Lancaster United is getting a whole mess of new players, and while that makes us feel all fresh and young, it also means a lot of reminders to our older players that they have to take a few steps back to let learning happen.
Yes, I know that wheel dicking someone before they know it’s against the rules feels good, but limit yourself to doing that only five or six times, kay?
So to help our new(er) players and help promote the idea that I actually provide a service through this site, here are a few tips that I wish someone would have shared with me when I started playing.
(Disclaimer: someone probably did tell me these things. I’m just a horrible listener)
1. Don’t worry about looking at the ball yet: New guys and gals will crash for a few reasons, but one of the worst is that they weren’t looking where they were going. Chasing that little ball around the court makes a player as entranced as a cat trying to catch a laser pointer’s beam, but that leads to looking straight down and not forward.
So you run into a wall or a goal at a heavy speed – so what? Well, I don’t particularly care if you do hurt yourself that way, but I do care if instead of a wall it’s someone else. Just take my advice on this one: ball control is something you can work on After you’ve figured out how to ballerina around the polo court.
2. The type of bike you have isn’t important until 6 months in: I’m kinda a scenester when it comes to the stuff I do. I want to look the part, and that’s gotten me into spending more money and time than what I perhaps should (examples: when I was playing guitar at shows I stopped cutting my hair and started wearing square, black glasses. When I moved to Lancaster I began eating more pastries and talking about York like it was the black death). To that end, I tried to buy every piece of bike polo equipment possible, and was always envious of other people’s bikes.
That’s a bad place to be, young padwan. Truth is you don’t really have enough skill at this point to warrant your concern about what bike you have. Would a perfectly built polo bike make a difference in the long run? Sure it would, but when you first start playing polo anything with two wheels is pretty much going to work. It’s a lot like learning to drive your first car (all you hipsters who don’t own one can tune out now): your uncle’s rape van might have been what you learned to drive on, but you were just trying to get the basics down - not how to be a speed racer.
3. Spend time shooting the ball: This could really go for anyone, but I think it’s very important for new players to practice shooting. Whether in a game or before everyone shows up (or, God forbid, in your own driveway before going out to play), learning how it feels when you get the right shot off on net is a big deal. A lot of new players isolate themselves to learning how to navigate the court or move the ball around—and both of those are important—but learning to shoot on goal is something you want to get out of the way early.
It’s a skill that can be developed and maintained easily, and focusing on other skills (like not crying once you fall down) is going to take up a lot more time. In my own development as a player I kinda missed out on learning to shoot well, and now I’m spending time on my own slapping a ball at a cardboard box just to make myself decent at the effort. No, children, it’s important to get that skill down to a point where you don’t have to think about it.
What about you, loyal readership? What kind of things do you wish you knew about bike polo in your early days (or, what do you wish you knew as a new player now?)