You do something good, and you stick to it. This is a truth in life as much as bike polo. But what’s good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander. And if you’re willing to accept that poorly used cliché then I’m sure you’ll continue with me on this somewhat questionable beginning.
It’s a human habit to have habits, and much to the joy of most polo players, we’re all human. So you’ll get lined up with the goal and turn your wheel the same way you did last time, and you’ll tap on the ground the same way you did last time with your mallet, and you shoot at the same spot on the goal.
Just like last time.
And if it works, hey, it works. But the truth is the majority of polo players worth their Canadians will catch on—and unless they are just unwilling to modify their game to block your shots—you can be sure they’ll get used to you and your little dance of shooting on goal.
This is precisely why you as a player must practice a little “Drunken Monkey” polo. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, I think less of you. Drunken Monkey is, basically, a kung fu style that imitates a drunken monkey. It stops your opponent from knowing when you’re going to strike, dodge, or block. It’s particularly useful if your opponent, let’s say, thinks they have you figured out.
Applying that to bike polo, we can first see the advantage of most polo players being drunk while playing.
But we also see the benefit: if you always shoot on the goal the same way (or pass at the same time, or have the same way of trying to keep the ball away from another player), you’ll eventually be studied and figured out. Being unpredictable can be a great way to disrupt expectations.
So! Instead of always making the same moves just before shooting, try (at pickup or by your lonesome) to shoot from all points on approach. Try shooting after you’ve made it past the goal, when you’re turning in, right in front and far away. Try shooting when you’re just beside the goal (on the red line, if you like). Shoot from everywhere and get good at shooting no matter what your body position is.
This has two consequences: 1. You’ll be better at shooting on goal in general, and 2. You’ll be less predictable as to where you’ll shoot. One of the things I know when playing goal is where players like to shoot. I can pretty much ignore them until they get to a certain point, then I know that they are getting themselves ready to make a shot.
That makes my job easier than what it should be – and it makes you look like a worse shooter than what you are.
So give it a try: get all drunken boxing monkey style your next pickup day. If nothing else, you’ll have an excuse to make baboon noises.