Why Water Polo Players Wear Speedos (Solved)

Like other competitive sports, water polo players must wear a specific uniform designed for optimal performance during games. In water polo, male athletes wear a water polo suit similar to swim briefs—more commonly known as a Speedo.

Water polo players wear Speedos to be more hydrodynamic in the water, limit the amount of material that opponents could grab onto, and maximize leg mobility for kicking underwater. Speedos and swim briefs are the most prevalent form of water polo swimwear because of these performance benefits.

We will explore the logic behind why male water polo players wear Speedos in greater detail below. Read further to learn exactly how water polo swimwear affects performance during games, along with other useful information, such as whether or not water polo players typically wear just one Speedo or multiple.

Reasons Why Water Polo Players Wear Speedos

To provide a little bit of background, water polo is based around the concept of two opposing teams—consisting of seven players each—competing to outscore the other. Games are played in a pool with a depth of at least 6 feet. Players are constantly moving, changing directions, jumping, and sprinting through the water during a game.

Like most other sports, water polo players must wear a set uniform to participate in formal gameplay.

Male water polo players wear a water polo suit, otherwise known as swim briefs, racing briefs, or a Speedo. On the other hand, female water polo players wear a one-piece, zip-up swimsuit with a solid back instead of straps. All water polo suits fit snugly against the skin, and they do not cover the legs or arms, unlike some other types of swimwear.

There are a few differences between actual water polo suits and swim briefs or Speedos, mainly in the cut of the fabric and type of material used. Throughout this article, we will be referring to water polo suits, swim briefs, and Speedos primarily as just Speedos, unless otherwise stated.

These specific swimsuits aren’t worn haphazardly. There are a few key reasons that water polo players wear Speedos that have to do with the very nature of the sport itself. We will take an in-depth look at these reasons in the subsequent sections.

More Hydrodynamic in the Water

Speedos are tight-fitting swimsuit bottoms that leave most of a male water polo player’s body—specifically the legs and torso—uncovered and therefore unhindered by the material. This design reduces the amount of water drag that a water polo player faces as they move through the water. Since the amount of loose fabric is greatly minimized, there’s far less surface area for the water to push against the swimwear.

Water polo players—as well as other competitive swimmers—primarily wear Speedos for their hydrodynamic benefits, including:

  • treading water with less effort
  • swimming at a faster pace
  • enabling players to push themselves above water
  • changing direction quickly
  • minimizing any potential distractions

Less Swimsuit Material for Opponents to Latch Onto

If you’ve ever seen a water polo game firsthand, you’re well aware of the fact that it is a full-contact sport. With 14 total players concentrated in one pool during a game, physical contact between players is common.

Players often wrestle with opponents for position on both defense and offense. They pull and grab at players on the other team to try and stop their movement and give their team an advantage.

Although it’s often overlooked, this is one of the main reasons Speedos are worn in water polo. They provide less swimsuit material that can be grabbed, pulled, or latched onto by opponents. You don’t want to put yourself at the mercy of your opponent by allowing them to control how you move in the water.

This doesn’t just apply to male water polo swimsuits. Female water polo swimsuits are also designed to provide as little material for opponents to grab as possible.

Fewer Restrictions When Kicking Underwater

In water polo, players rely heavily on their legs to perform several fundamental maneuvers. Examples of these basic movements include:

  • treading water
  • moving through the pool
  • sprinting to a different pool area
  • propelling themselves out of the water
  • dodging and out-swimming opponents

These maneuvers would be much more difficult to execute if swim trunks or jammers were worn, which is why water polo players wear Speedos.

Speedos and one-piece water polo suits allow for a wider range of motion with the legs. This lack of restriction comes in handy when kicking underwater since players can generate considerably more leg drive when expanding their base underwater.

Using less material that fits closely to the skin, players can react with added quickness and move with much less difficulty in the water. Unfortunately, jammers and swim trunks cannot match these advantages because of how they’re designed.

Are Water Polo Players Required to Wear Speedos?

There’s not very much equipment used in water polo. Aside from the ball, the mandatory playing equipment consists of swimsuits and headgear.

The majority of water polo players will attest that the swimsuit worn in water polo is almost as important to the game as the ball. For this reason, the water polo community is very particular about what kinds of swimwear they allow in live gameplay. Consequently, alternative swimwear pieces—such as swim trunks or sports bras—are not allowed during official games.

One common question that potential water polo athletes have is whether or not they can wear jammers instead of Speedos in water polo. For those who don’t know, jammers are skin-tight male swimsuits that sit above the hips, covering an area from mid-waist to above the knee.

Put simply, jammers are not recommended in water polo. They give opponents more material to grab onto and create additional resistance in the water.

With serious or professional water polo players, Speedos (or one-piece suits in the case of females) are the only acceptable type of swimsuit for peak performance during games. Water polo suits are tailor-made to withstand the game’s inherent roughness and physical demands while still providing the least possible water resistance and restriction of movement.

Many water polo players have multiple suits for practice and games (source). Actual water polo suits are stronger and more durable than regular swimsuits, but they’re also much less flexible and typically more expensive. As a result, players tend to wear regular Speedos during practice and reserve their water polo suit exclusively for games.

Speedos & Water Polo Briefs

There are several differences between Speedos and water polo briefs that set the two types of swimwear apart.

Speedos generally possess the following characteristics:

  • made of elastic material such as Lycra, spandex, and nylon
  • have a drawstring or elastic waistband
  • feature an inner lining
  • not as durable or long-lasting as water polo briefs
  • more easily affected by chlorine

In contrast, water polo briefs are defined by the following properties:

  • have little to no stretch
  • made of thicker, stronger, and more slippery material than regular swim briefs
  • fit more tightly than Speedos
  • cut slightly lower at the waist and sit higher at the hips
  • do not have any inner lining

Choosing whether to wear Speedos or water polo briefs essentially comes down to personal preference. High-level water polo players often prefer the increased durability and more secure fit of water polo briefs for games, though there’s a large portion of players who wear Speedos.

Why Do Some Water Polo Players Wear Two Speedos?

Even though Speedos offer little material for opponents to grab or latch onto, it still happens rather frequently during games. Consequently, it’s not that odd for male water polo players to wear more than one Speedo during a game. In fact, many players will wear three or more suits during water polo games.

Wearing four swimsuits at once might seem strange or unnecessary, but there are solid reasons as to why water polo players usually wear multiple suits for games:

  • prevents the material from tearing when grabbed, pulled, or twisted by opponents
  • makes it more difficult for opponents to grab the material
  • provides additional layers to prevent exposure if suits are torn or damaged during a game
  • suits personal preferences

No matter what kind of suit is worn in water polo, it will eventually wear out. The strain on the fabric from wear and regular use causes swimsuits to lose shape and become unusable. In addition, the high concentration of chlorine found in pools also affects swimsuit fabric, causing the fabric and elastic to deteriorate over time.

This is why many water polo players often use different suits for practice or training than those worn during games. It can be difficult for water polo players to place their trust in a single swimsuit during practices and games, especially considering the high level of physicality that this game involves. It’s far better to be safe than sorry!

Sources: 1

Austin Carmody

I am the owner of HydroPursuit. I enjoy kicking back and getting out on the water as much as I can in my free time.

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