All Profits to Jeff and his Family

help

I was discussing the campaign to help Jeff after his unbelievable recent loss with Aaron of 321 Polo, and we decided that a great way we could help out is to give some incentive towards people to donate.

That being said: we’ve re-opened the pre-ordering of the Tee Shirt. All profits. ALL. PROFITS. of the sale of these tee shirts will go directly to the GiveForward campaign meant to help alleviate some of the terrible costs Jeff now faces with the death of Rhiannon, and the now more difficult raising of his new twin daughters. This sale will close Wednesday, November 5th–so please order a shirt (or three).

Buy a tee shirt (or give directly to the fundraising effort through the link above) and help a fellow polo player who is going through something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Click on the image below to purchase, and thanks.

shirts

5 Player Bench is What I’m Excited About

frost

I’ve talked a lot about how the 3 person team isn’t the healthiest for bike polo (just let me know when you stop foaming at the mouth about that one). Done? No? Oh. Okay. Well I’ll wait then. Good? Alright. So 3 polo players make up a team now, but there really isn’t much of the dynamic that make people get all excited about SPORTS. Now I’m not saying this argument I’m going to make frames out from what other sports succeed at (after all, bike polo is a unique wonderful punk-snowflake that doesn’t need to conform to the rules of human activity), but from what I personally like and what I personally see as a great new opportunity for tourneys.

The 5 person bench is an idea that was thrown around a little bit on League of Bike Polo (ALL HAIL) and is the focus of the 2015 Eastside Frost tourney (Dec. 6th and 7th). The idea is pretty straight forward: it’s a bench tournament where your bench is made up of just 5 players, meaning you have two people sitting at all times from your team. Games are longer, naturally, than the standard 12 minutes of 3 person team games, and you can score as many points as possible.

So what makes me so excited about this style? To start with, I’ve noticed that there is a really different spirit that takes over when you’re on a bench team. I as a player am actively involved in the game when sitting down (which, naturally, I’m not when I’m not a member of the 3 people playing standard polo), and there is more of a spirit of camaraderie on the team. Furthermore, there is a more dynamic situation happening on the court: who is being played at what time, and how you can pit your players contrary to the players the other team is playing against you. Read more

I Dreamt About Polo, Realized A Skill Upon Waking

dreaming

Last night I had a few dreams: I was an astronaut on an adrift craft with only myself to keep company by. I was also involved in some sort of running of the bulls? That dream, however, unsurprisingly switched to bike polo, playing on my home court with a few people from all around the polo environs.

In the dream I was trying to get in place to help out a play, but I realized I was playing more for myself to get the pass or the shot and not for my team mates to do the same. Because of this, I wasn’t in the best position to enable my team mates to have the highest likelihood of scoring on goal.

yeagerWhen I came to this realization in the dream, my team mate (who I think was Greg Valentine but I can’t be sure (he’s pretty dreamy, right. That last name, too. sheesh)) and I had this moment of mind-meld. He looked up and nodded and I nodded, and then we were like the two guys in one of those monster fighting robots. We were able  to work with each other selflessly rather than trying to hog the spotlight or trying to only produce a positive situation for one of us.

When I woke up, I realized that this was actually a useful piece of advice, so I wrote it down: when you’re playing, you should be playing as a team–but that means more than just saying you’re playing as a team. It means you should be thinking of yourselves as a unit–as an entity that is not supporting someone else or creating opportunities for the individual, but as an entity that is supporting the entity.

borg queen2Think of the Borg, you nerds. Completely selfless actions to complete an overall goal. No ego, no blame, just a constant drive to complete a mission as presented by that weird lady with U locks all through her head.

This isn’t so easy, really, to get the hang of–but I think it’s easy to get into the mindset of after practicing it for a while and having a team that is on board. Keep in mind, if one person on your team can’t or won’t subscribe to this model of thinking, it won’t necessarily work. Or, maybe it will work but not as effectively. I suspect some of the better teams out there are already working off of this premise either without knowing it or just as a matter of course, but I also reckon that lots of newer teams or just formed teams for tourneys (as is often the case) don’t consider whether they are playing for themselves or are playing for the team.

Anyway, just wanted you guys to crawl into my brain case for a second.

Migration Patterns of North American Polo Players: A Study

migration

I recently received a message from a fellow polo player who expressed concern and interest in the migration patterns of the species known as the North American Bike Polo Player. Having studied this particular species in detail over the course of 4 years, I was more than happy to share his concern and particular interest in the subject.

Okay, So really he’s concerned about how many people are moving to the West Coast (the best coast) from the East Coast (beast coast), and beyond (… I don’t have one for that). But why be concerned about it? If you’re getting great polo out on the WC why not join in on the fun.

What it comes down to, dear reader, are the ideas of balance and development. Lemme explain. Sit down for a second.

So a big part of bike polo is the nomadic nature of the sport. We players travel all over, typically, to play tourneys, to live in new places, and to just generally live our young adult lives. One thing we have, however, is a variety of players. You’ll have a few stars in each club who are, just by being around and playing, helping entire clubs grow stronger and more competitive in play (this doesn’t imply just for tourneys–the competitiveness of play within a club is also an important factor in keeping a club healthy and growing. Clubs that are just kick-around, beer drinking ways to spend time generally disintegrate fairly rapidly).

But–and this is a biiiiiig but–the really great players need to stick around. When they go, the hierarchy of the club gets wonky, and then you find that there isn’t a catalyst for the other players to get better and grow. Regions lose their “heroes” and great teams, and they don’t necessarily have any way to practice playing against really top-notch players. This, naturally, puts them at a huge disadvantage when they go to play in larger tourneys against the region which (now) has a firm hold on the very best. Read more

Bike Polo Players: Horror Movie Survivalists

pump

Starting around September 30th and continuing until November 5th or so (up to December 25th if we’re talking Nightmare Before Christmas) I begin my yearly feast of monster movies. Old black and white Dracula, horror films from last year–comedy, slashers, down-right horrifying…it doesn’t matter. I’ll watch it all and give myself the hibbidy jibbidys to a point where walking down my hall to pee in the middle of the night becomes an obstacle course between my imagination and my rational mind.

So now that I’m in the thick of it, I naturally began blending this rather large part of my life into the rest of my life (the rest of my life being polo, I guess).

If you think about it–and I’m so very sure you think about it all the time–you’ll see how bike polo is preparing us for a horror film. Well, okay not for a horror film, but for a horror-film like situation. If we just take a few hand chosen examples (which naturally lend themselves to what I’m saying here), you’ll come to find that it makes.perfect.sense.

dontZombies (The Walking Dead): With the new episodes on Netflix I started back up in watching this series, and it’s frankly startling how little folks use bicycles! Sure, there is the good sheriff in the beginning who steals the bike from that poor legless zombie woman, but outside of that I’ve yet to see anyone else pedaling around. I think the survivors of the zombie apocalypse will be small packs of panicked survivors and a huge gang of bike polo players who are LOVING the amount of places they have to play.

For one, our cardio is higher than most people (which, as evidenced by Zombieland, is a very important factor). Furthermore, we’re used to hitting things while on the bike, and I do believe an XT Mallet with a capped mallet head could really do enough damage to a rotting skull to see us steer clear of real trouble.

If nothing else, our general smell and look would confuse the zombies, buying us extra time and comfort in knowing that we could pass as one of them.

Vampires : just slap a wooden stake on the end of your mallet and you’ve got a new game that bike polo players would excel at. Well, most of us. I wouldn’t. But then I’d be a vampire anyway so I don’t see how I’d really be losing. I’d be an adorable vampire.

Jason: Dude is so slow. Really you could just assign a few bike polo players to circle around him all day with GPS on so everyone else could know where he is. PLUS he might stop being so murderous if he was surrounded by people who also wore facemasks in non-facemask situations.

trolls2Trolls (2): Let’s just think about how perfectly ready bike polo players would be if the events which occurred in Trolls 2 ever came to pass:

1. A good percentage of bike polo players are vegan, so the whole green-milk-that-turns-you-to-plants wouldn’t work, because milk.

2. Trolls are vegetarians, lots of bike polo players are vegetarians. Instant brother and sisterhood.

3. We could easily bike out of the ONE SINGLE TOWN INHABITED BY TROLLS

The one problem is that the only way to save yourself is a double decker bologna sandwich, which would kinda backfire for some of us.

Snot piccary Clowns: nope nope nope nope nope nope nope.

 

Really, thinking about how bike polo is saving us from being the character that immediately gets eaten/sliced in half adds yet another layer to love. I encourage you–no, implore you–to watch your next monster movie with this in mind: how would your vast bike polo arsenal see you through.

Have a Plan, but Have a No-Plan Plan, Too

RVA Pickup (18)

I spoke a little bit about this in the past (as I think I’ve talked about most thing in the past at this point), but I want to bring it up again from a different angle–the no-plan-plan angle.

I’ve spent lots of time on this blog discussing tactics and tips for playing–little ideas that might pay off in big ways when all the ducks line up and you’re able to make something happen. But one thing that I don’t discuss very often is how important it is to be prepared for every single one of your sweet moves to fail.

There’s a saying I’m sure you’re familiar with: everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. It’s something that is more than some machismo idea of forward thinking: it’s an absolute truth. People (myself included) can have lots of ideas about what will and won’t work, but when the rubber meets the purloined tennis court, all those plans count for bupkis. In bike polo, getting punched in the face–if not literal–refers to the ball getting stolen right as you start your big play up court–or what happens when there is a breakaway and all 3 of your players are in the offensive zone.

The point I want to emphasize here is simply that you shouldn’t build your entire repertoire off of plays, nor should you build it off of situations–at least not entirely. You should, hopefully, be able to work on your awareness and responsiveness on the court. It’s a great thing to know how to triangulate your position or how to scoop-pass to yourself, but if you don’t know what to do when something new happens on the court, you’re not going to become as strong a player as you can be.

It’s about mental elasticity: promote in yourself the ability to quickly respond to new situations and address them as they come. By opening yourself up to this kind of rapid, lateral thinking, you’re creating an environment where a play gone wrong doesn’t spell disaster for your team or for the game.

How can you work on this? I think it’s a mix of a few things, but the biggest of the things is to not think “no, and-” and instead think with “yes, but-”

An example:

You’re cruising down the court and are waiting for your team-mate to swoop around the goal to line up for a pass/shot. They get in position and you send the pass to them. Unfortunately, an opposing player read your play and has intercepted the ball.

The wrong thing to do is think “No, this play didn’t work, and now they’re going to score/and now I’m out of position/and now everyone will know I’m not nearly as good a player as I think I am.

The right thing to do is think “Yes, the play didn’t work, but now my team-mate is in the right position to stop the break away/but now they’re expecting that play, so I can try something else/but now we can pull them all out of position.

It’s a matter of perception: one will result on dwelling on the play or effort not working (and letting that flavor your response to it), and the other is using that situation to build your response quickly. It opens your eyes to the possibilities rather than the single possibility that escaped you.

 

I know, heady stuff for Wednesday morning. You can handle it.

Stay In Their Lane!

lane

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to play in the Chilidelphia A/B tournament (on the B side). I had a good time, meeting a few new faces and having my chain pop of mid stride, causing me to crumple over my handlebars and hit the soft, urine-soaked pavement of PHI-town learning a few new things about how I play tournaments.

Playing in the B tourney also gave me lots of time to remember some of the more rookie mistakes we all make on occasion, and the one that really struck me was how folks sometimes forget about lanes.

Lanes are, in I CAN’T HELP MYSELF LANE-MAN’S TERMS HAHAHAHA I KNOW IT’S LAYMAN’S SHUT UP how folks move up and down the court–mostly from one goal to the other. Their lane is the open path they have between where they currently are and where they want to be (which is normally a shot on goal).

What happens, I find, is that newer or less experienced players will not close down a player’s lane–they won’t get in that same lane to stop them from having a clear path to the goal. This is most notable when a player is trying to defend the goal and–instead of getting in the shooter’s lane to potentially deflect the shot–make a loop to get in position as the goalie. This causes a situation where the goal is not only missing a goalie (until the person gets in place), but there isn’t even someone to shoot around on the way to the goal.

So the quick tip here is: if someone has a clear lane and you don’t want them to score, try to get your bike and body in that lane (note: this doesn’t mean right in front of them. This means physically putting yourself in their line of site from where they are to the goal).

Likewise, if you’re trying to help your own teammate get to the goal, try to keep their lane clear by blocking other players out.

reading rainbowIt takes practice (most everything does), but when you get the hang of it you’ll find that you’re more often in a good position to stop or help a play than you are if you’re simply chasing the ball or your trying to get yourself in a good position for something that hasn’t even happened yet. Thinking strategically like this makes you a value to your team and a constant disruption to your opponents. But don’t take my word for it: practice it a bit at pickup and see how it works for you.

Cutting Out Ego, Increasing Flexibility

Buddha

Carter is a few things to our club. For one thing, he’s the youngest player (I think 14 now?). He’s also the coolest. He was our mascot for a while (when he was so young–10 I guess–that we wouldn’t let him play because we were afraid he’d get hurt or be overwhelmed–things that seem absolutely ridiculous now.

Carter is also one of the best players we have, and I’ve been setting out to crack the code as to why.

One of the elements that make him such a strong player is that the dude has no ego. Zip. None. I think it might be because we all out-age him by almost 20 years or so, but whatever the reason, it isn’t there. You can say “Carter, be right here for the pass” and he’ll say “yup” and be there for the pass. You can say “Carter, this is what you could have done better that last play” and he’ll say “yup” and the next time that same situation comes up, he’ll do the better thing.

You can tell him he needs to work on a skill, and he’ll work on that skill until he’s better than you at it.

And he smiles the whole time. The. Whole. Day. Read more

POLOWEEN CONTEST: Win! Fun! HORROR!

HouseOfDracSMALL

I’ve teamed up with Fixcraft yet again to provide a fun way to win free stuff AND show a bit of your creative side at the same time. It is with no small amount of pleasure that I present the

POLOWEEN HORROR POSTER CONTEST!

We’re looking for the classic style of horror movie poster: unbelievable monster, bad makeup, horrible titles. We’re looking for witty thinking and visual fun. Get creative, let your inner werewolf come out. BUT NOT IN THAT TWILIGHT SORT OF WAY I SWEAR TO YOU IF I GET A SIGNLE TWILIGHT POSTER IT’S OVER okay not really but don’t. Okay, maybe do. I think Handsome Rob would make for a good Edward but that’s just me.

The rules are simple:

1. Your poster should CLEARLY be in the genre of a scary movie (not a romance, not an action movie)
2. Polo has to play a predominant role in the poster
3.The cheesier the better
4. Post your poster on Instagram with the hashtags #Poloween #Fixcraft #Lancasterpolo #Bikepolo (if you don’t have Instagram, send it directly to me at mlkabik (at) gmail.com)
5. Winners will be chosen by popular vote, SO MAKE SURE YOU TELL YOUR WHOLE FAMILY TO VOTE FOR YA: starting on October 27th and closing on October 30th
6. Winners announced AT MIDNIGHT, OCTOBER 31ST MOWHWHWHWHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAAHA (so you’ll probably find out when you wake up later that day)
HouseOfDracTC7. Only ONE entry per entrant
8. The picture can be a drawing, or a picture, or computer-rendered, or whatever. It doesn’t matter. Horror knows no limitations. Heck, if you make a short monster movie (following as many as the rules above) I’d be into that, too.

IF YOU WIN, YOU GET:

-Brand new Fixcraft mallet set up of your choice

-Fixcraft team shirt of you choice

-3 balls

-A pair of gloves

 

Remember, you pumpkins: You have Until Oct 26th to get your posters up and scaring, so don’t wait!

Let’s Stop Doing Worlds Every Year

stadium

The thing with the World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship is, for better or worse, that it’s kind of an exaggeration. An expensive one at that. And the truth is we put a lot of stock into Worlds being perfect and the pinnacle of bike polo development when in fact we don’t even have a really clear vision of what bike polo will be in six months, let alone a year, let alone any point in the distant future. We are, once again, creating a high level event for a sport that simply doesn’t demand that sort of thing.

When the NFL was first formed–hell, even before that: when people first started playing football in the U.S., they didn’t start having a championship right away–at least not the sort of championship we think of now with the SuperBowl. Sure, there were championships–but they were local, small, and pretty much just like any other tournament.

whbpc2014The point I’m making is that there wasn’t much of a point to having a huge event for the sport because the sport simply wasn’t there. There were developing rules, developing equipment, and developing culture around the event of American football itself. People realized that having a huge championship was more pain than what it was worth, so why put the pressure on?

the World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship is something that brings a lot of great players together. That’s about it. Sure there is the glory of being the best in the world, but that’s about all you get. There aren’t legions of fans paying ticket prices that benefit the NAH or the hosting club or the teams that win. There aren’t huge sponsors throwing money to Mr. Do to get on the stream. There aren’t TV stations that are reserving time and fighting for filming rights.

“But Crusher, there never will be unless we keep having big tournaments.”

Bullshit.

WHBPC2013 (116)Think of it this way: if hosting clubs are still struggling to find good refs, good locations, sponsors, spectators, and everything else that goes with running a sports tournament, all that people will see when they look at bike polo will be a group of people playing a sport they only kinda heard of. They won’t see a really clean, well organized, or well attended event.

There are probably a hundred things that could change with the idea of a world bike polo tourney, but I’ll suggest just a few that have been springing up in my brain the past few weeks:

1. Make the tourney every other year, or ever three years: this allows organizers to work a bit longer in getting people in the seats, sponsors on the walls, and interest from local news. It also gives potential refs 2-3 years to practice just for Worlds. That’s a real, honest-to-Dog length of time to really develop the skills to be a world-class ref.

2. Don’t put so much pressure on it: Go ahead, have your whole-world bike polo tourney–but don’t make it such a big deal. We aren’t there yet, there isn’t a demand (even really a huge demand from players). Why not stop clawing at the hope that if we build it up as a worldwide event it will be.

3. Wait for critical mass before the next WHPBC. Wait for there to be a need before we create a solution. I think this can be said for a lot of parts of bike polo, but it applies here, too: we’re running so hard to make something exist where there is simply no need for it to.

And I get it: polo for lots of folks isn’t about making it any bigger and it isn’t about getting Nike to give a damn or see your face on the nightly news. But if that’s the case, why are players doing everything that professional sports players do in regards to travelling thousands of miles to play, essentially, just another bike polo tournament? What’s the overall value other than the pride of playing at Worlds–and is that worth thousands of dollars to do?

We’re trying to create a professional sport that isn’t even a sustainable one yet. Let’s just put the brakes on for a minute and think about what’d be nice to do, what we need to do in the future, and what we must do right now.