The No Good, Rotten, Low-Down, Horrible Pickup Day

Alexander

Yesterday Wasn’t So Good.

We played pickup yesterday in the new-found hours of the late afternoon, and despite every expectation to the contrary I did not have a good time. Not a single play went the way I wanted it to, I couldn’t do anything I intended, and with each game I felt more and more like I just shouldn’t have even bothered.

In short, I was turning more and more into a grumpy gussy. It was horrible.

I think it came down to a few things: I was in a rush to get there and held up by traffic/a lack of gasoline, I jumped right into playing (where I normally get prepared mentally to be away from work and at polo (no, really, I do that)). I also think that I was expecting too much from the day, and was too attached to that idea to shake off disappointment when it didn’t happen.

So I Left.

And not in a super-pouty, I’m-taking-my-ball-and-going sort of way. Just before the last game (or at least close to it, I think), I packed up my bike and went home. As I drove Em, she went home, too (which I did/do feel bad about, but she seemed alright with it at the time).

I’m all for the stiff upper lip and working through your own disappointments in a pickup day. In fact, you might be justified in saying that I basically ran away like an indignant child. But I don’t quite see it that way.

I was not enjoying myself, which is the primary reason I play bike polo (outside of perhaps a physical activity–writers generally don’t move if they don’t need to). Furthermore, I was concerned that my negative attitude would start affecting play for everyone else, which is a thousand times worse than just feeling grumpy. So I packed up a bit early, took a long shower, and went to bed. I felt much better, as I escaped something that was not bringing me happiness. It was swell. My dog fell asleep with her head on my belly and that made it even better. PUPPIES MAKE EVERYTHING BETTER!

Why Am I Telling You This?

Because I think there are plenty of bad situations/feelings that can be avoided if people are more cognizant of how they’re feeling and why. Polo is supposed to be fun–and if you’re not having fun, it’s time to take a second and figure out why. Is it something you can work through? Is it just a particular match or is it the whole day of pickup? Would you do less harm by staying or by leaving?

Most times, people get grumpy for reasons that are outside of their control, but how they react (and what kind of environment they make for others) is within their control.

I for one am happy I went home early. Sometimes the best polo is not playing (and thereby keeping it a positive in your life).

5 Ways to Destroy Your Bike Polo Club

destroy

Bike Polo clubs are a lot like a family. They are full of people who we really didn’t necessarily choose to be associated with (bike polo brings out all sorts of people), they involve yelling at each other at times, and sometimes you’d just like to step away from the whole lot for a week or so.

But, most times, you feel pretty lucky to be part of your club, and you might even go so far as to say you love the people who are part of it.

But like any good (most likely dysfunctional) family, it takes work to keep that trust and happiness up.

I’m not going to talk about those things, necessarily–well, I am, but in a backwards sort of way.

I want to talk about how to completely destroy your club. From the inside. Covert like. You’re a ninja of club destruction now.

not talkingThe first step in destroying your club is to stop communicating. It’s the single best way to make your club loose that mushy, lovey-dovey feeling of an actual community. Don’t talk about your concerns, don’t talk about club-wide initiatives, and certainly don’t talk about how to make your club stronger.

What are you doing in my developer, you goofy lady?!

What are you doing in my developer, you goofy lady?!

Next, hold a grudge. It can be against a person or several people (even the whole club if you’ve got that much rage to call on. It can be about a situation that occurred sometime while playing that nobody apologized for. Hell, it could be about nothing in particular, just so long as people in your club know that you’re angry. Holding a grudge is a great way to make people feel uncomfortable at all times, and that’s what you’re after. With every pickup day, let the grudge build until it becomes a big ol’ wet blanket that covers and hides any sort of fun bike polo used to be.

holeAnother outstanding way to destroy your club? Inter-club dating and noodling. Now we ourselves have a famous Lancaster bike-polo-playing couple, and they seem to make it work rather well, actually, so I can’t speak from direct experience here, but I have noticed time and time again that clubs get pretty weird when you mix sex into them. The problem isn’t when the folks are dating, of course, but afterwards. At most you’ll have a somewhat present tension when the two are together at pickup, at worst you’ll lose a player (or several players as sides are drawn and “girls/guys only!” tree houses are put up courtside). 

So basically, if you’re going to date someone from your club, you need to get married forever. Problem solved. Life partnering.

passive resistA more subtle way of destroying a club involves a little trick Dr. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi taught me a while ago, and that’s passive resistance. Refuse to help your club in any way. Stop the urge to be useful, and instead only complain when something goes wrong, but don’t give praise when something goes right. Ignore the calls for help, let Timmy drown in the well.

Refusing to help is a good way of spreading apathy across the club, and soon it will be impossible for anyone to even get the court swept before playing. And you’ll be laughing (LAUGHING!) as you watch the pillars crumble. Or playing the violin, if I want to tie in some classic tropes.

mrrudeFinally–and this is probably the most satisfying–be as rude as possible to new players. Make them feel guilty for being as bad as they surely are at the start of their bike polo adventure. Yell at them on court, and talk down about them on the sidelines. Hell, make sure they know that you don’t really want to play with them, and throw A games EVERY SINGLE TIME you pick up the mallets. If they want to succeed, they’ll get better. Otherwise they clearly don’t care enough, and who has time for that.

With these simple efforts, you’ll have no club in no time!

Inflatable Helmets: Are They Really That Great?

Guest Post by Nick Kruse

YES

A Change of Plans

change

So I realize going to Worlds is a bit of a stretch for a polo-journalist who isn’t playing and isn’t necessarily making any money at the whole journalism thing.

While I was travelling down to D.C. for their “Earth Day/Jess B-day/Alex Go Away” pickup day, I brought this up with my travelling band of merry friends, Jason and Emily.

During the conversation I explained how great it was to have people who believed in my enough to send me their money (and really, it is remarkably humbling), but that I didn’t think anyone in bike polo had enough to give to some fool who just wanted to take pictures and write flowerly remembrances of the event. Just looking at the rate I’ve been collecting and the logistics of taking that time away from work/trying to survive whilst away from home, I don’t think I can make it within a reasonable time frame of planning.

Somehow (and I don’t remember if it was me or it was Emily or Yeager), the phrase was uttered “well, why don’t you go to North Americans instead?”

And it clicked. It clicked so hard.

The thing is, I’m much more of a North American focused reporter as it is, and the flights to the middle of America are significantly less than those across the pond. I’ll be able to cover North Americans which I have yet to do, not be stymied nearly so much by being so poor, and probably not lose my job/my wife’s love for going to France without her.

That being said, I can still use any money you, dear polo world, are willing to give me. While the amount I have collected thus far $400 freaking dollars! is enough for getting most of a plane trip to the heartlands, it’s not quite enough for lodging or eating or any other expenses.

I cannot stress enough that this is not me trying to get out of footing any money myself. This is me being poor as hell. If I could travel to tournaments and do reporting on my own dime, I certainly would. But I don’t have a dime. Hell, I don’t even have a drawing of a dime.

So that’s my update. If anyone who has donated thus far is very upset with me, feel free to email me and let that be known. I realize I’m changing the scope of my goals, but really it just makes it more likely that I’ll be able to use the money for the purpose of covering bike polo, and I hope that satisfies you all!

Thank you again, and may you always find the back of the net.



Your Friday Quiz: How Will You Break Your Polo Bike?

Bench Format: Is It Really That Great?

gustavhoiland.com

Guest post by Nick Kruse

(featured photo credit: gustavhoiland.com)

I want to know what’s really great about bench format… really.  I need someone to hash this out for me.  To the believers out there in the community, those who champion bench format as the future, I want to make clear that I’m only raising some points and asking some questions.  In the end, I like that people have fun playing bike polo and it doesn’t matter much to me that certain styles are on the rise.  I’ll get my fun, you’ll get your fun.  Deal.

I still want to know, though.  I can’t help but feel like bench format is an example of Bike Polo (The royal “Bike Polo”! You know, the editorial…) trying to modify another sport to fit our own in a way that seems unnatural and clunky.   It’s in the back of my head, a pressing doubt of the style’s authenticity.

I started skateboarding when I was 13 years old, and if there’s one thing I know in life, it’s that there’s nothing worse than being a poser.  So someone needs to tell me what we are getting at, here.

MenaceIt’s interesting to me how Bike Polo arrived so conclusively at this place – where bench format has become a mainstay, where you’re hard-pressed not to find yourself in a bench game at some point through the season.  My first summer playing bike polo was the summer of the first Bench Minor in New York City.  This is where it started.  It started in New York, it started with a tournament named after a penalty in hockey, and it started with one person.  Menace(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kp4jP0ttkDc).

I met the guy only once, four years after the first Bench Minor.  I stood outside Vanessa’s dumplings in Chinatown and listened to him lament about how Bike Polo was already ruined.  It’s over.  Go home.  Still I think you would have a hard time finding someone whose input has been more pervasive in the game as it is played today.  We have a rule set that was partially started by him, and the organizing body of our sport has just released a sanctioned tournament that will be played in bench format.  The format he made PDFs about and advocated for constantly. His format.

Is bench format right for bike polo?  Is it solid?  Does it make sense?

More to my overall point, though, I just want to leave it noted that this was all started by a former player that polo’ed in a hockey sweater and named the first big time bench tournament after a hockey term.  A name that was so addicting to those that learned of it that everyone kept calling this format “Bench Minor” for three years.

Anyone that plays polo knows that in the time since this first bench tournament, the format has been a staple of our sport.  It has been filled with drama and upsets and fights, it has pitted cities against cities; overall it has been a pretty good time.  I get all that.  I really get it.  I’ve played in two Bench Minors, I’ve played in the battle for the Midwest in Mankato, I’ve witnessed the excitement of a draft, I’ve gotten in a fight, I’ve won and lost at it.  Still, I am concerned with authenticity.  Is bench format right for bike polo?  Is it solid?  Does it make sense?

More specifically, I have two questions. Read more

5 Ways to Sneak Polo Into Your Workday

five

I never felt the need to say it outright, but just in case you cats haven’t figured it out yet, I kinda think about polo more than most other things in my life. In fact,  I make it a point to pat my polo bike whenever I walk past it, and I carry my mallets in my car so I can hold onto one when I’m driving to work.

I don’t think this is irrational. Stop looking at me like that, non-believer.

Actually, let me just make a graph of what I spend time thinking about, scientifically constructed of course:

Crusher Thoughts

 

With so much time spent thinking about polo, I often find myself unsatisfactorily distracted with other things interrupting my happy-time daydreaming. I figure I’m not the only one dealing with this, so I thought I’d share a few ways that I get around the burning horror that is the workday and provide yourself with some respite with polo-ey thoughts.

Visualize Playing a Match

thinkingI don’t know where I heard this story, so it might not at all be true (but that doesn’t change it from being a good story): an American POW in Vietnam found himself locked in a container that only had enough room for him to sleep in the fetal position and stand with his back and knees bent. It’s pretty horrible, but he realizes he needs to entertain himself or else he’ll go insane. So what does he do? He imagines himself golfing. Everyday, he stands up to a hunch and imagines he’s on the green, swinging at a ball and putting and everything else.

Well, he gets out of Vietnam, eventually, and goes to play golf: and his game is significantly better than what it was before he got locked up in a little cell. Reason being that he visualized playing so much that he fundamentally understood the game better.

And while I certainly don’t draw a direct line of comparison between a cubicle and a POW cell, the mindset can certainly be the same: escape the thing you’re doing by using your brain and imagination.

Sneak in Polo Videos

They are all over the place, and it won’t take much to have a little screen of it going while you’re doing other work. Sure, you’d be a dummy to ONLY have that up on your screen, but even just listening to the sounds of a match is a great way to escape the tedium of the workday.

Get Other People Into It

I’m known as the polo guy at work. It makes people stop me in the hallway to ask about upcoming “matches” with “other teams.” It gives me a chance to talk about polo with the people outside of my own head, and is a great little breather between writing articles about Legacy Support and drinking much too much diet soda.

Plus, I have in the past recruited people to come play! Sure, one quit playing and the other only came out once, but still!

Visit Forums/Websites

LoBPThere are lots of places on the web to get insight on the sport. Between blogs, forums, and club-specific sites, you can almost certainly delve into something you’ve never thought about before on a weekly basis. And really, who doesn’t like getting unreasonably upset at another person for a very tiny reason from time to time (looking at almost any forum on LoBP (ALL HAIL).

WRITE AN ARTICLE FOR A WEBSITE!

Okay, so maybe this is just me, but I think there are lots of very smart people in bike polo, and there are lots of websites that are looking for smart people to give their opinions. The open word document is universally accepted as work in the western world, so why not subvert the system and write up a polo blog post? Send it out to 321, GOALHOLE, Boston bike polo or any of the other great polo sites out there. Chances are high that the folks there will read and publish your work (if it’s worth a damn), which will give more voices to the sport and give you some time to really think about polo.

I MEAN I NEVER DO THAT, RIGHT? I’M WRITING THIS FROM MY HOUSE YESTERDAY EVENING.

How Many People Should Chase The Ball Carrier?

chase

QUESTION: How many people should be chasing the ball carrier?

ANSWER: 1. Now go back to work.

Okay–so it’s not quite that cut and dry. But there are only a few instances when engaging 2/3rds of your team on one other player ever really makes sense, and the rest of the time it’s just poor positioning. Let me explain:

The ball carrier isn’t the most important person in the game. The ball is the most important person in the game. Now that may lend you to say “but Crusher, if the ball carrier has the ball, I’m going after the ‘most important person in the game’, right?”

Well no, not really.

The ball is a tricky thing, and it uses every opportunity to abandon the ball carrier through a pass or a shot or even just a wild bounce off the boards. If you’re thinking that the ball carrier and the ball are synonymous, you’ll find yourself in a bad position if the ball does in fact leave the ball carrier.

I feel like I’m doing a poor job of explaining this. Let me try another way.

Your focus as a defensive player should be:

  1. Stop/prevent shots on goal
  2. Disrupt momentum of other team
  3. Become an offensive threat

and in that order. Your mission is not, nor should it ever really be, to double team the ball carrier. Why? Because then you’re leaving 2 players from the other team to challenge your goalie (or, as can be the case, to challenge your third player who is not in goal).

2 to 1 coverage on the ball carrier is a great way to lock out that player, but it’s a pretty horrible way to maintain a defensive barrier or to be open for a dish or flubbed pass. You’re leaving huge areas of the court wide open while you and that other dummy are concentrated in one area.

Another (and potentially more harmful) scenario to avoid is that of chasing the ball carrier or the ball in tandem with another player out of your defensive zone. Let’s say you and a team mate pursue the ball down court (which feels great, as you’re getting closer and closer to the ball)–but you don’t get it. The person who was playing goalie comes out and retrieves it, and pops a pass up to their other two team-mates by your goal. Now you’ve got 1 person who is in the right position from your team (hopefully) and 2, including yourself, who are not. You see the dilemma.

Naturally if all three people from the other team are at your goal and the ball goes loose while heading towards the opponent’s goal, you should absolutely pursue it, but let’s assume they actually have at least one person back.

It’s a natural urge to focus on the ball. It’s the focus of the game, after all. But it shouldn’t be the only thing you’re thinking about. In the back of your head should also be the focus of where your teammates are, and how your position can either help or hinder a momentum shift.

This isn’t goodbye.

321

I want to start by saying that I appreciate all of you, and I hope you won’t stop reading what I write.

But, to be really honest, trying to support a website by myself is tedious at best, and it’s getting in the way of my normal writing. I’ve been struggling the past few months with life balance, and with the donations slowing to non-existent, I’ve been almost positive that my hope to get to worlds was just that: a hope.

However, Aaron Hand of 321 Polo (mortal enemy) approached me late last month with an idea and a proposition: He’d pay for my trip (well, okay–most of my trip) to Worlds if I moved under 321 POLO! as a staff writer, moving my content over to his site and making Lancasterpolo.com redirect to 321 POLO!

Honestly, this has been a consideration of mine since maybe last year, and I’m very happy to have some of the strain taken away from my day-to-day responsibilities.

But worry not! I’m going to become the East Coast (and beyond) correspondent for 321 POLO!, so you can still expect me to be up in your face, taking bad pictures and reporting romantically about the tournaments over on this side of the U.S. I’m not sure who gets the middle of the country yet, though I suspect that won’t be my responsibility.

Anyway, the actual hand-off won’t occur until next Monday, as Aaron and I need to figure out how to efficiently move my articles over to their new home before making this site a simple redirect to 321 POLO!.

Again, I’m super thankful for the readership I’ve gained so far, and I wouldn’t even have made it to the point where another website wanted to hire me on if it weren’t for you. It’s amazing what you guys have allowed me to become, and I’m so very excited to be working for someone instead of for myself.

So I’ll see you cats at my new digs at 321POLO.net soon!

5 Question Quiz: Who Should You Cheer For?