Interview With The Organizer: Alias Seiichi Tagami, Eastside Thaw

Eastside Thaw  (2)

Alias, in between preparing for the tourney(s) this weekend and murdering people with is mind, managed to sit down at his computer and allow me to interview him. He talks about how he came about coming up with the inventive structure, challenges he faced, an the rewards that come with that effort.

Totes wrote that in Terri Gross’ voice, btw.

Eastside Thaw – when did you decide to have this event? 

Foremost, The Thaw is largely inspired by Polo Camp.  DC Bike Polo has hosted a social tournament twice before at the nearby Frederick, MD courts.  Polo Camp II was my first tournament experience, and first time meeting players from other clubs.  The experience was very positive for me.

 I wanted to recreate that feeling for others.Eastside Thaw  (5)Next, there was a comment from a newer member of our club who asked if there are bike polo clinics.  As I said there wasn’t, I thought to myself, “why aren’t there any?” Part of what I knew I wanted to create was a educational experience for new players to get paired with more experienced and skilled players who could demonstrate polo in a less pick-up mentality and more of a competitive mentality.

Lastly, I had noticed a theme in many posts from polo friends in other clubs.  Lots of people expressed that their clubs suffer from low numbers and loss of morale in the winter.  I saw a need for an early spring event to kick-start the polo season and raise spirits.

Eastside Thaw  (6)I added “Eastside” to the name because I wanted to do something to regionally make the Eastside stronger.  Also, if the event proves successful, I hope for it to be culturally adopted into the annual cycle for the region.  In my mind, the Eastside event calendar begins with the Thaw, and ends with Turducken.  Rince.  Repeat.

By time I attended the Keystone Classic and Turducken in 2012, I had talked to enough people from other clubs, and the response was positive enough that I felt like I had a green light.

You’re doing it outside of your club, right (it’s a 1 man show) – how hard is that so far? 

I deserve every bit of hardship I’ve put on myself here.  It is incorrect that I’ve done it all by myself.  Many critical components of the Thaw were handled by members of DC Bike Polo.  This is my baby, and I’ve obsessed over it for months now.  It has been hard, but I did it to myself. 

Tell me about the days setup and what you think you’ve done that’s inventive.

The Thaw is actually two tournaments for starters.  Because of this, it also meant that players could elect to only play on one of the days without messing up the roster.

Eastside Thaw  (1)Saturday is a “Shuffle deck 3v3″ tournament.  The 72 player roster was sorted into three skill groups of 24 people.  Each team will have a player from each group making the playing field more competitive horizontally.  Each team will have strengths and weaknesses.  Players will check in and draw a card.  That card will determine their team, so I’ve left it to chance–I didn’t want to try and engineer the outcome.  We’ll be playing several swiss rounds, then playing a single elimination bracket.  Stats for individual players are significant because they will determine who are the team captains for day two.

Before we rush off to day two, we return to DC and have a big house party in the heart of the district.  No survivors.Sunday is a “Schoolyard Bench” tournament.  The 8 players that became team captains on day one will do a player draft, and all players will arrive knowing what team they are on.  There will be one pre-bracket match to get to know your team, and then the teams will fight it out in a double elimination bracket.

The Thaw will use NAH rules with two caveats:
1 – 3v3 matches will be 10 minutes long, and have no score cap.
2 – 6′ x 4′ goals will be used.

You billed this as a new-player friendly tourney – why is that important to you? 

Because it’s a real community need.  The qualifier tour and the majors are developing in ways that I’m very excited about, but for real growth as a sport, hardcourt bike polo needs to tend to events outside of the glory events.  I don’t want polo to become a big tree with tiny roots.

 Who is coming to this thing?

Eastside Thaw  (4)Lots of people.  I underestimated the response I would get.  Originally, I was going to cap this at 48 people and have one court.  Demand was high, so I worked with City of New Carrollton to let us put bikes on the tennis court and budgeted barriers for a second court.  With the second court, I opened registration up to 72 Saturday players.  I’d also like to point out the women who registered were 25% of the roster before I opened up the waiting list, and now still represent 17%.  Bike polo deserves credit for being a fully integrated sport, and I’m very happy to see high female registration.


What do you think is going to go really well and what will go really poorly? 

What is going really well is that in this process, I feel that I’ve developed a very positive relationship with both City of New Carrollton, and Prince George county.  PG county called me at work last week just to tell me to have a good time.  No joke.  The venue we are using has a lot of potential as a future venue for many larger events.

I believe this could be the start of a beautiful friendship with a public municipality inside the Washington beltway.What will go really poorly?  To be honest, I’m nervous about the second court’s walls.  They will keep the ball in bounds in and in  play, but I doubt they will give a nice bounce.  Maybe I’m just working myself up.  I have a plan I have a plan I have a plan I have a plan…


 What have you learned in setting up this event that you wished you knew beforehand?

Eastside Thaw  (3)How cheap event insurance is.  My imagination had really got the best of me when I when previously trying to imagine how much it would cost.  Once I actually did research, I realized that proper insurance would not price an event out of reach.  We ended up not being required to get it, but if I was to ever scale this event up, I’d buy it out of good faith.  


Anything else? 

 So much of my time on this was spent establishing the relationship with the park.  Because of this, I was not able to devote any time to finding sponsors or prizes.  That made me sad.  I wanted to give something to the winners.  My hope is that the rest of the event is so fun that it makes up for my failing on this.  The event will be a major victory in my mind if people make friends in other clubs, and maybe even form teams for the upcoming Eastside Qualifier in Boston.  Interclub teams excite me.

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