321 POLO!, arch nemesis of Lancasterpolo.com, recently had an article featuring various polo players discussing the merits and styles of jousting. When I first saw the title and the summary I thought: “yes, this is my chance to take 321 POLO to task!
But then I saw that the article was mostly on how players handle jousting, and all the wind was taken out of my crushery sails. As always 321 POLO! was doing their job as a great resource for bike polo players blah blah blah blah.
What I wanted to talk about was strategy for surviving a lost joust: how to keep your team from instantly being on the defensive. I’m just going to act like the article over on 321 was about how you have to joust and win. It isn’t, but this is yellow journalism at its best anyway, so just deal with it.
YOU’RE SO WRONG IF YOU THINK YOU NEED TO WIN THE JOUST!
Point in fact, I think it’s sometimes a better starting position to lose a joust, and that’s not only because my legs are stubby and I’m the slowest player in my club (according to Lumberjack’s children) (It still hurts).
Allow me to pontificate on the virtues of not taking the joust win as super important:
For one thing: If you aren’t crushing on those pedals like a fool, you’re saving energy that can be better used in strategy and not just dumb raw power. Every time you choose to not race for that ball, you’re assuring more energy later in the game. Attrition is a real, valuable thing to consider in our sport.
Also consider the joust as a chance to observe the other team: who are they sending out, who is their backup? Who are they keeping back? You can learn within those few seconds most of the dynamic of the opposing team, and use that understanding to your advantage.
You have a better chance of disrupting their off-the-joust play than you do (probably) in achieving yours. It’s always easier to destroy than create, after all, and if you allow the other team to grab the ball, you’re more quickly getting into the disruption game with all three of your players able to participate (wherein, on the joust, you can pretty much count the failed jouster as out of the play).
Now, the rules do indeed dictate that a joust must occur, but really you just have to send a guy out towards the ball. A point man, in this case, if you’re not really trying to gain control to start.
So you send your guy out but allow the other team to get control of the ball—now you have a man ahead who is able to start disrupting plays (I’d suggest by slowing the progress of the ball carrier) while another of your team can block off potential passes and another locks down the goal. Now you’re depending on them to make absolutely no mistakes in order to get a goal on you, rather than depending on your team pulling off a play perfectly.
You’ve made 1/3rd of the opposing team use up their legs, another 1/3rd be well out of the play (the goalie/defense person, if indeed they have one back) and the final 1/3rd of the team either be scrambling to get up to the offensive area or out of position for the pass (that 2 of your players have begun disrupting). If you’re able to get control of the ball now, you can use that explosive joust-power to make a break away, or—more likely—begin playing the regular polo game, rather than the all-or-nothing joust plays that normally occur at the beginning of the match.
So there, 321 POLO. WRONG AGAIN!