Whenever you think of water polo rules then don't think of either FINA or LEN. They had their chances to do something for the rules and they not only muffed it but they also took us "Back to the Future" with physicallity and hard ball water polo. When they should have taken us "Back to the Past" when the game was based on skills, quickness, and smarts. The Chairman of water polo and FINA’s control of our sport has to go if we as players, coaches, referees, and spectators have any hope that water polo is to survive in the USA within the next 10 years. With FINA in control of our sport we have seen year after year, good old boy after good old boy, water polo incompetent after water polo incompetent, and politico after politico, trash the sport we love more than, believe it or not, we love winning an Olympic gold medal. (Hey we have already won a gold medal in the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis.)
The FINA Water Polo Committee has let themselves become way too influenced by LEN. The leadership in LEN told FINA that Professional Leagues could not survive unless the rules allowed more physicality and FINA swallowed this propaganda hook, line, and sinker. Right now we have as much physicality in the game as we have oil on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico and both physicality and oil, got there by deception. Instead of a relationship that shows that more physicality means more game attendance, today we have an inverse relationship that shows that more physicality results in less game attendance.
This is the same group who thinks you should try new rules not with seasoned world and Olympic players but rather with junior national players. When test flying a new plane do you use a seasoned pilot who has flown many hours or do you use a pilot who just received his or her pilot license? Is it any wonder why so many FINA rules crash and burn? Do we really want to leave the survival of water polo in the hands of a bunch of pseudo dignitaries who think the reason you get on the FINA Water Polo Committee is so you can attend water polo championships in exotic cities all over the world cost free and so you can go to receptions where you are treated like royalty to your face but something else to your back? The answer is not “no” but it is “hell no”!
What we need is the NCAA Rules Committee to take back control of the rules. In the mangled words of the Beatles we sing:
Help, we need somebody,
Help, not just anybody,
Help, you know we need someone, help.
When the sport was younger, so much younger than today,
We never needed anybody's help in any way.
But now these days are gone, we’re not so self assured,
Now we find we've changed our mind and opened up the doors.
Help us if you can, we’re feeling down
And we do appreciate you being round.
Help us, get our feet back on the ground,
Won't you please, please help us?
We need an NCAA Rules Committee to think outside the FINA box in which we have been placed. We need a NCAA Rules Committee to solicit rules not from a TWPC who creates rules on the basis of self interest but from players, coaches, referees, and spectators who will create rules on the basis of making water polo a better sport. We need a NCAA Rules Committee that can take the heat and can place any rule on the cutting block of necessity. We need a NCAA Rules Committee with the toughness to place a set of rules and their interpretations in writing unlike the TWPC who place the rules in writing but who leave the interpretations to be dictated verbally at each championship. We need a NCAA Rules Committee similar to the ones that created a rubber ball to play with, timeouts in a game, a shot clock, two referees, and so on an so forth. We need a NCAA Rules Committee to create a set of rules that a player, coach, referee, spectator, and a fifth grader can understand. If the fifth grader cannot understand the rules then we will continue to lose these and younger players to sports in which they can understand the rules. Finally, we need a NCAA Rules Committee that can eggbeat up to the 5 meter line and take a shot at developing a set of rules that will cause water polo to grow rather than to diminish.
The NCAA Rule changes were actually written after I wrote this article. If the NCAA is sincerely interested in generating more offense then shortening the length of the course from 30 meters to 25 meters is a great idea! However, please help me understand how changing the 35 second shot clock to a 30 second shot clock is going to create more offense. On offense the teams are now going to have 5 seconds less offense then they had before this rule change? Now if NCAA Committee would have said the reason for the second rule change was to reduce the amount of sumo and mud wrestling at two meters I would have bought most of their argument. Well one and a half rule changes are much better than none and it is an excellent start in speeding up the game, reducing the amount of swimming, and bringing down the physicality by at least 5 seconds. This is a good begining and let us hope that referees will begin to consistently enforce the rule which says you cannot HOLD, SINK, or PULL BACK a player not holding the ball because if you do one of these things then you will be ejected for 20 seconds. Rember: The Devil is in the details and blatant holding is the arch enemy of these two new rules.