Archive for Tips

Not Everyone Gets An Award. Stop Giving Them Away

snowflake

If you don’t give a positive hoot or statement when a new player takes a swing at the ball (no matter the result of that swing), you’re violating the first rule of bike polo. It’s that simple.

If you don’t tell a new player that they are doing a great job after their first month or two of play, you’re a jerk. It’s that simple. Really.

But if you’re still telling a player that they had a good shot at goal when they weren’t anywhere close–and they’ve been playing for almost a year–you’re doing them a disservice. Here’s why:

everybodyWinsWhen I first started playing bike polo, it was hard for me to figure out what I should be doing, really. I didn’t ride a bike regularly, so I had to stare down that whole series of skills, but I also couldn’t shoot/avoid/pass/block/not cry every five minutes, and that would make me a pretty horrible player in anyone’s book.

But I was new, and that gave all the explanation necessary when I flubbed something.

After a few months, I started making those connections. I started getting shots off correctly and passes right where I wanted them (YES I STILL MESS THESE UP ALL THE TIME I KNOW ALRIGHT SHUT IT). I started getting a bit better, and I knew when someone said “nice shot” that they meant it.

Why? Because they didn’t say it when I had a bad shot. They wouldn’t discipline me or make me feel bad about it–mostly–but they didn’t pat me on the head and tell me I was doing great.

The benefit to this is one of personal recognition and drive. It feels good to do well, but you need to know what “doing well” is, and you need to know what it isn’t. By saying “nice shot” or “good pass” or anything in the positive when in fact it was not is, for all purposes, reinforcing a not-so-great action. You’re diluting what is and is not actually a good action.

There is some nuance here–I’m not at all suggesting that you shouldn’t ever say “good pass” or whatever when someone tries and fails to make something happen. I’m saying you should be honest: if it was a good attempt, identify it as such and reward it with a kindness. If it’s not, however, don’t. You’d do that person a better service by helping them develop that missing skill at a later time. “Good job” only goes so far in making someone a better player.

participationConsider this, also: the new player (or even the veteran player who just fouled up, as we all do) isn’t a dummy. They know that they didn’t get the result they were aiming for. If you say “good job” after everything they do, you’re going to start killing them with kindness and desensitizing them to actual compliments.

So while it’s great to support new players with compliments galore, try to decide when they need something more than a kind word (like some guidance and mentorship). If they make a great shot or a perfect pass, hoot and hollar as much as you like–but don’t do the same thing when they shoot and the ball somehow goes backward. It’s not helping anyone. That player wants to become better, and you want them to become better, too. That happens through honesty: honesty with where they are as a player, honestly with what skills they need to work on, and honesty in how you can positively affect the development of your club’s newbs.

 

A Jack of All Trades and A Master of None

Jack

Lemme get my learnin’ stick out on this one.

The phrase “Jack of all trades” is currently seen in a negative sort of light. Point in fact, the original uttering of the phrase didn’t have the “master of none” attachment. Point in fact, it’s been used here in North America since around 1721, and sometimes in a little rhyme:

Jack of all trades, master of none,

Certainly better than a master of one.

And what does this have to do with bike polo, you ask?

Jack3Well, my curious and impatient friend, it has plenty to do with bike polo. Particularly with the kind of player who is the most favorable for a team.

The way I see it, there are lots of people who are really good at one or two things that our sport requires (speed, shooting, passing, drinking, complaining), but there are remarkably few you are good at everything.

And notice the little change I made in that paragraph: some people are very good at a few things, very few are good at everything.

There is a great benefit–and indeed a stronger one–in being capable in all aspects of the game rather than exceptionally good at just one thing. If you’ve got a shot that is simply amazing, that will only get you so far. However, if you have a decent shot, decent ball control and decent court awareness, you’ll go much farther (and be much more beneficial as a player) in the long run.  Read more

Playing for Fun or Playing to Win? Or Both?

Question

Breaking people into two camps is fun, and remarkably easy to do on the internet. Today I’m looking at the people who play polo for fun and the people who play polo to win (that is to say, people who only find polo truly worthwhile if they are winning at it).

These camps are generally opposed to each other, and you can tell who’s who by finding the people who are getting frustrated by team-mates who aren’t straining every muscle to pursue a ball and, comparatively, the players who are getting frustrated because nobody is smiling.

2014-04-16 09.20.19I fall fairly soundly into the “play for fun” category, and as my detractors might quickly point out, this is in part because I’m not terribly good as a player. But more than that, I find polo to be a good, healthy way to not become the type of writer I think I would become if I didn’t have at least one thing to do outside of writing. This isn’t to say that I don’t have moments where I want to win–I think I have those moments most of the time–but that isn’t the only way I find joy in the game.

Not that I would mind the money, of course.

Not that I would mind the money, of course.

The play for fun people are frustrating for the play to win people because, honestly, they aren’t taking polo seriously enough. Yeah, I wrote that just now and I’m only half joking.

It’s hard to deal with team mates (even in pickup) who aren’t in the same mindset as you are. This can go either way (too serious or not serious enough).

The balance, I think, is learning to be serious when being serious matters–for yourself or for the situation you’re in–and making sure that you remember why you started playing in the first place (which is, more than likely, to have fun).

I’m really not suggesting that the little Venn diagram I made at the beginning of this is accurate. I think people are a blend of those two circles more than anything, but it’s very possible to become too hard-lined during pickup or too apathetic in a tournament (where you’re letting your team mates down, of course. If your whole team is there just to have fun, by all means do so!).

Bike polo is, above all else, a competitive effort. It involves scoring goals and the premise of winning and losing, despite the nagging feeling we all have that we’ve lost by simply being active in the sport at all. But that doesn’t mean it’s an all-or-nothing sport, either. Being aware of how you’re perceiving the game (both in the larger sense and individual games) can help you adjust your fun-to-win meter a bit more appropriately, allowing for you to support your team-mates while not coming off as too serious or too easy-going.

5 Ways to Destroy Your Bike Polo Club

destroy

Bike Polo clubs are a lot like a family. They are full of people who we really didn’t necessarily choose to be associated with (bike polo brings out all sorts of people), they involve yelling at each other at times, and sometimes you’d just like to step away from the whole lot for a week or so.

But, most times, you feel pretty lucky to be part of your club, and you might even go so far as to say you love the people who are part of it.

But like any good (most likely dysfunctional) family, it takes work to keep that trust and happiness up.

I’m not going to talk about those things, necessarily–well, I am, but in a backwards sort of way.

I want to talk about how to completely destroy your club. From the inside. Covert like. You’re a ninja of club destruction now.

not talkingThe first step in destroying your club is to stop communicating. It’s the single best way to make your club loose that mushy, lovey-dovey feeling of an actual community. Don’t talk about your concerns, don’t talk about club-wide initiatives, and certainly don’t talk about how to make your club stronger.

What are you doing in my developer, you goofy lady?!

What are you doing in my developer, you goofy lady?!

Next, hold a grudge. It can be against a person or several people (even the whole club if you’ve got that much rage to call on. It can be about a situation that occurred sometime while playing that nobody apologized for. Hell, it could be about nothing in particular, just so long as people in your club know that you’re angry. Holding a grudge is a great way to make people feel uncomfortable at all times, and that’s what you’re after. With every pickup day, let the grudge build until it becomes a big ol’ wet blanket that covers and hides any sort of fun bike polo used to be.

holeAnother outstanding way to destroy your club? Inter-club dating and noodling. Now we ourselves have a famous Lancaster bike-polo-playing couple, and they seem to make it work rather well, actually, so I can’t speak from direct experience here, but I have noticed time and time again that clubs get pretty weird when you mix sex into them. The problem isn’t when the folks are dating, of course, but afterwards. At most you’ll have a somewhat present tension when the two are together at pickup, at worst you’ll lose a player (or several players as sides are drawn and “girls/guys only!” tree houses are put up courtside). 

So basically, if you’re going to date someone from your club, you need to get married forever. Problem solved. Life partnering.

passive resistA more subtle way of destroying a club involves a little trick Dr. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi taught me a while ago, and that’s passive resistance. Refuse to help your club in any way. Stop the urge to be useful, and instead only complain when something goes wrong, but don’t give praise when something goes right. Ignore the calls for help, let Timmy drown in the well.

Refusing to help is a good way of spreading apathy across the club, and soon it will be impossible for anyone to even get the court swept before playing. And you’ll be laughing (LAUGHING!) as you watch the pillars crumble. Or playing the violin, if I want to tie in some classic tropes.

mrrudeFinally–and this is probably the most satisfying–be as rude as possible to new players. Make them feel guilty for being as bad as they surely are at the start of their bike polo adventure. Yell at them on court, and talk down about them on the sidelines. Hell, make sure they know that you don’t really want to play with them, and throw A games EVERY SINGLE TIME you pick up the mallets. If they want to succeed, they’ll get better. Otherwise they clearly don’t care enough, and who has time for that.

With these simple efforts, you’ll have no club in no time!

5 Ways to Sneak Polo Into Your Workday

five

I never felt the need to say it outright, but just in case you cats haven’t figured it out yet, I kinda think about polo more than most other things in my life. In fact,  I make it a point to pat my polo bike whenever I walk past it, and I carry my mallets in my car so I can hold onto one when I’m driving to work.

I don’t think this is irrational. Stop looking at me like that, non-believer.

Actually, let me just make a graph of what I spend time thinking about, scientifically constructed of course:

Crusher Thoughts

 

With so much time spent thinking about polo, I often find myself unsatisfactorily distracted with other things interrupting my happy-time daydreaming. I figure I’m not the only one dealing with this, so I thought I’d share a few ways that I get around the burning horror that is the workday and provide yourself with some respite with polo-ey thoughts.

Visualize Playing a Match

thinkingI don’t know where I heard this story, so it might not at all be true (but that doesn’t change it from being a good story): an American POW in Vietnam found himself locked in a container that only had enough room for him to sleep in the fetal position and stand with his back and knees bent. It’s pretty horrible, but he realizes he needs to entertain himself or else he’ll go insane. So what does he do? He imagines himself golfing. Everyday, he stands up to a hunch and imagines he’s on the green, swinging at a ball and putting and everything else.

Well, he gets out of Vietnam, eventually, and goes to play golf: and his game is significantly better than what it was before he got locked up in a little cell. Reason being that he visualized playing so much that he fundamentally understood the game better.

And while I certainly don’t draw a direct line of comparison between a cubicle and a POW cell, the mindset can certainly be the same: escape the thing you’re doing by using your brain and imagination.

Sneak in Polo Videos

They are all over the place, and it won’t take much to have a little screen of it going while you’re doing other work. Sure, you’d be a dummy to ONLY have that up on your screen, but even just listening to the sounds of a match is a great way to escape the tedium of the workday.

Get Other People Into It

I’m known as the polo guy at work. It makes people stop me in the hallway to ask about upcoming “matches” with “other teams.” It gives me a chance to talk about polo with the people outside of my own head, and is a great little breather between writing articles about Legacy Support and drinking much too much diet soda.

Plus, I have in the past recruited people to come play! Sure, one quit playing and the other only came out once, but still!

Visit Forums/Websites

LoBPThere are lots of places on the web to get insight on the sport. Between blogs, forums, and club-specific sites, you can almost certainly delve into something you’ve never thought about before on a weekly basis. And really, who doesn’t like getting unreasonably upset at another person for a very tiny reason from time to time (looking at almost any forum on LoBP (ALL HAIL).

WRITE AN ARTICLE FOR A WEBSITE!

Okay, so maybe this is just me, but I think there are lots of very smart people in bike polo, and there are lots of websites that are looking for smart people to give their opinions. The open word document is universally accepted as work in the western world, so why not subvert the system and write up a polo blog post? Send it out to 321, GOALHOLE, Boston bike polo or any of the other great polo sites out there. Chances are high that the folks there will read and publish your work (if it’s worth a damn), which will give more voices to the sport and give you some time to really think about polo.

I MEAN I NEVER DO THAT, RIGHT? I’M WRITING THIS FROM MY HOUSE YESTERDAY EVENING.

How Many People Should Chase The Ball Carrier?

chase

QUESTION: How many people should be chasing the ball carrier?

ANSWER: 1. Now go back to work.

Okay–so it’s not quite that cut and dry. But there are only a few instances when engaging 2/3rds of your team on one other player ever really makes sense, and the rest of the time it’s just poor positioning. Let me explain:

The ball carrier isn’t the most important person in the game. The ball is the most important person in the game. Now that may lend you to say “but Crusher, if the ball carrier has the ball, I’m going after the ‘most important person in the game’, right?”

Well no, not really.

The ball is a tricky thing, and it uses every opportunity to abandon the ball carrier through a pass or a shot or even just a wild bounce off the boards. If you’re thinking that the ball carrier and the ball are synonymous, you’ll find yourself in a bad position if the ball does in fact leave the ball carrier.

I feel like I’m doing a poor job of explaining this. Let me try another way.

Your focus as a defensive player should be:

  1. Stop/prevent shots on goal
  2. Disrupt momentum of other team
  3. Become an offensive threat

and in that order. Your mission is not, nor should it ever really be, to double team the ball carrier. Why? Because then you’re leaving 2 players from the other team to challenge your goalie (or, as can be the case, to challenge your third player who is not in goal).

2 to 1 coverage on the ball carrier is a great way to lock out that player, but it’s a pretty horrible way to maintain a defensive barrier or to be open for a dish or flubbed pass. You’re leaving huge areas of the court wide open while you and that other dummy are concentrated in one area.

Another (and potentially more harmful) scenario to avoid is that of chasing the ball carrier or the ball in tandem with another player out of your defensive zone. Let’s say you and a team mate pursue the ball down court (which feels great, as you’re getting closer and closer to the ball)–but you don’t get it. The person who was playing goalie comes out and retrieves it, and pops a pass up to their other two team-mates by your goal. Now you’ve got 1 person who is in the right position from your team (hopefully) and 2, including yourself, who are not. You see the dilemma.

Naturally if all three people from the other team are at your goal and the ball goes loose while heading towards the opponent’s goal, you should absolutely pursue it, but let’s assume they actually have at least one person back.

It’s a natural urge to focus on the ball. It’s the focus of the game, after all. But it shouldn’t be the only thing you’re thinking about. In the back of your head should also be the focus of where your teammates are, and how your position can either help or hinder a momentum shift.

A Quick Tip: On Defense, Be The Weight On A Metronome

Metrinome

Consider the metronome.

This little clever device uses two weights, one on the bottom of a long, thin rod and one (which can be slid up and down that rod) which helps dictate how quickly the rod moves from left to right. No matter where the smaller adjustable weight goes, it’s always attached to the larger weight at the base by the rod it’s affixed to.

Now then, what does that have to do with bike polo?

Nothing. It’s for keeping time when playing music, you dummy. What a dumb question.

But if I had to stretch to come up with a link (since you’re forcing me to), I’d say that the humble metronome can be used as a good reminder of how you should play when on defense. Or at least a way you can play while on defense.

I'm SURE this clears everything up, right?

I’m SURE this clears everything up, right?

At the Thaw this year, Alexis told me several times early-on to “come back to center,” after I left the zone of the goal to disrupt a play. After the first few games I realized that I was basically creating an arc of defense around the goal, but that I should always swing back to center after I did my part to either move the ball out of play or, more advantageously, reverse the play entirely.

I’d swing out, interact with the play, and then when the immediate danger was past, come back to just in front of the goal (allowing me be more prepared for the play moving to one side or the other.

Back and forth, and back and forth. Like a freaking metronome.

And I saw the logic behind it: having a reliable, consistent point of resetting on defense allowed my other two team-mates to know approximately where I’d be, but also allowed me to not get stuck too far away from the focus of most offensive plays (this being the goal, of course). I tried not to linger too far to the right or left, and certainly didn’t engage too far away from my own goal when we didn’t have the momentum to support it.

Great offenses begins with gaining possession of the ball in your own half and charging past all those poor folks who are facing the wrong way, I believe, and acting more like a metronome allowed me to be prepared to make this happen.

So give it a try (instead of chasing the ball into the corner or shadowing your own player as he tries to dig something out from another player). So far I’ve been incorporating it into my own play and found it to be a very useful technique.

“I Was Playing” is the Dumbest Excuse to be Rude.

anger

I get it.

No, really, I do.

I’ve had anger management issues ever since I was a young one, once throwing a chair at my sister because she wouldn’t change the radio station from New Kids on the Block to a classic rock station. I was that kid, I had issues.

But I kinda worked through those problems (mostly), and now I promise you that I’ll not throw a chair at someone for listening to pop when I want to listen to something else. That’s called progress. That’s called growing up.

But for some reason we have a weird little culture of mindless barbarianism when playing bike polo that doesn’t quite jive with that whole “sportsmanship” thing we’re trying to go for. Point in fact, I witnessed it quite often this past weekend, and it got me to creating justifications for it. Maybe those folks are really hyped up on adrenaline, or maybe they saw some great injustice and are just super vocal about it.

But no matter the reasons I came up with, the final, lingering though was simply: that person is just being rude, and they should learn to control themselves.

yellrefI don’t know how or why it became permissible to straight up forget that you’re a human being on the court (or, more importantly, that the people around you are also human beings), but it’s happened more often than not. Players will violate the first rule of bike polo and then act like it’s nothing after the game or, more commonly, they’ll yell fire and brimstone down on a volunteer ref (read: all refs in the sport) and then think that they’ll be kosher afterwards.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: you are not that important, the game isn’t that important, and really the only thing that is important is how you treat people. Especially people who consider you part of their little, fun group.

Now, this isn’t to say that it all has to be yes sirs and no mams all over the court. It’s an aggressive sport and tempers will certainly run high at times. But if you can’t control your frustration (brought on by any single thing while on the court), maybe you’re the problem, and not the call/play/other player.

hockey angerThis also isn’t to say that you shouldn’t argue with the ref at all–I think part of the joy of any sport is watching that interaction. But in the end, when you put your tires on the court to play you’re agreeing to abide by the decisions of the ref, so don’t make too much of a show of it. You can disagree and use colorful language, probably, (as it comes with the job), but when you start going after the character of the person or constantly bringing up the same call you disagreed with 5 minutes ago, then you’re the one who should take a hard look at how you’re messing up the sport. Maybe slap yourself in the face, even.

So the next time someone says you’re being a jerk and your gut reaction is to dismiss it as natural in-game activity, take a minute to really think about how you’re carrying yourself. Are you actually seeking clarity on a call or explanation, or are you just letting your emotions run away with you?

Lefty Brilliance: Learning to Work With Wrongsiders

lefty

The Wrongsiders

Wrong-handed, sinister, southpaw. The lefty players of the world (your humble editor included) are subjected to a slew of pejorative terms from the larger right-handed masses. And while we struggle to use scissors or to avoid ink marks on our pinkies, we have our secret benefits as well.

For instance, did you know left-handers typically die earlier than right handers do?

Wait.

Okay. Wait.

A recent thread on LoBP (ALL HAIL) asked what the future of left handers was in bike polo. The last time I looked, the general consensus was that there should be a lefty army tournament, which would be really fun.

But the sentiment is clear: left handers are a misunderstood bunch, with their plays often accompanied by a growled “lefty bullshit” from a goalie or shouted by some right handed plebeian on the sidelines.

Furthermore there are players out there who simply don’t know how to play with a left handed player (or are rusty when the opportunity comes up). Fear not! I will give you a few helpful hints. Read more

The 5 I learned: D.C. Adventure Edition

DC Bike Polo

This past weekend, I had the good fortune to travel down to D.C. to meet the President and discuss this matter of nationalizing bike polo play bike polo with the fine folks down that way.I haven’t played for a very long time thanks to ol’ mother nature, and when I got out of my car upon arriving to find a glorious, sunny, climbing-to-60ish day; wellsir, you could have knocked me down with a ultralight right then.

Robocop met me courtside and we rode down to the local market to get some Miller High Lifes (only $2.00! Apparently that’s cheap down in D.C.) with Alex, Alias, and Jess. After our starter fuel we headed back to the court where I was re-introduced to the sport.

This is what I learned/relearned:

2014-02-23 12.45.21

1. Bike polo is amazing: BIKE POLO IS AMAZING BIKE POLO IS AMAZING BIKE POLO IS AMAZING. THE PEOPLE WHO PLAY IT ARE GREAT. SCORING GOALS IS AMAZING. BIKE POLO IS AMAZING.

2. My heart was in it, even if my heart wasn’t in it: As you all know by my constant complaining about it, my ticker likes getting uppity sometimes. Well, I guess because of my completely lacking workout regimen over the winter, it wasn’t too keen on me going from potato to polo player all in one day. After a few games I felt it getting into too high a gear and needed to sit a few more games out than what I perhaps would have otherwise. Still, I didn’t die, so that’s a perk.

2014-02-23 12.45.35

3. There are places to be on the court: D.C. as a club is very focused on plays. Not necessarily on planned out, white-board plays, but more like “if I’m here you should be here” plays. To that end, I wasn’t necessarily, ahem, in the right place at the right time.

However, when I was in the right spot, it became apparently that someone would feed me the ball if I was indeed the most likely to make a decent shot. Likewise, after a few games I had a sort of intuition that if I passed the ball to a certain area, my team-mate would likely be there.  Read more