First: “bike polo pros” is probably the stupidest phrase I’ve ever written, and I apologize for that.
However, the idea still sticks: how do you play against other players who have a clear and absolute advantage on you and/or your team? It’s not quite a good idea to play them the same way you’d play people at your own skill level, nor is it very entertaining to watch an entire team of people wet themselves and declare that they plan to take up badminton (anybody else know there was an N in that word?).
Believe it or not, dear reader, I’m not that good at bike polo. Yes—yes I know this is more of a shock than when you found out about Bianca Mouth Spray in middle school—but it’s true. This means a lot of my time is spent trying to work out just how to not get my saddle warmer handed to me. I’m not saying that any of this advice is going to make you turn the game around and win it like [name any movie involving an underdog team in the history of the world], but you might at least make the game interesting to watch/be a part of.
Play Zone Defense, not Man Defense
A great polo player will be able to keep the ball from you, move past quickly, and pretty much make you look like you’re a panda playing with a stick.
I don’t know where that came from either, let’s move on.
So instead of trying to win in a 1 on 1 situation, try instead to play a zone defense: choose a part of your side of the court to defend, and defend that area when someone rolls into it. This serves to purposes. One, you aren’t clumping your players together (something that happens quite often when teams are unevenly matched and generally resulting in a pass and goal), and two, you have a higher likelihood of remaining in the play.
Charging the player who has the ball is almost never a good idea to start with, as you are out of the play as soon as they pass you – but it’s doubly bad against a strong player when you yourself are outmatched.
One thing I try to do whenever I feel like my team is out-gunned is talk constantly. I point out the direction of play even if my other two teammates are looking at the same thing I am. I talk about where to go, where the other player is, what a good pass would be, when to shoot.
Reason being is this: folks sometimes say that talking to much about plays during a match is counter-productive, as the other team can hear you as well and interrupt whatever you planned. There is merit in this argument, but not so much when the other team is devastatingly better than yours. They will be able to interrupt your plays anyway – so why not make sure your whole team is on the same page and talking? If nothing else it will annoy the other team, and that can be a little victory into itself.
I don’t mean get dangerous – but take risks, for God’s sake. If you think you’re outmatched, you might as well make the other team work for everything. I find I push the hardest when I think I won’t win than when I think I have a chance of doing so.
Pedal as hard as possible, take shots that you normally wouldn’t, and try some tricky moves on that bike of yours. Playing against great players is a good opportunity to play like you’re in the Olympics – they’ll be good enough to let you try all sorts of things without adding the risk of other inexperienced players on the court.
I am recalling one situation in particular where I was on a team playing against the top three players in the club – we decided early that we’d just play like rock stars, and we did. We interrupted as many plays as possible, tried to bat the ball away at any opportunity, and shouted at each-other the whole time. Instead of the clean sweep we were expecting, we lost by one point and made it through the whole 10 minute game. It felt like a win because we poured ourselves into the game, and frankly I didn’t care that we lost. The other team played their regular game – we played our best.