Archive for Rules

Code of Conduct: Here, Take This.


I’m one of the “elders” of my club–that is: I was elected, along with two others, to be the executive branch of our group. When it comes down to it, the post means that I interact with the local government, I try to carry out the will of the club, and I act as a mediator when tempers flare or stuff goes down.

It’s both good to do (as I feel like I’m helping) and stressful (as nobody is every very happy with authority figures in our game).

Part of what I was tasked with doing was to create a “code of conduct” for our club. Essentially, we recognized that we didn’t have a locked down way of dealing with situations where players were acting against the interests or enjoyment of the club.

The document is, effectively, something that our club can fall back on to remove emotions and subjectivity from tense situations. Previously we’d have a spat or raised tempers and we’d go through this series:

1. everyone would yell at each other

2. We’d all email each other and keep yelling

3. We’d agree, more or less, that something can’t happen again.

4. repeat.

With this document we have a series of steps and procedures that, more or less, takes discipline and behavior out of the hands of anyone and into the hands of an agreement. If you do X, you are disciplined with Y.

If you play with our club, you’re agreeing to the code of conduct. If you’re a member of our club, you’re agreeing to the code of conduct (naturally there was a voting on the document from the start, to see if anyone actually wanted it to exist at all).

So I offer it up to you, readers. Use this as you think you need to (or as a starting point for the discussion in your club). Keep in mind, however, that much like the Torah of my people’s religion, it was written by a small group for that group, not for the world. Make sure if you’re using this document that you modify it to fit your culture and own club’s needs.

Lancaster United Bike Polo Code of Conduct

If You Can’t Ref, Don’t.


There’s plenty to be proud of about Worlds this year. Great courts, lots of people got to play, and the majority of us got to watch it from the comfort of our own bike polo aviary homes.

But there was one instance I saw where there wasn’t anything to enjoy, and that was when Ratking had a match go south on them because a ref wasn’t able to make accurate calls.

At a World Championship.

In 2014.

It’s something that’s bothered me from then until now, so let’s talk it out.

The thing about reffing is, frankly, I’m no good at it. I can see infractions and I kinda sometimes know what the call is, but none of that happens instantaneously. It happens about five or so seconds late, and that makes me, you guessed it, a crummy ref.

The thing that makes me so comfortable with being a bad ref is that I know I’m a bad ref, and so I avoid the position as much as possible. When Joe asked me to ref at North Americans (half-jokingly, I’m sure), I gave him a clear, definitive no. Not because I don’t believe in giving back to the sport and not because I’m lazy (I did goal judge a whole lot, point in fact), but because I knew I wasn’t up to the challenge, and that I wouldn’t be doing the best for the players.

And having that knowledge, friends is [a G.I. Joe joke].

But it’s strange to me that I, lowly as I am in the sport, would recognize that whereas at Worlds, that thought didn’t apparently cross the minds of the organizers. Having someone holding the whistle doesn’t make a ref. Hell, passing the NAH ref test doesn’t make a ref.  It’s something else–it’s knowledge and application. I understand the drive to help, and even the pressure to do so, but the fact is that unless you’re very confident and very able to apply the rules and regulations in a match, you shouldn’t be using a real, qualifying/NAH tourney to learn how to.

And I realize that this goes against some of the other things I’ve said on this blog (one of which I’ll include below just to show you how hypocritical I am).

Now I’m not exactly blaming the organizers of Worlds, and I’m certainly not blaming the poor guy who Ratking made walk off in search of a more qualified ref. I’m blaming the oddity of polo where we demand good refs but refuse to make them or try to create strong avenues to practice. Something I liked about the Eastside Thaw last year (that worked with some success, though players still yelled at refs like it ever makes a difference), was introduce the idea that it was a place for players to learn to ref and for players to learn to play. I think there should be a push for that–a live clinic of reffing. Doing it on the web is a great first step, but like many things, sometimes doing it for realsies is the best way of learning.

I’m going to say: if you don’t know how to ref, don’t ref. Don’t put yourself in a position to make yourself feel bad nor to destroy a team’s chances to advance because of your mistake. Furthermore, you should determine early on if you’re any good at reffing to begin with (which is something different than knowing the rules), and if you’re not good, don’t force yourself into it.

I have no doubt at all that the next round of great refs is out there–but we shouldn’t be so desperate to put a whistle in someone’s hand as to take anyone at all. It reduces the trust in refs overall and makes a mockery of enforcing rules.


Why do we even have rules? My case for (and against) the NAH Rule Set


One of the near-constant statements that I hear from my club, at tournaments, and as an off-hand murmur is how the rules are destroying the essence of bike polo. Whether it’s folks who go to tournaments (and have gone to tournaments since forever ago) or it’s folks who just play pickup, there is a distinct and lasting distrust whenever the NAH dictates a new rule based solely off of a tournament or Nick Kruse’s hope that bike polo will some day become hockey.

And while I’m not on that side of the conversation, I can certainly understand it. The same way someone can understand why certain people don’t like ice cream, I suppose. I mean, they are wrong, naturally, but that just leaves more for me.

The biggest complaint is how rules fundamentally change the spirit of the game (the spirit apparently being a balding punk rocker who refuses to recognize that he’s actually a middle aged clerk at the local bodega). Bike polo was started with just a handful of rules, and those rules saw the sport through for quite a while, really. But there is a mental exercise we should take part in before we say that the NAH is power hungry and trying to make bike polo into an over-controlled bore-fest.

1. How has bike polo changed since its inception?

2. Do the new rules follow a few simple requirements?

As far as the first question goes, I think you can see what I’m getting at: bike polo could have just a few rules when it first started because we weren’t hosting large, organized tourneys, we weren’t playing at the speed and caliber we are now, and folks weren’t thinking about how they could game the system more than they were thinking about how they could have fun. The game itself evolved past the point of having just a handful of rules–and now we’re exploring just what rules need to be in place to support the monster we’ve created.

(And I hear you: we shouldn’t have allowed bike polo to change so much that the original game requires more rules. But if we’re talking about having a qualifying series at all, we must agree that we need to have a bit more than don’t be a dick on the books.

The second question’s requirements, as far as I see them, ask us to run any rule through two criteria:

  • Does the rule make the game more fun to play for everyone?
  • Does the rule make the game more safe to play for everyone?

If the answer is yes to both, you should have that rule. The rule to not allow for headbutting someone on court satisfies both requirements (for most people), so it’s a clear winner. The rigidity of the high sticking rule certainly makes the game safer to play, but may not making more fun to play (I know I’ve rolled my eyes when this is called after a player far away from any other player gets called for it).

By running rules through these two filters–at least as an outsider to the creation of rules for the sport–I can figure out whether the rule is beneficial or arbitrary/detrimental. These filters also recognize that it’s possible for a rule to not be beneficial to an individual player, but be beneficial to a majority of players, by comparison. Some folks do really well with checking people from behind–but that does’t mean it’s safe or makes the game more fun for everyone.

Review of the 4.0 Ruleset: Curiosities

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First, and before I even utterly destroy this nonsense of a rulebook dive into what the newest rulebook offers, I’d like to recognize all the folks who put the time into getting us to a point where we’re on the 4.0 rule set. Sure, I could write up a post about how much this ruins bike polo (or about how much I hate bike polo in general, just to be on the inside), but things like this take a helluva lot of work, and I am not blind to that.

Now then:

I’m not going to be covering everything, just what I find to be notable. If you want to read the whole kit n kaboodle–and you should–go here:

1.1: Ref

The first section that strikes me as kinda great is the hand signal section at 1.1.9:


Why is this great? Well, for one thing, it removes doubt visually for what is being called. I know I as a player can barely hear a ref, and as a spectator I definitely can’t. Adding visual cues is an outstanding way for refs to communicate instantaneously what their intent is.

1.3: Goal Judge

Section 1.3 (Goal Judge) is also a move in the right direction, as it gives more power to someone who should be assisting the ref as much as possible. I would like to see the power of the goal judge expand even more, honestly. While I think it’d be tough to implement a GJ who is able to ref in tandem with the ref, I would like the GJ to have the power to signal an illegal action has been taken, and then be able to signal to the ref what that illegal action was (infractions, illegal moves, etc).

An interesting bit of phrasing comes up around

injured playersSo if you’re team-mate breaks their toes, is replaced, and then “thinks” they can play again, tell them to bugger off. No you won’t ruin this for me, Harold. You’re the one with weak toes. 

2.2: Courts

Only two notable things I want to bring up here:

1. Court boards are 4 feet high at least

2. Courts have two doors symmetrical to the half court line

Both of these are, for better or worse (I think better), putting the demands of running a good tourney into law. You can’t half-ass your courts for an NAH tourney anymore, and for a short guy like me, having doors required is super great.

2.3: Goals

I have a disappointment here, and I’m sure someone could explain it all away for me pretty rapidly, but why do we require that goals have firm top crossbars? It seems to me that goalies leaning on the top crossbar is a big issue (big enough to have rules written for), and we could eliminate that issue by making it so goals didn’t have firm crossbars, but rather just the net suspended in between.

Oh, I guess because falling on a standalone bar would suck, maybe. I think I just answered my own question. Carry on.

2.4: Bicycles

Crandall Rule

I propose we call this the Crandall Rule.

2.5: Mallets

I see we still have language about carbon fiber mallet shafts. Who the hell is using carbon fiber and could you please contact me? 

5: Ball Handling

This whole section introduces some changes to what we understand currently. Most notably:

Ball Handling

So, you can ball joint anywhere, but only for two seconds (I plan to shout while I’m ball jointing so the ref knows I’m following the rules), you can scoop, and you can’t carry. I enjoy that violating the time limit and the carry-rule results in a ball turnover.

Sorry, Dave.

We then get into penalty format which, while very interesting, I will not really cover here in full. I really strongly suggest you go out and visit the proposed rules to read over this section though.

Section 10: Bodily Contact Penalties

However, I will bring up a few of the body contact rules that struck my interest in particular the checking rules:

body movin

I like that a hard line has been drawn to remove some of the confusion over what constitutes an extension. Hit with your shoulders, people. It’s not hard to understand.

I also like the inclusion of ball-specific contact (anything outside of that, save for a moving screen, is deemed interference). This helps strengthen the fairness of the game, I feel, as we had some issue last year with off-ball contact.

Disappointingly, headbutting (10.6) is still illegal.

10.10: Flagrance


If this is the case, I should never be physically struck, as I should always be deemed defenseless.

And that’s my overview. Again, not a complete examination of the rules, I’ll leave that to LoBP (ALL HAIL), but the parts that interested me the most.

Practicing as Ref: One of My 2014 Goals


I have a lot of goals for my 2014 bike polo season. Some are generally unrealistic:

  • Get to be the bike polo analyst for ESPN
  • Grow three inches taller
  • Score a goal on a Beaver Boy and then say something amazingly clever to him that just breaks him down

and some are more realistic:

  • Travel to more tourneys
  • Get better at my game,
  • Become a solid ref who is sought after for NAH events

I want to speak to the very last point on the second list, there.

Reffing is something that NAH sponsored/qualified tournaments need, but something that is in short supply. There are great refs out there, but they are so few and, as is often the case, already involved in the tourney as a player, that their own time is limited. I’m hoping to step in as the next generation of ref: a player who isn’t playing at a qualifier but is there solely to ref the tourney.

Yeah, playing is more fun, it’s true. But I’m very aware that I’ll probably never play in a national tourney, and even more sure I’ll never play at Worlds (everyone has a skill set, physical ability isn’t one of my tools). However, I know I can make a positive, lasting impact on bike polo as a whole by becoming a dependable, “world-class” ref. That’s where I can have the most positive impact.

With that in mind, I approached my club during a meeting we were having with the idea that I’d officiate pickup games. I set up these parameters:

  • I’ll act like a ref: whistle, rulebook, etc.
  • I’ll call infractions, start and pause games.
  • My team doesn’t need to listen to me. If I make a call they can just tell me to bugger off, and that’ll be that (it’s pick up)

The response was a mix of “yeah, who cares” and “it’d be fun to learn what the rules are.” I think, overall, it will make my club stronger, as we’ll be more aware of the rules, and it will put me on the path to being more confident at calling out as a ref.

There are other great resources of course, as evidenced by the the entire website resource, which I have been/will be using as it grows–and as I expand my reffing talents.

This whole new venture made me wonder if anyone else out there is practicing this side of the sport, or if they all come by it honestly. It makes me think about whether having reffing be part of what your club teaches you should be more systemic in the sport, as some people will be better at reffing than they are at the game, and there’s room for everyone to expand into the talents they have within our sport.

My Argument for No Goal Limit


Game format is something that people get mighty touchy about when brought up. By way of example, just bring up the idea that bench format should be more prevalent (and see how many people either tell you how wrong you are, or just stop listening altogether and decide to not invite you to their son’s Bar Mitzvah). It’s one of the holiest things in bike polo–surprising, given what bike polo is.

Currently there is a vote occurring to determine what rule changes are on the minds of bike polo players. The NAH (Specifically Chairman Kruse)  hopes to gather up enough information through the votes in order to better determine how they can create rules which satisfy players. I for one think it’s pretty awesome that they are going about it this way. One polokin, one vote, I say.

So naturally I voted, and generally speaking, I don’t share opinions of where the sport should be heading with bike polo at large (save for jousting, contact rules, and the idea of the crease (though my vote is in 2nd place right now, I still have lots of people that agree with me (I just need validation))). But what bothered me most was this:

game formatOkay. Okay. I get it. Doing unlimited score would fundamentally change bike polo. I’m not fighting that argument because I don’t have much ground to stand on.

But PEOPLE! We’d be introducing two elements to bike polo that are very important and valuable: consistency and the importance of strategic planning! …at least in my mind right at this moment. Read more

The New NAH Tourney Structure: Thoughts and Insights

With the Proposed 2013-14 structure from the NAH for the bike polo season comes a new development in our sport. Let’s not mince words here: I think this is a big step in the direction towards a more recognizable legitimacy. The new structure (for those of you who refuse to use the other polo channels to find this information out) basically comes down to these points:

  • Closed Regions for Regional Qualifiers
  • Weighted allotment of slots (three guaranteed for National championship, other slots determined by the year previous NAHBPC performance of region)
  • Shorter window for qualifiers
  • Players can only play in 1 regional qualifier
  • Regional tourneys to be held mid-April to mid-June, NAHBPC and Worlds in early Autumn or Sept/Oct.

You can read the specifics here on the NAH site, I won’t waste your time repeating them, other than this endorsement:

I think the recommended changes are great, and you should too, polokin.

I am excited by the decision making of the NAH in this, and I can tell by looking over the document that lots of consideration was paid to what would work best for the polo community as a whole – making sure to include regions and people based on merit as well as on fairness.

This is something that can really go south on a sport, and addressing that concern early is a solid way to avoid some big trouble down the line. I recognize of course that this isn’t set in stone (it’s only the proposed structure for the next 2 years after all), but it’s a good starting point for getting where we need to go as a growing, vibrant community.

I did, however, have a few questions about specifics in the document, so I got in touch with Ben Schultz (Regional Board Member, Midwest) and Eric Ransom (Regional Board Member, Eastside) to get some specifics: Read more

Why Do We Argue So Much In Bike Polo?

There is something unique about a bike polo rules argument. Generally speaking, it involves two people that will not, under any circumstance, see the point of view of the other person. On court this means increasingly loud voices (or increasingly passive aggressive one-shot statements made when coming off of or going on to the court) and on the LoBP (ALL HAIL) boards it means people reiterating their point over and over until someone eventually puts up a picture of a pony phallus and people move on to the next board to argue.

It’s not like this happens in other sports, I think it’s fair  to say. Point in fact I think this is something that makes polo completely unique. Ok, yes, the goofiness of the sport also goes a long way in separating us from the more traditional US and international sports, but the arguing is what I’m talking about today so just cram it in your five hole, naysayers.

Polo is young – it’s still being formed up. Even when I started oh-so-not-long-ago the sport was very different than it is today. When I first started playing nobody capped their mallets (at least around our area), people weren’t wearing helmets and we used to tie a dead chicken around the neck of whoever showed up last to a pickup day.

Man, those were the days.

So bike polo is a changing, bending, breaking sport. It has rules, yes, but those are still open to interpretation by tourney hosts and the general consensus of the players and spectators at any given moment. I mean, when the prevailing rule is don’t be a dick you’re leaving quite a bit up to interpretation, aren’t you?

But that’s good – it’s important that the sport isn’t cut and dry. Well, maybe important isn’t the right word: exciting. It’s exciting that we’re the people who are forming up the sport at this point in time. I try to remember, in any argument about fair play and rules,   the big picture.

Fifty years from now, let’s say, people aren’t going to be arguing about scoop shots. They aren’t going to argue about equipment or what counts as a goal or if the goalie should have a protected zone. Bike polo will become (if nobody came to their senses and stopped playing this crazy sport) sterilized. It will become something that school kids play during recess – some stupid version of it that doesn’t involve checking and has uses foam covered mallets or something. Bike polo will become regulated, so much so that we – the people who played the Wild West version we have today – would be sick thinking of how everyone is doing it wrong.

So, I guess the summation of this is to enjoy the arguments. Enjoy the triviality of whether a shot originating from the shaft counts as a goal. Just breathe in that fresh sport smell because it won’t last much longer.

Realize we’re the people the guys and girls who play this sport half a century from now will think of as completely crazy.

Would a Permanent Goalie Work in Bike Polo?

No – I don’t mean the guy who just hangs out back there and waits for the play to come to him, a la this fellow here:


I mean having a fourth player on the team – the goalie – enabling there to be three players in constant play on the court with one fellow dedicated to defense.

Ok – before you completely destroy this little hypothetical of mine, let me give you the parameters I see this working with:

1. The “goalie” must stay behind the half (their goal half of the court).

2. The “goalie” can pop out to make a play, as long as one player of the same team goes back to act as the “goalie” – much the same as position swapping in lacrosse and, I imagine, other fun sports.

3. The “goalie” is otherwise subject to all other rules that are currently in the rulebook o’ bike polo.

Reasons I think it’s a good idea: Read more

Blood in Bike Polo: The Role of Violence

Bike polo, in its very nature, is a relatively dangerous sport. When I first started playing (and my club was young, and I was scared to lean on my bike, and I didn’t keep my head up nor did anyone else, really) I crashed a lot.

Our club as a whole was pretty rock-um-sock-um when it came to playing. We’d run each other into the fence, we’d T-bone on purpose at times. It was great fun, really.

But as we developed as a club we stopped being so violent (I like to think we were getting more skilled and didn’t need to crash into each other to stop plays, for instance), and that was pretty good, too. There was a general feeling that really good players didn’t need to be violent (and I subscribe to that belief myself), so if you want to become a good player, you need to depend on finesse more than brute strength.

But let’s take a moment to talk about the other side of the coin, here. The scarred up, bruised and tooth spitting side of the coin.

The general rules of bike polo (if you don’t subscribe to reading all of the NAH rulebook) is body to body, bike to bike, and mallet to mallet contact. 2 of these three can lead to some brutal situations, as evidenced by Mr. Do’s lovely video which I will now gratuitously post because it’s that damned good: Read more