Working with the newbies: 4 tips

Yes, I’m assuming that you, much like myself, find it difficult to both play the game to your liking while also trying to make allowances and teaching opportunities for your newer players. Let’s get down to brass tax tacks (thanks Heath): it can be a frustrating thing to slow down every game so Johnny Come Lately can figure out that the rubber side should stay down and the mallet is meant to hit the ball, not the other players.

But keep in mind: we were all once the newest player and we were all once just as excited but underexposed to the particulars of the sport. Mentorship in bike polo is a rarified thing, and while it does mean you’ll have to think of someone else before yourself (God forbid it), it also means you’ll be training up yet another person to help expand the sport.

The first tip I can give to you, oh experienced bike polo player, is to slow down. The argument can be made that the new player will never learn the speed of the game if everyone is gentle and slow around them, but that’s a damned stupid argument and you’re damned stupid for thinking of it as a point you could make. Go put your head down.

Slowing down around a new player gives them time to understand the motions of the game. I’m not saying you should go so slow that you need to paddle like Hiawatha with your mallet, but you should give them time to see how you’re getting in their way for a pick, how you’re getting past them or angling yourself for a pass.

Don’t forget to explain what you’re doing to a new player. It’s awful nice to show them you can scoop the ball up court, but they won’t learn that skill in quick order unless you help explain how you do it. Hell, maybe you should even take ten minutes on the sidelines to teach them about it.

Most new players are hungry to learn, so having a quick wrap-up talk with them about how a play worked, how to stop the ball/the play/falling over, and how to shoot can really be absorbed. Make sure to remind yourself, too, that telling them once isn’t enough.

Also, it’s a great idea to have new player games. I don’t suspect you’ll have 6 new players in order to make up a whole game, but you can have a few games each night that are made up of more new players than experienced ones. Idea being that they’ll be less intimidated, more likely to be passed to, and more likely to enjoy themselves. The more experienced players who find themselves in these games should be (more or less) a mix of a coach and a cheerleader.

To that point, give the new player the ball in games. Yes, it goes against every drive you have to win. Yes, it is sometimes guaranteed to ruin your play and get a goal scored on you.

Who cares.

New players need to get used to getting passes, taking shots, and messing up plays. They need to feel like they are part of the team and part of the club, despite their undeveloped skill. Just bite the bullet and remind yourself that the more you help them, the faster they’ll shape up to be the kind of player you are yourself.

Or, if they are lucky, they won’t be anything like you and actually be worth a damn.

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  1. Heath says:

    Let’s get down to brass tax. (tacks?) Unless you’re an accountant. Maybe you are…..then kudos to you.

    • Crusher says:

      I have been saying tax since I was a kid, and I guess I never wrote it out for someone to correct me. Wow.

      Brass tacks. Rhyming slang. My world is forever (in a super tiny way) changed.

  2. adamhite says:

    one thing we like to do in memphis when new folks show up is the more experienced players play with their opposite hand. i’m a lefty so i just switch bikes with another player. you will soon be remind of the day you first tried to play polo!

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