Not If, But When?: Women’s League in Bike Polo

men women

There is a lot to love about bike polo. The sport has made it possible for me to lose weight, vent my rage-face in a pleasant fashion, and introduced me to the joys of PBR (which I really didn’t like at all back in the day but now I find no tourney complete without kicking a few back after elimination…so Sunday morning, in most cases…).

But, what really makes my heart happy is that ladies and gents play the same sport at the same time in the same teams with the same rules. As evidenced by my very first post on the matter, I think women in bike polo are awesome, and it makes me feel more-than-pride when I find the opportunity to explain to people that our sport has always been mix gender.

In a recent interview with some of the organizers of Ladies Army 5, however, two responses that caught my eye:

Do you think there should be more lady-specific tourneys?

I think they are great, and there are more: Hells Belles has done really well.  Mallet Dolorosa in Berlin April 6-7 this year.  I know there is a concern about a gender split in the sport, and that there is minor support for a gender split (from the women’s side, I haven’t heard anything from the men’s side), but I don’t see that happening anytime soon, and personally, I hope it never does.  I also think the rise of the co-ed tournaments is filling a gap.

Shannon would also like to try and avoid segregation of the sport, and although some people feel it is an inevitability, she too would like to postpone that for as long as possible.  “There is a place for women in bike polo and I’d like for us to have a chance to prove that.  One female-only tournament is already kind of pushing our luck, but I’ve always felt that as long as the primary focus of the tournament was fun and encouragement it would be hard to argue that it was “unfair” for us to have.”

I never really thought about it until I read that there was a small contingent pushing to segregate the sport, and that it was viewed as an inevitability. It got me to thinking about what that would mean, overall, and how it would change the sport as a whole.

I’m not proposing answers, here. I’m theorizing and philosophizing, so let me first make this blanket statement: I hate the idea of separating men and women in the sport of bike polo. I hate it hard. With my brief tourney encounters with the likes of Shelley, Quinn, Jessie, Erica and Chandel (just to name a few), it became apparent that the ladies of the sport could more than hold their own against men. Hell, I’d say all the names mentioned above are players who could readily destroy me in a game.

But as the sport grows and, presumably, ladies specific tourneys continue to grow in size and number (which is good!), people will begin to wonder if the separation is warranted. They’ll look at almost every other sport and say “well, they must have done it for a reason, right?”

But have you watched ladies lacrosse? Man that’s weird. They have a no contact bubble. What?!

Would there be benefits? Probably some: women who aren’t playing the sport now might me more apt to start playing, there would be more tourneys that sprout up, and more recognition for the women who have already made a name for themselves in the sport.

But is that worth it? Would we as a sport lose something bigger by separating sexes like some middle school square dance?

I think we would – but I sure as hell want to hear your opinion.

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  1. Lisa Moffatt says:

    Hrm posted before I was finished.
    The point of Ladies Army was to do what Virginia says below, to encourage more women to play, not to be divisive. I think it’s working.

    I just want to thank the guys who speak out in favour of a continued co-ed existence, it’s good to hear becasue I have heard far too many stories from women who haven’t felt welcome to play, and no one should feel unwelcomed at bike polo.

  2. Jamelyn says:

    As someone who started in an club with a large female continent (Lexington), I didn’t appreciate how significant Ladies Army was. I just assumed all polo clubs had a good mix of men and women. However, since moving and experiencing other polo clubs, I’ve found that Lex’s situation is definitely not the norm. I can appreciate that bringing together so many women in polo is encouraging and I feel that it definitely helps to support new female players and interest, especially for those women who play in clubs that rarely see female players. I view LA as a celebration of ladies in the sport and a chance to bring a bunch of rad ladies together for an awesome time (and yes, high level of competition). I do not, in any way, view LA as beginnings of a female-only league or a gender division of the game. If anything, LA got me super stoked and even more motivated to play hard.

    I like the physical aspect of polo, I like playing co-ed, and I have absolutely no interest in going the way of gender divided leagues. As a former lacrosse player, it always irritated me that the ‘women’s version’ was ‘without contact’ and without pads… we still ended up getting hit and slammed, but generally it was behind the ref’s back and there were no pads for protection. Just as there are variations in female’ sizes, athletic ability and skill sets, the same things exist in men. We have different skill sets to use to our advantage, and to use to make the game our own. I can appreciate that smaller females are at a disadvantage in the physical aspect of the game, but perhaps men of a smaller build have the same frustrations? Just my thoughts! (and possibly an attempt to put off my to do list :)

    • Ben Schultz says:

      “I can appreciate that smaller females are at a disadvantage in the physical aspect of the game, but perhaps men of a smaller build have the same frustrations?”

      Jamelyn, first thing that popped into my head was “Heavy-weight polo champions of the world!” Hahahaha.

  3. Erica Compton says:

    Pfft. Can’t tell me no.

  4. […] you haven’t already checked out this article about the future of mixed gender bike polo, you should check it out. And then check out the […]

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