Horse, for better or worse, is my bike polo coach. I think it’s a mix of us talking about polo so much, he being the guy who got me involved in the first place, and the fact that Horse pretty much has an opinion on everything (and is very willing to share it). It works out pretty well, as he’s one of the best players we’ve got and knows how to explain plays, techniques, and other sundry details of the sport to me in ways that a writer can understand (“Crusher, shooting the ball on the goal accurately is like the way a woman’s hair looks in the moonlight – it’s just right, man. It’s just right”).
However, there are times when he makes suggestions where I just get peeved. It’s not when I’ve made a big, obvious mistake and he points it out (though that does curdle my girdle as well), but more when he points out a way that I play as something than needs worked on.
This got me to thinking: are there times when players are trying to correct something that really shouldn’t be corrected? I don’t think anyone would deny that people are all individuals and there’s not a single best way to play polo, so why is it so hard to recognize when another player simply has a different style than your own?
The most obvious identifier is how long they’ve been playing the sport: if they are only a month in, it’s safe to assume that suggesting things is not trying to impose your play style on someone else. In fact, the worst thing to do would be not telling a new player what they are doing wrong.
Dangerous for no reason?
Next, frame their actions with danger: are they doing something that puts themselves or others in the way of unnecessary harm? There are some great players out there who do things that should result in a crash, but they are able to pull it off. Likewise, there are other players who, in simply trying to hit the ball, nearly take out a pursuer, a nearby team mate, and themselves.
What are they?
Are they even human?
Just kiddin. What I mean is: are they more of a defensive player or offensive player – do they rely on speed or tactical ball control? Our wiliest player, Karl, does some stuff that makes me panic (holding the ball in front of goal, slide stopping just in front of someone, wild-ass swings from a half mile away), but he generally makes all of those things work. He is very skilled in picking up speed and ball control, and he uses that to his advantage. Another player, Yeager, is great at tearing apart plays and defending the goal. These two have remarkably different play styles but both are equally valid. To that point, both would be at a serious disadvantage if they tried to clone each other’s skills. Players experience the game differently and respond differently, and that’s just a swell thing.
(To the first question I posed: Karl is not human.)
Do you want to have a team of 1 play type?
On top of everything else, you have to decide if you’re correcting something for the sake of how you believe the sport should be played or if you’re correcting something because it will advance the player.
Nobody benefits from 3 players that play the exact same way – it ruins the chemistry of the team and the likelihood of being worth a damn.
So the next time you want to correct a player on the court, consider why you’re doing it, and what the end result will be.