If there is nothing else I have learned by going to tournaments (outside of the power behind a person who has sunscreen and the value of a pop-up tent), it’s that there are simply some teams that will always win, and teams that will always loose. Point in fact, my first big tourney (ESPIs in Frederick a few years ago), the Beaver Boys and the Means both attended, and even then I understood that those two would be the first and second place teams–which of course, they were, if memory serves).
And that’s sort of the nature of the sport right now: a player signs up for a tourney, they take a look at who is going, and they figure out the first 5 teams if they want to.
And while that’s all well and good, it leaves a lot of weaker teams feeling as though they really don’t have a shot. While it’s not important to play in a tourney with the expectation of winning the whole thing (being a Millennial, I think I’m supposed to get an award for just participating, right?), there is something to be said for going to every tournament and knowing that you’re not even going to get close to the podium.
There are hundreds of bike polo teams that go to dozens of tourneys each year, and the majority of them are, I’d dare say, disenfranchised about winning a damn thing.
What I’m talking about has nothing to do with being fair–there are always going to be players who are better than other players–I’m talking about the survival of our sport. If newer/less skillful players stop going to tournaments–or feel like they simply shouldn’t waste the money to be devastated by a series of A class teams–then we’re cutting off the growth of our sport, at least in the manner of having a vibrant, changing tournament structure.
I have been spitballing this idea for a while: two leagues. Majors and minors, basically. There is a whole host of planning and logistical considerations to account for, but I’m not getting into that for the sake of expanding the idea. Just think about it for a second: the NAH would have a major league and a minor league, each with its own distinct tourneys. the A players and teams could have their super games and play against other slayers, but more importantly, the up-and-coming players could still have a shot at winning tourneys and hell, maybe even the minor league championships.
Maybe then, the podium winning National champions from the minor league could be invited to Major League Nationals (to probably be destroyed–but maybe not, really).
Think about how much the minor leagues would encourage interaction, and increase in confidence and skill level. Consider also how having two leagues would allow each league to act as refs and judges for the other league, as players wouldn’t be scrambling to get into all the same tourneys. Think about how many more tourneys would be available for folks to go to, and how the competition people would find at those tourneys would be closer to their own level.
Naturally there’s the whole matter of figuring out how to determine who is initially in the minor or major league, but there are lots of smart people in our sport and I’m quite sure we could work something out. After that initial determination, players could work their way through the minors to the majors in a season’s time, I’m sure, if they show real promise (or by being recruited into a major league team that already exists).
Simply put, I think two leagues would benefit the sport, interest in the sport, and competitive fairness in the sport.
Bring on the hate in the comments below.