Top Players Don’t Do Tricks

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Why The Basics are Still Best

If there was one thing I was expecting to see at Worlds, it was some amazing trickery with the ball. I mean, these are the top players in the world competing against each other. Maybe there’d be a moment where one of them would actually make the ball disappear, only to re-appear moments later a foot from the goal where a team-mate would be waiting to zap it into the goal with laser-eyes.

Laser eyes, everybody.

Instead, I saw quite a lot of the same stuff I see on the Lancaster United courts: just performed without flaw and consistently. I saw rudimentary bike polo.

The very best players/teams established themselves as the best by working on the basics of bike polo (mallet control, keeping the ball protected, and intelligent shooting) over and over. They train on the same thing that new players are learning, and that’s what makes them outstanding players.

Consider the moment that you get the basics down. I realize this is kind of a rhetorical question, as I don’t think many of us have the date written down of when we stopped falling over every three seconds and were able to actually engage in a play, but let’s use generalities. Once you managed to become an “okay” player, you probably started working on the more exotic things in bike polo: scoop passes, nose pivots, etc., etc. While these are all certainly valuable in the sport, they are far removed from the more basic (and arguably more valuable) skills of passing, shooting, and ball control.

The Beavers are a great example of this simple truth: they are fully capable of doing amazing, flashy things–but they oftentimes will stick to the basics, and that’s what leads them to, oh I don’t know, winning world championships. They don’t depend on fancy tricks to get them goals, they keep those tricks in their back pocket and instead rely on the ability to always cycle through the standards of the sport.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t learn how to do wheelie turns (Horse, stop crying. I’m not saying that), but you shouldn’t think that being able to do a wheelie turn is going to get you to the podium. What will get you there is dogged practice of the most fundamental elements of bike polo. You need to be able to keep the ball on the end of your mallet without thinking. You need to be able to use your team-mates as buffers and passing opportunities. You need to work on shooting from close, mid, and far ranges, not just micro-shots and not just huge, court-long ones.

A mastery of the basics, dear readers, are what make for champions.

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