Basic SKWIM Rules

4 Lessons None

About this course

Team identification

Players need to know who is on your team. This can be accomplished a number of different ways. Furthermore, in the water, it is not easy to see who is who. Splashing, foggy goggles, quick decision making, red-eyes, sun-glare, and submerged bodies stress teamwork efforts. It is hard to know who is where in the course of the game.

Try to use some team uniform when playing SKWIM so as to lessen confusion and frustration among players, helpers and spectators.

SKWIM head bands make for an ideal solution. 

Traditional swim caps made of latex, neoprene, and Lycra can be obtained. Most teams have their own swim caps. White caps and solid color caps can be obtained and kept with the SKWIM gear. 

Water polo caps are also used if they are available. Kevin, SKWIM's inventor, frowns upon the use of water polo caps as he feels they are too bulky and helmet-like. 

We've used bandannas and even tied them in knots and worn them around the neck or wrists too.

Playing with rash-guard styled, uniform shirts adorned with players' numbers and names are expected soon in Seattle and Pittsburgh -- after sponsors are obtained. 

In the most basic situations at our camps, play sometimes happens between the boys and the girls, and then there is less of a need for any head-gear.

Team sizes

A group can play SKWIM and have fun with 35-players, or more, in the same game. Or, SKWIM can be played one-on-one. SKWIM is flexible.

Generally with SKWIM play, everyone plays all the time. Try to avoid substitutes and having players out of the game and sitting on the bench. SKWIM is flexible enough that the game's dynamics can be shifted by the leaders to engage and include all who wish to play.

"Get in the game. Stay in the game. You team needs you. There are no rest periods for individual players. We'll all take a break at the same time, between quarters."

With water polo, squad size is critical. With SKWIM, not so much. In water polo, only one player per team gets to play as the goalie. With SKWIM, we can have plenty of goalies, a team can have two, three or as many goal keepers as desired. Water polo demands six field players. Well, water polo can be played with 5-on-5, but once there are more than 6 players to a side, the additional players wait on the bench for their opportunity to enter the game. Water polo turns into a mess, for example, if the play turns into 10-on-10. SKWIM, however, can function perfectly well with extra players all in the game at the same times.

Tip: When lots of players are participating in SKWIM, make the slot-style goals wide. In a crowded game, stretch the goals for the entire width of the end wall of the pool. Allow for goal scoring from corner to corner. 

Of course, as the goals get wider, the teams are going to need additional goalies to defend those wider spaces. 

# of players

goal width

# of goalies per team

4 to 8 (or so)

one lane, aprox 2-meters


8 to 20 (or so)

three lanes, about half of end wall

2 to 3 per team

20 to 40 (or so)

full width, perhaps 6 out of 6 lanes

4 to 6 per team

Fins use is strongly suggested.

it is best to wear fins when playing SKWIM. Fins are optional. All fins are no equal. 

The PDF fins are the official SKWIM fin. They have a short blade and rounded edge that allow for the kicking of breastroke and water polo's famous egg-beater kick. With most fins, doing the egg-beater kick is impossible. 

Fins make the games go faster. Fins also help to extend the play for every participant. Rather than getting exhausted after 5-minutes of deep-water swimming without fins, a new player with fins might be able to sustain a good level of play for  up to  20 to 30 minutes.  

Floating assistance and even weight belts are options too.

Accommodations can be made to better stress some. Meanwhile, other accommodations can be delivered to give additional support to others.

Tip: Have a special SKWIM game-day practice with the age group swim team, and encourage the swimmers to bring their friends who are not presently on the swim team to join for that session. In that try-out game, give fins to to the guests who are not on the team and have the faster, better conditioned swimmers play without the fins. Some guests might even be happy to wear life-jackets too. Furthermore, the top swimmers can be given weight belts.  

Easiest to hardest accommodations for players
  • Use Life jackets, with or without fins.
  • Wear Independent Pull Bouey, (Rangs), with or without Life-Jacket and fins.
  • Use PDF fins.
  • Remove fins.
  • Wear a 6-pound weight belt with fins.
  • Wear a weight belt without fins.

Sizes and ages of players can vary greatly.

An endearing feature of SKWIM is its amazing latitude for engagement. SKWIM can be enjoyed among players of different sizes, ages and swimming abilities.

Camper kids, ages 6 and older, can have a blast playing SKWIM with their peers as well as with their high-school-aged camp leaders, adult councilors, fully-grown lifeguards and aquatic instructors. The big guys and girls get to play with the wee ones and all have rewarding experiences and lots of fun. 

Senior citizens and Boby Boomers can play SKWIM, among themselves or with middle-school and high school athletes. 

Coaches leading varsity teams in basketball, football, field hockey and wrestling might not be eager to buck up against their high-school players in hour-long scrimmages in their prime sport(s), but entering the water to play SKWIM, with and against those same athletes, is a different matter. The water makes for a safer environment. The disk makes the game more about finesse and quickness, not brute strength.

Off Sides and Cherry Picking

Soccer, football, rugby, hockey and even water polo have rules that cover what it means for a player to be off-sides. In each game, the off-side rules get rather technical and specific and are often hard to understand and properly deploy as a referee.

In SKWIM's rookie games and with first-time players, do not bother yourself with off-sides and cherry picking rules. Do not even introduce any off-sides concepts until a reasonable level of mastery is being displayed among the players. After players come to understand SKWIM's strategies and teamwork, then deploy good judgement and introduce off-sides rules so as to prevent cherry picking and unfair advantages.

Off-sides rules in Slot style SKWIM

Players on the offensive team can not grab the gutter within the goal. The goalies can hold the wall and gutter, but not an attacking player. To get a rest in the deep end, an offensive player needs to go beyond the goal-scoring zone or else grab a hold of the side wall.

Water polo uses an imaginary 2-meter line for making off-sides calls. SKWIM games can use the same rule logic as well as water polo. Players on offense can come to within 2-meters of the goal with or without the possession of the disk. Then if the player gets the disk, or if the disk is within the 2-meter area, then the offensive player can advance into that 2-meter zone and get the disk, make a play, and/or take a shot. 

Off-sides rules in Ultimate style SKWIM

With lots of players, leaders can adjust the house rules as to what is permitted in terms of players being off-side and eligible to score goals.

Offensive players should not be able to reside and park within the end zone, especially after the other team's defensive players vacated the end zone. When all the defensive players advance forward and exit their defensive end zone, any offensive player still in that end zone should also move to an in-play position and out of the end zone. Of course, once a disk is sent toward the end zone, then the offense player can move into the end zone and attempt to retrieve the disk and score a goal. If a defensive player goes into the end zone, then one or more offensive players can enter that zone as well. 

If an offensive player is off-sides by being in the end zone while no defensive players are in that end zone, that that offense player can not score a goal. However, that offensive player can get the disk and make a pass to a teammate. If that teammate was eligible to score by being out of the end zone at the proper times, then the score counts.

Double Disk, Triple Disks, Quad Disks, Oh my!

One easy ways to accommodate many players in the same game is to insert extra disks into the play.

Tip: Play a practice game to three goals with one disk to insure everyone knows the rules. Then explain that the next period we're going to raise the level of excitement and play with two disks at the same time. One player can't hold more than one disk at the same time. Same 3-second holding rules apply. Then in the next quarter, insert the third disk, going triple disk. If that goes well, play with four. Why not. Everyone stays engaged and gets lots of touches. 

With multiple disks, it is much harder to keep score. Get the players to help!

Players have more responsibility to call their own rules and turn-over the disk to their opponents when it is mishandled. 

Practice structure

When going to the pool to play SKWIM, a format for the session generally includes the following lesson plan:


Attendance. Team meeting. Guidelines of behavior. Pool rules. General health check-in. Announcements.

Dry-Land Exercises

Limber. Listen to coach and leaders. Follow instructions without getting wet, yet. Transitions into swim suits. Obtain fins. 

Water Fitness

Entry. Running. Jumping. Combination moves. Elevate heart rate. 

Swim Instruction

Group lesson. Kicking. Stroke development. Demonstrations. Show-off swims. More combination activities with swim skills. Swim drills. Races. 

Natural Break

Story time about water safety. Talking about life-guarding and respecting the water in other environments. 

Game Skills

Passing. Shooting. Defending. Teamwork. Rule review. Explaining the goal-scoring methods. 

Formation of Teams with squads

Pick-up with captains or some other method. Cap up with your color. Group at your side of the pool. Figure out who is playing goalie first. 

Scrimmage - Game play

Practice round, perhaps. Quarter by quarter action.

Wrap up

Near the end of the session, all the players gather in the pool and put one hand on the disk. Then the coaches and captains get to say a few words about teamwork, sportsmanship and today's effort. Announcements. Equipment is gathered and put away. Free time in the pool might occur and the showers / locker areas are open for those who need more time to change out of swim suits. 

Two Point and Three Point Shots

Basketball courts are marked with three-point lines so players can score with three-point shots. Similar rules can be blended into SKWIM games.

Some SKWIM sites set up markers and zones that are farther from the goal and shots that originate from those distances count double or triple values. Feel free to craft your own point values associated to distance shots that become goals.

Meanwhile, other sports such as ice hockey and soccer do not have game rules that reward teams for making long-distance shots that turn into goals by increasing their value on the scoreboards. Coaches are urged to think again about what rule changes can do on the play of the game. 

Tossing repeated rainbow shots on goal from great distances is not how the game should be played. Those one-touch offensive possessions do not build teamwork skills, but with a three-point opportunity, the players can justify that shift in play.

SKWIM is a quick, passing game where moving forward and getting closer to the goal so as to make shorter, more accurate shots with finesse is valued. Possession of the disk is a high priority. Those three-point shots might spark wild tossing of the disk and more careless play.

Tinkering with the rules can adjust the type of play, especially with seasoned SKWIM players. Without three point shots, games could be more easily dominated by a few players and the congestion in front of the goal can build with over-the-top intensity. 

Official rules

A rule book is being published at .

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Course Structure


Four basic concepts for playing SKWIM

Sinking the disk is a loss of possession

In water polo, the call from the referee is, "Ball Under." A player can not sink the ball. The same concept occurs with SKWIM. When a player sinks the disk, the opposing team gets possession of the disk. 

No Physical Contact with Opposing Players

Like the game of Ultimate, there is no physical contact among players. Guard the opponent close, but don't touch or grab the other player. 

When a player has the disk, another player can't grab the disk out of his or her hand. 

Hold the disk up to three seconds, not four





Scoring Goals


Additional Tips