While I am not going to be as egotistical to claim that our in-house tournament was anything close to the level of play at events in Boston, New York or Seattle, it was my first experience with honest-to-God competitive play in Polo; with prizes no less.
While it did give me the opportunity to try out a complete waxing of my face (somewhere between Cthulhu, a blow fish and used up DMB fan), it also gave me a taste of what is important when you’re playing with the same group of people every match, and your performance decides on whether you get to play more or watch more.
1. Stick to a role: While being a maverick may make you a presidential hopeful, it won’t do anything for you on the court. Being predictable (to your team mates) makes passing, blocking, and maneuvering much easier. In about two games I realized the dynamic of my team (the now champion Mexican Polar Bears) and how I fit into it. This can be an esteem shock to people, but sometimes it’s more important to just be the passer on the team – in fact, it’s essential.
2. Don’t be so serious: Five or six minutes into the first game I had to tap (those tricky feet always going for the ground), and as I went past the benches Troy said “you are allowed to smile, you know.” I was having a great time, but I was so wrapped up in the idea of importance that I was forgetting to act like myself (which generally involves me swearing at the ball and making animal noises at other players). I wanted to think that competition play was more serious, but that’s stupid. It’s still polo, and polo is always/should always be fun.
3. Having a solid team is very cool: I don’t mean a ‘good’ team, though that is fun, too. What I mean is having the same team for several games. You feel a camaraderie that is unique. In my case, I could look at one of the other two players on my team and know by an eye motion what they wanted to do. It made me feel like I was part of an inside club – with little rings that opened up to give us powers (ok, did anyone else not at all remember mother earth in that show?).
4. Everyone on the team is important: Let me be honest: Horse won the championship for us. He made all but 1 goal, and pretty much set the pace for every game we were in. But – it was Barry who made handfuls of amazing saves, stopped the other team’s plays, and made the paths for Horse to travel, and he’s pretty new to the sport. I guess I didn’t realize it before, or maybe not as much, but no matter how good a player is, they need a team to make it work. Even if it’s just someone to call out a play or block out a body.
5. Polo is fun: I guess I really didn’t learn this one as much, but it bears attention. Even with people giving it their all, none of us felt like we were ‘losing’ or under a ton of pressure. With every nasty hit or botched shot, we were all laughing, calling each other out and telling the other team ‘good job’ whenever they did something great. I don’t know of many other sports that come by that kind of sportsmanship naturally.
At any rate, it was great day. It gave me a chance to really enjoy how far I’ve come as a player in seven or so months, and how far our club has come in the past year.
3 2 1 everybody.