A,B,All-throw, and the politics of tossing mallets

Lancaster City Hardcourt Bike Polo

Magbee (Magpie, as I call him) has been a bike polo player since before I started playing. While I am certainly more frequent (due to work obligations he took about a year or so off, more or less), he has witnessed this club’s beginnings and is now part of its growth. Here he shares a recent experience with throw-in politics:

Lancaster United Bike Polo has very regular pickup days. Sundays after Noon, and Wednesdays after 4pm (for those who apparently don’t work regular business hours) or “after work” for all the rest who don’t skip out of work. We play our pickup games in typical fashion, with mallets being thrown three to either side to determine teams. This is a simple, unbiased, and effective method to randomize game play. This works.

Now and then, the club has a great showing (typically on Sundays), and there are 12+ players in attendance. This is great for the club, as we have many new players eager to play and hone their skills. However, players are sitting longer, drinking more beer, and ultimately bummed they’re not playing as much. This can be a trying time. Usually we move to fairer approach to selecting teams to increase gameplay for all involved. This would be the A, B, All-throw method.

The A, B, All-throw method is highly effective at selecting fair-ish teams to play in a semi-regular rotation. You have your “A” players who have attended tourneys, played for several years, spent more money on their bikes and polo gear than their kids for the holidays, and who are just all-around great players. There are your “B” players who may or may not have played for several years, may have taken time away from polo, are new to the sport, or just can’t seem to hone their hand, eye, feet coordination to an “A” playing status.

A and BIt is relatively easy to determine who will be categorized as A or B, but this process can be a bit discriminatory for those who wish to increase their skill. Yes, the selective nature of categorizing as A or B does make games more fair, and it does help with the self-esteem of those honing their skills in hopes of someday achieving A level, but it still discriminates.

Now, I could easily rant and rave this whole post away discussing pick up polo discrimination and how the A players are keeping the B players down by keeping them out of their games, but this is not that post. This post is focusing on the A, B All-throw method that keeps the discrimination to a minimum when properly executed. So, now that we have the explanation out of the way, let’s dive into how this should really work.

All-throw is clearly the mixed bag of polo players from the club spanning all abilities and playing styles. You’re going to occasionally have lopsided teams occasionally (assuming you don’t have players rigging the setup after mallets are thrown), and you’re going to have times where some players may “double-sit” and eat more pistachios and drink more beer. This is okay, it allows us to grow on the court, and in some cases fill our bellies with delicious lemon poppyseed mini muffins (Thanks Trace). The trick is to ensure that the club sticks to throwing these selective and nonselective games in a particular order.

All-throw, B, A. Utilizing this pattern, club players are less likely to sit more than twice, and the A players will still have their fast-paced, fancy-play games to themselves. This helps the pickup day in so many positive ways! The players are playing more, B players spend less time thinking about how they’re “not good enough” and enjoying watching the A games, and less people get pissed off for missing out on play time during their window of polo time.

formulaWhere it all goes awry is when an A player decides to get the pattern as A, B, All-throw because they’re so eager to play their A game. What can happen here is a B player misses an All-throw by bad luck of the draw, an A game occurs, and then the B player misses out again in a B game because there are more than 6 B players in attendance. It sounds simple, it IS simple, but it is SO important to pay attention to the little details of fair polo pickup.
• All-throw, B, A
• Auto-throw any player double or triple sitting (no matter which game category it is)
• Listen to those who outcry when they’re not getting play time… because let’s face it, polo is a damn good time spent with friends, so don’t bugger it up with bullshit because some jackass is not willing to adjust the order they’ve setup themselves as “Polo Master.”



(That “some jackass” wrote a response here, btw)

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