Bike polo, in its very nature, is a relatively dangerous sport. When I first started playing (and my club was young, and I was scared to lean on my bike, and I didn’t keep my head up nor did anyone else, really) I crashed a lot.
Our club as a whole was pretty rock-um-sock-um when it came to playing. We’d run each other into the fence, we’d T-bone on purpose at times. It was great fun, really.
But as we developed as a club we stopped being so violent (I like to think we were getting more skilled and didn’t need to crash into each other to stop plays, for instance), and that was pretty good, too. There was a general feeling that really good players didn’t need to be violent (and I subscribe to that belief myself), so if you want to become a good player, you need to depend on finesse more than brute strength.
But let’s take a moment to talk about the other side of the coin, here. The scarred up, bruised and tooth spitting side of the coin.
The general rules of bike polo (if you don’t subscribe to reading all of the NAH rulebook) is body to body, bike to bike, and mallet to mallet contact. 2 of these three can lead to some brutal situations, as evidenced by Mr. Do’s lovely video which I will now gratuitously post because it’s that damned good:
I bring this up for a few reasons: 1. It’s so good. God just watch it again right now. 2.These are champion players. Top notch in North America. 3. They are sometimes not finesse players. They are intelligent brutes. They are corking geniuses. They are using violence in a not-so-violent way (with purpose rather than malice, I suppose). And that makes me respect the way they’re playing a touch more.
I am, by nature, a guy who likes getting into a good spat. I like getting thrown around and laying a clean amount of crush on someone who just tried to take the ball from me. But it’s important to note that I don’t like when people are violent without cause – when people choose to lay someone out who, by all accounts, isn’t an aggressive player.
I guess what I’m coming to is this: aggressive play in bike polo is an important element that, frankly, I’m concerned is going to disappear. I also believe, however, that all out violence for the sake of violence (i.e. bike hockey) isn’t the way our sport is going to progress and develop. We have to find a balance – and I believe when we’re talking about a sport that takes place on two wheels, balance shouldn’t be too terribly hard to come by.
For instance: my club had a policy, as I mentioned before, of restraining ourselves on aggressive play. Then we sent our first few boys into a few tournaments, and we almost instantly became somewhat aggressive again. Certainly not brawlers like we were before, but more selectively—using it when the other guy was up for it and it made sense/was fun (after all, we’re talking pickup). I think the way Lancaster United has found the balance between aggressive play and finesse can be a microcosm of what the sport as a whole should develop into, if it hasn’t already. Aggressive players who intelligently use their power can play alongside finesse players who are able to dart in and out of plays. This promotes a more varied skillset of individuals, more interesting play, and keeps the sport to its roots as a rough and tumble sort of game.
As with every longwinded post I make on this site, please do (and I really want to know, srsly) what you think. Is there any place for aggressive play? Should we all work on strict finesse? A balance of both? Am I way off base? Do you still love me?