Knowing Where to Be: 3 Ways to Gain Situational Awareness

Gene saving his BFF Forever

Let me be honest: I’m only writing this post to use the picture to the right. Let’s see if it turns into something good.

If there is one defining characteristic of new players (or, to be tactless about it, players that aren’t very good at all at polo), it’s how little situational awareness they possess. Or, if you want to be a jerk about it, how much they’ll run into the wall, the goal, other players, and sometimes into nothing at all.

Add to this the likelihood that, even presented with an opportunity to avoid a crash, a newer player will make a wrong move and end up crashing anyway, and you’ve got one of the reasons that newer players have it kinda tough.

The standby answer from more experienced players (and one that is completely true) is that it takes time to learn situational awareness. It just forms in the mind of the player that they have a preternatural  ability to know where their own players are, where the opposing players are, and where they are on the court.

Well – either they gain that skill or they never do, and then people begin dreading pickup with that person.

I’ve been putting some thought into how someone can speed up the learning curve in this regard: how can you learn to feel out the court and not blindside people for the first month you’re playing bike polo? Here’s three tips: 

1. Keep one eye forward. You can’t do this all of the time, of course, but predominantly players keep at least some peripheral vision on the direction they are rolling. Inexperienced players will often follow the ball  and not where their front wheel is pointing. Crashing into a wall is not very pleasant, especially when you aren’t expecting it.

2. Quickscan the area. So you’ve got the ball and are very excited to start pushing it up the court. Well just hold on a second there, buckaroo! I have witnessed plenty of players (myself included) who got a quick break and started charging down court only to find via crashing that someone had set a pick to slow them down.

Just do a quick scan around your bike before moving (and while your charging up court, too). This lets you know where the hell you are in relation to the goal, the players, and the boards. Takes a second – makes you aware.

3. It’s your responsibility. There is only one person playing polo who should be responsible for where you’re going, and that is you. If someone sets up a pick that you didn’t observe, it’s your fault for not seeing it. There is the natural flush of anger when you get into a situation you didn’t expect, but that’s not the other player’s fault.

can prevent dumb crashes

In the same vein, if you aren’t paying attention and crash, don’t expect the other person to be all sunshine and rainbows with you. Yes, they absolutely should be understanding if you’re just learning the sport, but if you’re still running into people two months into playing the game because you can’t keep your eyes up I think the blame falls on you, Oppsie McSwervencrash.

This is a skill that seems to come to most players of the sport, but that doesn’t mean that newer players can’t work a little harder to accelerate the process. Less crashes = more gameplay = more fun.

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  1. Horse says:

    First, i applaud you for #3. Second, #2 should be titled SLOW THE HELL DOWN. Speed and winning are not mutually exclusive. I’ve watched you (crusher) ease up the court like you were on a HoverRound and still out maneuver and score. Going fast when you’re new/still learning only makes you miss off of these points about situational awareness.

  2. Joe says:

    Recently, an experienced competitive player who was defending a breakaway on our super long court, said to the player controlling the ball (looking down and going full speed): “On your left!”. This was a very respectful, safe, etc way of saying “Don’t careen left towards the goal because I am right here and we will both die, got your line beat bro”. That player won some brownie points in my book.

    Nothing sucks more than when you see an accident coming and no one does anything about it.

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