One of the draws that bike polo has for plenty of us is just how little organization it has. Or at least, how disorganized it seems. To someone who is outside of the gritty of the sport, it just looks like a weird, spontaneous collection of people who happen to all be rolling past a court and decide “oh, why not, let’s invent a game right now.”
But to anyone who has spent more than a month playing, it’s very clear that there are many forces at work to assure that things happen which need to happen.
No, I’m not talking about the NAH level, necessarily, but more about the club level of organization.
In The Beginning…
When I first started playing with Lancaster, there was no elected leadership (our godfather, Kyle, was the de facto leader) and certainly nothing more than absolute democracy (one person, one vote. No representation). This worked out because we weren’t really trying to do anything other than play, and we were all pretty happy about it, I think.
But then had a series of events which required more than one guy to decide on, and needed less than the whole club to take action for. This happens to every club, I believe, and it lead to the idea of “polo elders,” or players who had more experience as being members of the club and could be trusted (more or less) to do what was right for everyone.
In this structure we managed to purchase a generator, develop a transportable lighting system, and also managed to make club shirts (though that was much harder than it should have been, truth be told).
Lancaster United Gets Some Government
But even that wasn’t enough–or maybe it was–and that takes us to where we are now as a club: we’re preparing for the Eastside Qualifier, we just elected Elders to lead the club for a year, and the Elders have asked one of the players (appropriately, Fat Stacks,) to act as treasurer because we’re now collecting club dues from club members.
This is all kinda amazing when you think about it, and I’m curious if other clubs collect dues from players. Actually I wondered for a while if we were going too far with it all, if it made any sort of sense to be so rigid in our organization.
But when I got to thinking about it, it made lots of sense: there are times when a situation comes up (buying club shirts, paying local gov’t for space, insurance costs, court/light upkeep) where only a few members actually pitch in; or the people who do pitch in are the same ones who always do. By putting a cost on membership, we assure that the load is balanced fairly between players, and we also have a bit of money for any unseen expenses.
Organization Keeps Clubs Alive (If It Doesn’t Kill It First)
I was really worried about bringing this up with the club, but late last year we did and the club, as a whole, was fully supportive of it. It helped that we had a whole mess of benefits that went along with membership (free shirt, % off from Gretna Bikes, voting, and a few other treats), but I think it was mostly that the club recognized we were growing in such a way that required money and flexibility.
I worry that clubs who aren’t willing to act like clubs–like clubs from any other sport or venture–are shooting themselves in the foot. Having at least a little bit of organization and expense associated with something you want to succeed isn’t asking too much, and can mean the difference between that thing being able to survive rough times or just melting away as soon as a problem arises.
I think the right amount of organization is the necessary amount of organization. I don’t want to require my club to have a monthly meeting to discuss yearly expenditures or new objectives for the year, but I also don’t want my club to be sunk because our generator dies and nobody wants to pitch in to fix it.
In short, I like where my club is going. I like that we have a leadership structure, that we recognize this game can cost money, and that we must act as a unit in order to meet the future.