THINK Before You Act: How to Stop Reactionary Polo


I want you to think about a dog–go ahead and make her cute and with big dumb ears that you want to flop around.

Yeah, that’s good.

Now think about throwing a ball for that dog–see how that pup just runs after that ball? Now throw the ball again. Now act like you’re throwing the ball, and watch that dumb, floppy eared dog run like you actually threw the ball omg what a dumb cute dog hugs hugs hugs. 

And now you have pretty much 78.6% (scientifically) of bike polo players. Minus the big floppy ears, probably. It’s both part of what makes bike polo fun and part of what makes players not get any better: we’re always reacting to what is happening on the court instead of thinking about what we want to have happen.

Here’s a more appropriate example: you’re in goal and someone shoots, so you push the ball away from you/the goal. But now you’ve just pushed it to the mallet of another attacker, who shoots on you again. With just a single moment of awareness, you could have seen which way was the best way to redirect the ball, and made that decision. Instead, you just reacted, which led to another situation where the possibility of a goal against your team presented itself.

Instead of just reacting to the game, try to think a few steps ahead. Don’t just think “I need to get to that ball” on the joust. Instead think “I need to get that ball, and when I do I am going to pass to the guy behind me/shoot it at the wall to redirect/shoot on goal. AND if I miss it I’m going to circle around/cut off a pass opportunity/cry.”

It’s obvious when players are able to think this way about polo, because they always seem to have the most luck out of any other player. And, amazingly enough, the more a player is able to think about the series of actions they want to take, the more lucky they become in the game.

This is particularly useful if you have someone else on your team who is also planning ahead instead of reacting to everything. Devastating, really, against an entire team of folks who are just thinking about the end goal (winning the game, one could presume).

Give it a try, my polokins. Lemme know how the thinking cap goes for you.

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  1. Emforcer says:

    I know why dogs drool. I constantly feel like a dog when I’m playing polo. When I’m in a ten foot radius of the ball, I slip in the zone seduced by that red ball. It’s so easy block out outside forces which is what helps me deal with feeling like I don’t deserve to go after it. Forget that. But what I need to do is after have gotten to the ball, opening up my peripheral vision and tapping into the lines of possibilities. Great article.

    • Crusher says:

      Thanks, Em. And yeah, one of the best things to learn as a newer player is how to look up and around. The ball is fairly predictable if you have it under control, and any player can afford a quick peek around herself to see whether they have shooting/passing opportunities.

  2. Alex says:

    The one that kills me every time – and it’s at least two or three times a night at pickup – is the teammate who gets the ball along the wall with a couple defenders on and immediately panic-smashes it ahead of them and tries to squeeze past on the wall to chase.

    They do this every time, even after I’ve already circled back around behind them, whispering softly in their ear:
    “Just tap it back to me… the defenders are facing the wrong way, I’ll have 30 feet of open court to work with… just tap it back, it’s an easy pass… I’m right here for you. I’ve always been here.”

    But it’s too late.
    Chase down wall, and either:
    A) You won! …now you’ve got the ball, double teamed in the corner.
    B) You lost! …now they’ve got the ball, and you’re getting picked 100 feet from our goal in their corner.

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