Are You Playing, Or Are You Planning?


I have been told, more than once, that there is a difference between knowing how to play and actually playing well. I’ve been told this, dear reader, because I am able to articulate what makes a good play, how it comes about, and how it can be stopped.

But I–and just bear with me on this–I am not the very best polo player in the world.

Breathe. Just breathe.

So while it’s true that I’m not particularly adept at actually playing the sport, I’m very well aware of what makes for good polo. I suspect that some of you out there are the same way. It’s the nature of mankind: we are capable of imagining ourselves flying, but I’ve yet to hear of someone who flapped their arms while jumping off of a roof and making more than a mark on the pavement.

Limitations are things that exist, and that’s just alright, babycakes. But on the opposite side of the coin is the player who has natural ability and forgoes any sort of planning. These are probably even more infuriating, because you can tell that they have the ability to pull of some amazing plays, but they refuse to give one moment to thinking about what the smartest play is – or how they can achieve it.

The lesson here, as I see it, is balance. Hard work beats talent (unless you read Psychology Today, which finds otherwise), and hard work, as it turns out, can also mean thoughtful planning and practice.

So, if you’re not a strong player but you have a strong understanding of the game, practice implementing what you know into your game however you can. Stop thinking in terms of “this is what the Beaver Boys do, and I should do that” and start thinking in “this is what I can do, and this is how I can do it the best possible way.”

Likewise, if you’re particularly adept at bike polo but aren’t doing more than using that raw talent, try harnessing it with some thoughtful playing. Ask yourself what plays you can implement/how you can use your talent and form new skills/what you can do with the team instead of despite your team.

Balancing playing and planning is, above all else, a way to become a more aware, rounded player. Naturally you’ll fall on one side or the other, but being at least a touch aware of the other can’t help but guide you to a better overall polo ability.

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