Offensive and defensive impeding have been separated in high school water polo rules to more clearly
define penalties and actions.

These changes to Rules 6‑9 and 7‑21 of the NFHS Water Polo Rules Book were recommended by the NFHS
Water Polo Rules Committee at its March 29 meeting held virtually. This change and three other rules
revisions were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors and will be effective with the 2022‑
23 season.

The committee approved separate impeding rules since offensive impeding is an ordinary foul while
defensive impeding is an exclusion foul. In making the change, the committee developed a new definition
for defensive impeding. Rule 7‑21 now reads as follows:

“An exclusion foul is committed when a player on defense impedes or otherwise prevents the free
movement of an opponent who is not holding the ball, including swimming on the opponent’s shoulders,
back or legs and ducking under to take away an advantage. ‘Holding’ is lifting, carrying or touching the ball,
but does not include dribbling the ball.”

In other changes, hair‑control devices and other adornments such as beads are now legal in high school
water polo as long as they are securely fastened and do not present an increased risk to the player,
teammates or opponents. This language has been added to Rule 2‑4‑4 in the NFHS Water Polo Rules Book.
“The Water Polo Rules Committee took another step in creating a more inclusive environment within the
sport by relaxing restrictions on hair adornments,” said Sandy Searcy, NFHS director of sports and liaison to
the Water Polo Rules Committee. “It was extremely important to the rules committee to create rules
language that supported diversity of hair trends while minimizing risks of injury to the athlete, teammates
and opponents.”

In a similar change, Rule 2‑4‑8 permits uniforms providing full body coverage to be worn for religious

“This change eliminates the need for state associations to authorize, per individual, in writing the use of
suits providing full body coverage,” Searcy said.

Finally, the committee made a clarification to the rule regarding the “Method of Putting the Ball into Play.”
The new language in Rule 4‑19 reads as follows:

“A result of any ordinary foul, offensive foul or exclusion foul is a free throw. A player shall put the ball into
play by demonstrating a clear separation of ball, hand and water, as in passing the ball, picking up and
dropping the ball, tossing the ball in the air, tossing or placing the ball before swimming, or transferring the
ball from one hand to the other hand above the water.”

A complete listing of the water polo rules changes will be available on the NFHS website at
Click on “Activities & Sports” at the top of the home page and select “Water Polo.”

According to the most recent NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, a total of 22,475 boys
participated in water polo, while 21,735 girls participated in the sport across the country.