NCAA Subcommittee Proposes Rules Changes, Including Extension of 5-Meter Area

The NCAA Men’s and Women’s Water Polo Rules Subcommittee has recommended a number of proposals designed to align the collegiate game with national and international rules. Most significantly, that includes the addition of a 6-meter area.

In international water polo, fouls committed outside of the 6-meter area, which is the area within 6 meters of the goal line from sideline to sideline, allow the fouled player to take an immediate shot on goal.

Previously, this area was set at 5 meters, and while national and international water polo (everything under the FINA umbrella) has moved that area out to 6 meters in the last few years, the NCAA still has that area set at 5 meters.

There are a few other restrictions related to the 6-metre area, including where the goalkeeper can stand on or jump off the pool floor in shallow water pools, and the size of the coaches’ box.

Other Rule Change Proposals

  • The subcommittee proposed that the ball must be put in play by demonstrating a clear separation of ball, hand, and water as in passing, picking up the ball, swimming with it, dropping it, and tossing the ball up in the air. This would replace the current wording in the rules of having to make a “water polo related move.” This also aligns with international rules and removes some ambiguity. The committee believes that this change will increase shots on goal and increase the pace of play.
  • The subcommittee recommends that goalkeepers be allowed to move beyond and touch the ball past the half-distance line. The committee’s vision will be that the goalie will advance past halfway in end-of-game scenarios to create 7-on-6 situations when they are in dire need of goals.
  • Permit assistant coaches and players in the bench area to sit or stand during play. Only the head coach could move beyond the goal line during live play.
  • Allow replacement caps to be readily available in the team bench area.

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4 months ago

Does anyone remember back when it was a 7 meter line? The more things change…

Reply to  CraigH
4 months ago

Yes, it lasted for 3 years. And also included a 2-goal award. I was able to submit comments to the committee and was opposed to many of the play changes. Unfortunately, the reason for changes are that “FINA does it”, ignoring the fact that 26 American senior players play by those rules and 100,000 players play by more manageable rules.
Ryan Upper
Retired water polo coach

Reply to  BWPolo
4 months ago

It would be safe to assume that 99% if not all play club water polo, as well as NCAA and these, are similar rules. So it is not just for those on national teams. Plus, if you are an official that refs different levels it helps them out as well instead of having to know multiple sets of rules.

4 months ago

Don’t like the change regarding the goalie, do like allowing team and assistant to stand, and availability of caps. 5/6m, not surprised. Just think implementing these changes now while majority of players can’t practice and familiarize themselves with the new rules is a poor call. Thanks for the water polo coverage, keep it up.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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