Bike Polo Boot Camp: Turning, Chasing, Ball Control

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When someone first starts the altogether goofy endeavor of playing bike polo, they nearly always look as foolish as can be. There’s so much to consider: the mallet, the bike, the wall that is APPROACHING OH MY GOD HOW DO I AVOID THAT WALL?! and so forth.

And it’s so easy for those of us who have been playing for a while to suppress those memories to the same dark, secret corner of our minds that hold the memory of Uncle William drunk while dressed up as a clown and that time we peed ourselves in front of the classroom in 5th grade. Same event, actually.

But it’s a horrible thing for us to forget, as you’ll hopefully get new players and you’d be able to help them learn faster than you did if only you’re willing to take some time to teach them.

It’s with this in mind that I present a few practice drills that our dear Horse has developed to help newer players learn the basics of the sport. Keep in mind: these are probably boring as hell to more seasoned players, but to newer or less skilled players, they are well worth the effort.

Point in fact, I learned while going through these little maneuvers that I could certainly stand to work on my turning and comfort in doing so quickly. So maybe even the more experienced players should give a try to some of these just to be sure that they aren’t themselves missing out on basic bike polo skills.

Turning

1. The Simple Circle/The Figure 8

figure 8The premise of this one is simple, as described in the name. Get two cones/bags/whatevers and put them about four bike lengths apart. Then just have your students (or yourself) ride around going one direction. Then go the other direction. Try to turn as closely to the bags as possible. start slow and then speed up until you don’t feel like you can comfortably go any faster (to start).

Next, keep the bags exactly where they are, but cross in-between them (making a figure 8).  Do the same thing as before: start slow and then speed up a bit. These two exercises are teaching you how to turn effectively, which is a skill you definitely need to have on lock down.

2. Three bag figure 8

Now spread out those two bags a bit more and add a third. Try threading through the three bags, now. staying as close to the three bags as you pass them. Essentially, the first bag you pass will be on your left, then the next one on your right, and the last on your left again. You’re weavin, baby!

This will teach you to be comfortable with your bike working alongside momentum and speed, as you should try to do this one as quickly as possible. Again, do this by trying to stay as close to the bags as possible.

3. You’ll feel drunk

Now get just one bag (hell, make it your own!) and try to circle around it going both directions, mallet in hand. Try keeping your back wheel as close to the bag as possible. While doing this, figure out a place to vomit.

 

A few notes here:

  1. Keep your pedals even (not one down and one up) when going through the three bag figure 8. By keeping your pedals even you are more ready to start pedaling once you clear the obstacle.
  2. When going around a turn (in the simple circle and figure 8), keep the pedal on the side your turning into up. it stabilizes your weight and reduces the chance of a pedal strike.
  3. If you feel like your front end is wobbling/bawking while doing this, try putting as much weight as you can on your saddle. By doing this, you’re taking weight off the front end of your bike, which reduces that twitch.

Chasing

Fab Mr FoxThis is a fairly simple but super useful drill. One player (without a mallet) acts as the rabbit, and another player (with a mallet) acts as the fox. We will not ask what that second player says.

The first person rides around while turning, stopping, accelerating, and slowing–basically any kind of move to shake the second person (the fox) from staying just behind them.

The second person tries to stay as close to the person’s back wheel as possible, using their mallet to tap the rabbit’s wheel (signifying that they are within a striking distance.

Do this one for a while (five minutes or so) before switching roles.

Being able to pursue someone effectively without getting out of position is a terrific skill to have for players of any level. By practicing this outside of a game, you’re more likely to actually learn than just respond, and you’ll find yourself less likely to run into the back of someone who decided to pause.

Ball Control

1. Hesitation Blues

hesistation bluesSet up bags at intervals (the actual spacing isn’t important as long as there is room for good acceleration between the bags). Next, get a ball and start at one of the bags. Try to pedal as fast as you can while still controlling the ball, and then (at the next bag), stop moving while still possessing the ball. Pause for a few seconds, and then pedal up the the next bag (again, while the ball is still in your control.

This is a great exercise for a few reasons: you’re building up your off-the-line acceleration, you’re working on fast mallet control, and you’re working on making the ball obey you rather than you obeying it.  You’re also learning how to throw off people who are in pursuit of you, which is a fancy trick to have.

2. Learning to Shoot

If there is one thing that newer players struggle with, it’s shooting. This exercise takes at least one person who has already figured out shooting to help out, but it’s very advantageous.

Line up as many balls as you can, and then (starting away from them), pedal up and hit the ball as straight as possible. Don’t worry about power, worry about good contact.

The second person stands parallel to the balls on your mallet side. They’re trying to observe what you’re doing right and wrong (are you swinging too early/late, are you moving away from the ball, etc.

Once you make good progress here, move to starting with the ball, moving it up the court/area you’re at, and then shooting. Again, a second person watches you to make suggestions.

This exercise is one you should really be doing the entire time you play bike polo. For one thing, most people have plenty of room to improve. For another, it just feels awesome to hit the ball.

 

There you go, friends. You’ll all be super-pro in no time…

 

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