Should I Shoot Or Should I Pass? The Answer Is Yes.


There’s been a lot of hub-bub in the ranks of Lancaster United (by a lot I mean there has been a few emails here and there between four or five players) about working on our passing game. It becomes painfully apparent that the get-the-ball, shoot-the-ball-as-much-as-possible game is great within our own ranks, but it’s pretty damned useless against other clubs. We want to do better when we go out to play with the other kids, so we decided to dedicate time during pickup for a just-passing game.

And we were horrible. I mean, really bad. Try to imagine a seal playing bike polo and you’ll pretty much have the experience. We kept at it for a few games until I became frustrated and just started to play like I always do (which, really, isn’t far from a seal playing bike polo), and that was that.

St Patricks Day Pickup (20)I don’t think that we should steer away from working on what we aren’t good at (hell, that’s something I say on this blog all the time), but there is a level of commitment that can be damaging to your game and even your own level of enjoyment. When we decided to “have a passing game” we abandoned all other aspects of the game as a whole: shooting, blocking, laughing ,etc. We focused so intently on passing that we forgot the point of polo isn’t to pass.

It made me think of some of the great teams in bike polo, and how they are more fluid than all that. You look at The Guardians or Beaver Boys or The Means and you’ll see a team that isn’t thinking “oh I need to pass more” or “I need to shoot this time”, you have a group of people who are acting as the situation calls for. Sure, those guys will pass the whole game until someone rolls out of position (which is fun and glorious to watch), but they aren’t doing that for the sake of doing it – it’s a way to reach the end goal, which is winning the game.

Where we went wrong (and I think I’m probably using the editorial “we” in this case) is imagining that, by choosing to pass over choosing to make a shot I could have gotten in, I was eliminating the flow of the game that makes passing work.

DSC_0293Why am I writing all of this? What’s the point? Well, really, I just want to remind all of you polokins that there is not really a single skill in polo that is not related to another. Shooting ability translates directly into passing which translates directly into court position. Everything works together and should work together. When you’re working on honing a specific skill (which you should), you shouldn’t do so at the expense of other skills. No opposing team is going to call out “ok, this game we’re only going to work on air mail” (ok, maybe that could happen, but it certainly isn’t the norm) – you need to learn how to pass well while still playing the game actively, or else you’re creating an isolated skill that doesn’t take into account the flow of the game.

This is where I think I went wrong when working on my pass game, and I’m hoping that by being a bit more intelligent on the way I learn the sport, I can strengthen it’s weakness while still raising my overall skill across the board.

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  1. Horse says:

    I think abandoning learning an new skill when your first attempt fails miserably is pretty weak.
    the failed first game proves just how fucking terrible we all are at any kind of pass game, myself included, and reverting back to a ‘it’ll happen’ strategy will keep us from learning it at all, because like always, we’ll just avoid the thing we’re not good at.
    The Means, the Guardians, Beavers etc don’t play a ‘lets work on passing’ game because those skills are already developed, and available to them on call.
    Its a drill. right now, we have shooting drills, every game, every time. A lot of us can shoot pretty damn well. But its a one trick pony when we play other clubs.

    RVA had a really good point. Pickup is for learning shit. if the other team wins, good for them. If we slowly but surely developed a passing system, better for us.

    • Crusher says:

      I agree. I think my point in this article was, simply, to remember to work on all your skills and not necessarily just one in a vacuum.

      And you’re totally wrong about the Means, Guardians, and Beavers. They are so good because they are snappy dressers, and nothing else.

  2. john from dc says:

    Working on passing is great, but declaring “I’m going to pass” just invites people to cheat on your passing lanes and cover your teammate.

    Threatening to score opens up passing lanes and makes the defender commit to covering the ball.

    Also the act of passing and receiving is relatively easy. What’s hard is setting up a situation where a pass will a) go through and b) create an open shot. That takes coordination between both (or all three) offensive players and it’s what the top teams seem to be really good at, IMO.

  3. Jeff from Winston Salem says:

    For the past few months every time a chance to play has arisen I’ve focused on one thing hardcore for the whole day and it’s worked damn well. Now I’m not saying if my passing is the focus I wont take a shot but doing a focus on passing or trackstanding in goal, defensive play, and scoops for a solid day has done wonders for me each aspect.

    Focusing on those skills and how to ‘roll out’ of them are equally important I feel.

    Also I can bunny hop really well now.

  4. Irishvelo says:

    ^i don’t believe you can bunny hop anything.

  5. Lefty Wag says:

    I think passing is one of the most important fundamentals of bike polo but not the more important. In my humble opinion there is a learning order. First one should learn positioning. If you know nothing of bike polo, if think you should pay attention on that, firs of all, for security reasons and second because for me is the best way one can help the team work especially if don’t know how to pass, control or shut properly. It is about being selfless in bike polo. After them is passing and controlling and this is better if you take some time out of a game e practice alone. That worked for me any way.

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