(written by Barry Rauhauser)
So why do I get to write this guest post on the Lancaster United Bike Polo
blog? After all, I haven’t played the stoopid game in months…and even
when I do play, I am never very good (I fall down often and
spectacularly). I’m old….though not as old as Hollenbach&Oates. I’ve
never been to any of the regional matches. I’ve been playing for almost a
year and still can’t understand half of what Kyle says (How the hell am I
supposed to maintain maintenance?). I don’t have a cool nickname. I had
to Google the word “hipster” after my first polo outing and I gag whenever
I drink PBR. And most of the time my polo bike is deceptively disguised as
my fixie road machine.
Maybe the reason I get to write this guest blog is because I happen to be
one of the few people in the country (in the world perhaps?) who has the
opportunity to take bicycle polo into the college classroom.
This coming fall semester I will be teaching “Kinesiology 006: Cycling” at
one of Penn State’s branch campuses. I’ve got 8 students signed up so far
for the course…which means, every Tuesday and Thursday morning during
the semester I will have numbers.
I am sure that many of you want to know HOW I got a gig teaching bicycling
to college students, so that you can run out and do the same thing and
become a two-wheeled professor like myself. Sadly, that is not the point
of this guest blog. But, for those of you who absolutely must know before
reading any further along, I will provide an answer as to how I got a gig
teaching bicycling to college students: I got lucky. Right place, right
The real point of this guest blog is to tell you WHY I will be including
bicycle polo in my class on bicycling. My class on cycling is a general
introduction to bicycling as a lifelong activity. Over the course of ten
weeks we’ll be covering bike maintenance, bike handling, rules of the
road, mountain bike skills, road bike skills, touring, commuting, fitness,
physiology, racing, skills for riding in a pack, skills for route
planning, how to dress, and on, and on, and on…essentially as much stuff
as you can possibly squeeze into four hours a week for ten weeks while
still making sure students in the class have enough time to ride their
bikes, improve as cyclists, and maybe even fall in love with the mighty
The moment I read the course description and objectives, I knew that bike
polo had to be a part of my syllabus:
***It takes ten minutes to learn but a lifetime to master the stoopid
game. This makes it a perfect game for students with a wide-ranging set
of abilities and who will be on vastly different learning curves. Anyone
can play and few will get bored. Seductively simple and fun, but it will
likely last longer in their lives than that Angry Birds app they deleted
off their phones last year.
***Bike handling. Bike handling. Bike handling. Chasing that dumb little
ball around makes you forget that you are developing a set of bike
handling skills that you can use in all of your cycling endeavors.
***Any bike. Any place. Any time. They don’t call it the bicycle
INDUSTRY for nothing. Bike companies tell you to adopt cycling for your
lifetime and tell you all about cycling’s benefits. But then they totally
lie to you and tell you that you absolutely have to spend over $3,000 on a
bike…and you’ll need a new one every three years. One of the things that
has charmed me about polo was the fun to cost ratio. It also means that as
an instructor, it will be a very cheap addition to the syllabus. Anyone
have eight extra mallets they can spare?
***Development of creative and critical thinking. Yeah, you heard me.
Thinking about playing bicycle polo is almost as addictive as playing
bicycle polo. Crafting a new position to enhance your joust. Analyzing
the physics of sitting in goal. Dreaming up an excuse to get out of work
so you can play. Bicycle polo involves using the gray matter. Some
players even think WHILE they are playing the game and this type of
thinking involves a complex set of problem-solving skills that might turn
my students into great world leaders or, at the very least, better than
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons. The game is a blast and has
gotten many people out there on their bikes. The camaraderie involved is
unrivalled and I expect the smack-talking skills of my students will rise
to new levels. It also means that we get to recruit some new players,
which is a particularly warm and fuzzy thing to watch.
So, there it is. Maybe I’ll get a chance to post again in the fall with
some photos of my class and the verdict on how it all went.