We started polo with gas pipe, ski poles and whatever bike we didn’t care about – I think that’s a pretty standard level of initiation for most everyone who plays polo. Now, however, we’re willing (as a community, not strictly on an individual basis) to buy 25 dollar heads, fifteen dollar shaft, polo specific gloves and bombproof equipment on our polo-ready bikes.
As a sport community we are spending more and more money on getting the right equipment for our game, and that’s a great thing for both the people who have the know-how to make our equipment and for new players who won’t struggle to get the stuff we only dreamed of a few years ago.
So here’s the setup: We are spending hundreds of dollars a year (potentially) on equipment purchases, registration fees, travelling to tourneys, and a few bucks for cases of PBR. We’re buying new bikes that fine people are making for bike polo, and that can up the number per year to a thousand.
So why aren’t we paying any dues directly to our organizing body?
I know some of you just read that and stopped reading, decided that any love you have for this blog is gone, and set fire to your computer – and that’s fine. I’m glad I could help with that. For the rest of you, hear me out.
Every sport needs an organizing body of some kind, even if it’s self-organization. Reason being that it’s easier to secure space, insurance, equipment, refs and rules if there is a concentrated group of people that make that kinda stuff happen. In every sport that has become something people watch on TV, gets sponsored, and gets picked up by little kids as a legitimate choice for after school activities, there has been some sort of organizing body behind it.
And all of these organized sports have dues. Not big ones, necessarily, but something that helps the organizing body secure space for tournaments or playoffs, pays for official refs and provides for official equipment (goals, scoreboards, whatever).
We in polo don’t do that yet, and I think it’s almost time that we do.
One of the reasons that the NAH gets lambasted by so many players is because they “don’t do anything for the players” outside of making rules that are either followed or not followed based on the discretion of the tournament organizers. Follow that logic for a minute and consider why that sort of argument can be made.
The NAH as a whole is remarkably underfunded. There isn’t a constant revenue stream coming into the group. If there was, the NAH could go into a hosting town, pay for construction, reffing, and any other expense, and pull off professional tournaments that are consistently the same quality every single time.
I really want you to think about what that means for the ability of clubs to host tournaments and for the NAH to back those tourneys. Instead of clubs trying to beg/lie/overpay local government or business for space, struggle with first time mistakes or be super stressed the day of a tourney, we could have a group that sees tournaments as perfunctory making everything come off without a hitch and making money for the hosting club.
So what am I suggesting? A few things:
- The sport will grow faster/better with a strong organizing body
- The NAH can become stronger if it has a stream of funding
- We (players) are already laying out money to play
- We (players) can put up some money to make our sport better
The downside (if you’re still reading, maybe you gave up a few paragraphs up and are trying to figure out where I live), is if you don’t participate in bike polo tournaments at all.
OK – you’re right – that would be lame for you to pay the NAH cash money for nothing.
Outside of the big picture that strengthening the legitimacy of the NAH and the sport would benefit everyone playing polo, I think it would be like any other sport. Backyard football players don’t pay dues to the NFL, and neither would “casual” bike polo players. If you pay into the NAH you are paying into the NAH sanctioned Tournaments. Simple as that. You can go to other tourneys that the NAH isn’t involved in or that have no impact on the NA/Worlds qualification process just like always.
But if you’re playing for qualifications, you pay into the NAH as a matter of giving the NAH the ability to run those tourneys and run them well.
Do I think this can happen in the next year? No, I don’t. I think we still have a pervasive attitude of lawless bike polo, which I like and cherish in our sport. I also believe, however, that if we want to do ourselves a favor and do a favor to the next few generations of bike polo players, we’ll want to take a good hard look at how much we’re willing to invest in energizing and empowering those who can make bike polo something that local government, business, and the world at large recognize as a legitimate and profitable sport.
Let the shit storm begin.