Thoughts on Turducken and 2v2: Great, but No Thanks

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Turducken was a blast. Truly. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates than Carter and Ransom, and we went further along (I think tied for 7th/8th? I don’t know) than I imagined possible. All in all, I’m deeming it as a success. The hosts were very hosty, I ate more tacos in 2 days than I normally eat in 2 weeks–yes, I eat tacos every week–and the hotel only had one toilet that didn’t work (thanks, Alias, for letting me use yours).

The tourney was also my first ever 2v2 tourney. The rule for this was very simple: you play 2v2, and you have to switch out one of your players with your third each game. While I had played 2v2 at pickup when we can’t get numbers, I never did it at a tourney and, to be honest, I was disappointed when I learned that this tourney wouldn’t be 3v3.

The first day was difficult: I kept expecting to have a third person on my team, and I quickly learned that a tourney of 2v2 counts on a few things:

1. The other team messing up

2. Passing

3. Getting the other team out of position

If you manage two of those 3, you’ll win your games (or at least not look horrible in losing).

I’m going to be honestfrank with you and say that my playing on the first day was horrible. For one thing, my heart was going nuts and that made me not necessarily care how I was playing (as dying is something I’d like to avoid), but I also just wasn’t carrying my weight on the team. Carter and Eric were clearly the strong 2 of we 3, though they were both very kind to me in my uselessness.

The other teams seemed to have the same difficulties we had (save for a few slayers, of course, who could probably play with 1 and 1/4th of a player and still do well). The games weren’t slow, as I was expecting, though the pacing was certainly different. There wasn’t necessarily constant movement, but rather a ebb and flow of movement that dictated how a play either was (or was not) going to work. I found that I had more open breakaways, obviously, but I also felt like every action I took had a much more profound impact on the game than I would if it were 3v3.

I think that’s what the most valuable lesson was that weekend, outside of learning about the Turducken Taco from Cultured Swine, was that new sort of court awareness. I was keenly aware of helping the ball carrier rather than just trying to become the ball carrier. I either worked towards getting the 2nd player out of the play, or in getting my own guy to a good position.

That being said, I found that my leftyness came into play in an enormous way, as did my slow-game-ball-control nonsense that I do so enjoy. Furthermore, tricks became somehow more important (tricks, in my book, include dribbling the ball around other players in the air, weird shots, etc.).

The second day was a much better showing in my case, and I believe I managed to help Carter win every game we played together. I had a stronger understanding of what my role should be and managed to remind myself of that understanding whenever I got in the heat of a match.

Even so: as I left the tourney without saying goodbye to most, and drove my little truck the 7 hours it took to get home (thanks, traffic), I knew that I wouldn’t want to play a 2v2 tourney again. It was great fun, but it didn’t really scratch that itch I look to get scratched at a tourney. Or, maybe I should refine that: I don’t see myself playing in another 2v2 tourney unless it’s happening within 1 hour of driving distance. With Turducken Tacos, maybe 2 hours.

…And 5 Kinda Longer Ways to Get Better!

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Okay, so I gave you the quick and dirty way to get better as a player in fast order–now let me lay some heavier learning down on you.

Bike polo is a game that takes very little to get the hang of, but much longer to become a master of (if ever–truth be told I’ll never be a master of this sport. I’ll just be lil’ ol’ Crusher watching games and armchair generaling). But I can give you some of my  tips to help you gain that next level of understanding and play:

1. Repetition: This isn’t fun. At least not, like, playing the actual game fun. Repetition means practicing the same pass, shot, or bike maneuver over and over until you can do it in your sleep. Repetition means finding some of your polo buddies and having them shoot on you in goal for a whole afternoon–and then doing it again and again and again. Repetition means working on your mallet control in your driveway or alley. It’s the unfun stuff that pays off huge in the end.

2. Be a student of the game: Watch Mr. Do videos. Watch games at tournaments when you aren’t playing. Watch, but don’t just be watching: be studying. There is a huge difference between witnessing a game and understanding it, and you’ll want to be solidly in the understanding zone. Try to figure out what great teams (and even what not-so-great) teams are doing that works or doesn’t work. Watch to see what they are doing and try to understand how you’d do it, too. You better believe they didn’t just happen across how to block out opposing players while moving up the court: they worked on it, and you can learn from  their work.

3. Live on your bike: (h/t to Autumn for pointing this one out). I suspect lots of us already do this, but I mean your polo bike in particular. Form a relationship with it, take it out to dinner or to drinks every once and a while (I meant that as a joke when I first started writing it, but now I realize that I could be serious: take it out with you when you’re living your day-to-day life). Learn how your bike responds in all situations so you can better understand how it’s going to perform in all conditions on the court. I realize this isn’t necessarily practical in some situations, but oftentimes it’s possible, and you should try for it.

4. Condition yourself: this won’t be a popular one, but it’s true. You need to be in good shape to perform better. It’s a fact. If you’re somehow really serious about getting better and doing better, you should limit your drinking, limit your smoking, and do some cardio conditioning. Yeah, I know. I’m not going to do this one either. But it’s true.

5. Refuse to give up: tenacity is kinda my key to life. I’m not particularly strong, I’m not particularly smart, and I’m not particularly attractive. Tenacity is how I succeed. Dogged stick-to-it-iveness will win out against skill any day of the week, and that’s something that we’ll al need if ol’ number 4 up there seems like too much. I’ve watched plenty of teams simply fall apart when they were down by 3 and had only two minutes to play. It’s nonsense to do that: anything can happen. If you have tenacity and can infuse your  team with it, amazing turnarounds might just occur. If nothing else, it will help you build up some of the other elements needed to play well, and that never hurt nobody.

5 Ways to INSTANTLY GET BETTER

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(You Won’t Believe #3)

Bike polo is all about honing in on a skill set that all great players have. The problem is, of course, that the repetition can make you overlook other skills that are just as important to your game (and you somehow keep ignoring the development of). Well, Ol’ Papa Crusher is here to help. I ask only this: keep an open mind. I realize that all of us are on our own little paths to polo greatness, but if you look at your own development in an objective light, you might find some things you’re simply overlooking.

1. Pass more: this is aimed at hero polo players and newer polo players: passing is scary and unrewarding at times, I get it. But passing is the bread and butter of great plays, and only a silly goon would think otherwise. If you’re finding that the teams you’re on typically don’t do very well with holding onto the ball or staying in the offensive half, try more pass-work. Try passing when it’s not even necessarily called for. Try passing on your bad side and in poor passing situations (like when you don’t have a clear view of your team-mate or when you’re surrounded by opposing players).

2. Learn to stay between the goal and the ball: This one is super simple but lots of players don’t do it. When the opposing team has the ball, try to stay in the way of a direct shot on goal. It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 feet from the goal or 50 feet: getting in the way of a straight shot increases the chances of stopping a point happening. If you go out to challenge the ball carrier, don’t go out too far from the goal, and get back in line to block their direct shot.

3. Shave your eyebrows off. Just do it. Do it. Do it now right now.

4. Have a goal: I feel like lots of folks go out on the court with the ambiguous goal of “not messing up” or “winning”, and those are both noble pursuits, but aren’t valuable ones. With every game, try to have one big goal: not get stuck on the boards, pass more than I shoot, not get caught facing the wrong way when an opponent gets the ball. These are all situational, of course, but they help you stop yourself from just zoning out and getting tunnel vision during play. Bike polo is a thinkin’ game, and as soon as you stop thinking, you’re suffering.

Really I think that’s life advice. Don’t stop thinking.

5. Don’t be hard on yourself: there is nothing so useless as self hatred in the sport. It shuts you down and closes you off from your team mates and from the fun of the game. Messing up plays, plopping your foot down for no reason, and missing easy shots are part of what bike polo is. Just allow it to happen. I mean of course learn from it and try to avoid it, but don’t hate yourself for it, either. As a wise man once said: it’s not worth it.

Code of Conduct: Here, Take This.

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I’m one of the “elders” of my club–that is: I was elected, along with two others, to be the executive branch of our group. When it comes down to it, the post means that I interact with the local government, I try to carry out the will of the club, and I act as a mediator when tempers flare or stuff goes down.

It’s both good to do (as I feel like I’m helping) and stressful (as nobody is every very happy with authority figures in our game).

Part of what I was tasked with doing was to create a “code of conduct” for our club. Essentially, we recognized that we didn’t have a locked down way of dealing with situations where players were acting against the interests or enjoyment of the club.

The document is, effectively, something that our club can fall back on to remove emotions and subjectivity from tense situations. Previously we’d have a spat or raised tempers and we’d go through this series:

1. everyone would yell at each other

2. We’d all email each other and keep yelling

3. We’d agree, more or less, that something can’t happen again.

4. repeat.

With this document we have a series of steps and procedures that, more or less, takes discipline and behavior out of the hands of anyone and into the hands of an agreement. If you do X, you are disciplined with Y.

If you play with our club, you’re agreeing to the code of conduct. If you’re a member of our club, you’re agreeing to the code of conduct (naturally there was a voting on the document from the start, to see if anyone actually wanted it to exist at all).

So I offer it up to you, readers. Use this as you think you need to (or as a starting point for the discussion in your club). Keep in mind, however, that much like the Torah of my people’s religion, it was written by a small group for that group, not for the world. Make sure if you’re using this document that you modify it to fit your culture and own club’s needs.

Lancaster United Bike Polo Code of Conduct

On Court A–a poem

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Lancasterpolo reader and poet Louise Hosburgh sent me this poem after I asked after it (seeing she mentioned it on Facebook). While this is certainly not what I typically post on the site, those who know me know my heart leans towards the art of writing–and poetry certainly fits into that definition.

 I present to you, “On Court A”

 

It’s good to be here,

away from home

in this city with friends

who are weird like me.

We ride our bikes,

three to a team,

and whack a ball

with a stick (mallet)

and try to score

goals on each other

without dabbing.

 

I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be…

 

“Prima Nocta and Those Shifty Eyes, you’re on Court A right now!”

 

My team gets called to play…here we go.

 

I roll into the court with my teammates,

we line up on one end together

facing the opposing team,

ball waiting in the center.

Joe looks at me

through his face mask,

“We got this.” Read more

There were about 30 less tourneys in 2014 than 2013

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…and I’m not really worried about it

Counting a discussion last week with Horse, there have been about four people who approached me (either via email, message, or in person) this year who were concerned about the amount of tourneys being hosted this year compared to years past. They all thought, more or less, that it was a sign of either the dwindling of the sport or the dwindling importance of tourneys.

Well, I just don’t buy it, honestly.

To Horse’s credit, he cited that part of the reason for the reduction in tourneys was the proliferation of regions and the need to have qualifiers in those regions (a problem that I think will probably be worked out sooner than later). Because of this, local tournaments were put off because everyone was too busy trying to prep and/or run their own NAH sanctioned event.

I think consideration that must be paid is that the tourneys are getting bigger, the quality of the tourneys is getting better, and the expectation of going to certain tourneys over other tourneys is becoming more and more of a reality. If anything, I think it shows a growth in bike polo (or at least in the quality of bike polo): not every city can have its own top-notch tourney–which is fine, but it also means that more and more folks are waiting for those really solid tourneys to latch on to, and the smaller ones never really come around to being actualized.

Plus, if you really want to get down to the scientific method: just because a tourney isn’t on the LoBP (ALL HAIL!) it doesn’t mean that tourney didn’t happen. It might just be that there are smaller tourneys that aren’t using the site. I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but it very well may be.

Try to think back, if you can, to just a few years ago: what tourneys were like. No boards, sometimes just open sides with bags to stop the ball from going out of play. Cones for goals and tourneys that would occasionally not even really be completed. Those tourneys are what made up a fair amount of those many-more tourneys we see if we look at tourneys per year. Now, however, we’re seeing more organized and more tourney-like tournaments, and just because there are fewer doesn’t mean we’re losing anything.

So there, naysayers. So there.

All Profits to Jeff and his Family

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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.

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5 Player Bench is What I’m Excited About

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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

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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