Is it Time for Two Leagues?

big league

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.

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  1. Stretch says:

    Solid idea. I dig it.
    At Lafayette this year they had an “A” bracket and a “B” bracket and it worked out really well.
    My only concern would be regarding minor league tourneys.. Who is going to host one when they could host a Major league tourney instead? It’s more fun to watch the “big boys”, no?

  2. brook says:

    Rather than splitting in two leagues why not splt each tournament after initial ranking? Christchurch (New Zealand) pioneered this in our region has been successfully used at many Australian and New Zealand tournaments. After first ranking rounds we split the tourney in two groups “Hackers” and “Whackers” then do normal eliminations for both separate groups. It is helps when the tourney has a number of teams that doesn’t work with swiss rounds and has all the benefits you’ve outlined.

  3. wsrthrsth says:

    ESPI in Frederick wasn’t a few years ago, although it may seem like it! Fred ESPI was last year!!!

  4. horse says:

    this kind of goes along with teh concept behind pick up tourneys. make it even. get rid of the advantages.
    Alias’ Thaw event was awesome for that. you had guys/gals who’ve never made it to the semi finals competing for the podium.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a few “minor’s” next year. maybe not a whole series, but one per region?
    The trick would be how to limit the skill levels.

  5. Jammer says:

    I’m a big fan of separate divisions in tournaments. Like you said, the future of this sport would be in a lot better shape. There a lots if people that don’t go to tourneys because it would be a waste of money, or because getting 5-0’d every game is lame.

  6. Sean says:

    Play bike polo for fun.

  7. Ben says:

    Riverside was a good example, and it worked out well.

    The idea being discussed now, similar to what Brook mentioned, is modeled after Euro football, wherein there are skill-based divisions with the opportunity to advance after each season or perhaps even within the same season. For teams that are working toward winning it all, there will be a path. For teams/players that get more enjoyment out of a less competitive approach, that place will also exist.

    The trick, as Horse mentioned, is drawing the lines. Likely we’d be using finishes at the NAH qualifiers and NAH Championship to start. These are the most dependable stats at the moment.

    Glad to hear people are open to this idea. I agree that it will improve the health of the game. Good subject, Crusher.

  8. Nick Kruse says:

    Theoretically you could do it with the same amount of courts, too. Swiss rounds on day 1 with the entire lot of players and then two separate double elimination tournaments on day 2 depending on your seed from the first day.

    Or something… I don’t know, who cares.

  9. Javier says:

    Better yet just host a tourney and only invite complete newbs on track bikes and then beat them and you’ll get a sweet trophy and feel super accomplished.problem solved. ;)

  10. Lefty Wag says:

    We are doing the same down here in Brazil, well kind of. We get the beginners to practice separately than the advanced. The results is that less people give it up without give the chance to improve their games.

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