have the shooters aim for the cow bell. This can be done as a drill or during a practice match.

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  • "Water Polo"; Tracie Egan; 2004
  • "Water Polo for Players & Teachers of Aquatics"; Pete Snyder, Ph.D.; 2008
  • "Water Polo: Learning and Teaching the Basics"; Monte Nitzkowski; 1998
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