First Contact: The Importance of Mallet and Ball Position

I spent a lot of time when I first started playing bike polo (who am I kidding, I still spend a lot of time) making sure that I hit the ball when I swung. I think I’ve reached a very respectable ratio of 1/62. Learning to get good contact is important for every player, but that won’t carry for the rest of your polo career.

Often enough, I see players who don’t have a problem with hitting the ball, but do have a problem with hitting the ball in a direction they mean it to go. Swinging hard might feel great, but if you can’t be sure where that laser is going to end up, you’re just betting on luck or a good bounce.

Instead of depending on outside chances, try to learn how the contact point of your mallet and the trajectory of your swing affect the shot’s direction.

First, the contact with the mallet: as surprising at is may seem, the ball goes different directions depending on where on the mallet you hit it with. Using this completely accurate and highly researched set of diagrams, you can see a few ways your mallet head can affect the direction of the ball:

Full Contact

The first is the most sought after and clearly the most predictable: hit the ball straight on with as much surface area of your mallet head as possible. This, generally speaking, makes the ball go straight (unless your swing is bowed, which I will explain after this little section rightch hur).

Basic: You’re hitting the ball straight on. It’s going straight, hopefully. That’s pretty stellar.

Advanced: Lasers in the goal all day. You’re able to line of your mallet with the ball no matter who is around you or how fast you’re going.

Ninja: You can shoot rockets in the form of passes, shots, and to simply get the ball around the defense. You’ve learned well, padwan.

 

Left Side Contact

NOTE: this is from a left handed player’s perspective for front view.

This is when you’ve kept your mallet too close to your bike with swinging, misjudged your swing, or just plumb didn’t get the shot off right. This makes the ball either shoot to the left of your position or, more dramatically, perpendicular to the direction of your bike.

Basic: Whoops!

Advanced: Whoops – but I will try to recover

Ninja: Sneaky shots on goal, sneaky passes, lots of under-the-breath cursing from the other team. If you’re right handed, you might even be able to bank it off your wheel into the net or to another player (or use it to get around a defensive player). I haven’t seen it done like that before, but let’s use our imagination hats.

Right Side Contact

Same as above, I suppose.

 

Again, left handed player perspective

The Swing

This is just as important and often confusing to newer players: the way that you swing, even if you make perfect 100% contact with the ball, has a profound effect on where the shot goes. Remember what you learned in your Advanced Thermodynamics Physics class from Cambridge: things you hit with a mallet will go in the direction of the force applied.

So if you’re swing is more like a chop at the ball:

You’re more likely to watch that ball travel off to the left or the right (depending on your handedness).

And if you add to that a non-perfect shot (one that sits on the outside of the mallet, man – you’re going to need to do some equations to figure out where that ball will travel.

I suggest this: once you figure out how to hit the ball, learn how to swing in a way that is purposeful: you don’t have to swing dead straight with every shot, but understand how different swings have different effects on ball direction, power transferred, and accuracy.

Once you understand that, start playing around with hitting the ball on different areas of your mallet. Learning how to shoot like a pool player (using different angles to shift the ball’s direction) is a world class way to trick goalies and accomplish fantastic shots.

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3 comments

  1. Karl Berwyn says:

    Top spin and English the ball, easier with a capped mallet. Performed better usually with a chip at the ball. IMO.

  2. Irishvelo says:

    Swing hard and pray….

    Seriously, if it doesn’t go to the net what’s it worth? But hard is still soooo satisfying!

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