Water basketball (Part I of III)

Swimming in the pool is a common summer experience. When I was younger, I enjoyed playing with pool noodles, making mischief with water guns, and just splashing around, sometimes “aimlessly” wandering the shallow end. Oh, and making big splashes on the diving board!

After I graduated from high school in 2005, I decided that I had so much fun going to basketball games at Southeast that I wanted to play basketball in the pool since the Hillcrest pool had a basketball hoop. And I devised rules for a solo game!

The initial rules made it a Race Against The Clock and also a Race Against My Best Score. The original rules were the following. Subsequent posts will itemize the rules changes and season results. Spoiler alert: I did NOT have any perfect seasons nor win the postseason every year!

  • Timing:
    • The game had two ten-minute halves, using a countup clock.
    • No shot clock for any possession.
  • Bounds of Play:
    • The entire pool is in-bounds.
    • The hoop was on the long side of the pool in the shallow end, about 20-30 feet from the pool’s edge
    • The recommended play area: shallow end to the plane including the water slide (see below). The red lines are imaginary.
  • Procedure: 
    • To start a period, “tip off” the ball from the fifth lane, directly in front of the basket.
    • The first nine possessions in a period must be attempted from the areas with Roman numerals as shown in the schematic, in order.
    • Subsequent possessions may be attempted from anywhere, but the first attempt may not be a 1-point shot.
    • Each possession lasts until either a basket or a violation. Once the possession ends, you must carry the ball to under or near the basket, and then overhand-serve it out to at least 3-point range. If the serve is too short, you must stand for 5 seconds before chasing the ball.
  • Scoring:
    • Me:
      • 1 point: Any shot in the closest swimming lane (i.e. Zones I, IV, or VII)
      • 2 points: Any shot in the second swimming lane (i.e. Zones II, V, or VIII)
      • 3 points: Any shot in the third swimming lane (i.e. Zones III, VI, or IX)
      • 5 points: Any shot in the fourth lane or beyond
      • All point values double in the last minute of each half.
    • Opponent:
      • First year: The composite score of a previous game.
        • Game 1: A point per minute
        • Subsequent games: The opponent’s score was your score in the previous game (win or lose), except in the playoffs.
      • Second+ year: Coming soon!
  • Dribbling:
    • Splashing the ball with water in order to propel it forward or backward
    • Once you touch the ball or stop dribbling, you must shoot or incur a traveling/double-dribble violation.
  • Rebounds:
    • May be caught in-flight or after the ball hits the water
    • After the ball hits the water, you have 5 seconds to touch the ball and then dribble or shoot
  • Violations:
    • If the ball goes out of bounds.
    • If you have 3 missed shots in a possession where the ball hits the water
    • If you travel or double-dribble
  • Overtime:
    • “Penalty shootout.” Makes count for you; misses count for the opponent.

Pretty simple rules.


The schematic (not to scale) of the Hillcrest pool, where I played water basketball in 2005-2008.

In my first season (Summer 2005), the regular season ran from June 9 until August 9, and I played 1 to 3 games each week in a 12-game season. I compiled a 9-3 record during the regular season: all of my losses and one of the wins came in overtime.

During the playoffs, I considered my performance as second-seed worthy, so I faced the seventh-best, third-best, and best performances from my earlier games. The quarterfinal was a squeaker: 73-69 victory.

The semifinal I played up to the level of my foe, and took out the win with an 85-80 score.

However, in the final, I had to score 105 points based on my record performance on August 9. Despite putting up 57 points in the second half, it was after only scoring 39 in the first, which left me with my only non-OT loss, in the most important game. It left me wanting more for the following summer, and I also thought about some changes to the scoring system.

To be continued…


Nebraska Regional: 5 days

Semester Kickoff: 35 days

Green Bay/St. Norbert: 92 days

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