I think that people are hesitant to discuss what makes for a good polo team for a few reasons: first, they don’t want to seem arrogant enough to comment on other player’s attributes. Second, they don’t want to think about what qualities they may be missing, and three – it’s all pretty subjective when you get down to it.
However, I want to take a stab using the insight I’ve developed over the past year. If you disagree, well, I guess that’s expected.
1. Positional Awareness – that sounds pompous, doesn’t it? Anyway, having 3 folks who know where the ball is, where they are, and where their other team-mates are is a huge advantage. Our LCBP motivational coach Kyle is always talking about triangles: keep yourself away from your other team mates via equal spacing.
By creating this triangle, you give good coverage over the court while also giving your team mates ample opportunity to dish the ball out to an open player. Whenever you clump up next to another team-mate, you’re effectively shutting down an opportunity.
Horse (AKA…Horse) also reminds people to keep moving. Good advice especially when you’ve got positional awareness. Clearly you don’t want to by huckin an ‘a jivin when you’re playing goal for your team, but changing positions with your other players will allow for more opportunities, more break-aways, and clearer understood communication.
2. Shooters, Talkers, Goalies – I’ve discovered (whenever I’ve been handled like a cheap temptress from New Orleans) teams that have a good shooter, a good talker and a good goalie tend to dominate. Now, this would be more appropriate a set up for tourney play, but by having this mix you’re assuring that shots are being made on goal, that your own goal is protected, and that there is a clear element of co-ordination occurring.
Out of all the advice I give in this write up, I suspect this one may get the most hullaballoo. The arguments could be made – and made well – that having a “single” person who communicates for the team is a dumb-dumb idea. The same argument could be made for having someone who is only a good goalie.
The point I want to get across is that every player should strive to be at least prepared to play these three roles on their team – the roles themselves should shift between players. Some folks will be naturals in certain areas, but the role they play must modify based on the need of every play.
3. Handling Pressure – teams that don’t crack whenever plays go wrong are pretty much the defining feature of a good dynamic. Whenever a team starts to fall apart because of a) dumb play b) missed shot c) easy-to-avoid goal on their net, they will start messing up more and more plays guaranteed.
Keeping your head about you reduces the pressure on your whole team, allows everyone to refocus and – most importantly – keeps the game fun. Try to stay driven but forgiving (with others and yourself) when playing – let the opportunities come naturally for you. If you have a team member who is starting to lose their cool, either try to get them out of it or have them hang out of the play for a little while.
The reason to do so is two –fold. You’re making sure that the team dynamic stays healthy, and you’re also making sure that they don’t do anything stupid to hurt other players. It’s easy to take aggression out on a polo court, but that isn’t always the best way to make sure you’re invited back to that tourney or pickup.