Pads make polo more dangerous.

Yeah, you read that right. And now you’re all…

here’s a scenario – two players of equal ability are going for a 50/50 ball. player A is wearing whatever he had on all day plus a helmet, player B looks like he’s ready to go head to head with¬†optimus prime. Both players want the ball an equal amount but one of them is willing to take a greater risk to make the play. Player B is willing to enter that situation at a faster speed and is less concerned about crashing.

The problem is, when and if that crash occurs, it will most likely affect both players. So should less-padded player A just back off a little because more of his/her skin & bones are at risk of meeting a hard surface? Logic says yes, and that’s where we’d have to get into the mental gymnastics of how different personalities would react to the same situation.

Would not a simpler solution be for everybody to come into the game with the same amount of padding? We’ve had quite a few visiting players show up w/o helmets, which to us seems crazy – but back where they usually whack balls maybe most people don’t wear helmets because they like to keep games nice and chill. We tend to go a little more rough and tumble. Early on in our club’s brief history we all saw Ted slip a wheel on a wet court and his melon came down hard. Fortunately Ted was wearing a helmet – at that point most of us were not. One by one from that day forward dudes started wearing lids.

Disclaimer: For tourney play I can totally see padding up. when you are playing at that level, everybody throws caution to the wind and things are gonna get wild.

At a local level most of our guys have no pads (other than the lid). I wear an elbow pad on my braking arm, simply because I was tired of having holes in all my shirts or scabs on my elbow from pushing against the wall. In all honesty, I have no issue with a guy wearing pads, some guys seem to have a penchant for finding their way to the blacktop or getting hurt by their own bikes. If you are wearing pads to protect yourself – no problema. The problem I see is when the padding convinces the player that the gains outweigh the risk and the opposition is forced to either take that same gamble or puss out. Which IMO is not cool. As a wise man once said “this ain’t ESPI’s”

The real question is why is Billy wearing a glove in bed? and where is his other hand?


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  1. Matt Krofcheck says:

    I’m really torn on how i feel about this line of thinking.
    If the player who’s padding up is padding up so they can go balls to the wall, then that player has the wrong state of mind to begin with.
    I don’t wear pads because I have a hard time getting used to the slightly restrictive movement they can create, but recognize I’m at risk in doing so.
    Kyle pads up, and will still go 100mph whether padded or not, the difference is how much skin he has left a the end of the night.

    I think the much safer route would be to assume play will be at 100%, its a contact sport. Just because you haven’t crash doesn’t mean you wont, and just because Padded Player A is going full bore doesn’t make him at fault for crashing with Unpadded Player B. Ignorance is no excuse when it comes to polo.

    • Irishvelo says:

      The thing everyone needs to remember is it is just pick up polo. It doesn’t mean anything, specially when you play with different people every game. It should be fun. Honestly, the Argo/ego playing just isn’t fun anymore. I use to be the worst offender, and I have tried to change my attitude and play accordingly. if you are coming out to take out your aggressions, then you made the first mistake. I think the original point is that pick up doesn’t need to be as physical.

      In the past, we all played more contact type of play. Now I think most of us realize you ain’t gone win playing that game. Passing will win out. Thinking about it on Tuesday night, we all want to drive to the front of the net and bang it home. If you remember back to the PA championship, the best teams were drive the ball to the corners and passing it to the open player in front of the net. If we want to get better and compete with the better teams we all need to learn to pass more.

      I have had the most fun when we are light hearted, trash talking, and playing hard. Pads or no pads if you being a dick you are still being a dick. And it takes two to make a T. Just saying’

      • Lumberbach says:

        at some point Kyle mentioned another club that actually has some “no-touch” games, might be a way to take the skill level up a notch and dial back the muggings.

        as for the passing you are completely right. the two players on offense need to keep moving. as a club we’ve come to expect slapshots and rebounds instead of an offensive flow.

      • Matt Krofcheck says:

        good points Irish. (as in, I’ll be studying the word pass this week)

  2. Trace says:

    hmm… you may be onto somethin’ there, especially if the same moment Mr/Mrs. Polo player straps on the goods their confidence level ratchets up to 11. The player is likely to play beyond their ability with the new found confidence (“I can’t get hurt since I look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.”) and that means that anyone who crosses their path could be a victim of their braggadocio.

    Makes me think back to my roadie days and the first couple rides after I initially shaved my legs. I was unstoppable, attacking climbs like Pantani and dropping people I normally couldn’t. There was a very real sense of OVERconfidence created which simply tapped into my unexplored aggression.

    I don’t think any of our clubs need that on our courts.

    Having said that, I will be sporting a chest protector at my return to polo this weekend. Bruised/cracked ribs are to be avoided. Stay puft out there.

  3. Matt Krofcheck says:

    Wouldn’t the root be the aggression and not the protective gear though?
    I dont know… while i agree that aggressive play is second rate to skilled play, I don’t see pads being a culprit here. Lomax…chime in. I”m interested to here what you have to say coming from one of the kindest, most skilled clubs on the east.

  4. Matt Krofcheck says:

    we should try 1/2 and 1/2 on sunday. Play some no touch games to set the mood, then relax the rule so we see how it effects us.

    • Crusher says:

      I like this idea – I think it would be frustrating and fun the first game. Does “no touch” mean not even mallet lifting?

  5. Matt Krofcheck says:

    I think we’re referring to body contact. The goal being to focus on ball control, and movement vs using your lack of fear to win games. (not you in particular)
    I’ll be interested to see how it develops.

  6. Finally at home with a real computer! Here goes nothing:

    The question that you asked initially (“Would not a simpler solution be for everybody to come into the game with the same amount of padding?”) addresses a concern that I don’t think that a lot of people have really considered. At tournaments, that decision lies in the hands of the individual right now, with the exception of helmets. For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that we suit up the same for pickup and tourneys. We’ve all got out comfort levels, and mine recently adjusted itself to include some 661 shin/knee combo pads. From experience, I do get closer to people now. I would get even closer if I had a facemask, and I can’t tell you how many times my lacrosse gloves have saved me (protip: get goalie gloves… they have an extra thumb protector that is invaluable). While those things allow me to be a little more brave in shot blocking, I would absolutely not use my added safety equipment as an excuse to put someone else into an unsafe situation. Like Irish said, a dick is a dick. Getting back to the point, if/when polo crosses that line in the sand into the realm of “real sports,” I believe that there will be a longer list of mandatory safety equipment at sanctioned events for insurance purposes. What this discussion really leans toward is nailing down what acceptable conduct is in terms of physical play.

    It seems like we might be on the same page here, but I’ll set the mood anyway. Over here in western Pennsylvania, we value skill and respect. Our games are pretty fast despite court size, ball control is emphasized, passing is pretty abundant, and the play is clean. Our aim is to improve our individual abilities and our teamwork. Lately, I have taken to leaning into people more and more to get them accustomed to it for tournament travel, but there is otherwise very little body to body contact here. At speed, we are very respectful of one another’s safety. Along the boards, there is some mucking and grinding like in hockey, but at no point are there full checks. Our first attempt is on the ball, not on the player. Anyone that was at the PA Championships may have heard me get a little pissy about some mallet contact (sorry about that outburst, no hard feelings), but I/we are pretty strict about mallet to mallet contact. I personally avoid any downward striking of a mallet, regardless of intent or severity. I instead lift, hook, and moderately stick check upwards/sideways. Why? Because none of that will break or damage a shaft, and none of that promotes unsafe mallet flailing from either the ball carrier or the defender. We have some players that will lift their mallet to face height or higher in their wind up to tomahawk a defender’s extended mallet. All that does is create an unsafe situation, not to mention how absolutely shitty it is to damage another players mallet, bike, or body with an unnecessary hack. A defender should not be punished for playing defense; the ball carrier should strive to outplay the defender. That logic is universal in our play. Rather than resorting to aggressive play, one should strive to improve and avoid being taken the next time that they find themselves in that situation.

    For what it’s worth, I think that polo should have the same level of allowable contact as soccer or basketball. Moving players shouldn’t be allowed to run through stationary ones. Players should be allowed to battle for space, but not much more than leaning their body weight into one another in an effort to turn them off of their line. Open checking has no place in bike polo. The risk far outweighs the gain in terms of both player safety and spectator appreciation. There are too many times where a player is extremely vulnerable on their bike, fully padded or not. Sure, players have somewhat of a choice in how vulnerable they allow themselves to be, but if open checking is allowed, a great deal of the skill and grace in high speed play will be lost to the threat of some Midwest psychopath coming in with both hands on their bars to fucking annihilate you first and take the ball later. If the gray area in the ruleset clarifies itself to explicitly allow that type of play, you will see some crushing injuries, and then polo will (in my opinion) become boring as players ride around in constant fear of being bulldozed. Instead, I feel that decisive action needs to be taken to emphasize skill and respect. Players should be expected to play the ball first, with anything else being considered for a foul, like soccer. The result would be a much more exciting game for spectators and players as players are able to play faster and take more risks without the fear of someone valuing a trophy more than your set of teeth. I assume that spectators would rather see you race down the court to nail that impossible angle shot from the goal line rather than seeing bodies lying all over the court as defenders take to laying anyone attempting to ball handle flat on their backs.

    If you were able to get anything out of the “What’s Ball Got To Do With It?” thread on LoBP before you ran away from your computer screaming like I did, I hope that you noticed that there was talk of “top tier” players being less likely to be violent maniacs. I am inclined to agree, with some very specific exceptions. “Top tier” players have incredible and deserving confidence in their abilities, both offensive and defensive. I believe that has major influence in reducing the reliance on violence in compensation for deficiency. If I were King, I would stop sitting back and avoiding making waves. Instead, I would use this as justification for the prohibition of that type of reckless play.

    • Matt Krofcheck says:

      Jon thanks for your input. I think we should have our clubs meet up to see what kind of differences we can experience first hand.

      I know the few times I’ve seen you and the rest of the burgh play i was amazed at how clean and yet capable you guys (and girls) were.(Perhaps its a newbie assumption to group brute force and ability) You see some teams at tourneys that are top tier, and evenly matched, and end up playing brutal gladiator polo.
      Then you see other top tier teams that out finesse even the brutal teams and it makes you think.

      As for the hacking at the Keystone Cup, at the time it was how we played. Afterwards, we actually had time to sit back and think about it, and now pretty aggressively enforce a no-hacking rule. Its been a great improvement, allowing us to focus instead of lifting/interference type mallet contact.
      It also surprised me at how easily all of us (myself included) went from tomahawking the shit out of mallets to playing them wisely. Does it really just take one or two games of enforcing a rule or concept for it to become second nature?
      I will say this, as a relatively new club, its hard sometimes when you go to tourneys and play against teams that have been developing and competing for longer than you’ve been around. In those cases its SO easy to just play a body game and hope you are bigger than them (in my case its pretty often, in Gene’s case…its always). Doesn’t make it right, especially not at a local level.

      all that aside, thank you again for the wonderful insight. I’m pretty sure most of us will read and re-read that post and absorb it.

      • You guys keep mentioning how young your club is… how long have you guys been at it? Pittsburgh started in the spring of ’08, so we are entering our 5th year. A handful of us got serious about traveling in ’09 (Midwest Champeenships in Dayton, Los Marcos in NYC, Worlds in Philly), but aside from a few shockers in Dayton, we got our asses kicked up and down the court until sometime in 2010. Before the PA championship, I had only really seen you and Kyle around, but no one looked like they had just been handed a mallet in Philly. I know that no one was asked for advice, but I would wholeheartedly advise everyone in your club to go to everything within their range this year. Come here for the PA championships (dates TBD), go to Rochester in August, Polo Camp in Frederick in the fall, NACCC in Richmond if there is a polo tournament, definitely drag as many people as you can to NYC in April for the bench minor ESPI, and go to the Eastern Qualifier… where ever it ends up. Nothing teaches you more or strengthens your obsession than playing out of town.

        • Crusher says:

          We’ve been around since 2009.

          And I agree with your advice – the more people we can get out to tournaments the better we’ll be. We’ve had, since maybe a year and a half ago – openly discussed every tourney that was within driving distance, sending folks to Boston, Fredrick, and Philly.

          We’re getting to a point now where there is really no reason we can’t hit every tourney possible – something I’m hoping to have happen this year. Another point you didn’t bring up is that playing in tourneys is a great way to get the idea of club-ness (for lack of a better term). You aren’t just playing your buddies from down the street or across town – you’re a club playing another club – and that’s a great way of wanting to do the best you can.

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