New Rules Won't Work Unless Referees Are Allowed to Work

Richard Hunkler, Ph.D.
Slippery Rock University
08/14/05

Actually the present rules are not bad rules, but I think they went awry when the people from LEN pressured the TWPC to allow more physicality in the game. This was accomplished by the TWPC giving verbal interpretations to the referees on how they should apply the rules. For example when the referees were told not to call off ball fouls, all hell broke loose in the play of the 2-meter player and the 2-meter defenders. Another bad side effect of this verbal instruction was that many field players stopped driving because they knew they were not going to be rewarded with an exclusion call.

Any type of verbal interpretations by a governing body to a group of individuals who have to enforce a set of rules is a really, really bad idea because in the first place it doesn't allow these individuals to do their job properly and in the second place it violates the tenets of a Communications 101 course. Don't people remember the class object lesson? You know where the instructor whispers a phrase in a student's ear and then the instructor tells the student to whisper the same phrase in the next student's ear, and so forth and so on until it reaches the last student in the class. The instructor tells the last student to repeat the phrase aloud to the class and then the instructor tells the class the actual phrase. A big nervous laugh is heard because the students cannot believe how mangled the phrase has become. That is just what the referees have to work with - mangled rules.

Granted the lesson is somewhat rigged because the instructor gives the first student a phrase that is a slight tongue twister? Have you read all the water polo rules in their entirety? Then you know they can also be somewhat of a tongue twister. The written interpretations of the rules are not, I assure you, the icing on the cake. They are more like the grain alcohol poured into the punch bowl at a College Senior Class Dance because it many times helps confuse the issues at hand, but it can also make some of the people at the party feel happy. However, if you think written interpretations can be bad then you can imagine what a set of verbal interpretations must be like. Verbal interpretations could and might be at least a million times worse than written interpretations! Multiply this by a factor of a hundred when you take in to account the polyglot of languages that are used. That is the reason both the water polo rules and all their interpretations have to be written, and they have to be written in clear and concise language. The rules and their interpretations should probably be written so that a 6th grade student would understand them to accommodate the diversity of all the people in the water polo community.

An example of how a set of water polo rules changes can be miss-read by people in the water polo community, people who are supposed to be in the know. An officer of the USWP trying to do a good deed posted to their Message Board an unofficial listing of the proposed FINA rule changes. He made it very clear that this was not the actual rule changes or was it the official interpretations of them. Well, the man's post was bombarded from the users of the Message Board with meaningful but unrealistic questions about what the rule changes meant. The answers to some of the questions were obvious to me and some were not, but again the man stated very clearly in his post that the rules and their interpretations were not official. How can people ask a person to explain something he can't possibly know at that point in time?

Why debate unofficial proposed rule changes that may change numerous times before becoming official. If you wish to debate then wait until they become official and then debate the interpretations and merits of the official proposed rule changes until the ears of the members of the FINA and the TWPC fall off. The proposed rule changes themselves are another story because they are a done deal, but the official adoption of them is not. Thus, give FINA and the TWPC members your two cents worth and don't wait until the proposed rule changes are adopted or booted. Because then you will be a blue striped ball late and an argument short as to why some of the changes should or should not be adopted. One of the first demands should be that the TWPC not be allowed to make any verbal interpretations, but that all interpretation must be in writing. Written interpretation will allow the referees to do their jobs properly, that is, to call what's in the rule book. Moreover, if you don't express your feelings to FINA or the TWPC then you will have no complaining rights on either the WPP or USWP Message Boards.

One of the unofficial rule changes involves the lengthening of the penalty shot area from 4 meters to 5 meters. Even if you were to lengthen it to 7 or 10 meters it really won't reduce the amount of the physicality of the game one way or the other, unless the TWPC instructs the referees to enforce the rules in this area of play. It is that simple because the referees must be allowed to enforce the rules in the penalty area of the field of play are the players will just have a larger area in which to wrestle. The TWPC is going to have to forget about the verbal interpretations of the new rules if they have any hope of them 1) reducing the physicality of the game, 2) being really understood, and 3) having a Russian-roulette chance of becoming adopted (one out of six chances are not bad).

The TWPC should look upon the new rules as a chance to create a new beginning between the TWPC and the water polo community - a sort of tabula rasa or blank slate. Firstly, again the TWPC needs to do away with any type of verbal interpretation of the new rules; secondly, they need to provide to the water polo community both the proposed rule changes and their interpretations in a clear and concisely written document (many popular magazines have their articles written for a 4th grade student, maybe earlier I over estimated the grade level?); and thirdly, they need to hear to the water polo community's legitimate concerns about the proposed rule changes and their interpretations (many times people in the positions of power listen but they don't really hear).

For years the people in the water polo community have been creating their own words for the initials TWPC. One example is The Water Polo Controllers, another is The Water Polo Confuse-ers, and the last is The Water Polo Consolidators or Conjoiners. Which of these three sayings should be used to describe the TWPC's mission can be answered by using the words that Goldie Locks spoke when she ate the three bear's porridge, "The first is too hot, the second is too cold, and the third is just right".

The three bears could be thought of as a symbol for the water polo community and the TWPC could possibly be Goldie Locks? If Goldie Locks doesn't accommodate and placate the three bears for the damage she has already done to the rules of the house in which the bears live then someday the three bears just might throw Goldie Locks out of their house on to her keister. They will throw Goldie Locks out of the house not with physicality but with something much more devious - backdoor politics. Remember those that live by the sword of backdoor politics can be removed from power by the same sword. But of course the water polo community is not the three bears and the TWPC is not Goldie Locks for if they were then the sport of water polo would have a happy ending.

Email Coach Hunkler at rhunkler@waterpoloplanet.com