Referee Page

Update: 12/19/2019

Over the course of the 2018 FINA competitive calendar a set of new rules were experimented with at the Youth World Championships and the Senior World Cups. The games were played with the new rules and analyzed under great scrutiny by FINA with collaborative feedback taken from experts across the globe. The end result netted a faster and more dynamic game as evidenced by a 25% uptick in goals scored per game and a 24% decrease in fouls called per game.


Beginning January 1, 2020, select new rules and interpretations will go into effect for all USA Water Polo sanctioned events and tournaments. This is the second wave of the new rule changes and is in addition to the March 1, 2019 new rule changes.


These new rules were first introduced at the General Assembly early this year and have since been updated with further clarification. We believe these changes will improve player engagement and player safety. We encourage all participants involved in our sport to carefully read this updated version.

Update: 12/3/2019

  1. Roster Checks! For certain referees, it appears that my previous messages have not been clear. Roster Checks MUST be done before each game. I understand the difficulties that this causes, including delays of games. BUT, there are HUGE liabilities for you as a referee, for USA Water Polo, and even for the event host, if something were to happen. As an FYI, this would not have become a rule unless something has already happened at previous events. Please protect yourself, protect the players, and protect USA Water Polo.


  2. Report MISCONDUCTS, INJURIES, BRUTALITIES, RED CARDS! Again, it appears as if my previous messages were not clear. You must report misconducts, injuries, brutalities, red cards. These reports are being monitored by USAWP and sanctions are coming down from USAWP. If we do not report, players will act as if it is the norm at USAWP events. I have attached my previous PDF explaining, step-by-step, on how to report.
  3. Referee Eligibility: As equally as we do roster checks, we also must be active and eligible as USAWP referees. If you are ineligible to referee and you officiate, every call you made and even the game itself is potentially protestable. Everyone is notified by USA Water Polo, has access to the USA Water Polo website, and has the phone number for USA Water Polo to make sure that your membership is current before each tournament. I do my best to help you, if you need help. With that being said, if you referee a USAWP event without a current membership, you can face some serious consequences, like your assignments may be suspended.

  4. Review the rules, apply the correct rule! I have been to several tournaments, and have seen a majority of our active referees officiating various levels of games. Overall, many of you have taken my and some of our more experienced referees feedback to better your game, which is great! But, there is still a lot of work to be done for all of us.

    One thing that I noticed a lot at all levels of games was the following: A perimeter player is being held by a defensive player with two hands, and a normal foul is being called. The rules are very clear – 21.10 – “To use two hands to hold an opponent not holding the ball anywhere in the field of play.” This is at a minimum, an exclusion foul! I have recently watched this not being called in two, highly competitive matches, which led to more serious issues throughout the game. Again, review the rules and apply the correct rule! 

  5. Referee Rules Training: we will have a referee training on Sat.-Sun., Dec. 28-29, 2019 (9 am – 5 pm on Sat, TBD on Sun.) at Gulliver Highschool. I highly, highly, highly recommend that you attend. We have new rules coming out in January – and everyone needs to be onboard. I will send out a link with the online registration within the next two weeks ($10 for USAWP members, $20 for nonmembers). 

  6. Referee Level Advancement: Many of you have come to me regarding referee advancement. Some are ready to advance, while others may need more experience and knowledge. With that being said, I have attached the USAWP Guidelines for referee advancement (please review). Given that in our zone, the opportunities to referee sometimes are limited, you can submit a ‘resume’ listing highlights, events you have officiated at any level, etc. for me/USAWP to review.


Stephanie  B. Villalobos
SEZ Head Referee



*** Below are some of the new rules and interpretations.***


MARCH 2019:

  1.  Free Throw Location: Location of the free throw at the spot of the foul


  1. Flying substitutions:  An additional substitution re-entry area will be at any place in between the goal line and center pool line on the team’s half of the field of play (for flying substitutions). Substitute must always enter the water via behind the goal line, in the corner, nearest the team bench. Rules in place, given there is sufficient space.


  1. Half-time intervals: shall be 3 minutes or less.


  1. Goalkeeper Privileges: Goalkeepers are allowed to move and touch the ball beyond the half distance line AND can participate as a shooter in a penalty shot or shootout. But, 12/10 U may NOT move past the half or shoot a penalty throw.


  1. Time-outs: A team is entitled to no more than 2 time-outs per game. Time-outs can be called at any time by the coach of the team in possession of the ball, except after awarding a penalty throw.


  1. Direct Shot Signal by the Referees: If a free throw is awarded for a foul outside, but within one meter of the 5m line, the referee administering the free throw will point downward to the 5m line to indicate that the player is eligible to shoot a direct shot on goal. (Starting January 1, 2020, the referee shall raise their hand up to indicate a player is eligible to shoot after a free throw is awarded for a foul outside of 6 meters.)


 JANUARY 1, 2020:

  1. Corner Throws: A player taking a corner throw may (a) shoot directly (b) swim and shoot without passing (after putting the ball in play) or (c) pass to another player.


  1. “Tactical Foul” (Direct shot) – If a player on defense commits an ordinary foul outside of 5 meters (6m on Jan. 1, 2020)  and does one of the following (but not limited to) as a “tactical foul” to prevent the player from shooting a direct shot:
  1. Knocks the ball inside 5 meters (6m on Jan. 1, 2020) 
  2. Knocks the ball further away from the goal
  3. Throws the ball away


The defensive player shall be excluded for 20 seconds. If the tactical foul is committed in the final minute of the game to prevent a goal, it is a penalty foul.


  1. Method of Scoring: If a foul is awarded outside of 6 meters, the player may (a) shoot immediately (b) fake and then shoot (after putting the ball in play) (c) dribble and then shoot (after putting the ball in play). Both, the ball and the foul, must be outside of 6 meters.


  1. Attacking a player from behind within 6 meters: When a player with front position is facing or swimming toward the goal and/or is holding the ball and is impeded (attacked) from behind during an attempt to shoot, a penalty foul must be awarded. The only way to defend in this position is for the defender to make contact with only the ball or hand of the attacking player. Note: This rule does not take precedence over the advantage rule. This rule does not change the definition of a probable goal. It only eliminates the no call of a penalty foul for having the ball in hand.


  1. Direct Shot Signal by the Referees: Starting January 1, 2020, the referee shall raise their hand up to indicate a player is eligible to shoot after a free throw is awarded for a foul outside of 6 meters.

For more information, please see the USA Water Polo site: