Archive for Tournaments

ESQ 2014: A Lancastrian Report

My last day is Wednesday before the long break I’m taking to help out Horse with the tourney. I’m already fielding requests and last minute concerns he has, though I keep trying to remind him that I took off three days (Thursday, Friday, and Monday) to help him. I can understand why keeping something like my life compartmentalized isn’t necessarily at the top of his concern list. We agreed to host this thing in the middle of last year and it’s finally coming to a head.

Thursday = Build/Panic Day

2014-05-29 06.03.43There are things I didn’t know about hosting a tournament which are coming to pass as self-evident as we move to T-Day. One: you’ll never have as much help as you need, and Two: you won’t want to do anything you said you would. Case in point–waking up on Thursday at 5AM felt horrible. EVEN THOUGH that’s when I wake up during the week anyway. Something about manual labor will bring that out, I guess.

I’m joined at the barn we’ve been keeping all the boards by Horse, Ted, Alex, Rodney, and Hylon. Rodney’s brought one of his company’s trucks to load everything up, and when I see it I realize for the 400th time that we wouldn’t have been able to host this tourney without him. Fact.

You see, Rod made it possible to get the plywood on loan and to cart everything around. I think on it now and I can’t really see how we would have done this without him (or at least how we would have been so successful without his insight and help). Regardless, trucks aren’t made for looking at, they’re made for loading up, and we begin doing just that as the sky turns cloudy.

2014-05-29 06.32.15Loading the boards is quick work and requires only two trips. I am thankful for this.

On the truck ride to the courts (YES I RODE I A BIG BOY TRUCK) I talk to Rod about the process of the tourney and where he thinks we stand on everything. It becomes very obvious that while I might know more about bike polo than he does, he simply eclipses me with planning and event coordination. It’s all I can do to nod and agree with how much foresight this guy has.

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We stack up the boards and work begins on planning how to put them all together. Fortunately Horse is a designer/engineer, so he’s already mapped everything out in his head. He gives us (At this point it’s Hylon, Me, and Kyle, I think) simple instructions and we get to work. It doesn’t take long for two things to happen: progress and rain.

To be perfectly honest, the rain at first is lovely. we’re moving lumber all over the court and having a mist to accompany us is quite welcome. But the mist becomes a drizzle, and then a light rain, and then at times a full rain. Yeager arrives somewhere in the AM and helps make big progress as well–he and I work at laying out the boards and screwing them together in the middle of the courts. We make the most reasonable decision about halfway through building to take a break for lunch at Robburritos. It is a deliciously good decision, though by the end of it I want to go into a food nap so hard.

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When we return the rain is in full force, but so is our general anxiety about getting the work done on time. We build up the walls and strap them to the fence–we brace the free-floating areas and build the middle section as well. By this point I’m freezing and not terribly excited by the feeling sneaking into my bones, but the company is good and I’m hard-pressed to forget that I promised to help. So I help. It only occurs to me near the end of our day that I’ll be sore in the morning. Such is life.

Friday = Guests, Drinking, Hugs for Days.

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And so it begins: ESQ2014 week

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In just a few short days, polo players from all over the Confederated Clubs of Unilateral Animosity will converge on Lancaster City to take part in the Eastside Qualifier. These are players from all across the mid-to-north Atlantic and beyond, hoping to secure a spot for North Americans and, presumably, Worlds.

This is the first year Lancaster has hosted the qualifier, and we’re very excited to have so many people in-town to try out our whoopie pies and meet our kinfolk. We are likewise excited to get the whole damn thing over with so we can go back to not stressing out about it. TBH.

There are just a few things I’d like to bring up as a service to those players who are coming, and to all players who go to tournaments in general.

1. Join the event Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1452643218312628/ 

Join this page if you’re going to the tournament–it’s going to be where we give last-minute announcements and co-ordinate tourney events. If you’re confused about something, post your question there (or, hopefully, you’ll find some explanations on the page to help clear the air.

cheers2. We’re a big-small town: 

While you aren’t polo-ing there will be lots to see and do (we have a thriving downtown and lots of great bars/foodie places to hit up. That being said–we are also the kind of city where everyone knows everyone.

Basically, if you’re rude, it’s probably the case that you’re being rude to someone one of us knows and likes. Try to be on your good-time behavior. Lancaster is full of very nice, bicycle/bikepolo minded people, and we’d like to leave a good flavor in their mouths about the whole experience. PLEASE DO THIS FOR ME.

3. Lancastrians like to start promptly and as such we will be starting at exactly 9AM on both days. If you aren’t here, we’ll start the match with whoever from your team is. If none of your team is present, we’ll start the match without your team present. That’s just the way it goes. I’d suggest planning on being at the tournament field by 8:30 or so just to be sure.

4. NO DRINKING: no drinking no drinking no drinking no drinking no drinking. No drinking, no drinking. “No,” drinking.

If you can’t not drink on the tournament grounds, I suggest you call these folks here  and get yourself into treatment. After the first night of the tourney (and, chances are, after the second night, too) we’re going to have places for you to go and have a great time drinking to your heart’s content. However, we’d really appreciate if you–again–let us keep the great relationship we have with the city.

Park rangers will be patrolling the park and looking for those breaking the rules. They are rangers, so I mean…they probably have crossbows or something. Don’t force them to use them.

ref5. We will side with the refs 99.5% of the time so don’t try to find us if you don’t like a call some ref made. They are all certified through the NAH’s ref certification course, and their court is their castle.

If they really mess up, then yeah, we’ll address it–but generally speaking, their decision is their decision. If you go freaking out on our poor refs we’ll be happy to eject you from the game. It will make us feel powerful and mighty.

6. I will bother the hell out of you. Tourneys are pretty much article gold for me, so you just be on the lookout for some little fellow with a Pith helmet on. I’ll be snapping pictures and pushing my tape recorder in plenty of faces. Just accept fame. Just accept it.

I look forward to meeting you all (again). Best of luck!

Introducing The Insta-Ref!

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Want to run an NAH tournament but don’t have the time or desire to learn the rule-set?

Can’t seem to find anyone willing to blow a whistle for a full day?

Tired of players attacking refs and ruining the joy of the game?

Well the future is NOW!

Introducing The Insta-Ref by Lancaster Polo!

The Insta-Ref™ is the automated, one-touch solution to all of your referee needs. Developed in the secret sanctum of the polo war room deep in the heart of Lancaster County, The Insta-Ref™ is your one-stop solution for any NAH Tournament.

Using the Insta-Ref is Easy!


All you need to do is:

1. Wait for a “potential-call” moment

2. Press the Insta-Ref™ button

3. Perform the action prescribed by the random selection of the Insta-Ref!

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Possible Actions Include:

  • Make Up A Rule
  • Distract With Animal Noises
  • Yell “I AM The Law!”
  • Blankly Stare At Players
  • Blow Whistle Louder
  • W.W.N.K.D (What Would Nick Kruse Do?)

Each of these possible solutions are specially formulated to simulate actual, real life reffing!

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The Insta-Ref™ ref management system only exists in limited quantities (read: 1) so act now! The first order will also receive the Insta-Heckle 4000 AT ABSOLUTELY REGULAR PRICE!

INSTA-REF IS INSTA-AWESOME!

2014 Eastside Thaw: A Reporter’s Diary, Day 2

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When I wake up, it’s to the gentle sounds of my phone’s impression of wildlife. From the point I lift my hand up to switch it off, my body is screaming in pain.

My fingers are swollen, my wrists won’t bend, my elbows feel like they’ve been shattered and my shoulders aren’t even pretending to be functional.

My neck is strained, by back aches, and my spine is a’screaming.

My legs are pretty alright, though.

So it’s in this state that I wake up the rest of those staying in the room: Kyle by shaking his shoulder, Horse by Kyle’s exclamations, and Yeager’s already up just by virtue of the noise everyone else makes. Then it’s a round robin of people trying to stretch and realizing their bodies aren’t quite into it, and then staring blankly at the wall or phones or anything and wondering if maybe not playing for 2 months makes the first tourney a bit hard to get through.

The answer, dear reader, is yes.

squidbagBut we trudge to breakfast where I begin to gather the extent of the uselessness of my hands. I can’t quite manipulate the fork or knife, and sitting up straight is difficult. Still, I eat the mysterious yellow sponges and meat circles and head back upstairs to dress for the day.

The 1 minute bike ride from the back of the hotel to my car hurts in ways that I will never be able to express.

The second day is a bench tourney, wherein about 9 players are joined by a captain who chose them. While I had my doubts as to how Alexis perceived my performance the day before, it seems I did well enough to get picked up into his team.

“I think you and I have a good feel for each other now,” he says to me, “so we’ll have a little advantage in there.”

I think about telling him my ailments, but Ben Z. is within earshot and I don’t want him to give me his judgement face.  Read more

2014 Eastside Thaw: A Reporter’s Diary, Day 1

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The trip to the 2014 Eastside Thaw started like any other trip I’ve taken: with me starting late, getting somewhat lost (maybe that’s over-exaggerating, as I was still in my own county and state at the time. It was more like sidetracked), and altogether happy to reach the hotel which apparently every other polo player was staying.

I traveled alone, however, which was new and required me to build up a 3 hour long playlist just to make sure I had something to entertain me. It seems to have worked, as by the time I reached the hotel The Final Countdown was just finishing up and I walked into the hotel feeling like I was going to knock it over.

After dropping off my bags and bike I went through the normal routine of going to pickup on the courts (it was late, and cold, and I didn’t much feel like bringing my bike and changing clothes in the hope that I’d get thrown once in the hour that was left before the lights turned out over the enormous Frederick courts) and meeting those who were already checked in.

JofHAlias was there of course, looking aware and nervous. I drew from the deck which signified what my team would become. I probably enjoyed getting the Jack of Hearts more than perhaps I should have, if only for the little writerly quirkiness of getting one of the mustachioed face cards and also one in which the heart played a role. Still, I had no idea who my team-mates would be as I was the first JoH to draw.

So instead of making clever, self-serving deprecations to my team-mates, I helped out where I could. Troy and I (mostly Troy) helped get a gate shut on the B court, I talked a little to Alias, and I said hello to the players I knew who were taking in the full size of the courts and wishing they had changed their gearing a bit.

SquidBut, like I said, the cold was creeping in on us so Troy and I decided to abandon the courts and get to the hotel. By this point Kyle and Yeager were in the vicinity and we eventually all found ourselves in the hallway with other polo players, drinking Hylon’s home brew, watching Squid do his best Nacho Libre impression, and generally trying to seem interested-but-not-interested in conversations.

I was then informed by Troy that my team-mates would be Ben Quigley from Raleigh (who I met almost immediately after) and Alexis.

Alexis Mills.

Alexis “The Means” Mills.

And I think it’s safe to say that was the first time my heart gave me trouble over the weekend.

I’m not necessarily star-struck by any player in bike polo–it’s a goofy sport, after all. But I am perpetually worried about letting people down. I assumed that Alexis was quite used to winning, and seeing as though I wasn’t necessarily, that caused me some alarm. And then, on cue, Alexis stepped out of the elevator and I extended my hand to let him know I was his B player. He nodded and smiled and if he had any regret in his bones he didn’t show it. Still, I felt flustered, so I escaped the floor.

I went outside to find Russo enjoying a cigarette and decided to join him as he is, more than likely, one of the most interesting people I’ve come across to talk with. Soon we were joined by a few other players and conversations got deep and not altogether correct to report here, so I turned off my reporter memory and switched on my “enjoy the moment” memory, which worked. I found it funny to recognize every single person who came in or out of the hotel.  Read more

Workday Before Tourney: What The Hell Is The Point?

WHY

I spent the better part of my morning before work figuring out how to attach my bike rack to our “new” car. It has a little, useless spoiler and the cut of the trunk made it a longer operation than I care to admit. Still, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the whole frustrating process.

The night before I assembled a backup mallet and organized my polo bag/travel bag. I put together my reporting gear. I got my pith helmet and walked around in it for a while, just so it’d remember my scent.

And then I slept and dreampt of Alias telling me I won the Tri-Wizard Cup the ref tshirt and that I never had to go back to work again, because I was now a celebrity, somehow.

But then I woke up, put that rack on eventually, and came to work.

And what the hell is the point of that.

I keep thinking about travelling down, my mallets in the back of my car popping up over the seat. I’m thinking about picking my card and meeting my team-mates, how disappointed they’ll be when I explain that I’ve only played once in the last two months and I’m entirely out of shape. I’m thinking about my helmet and my gloves and the water bottle I probably should have cleaned out before packing. God that’s going to be ugly inside.

What I’m not thinking about is work. I can’t. I’m here, I guess, but I’m not here. I didn’t need to take the day off but now I’m really thinking I should have just for the sake of not cheating them out on money. Sure, I keep opening and closing documents over and over, but that will only work so long before someone notices that I’ve got 65 open, blank word files on my desktop. Maybe I should try moving over to excel? People seem to stare at empty excel files for hours while they are actually trying to do work.

The workday before the tourney is the most perfect farce. I’m here and I’m somehow not wearing polo tourney clothes, but that’s about all that’s going on. I’m running through the checklist of things I packed/forgot to pack, imagining hitting the ball, and virtually tasting the cool, refreshing, first-PBR-of-the-season gulp I’ll experience at some point this weekend.

Okay, it’s not so bad. only 7 more hours to go.

 

UGHHHH

Tourney Interview: Alias and the Eastside Thaw

Thaw 2

The Eastside Thaw is, more or less, the start of my bike polo season. Held early in March, the Thaw is a chance to meet new players, old friends, and play the game in two of it’s more interesting varieties (these being Bench format and a random-draw team). Alias, who is again heading up the Thaw, was kind enough to answer a few questions I have for him: 

I went to the Thaw last year and had a blast–as the organizer, do you think it went well?

It started out a bit touch and go, but eventually I got into a rhythm and things smoothed out.  It was my first tournament in a lead role, and while I was pretty prepared for the known-unknowns, a few of the unknown-unknowns got me.  I definately had a lot of lessons learned, and I’m more prepared for this year.

What surprised you about running the tourney, and what have you learned from it?

Eastside Thaw  (14)You’ll want to be in more than one place at once, and you’ll panic the most when you don’t have something to do.  What I’ve learned is largely about what prep-work can be done beforehand.  Attempting to do early morning court setup, and the card draw was a mistake.  It took too much time, and cut into play time.  The lesson here is to have a check-in event the night before.  This year, we’ll have evening access to the courts on Friday until 10:00pm.  We’ll do the card draw then, and it will have the added benefit of encouraging players to arrive on Friday instead of early Saturday morning.  I think adding this sort of feature to an event gives me as an organizer an administrative buffer to catch any details that slip throu… are you still awake?

What can we expect to see changing this year (and give a little run down on how it worked last year as a point of reference if you can)?

Eastside Thaw  (15)Like I said, card draws on Friday.  This will speed things up on Saturday.  I also have a better plan for how to do the bench team draft.  This should make it easier on the captains.
We are at two identical inline hockey courts, so there’s a better symetry in all the games–no more dead boards.  The courts are very large, so players that are used to tennis court games will find that the games will take more out of them.  This will matter a lot more during the bench games.

What do you think are the essentials for putting on a good tourney?

Eastside Thaw  (49)A good relationship with your parks & recreation department/office (or whatever host location you are using).  No event exists without a place to play.  Everything else is icing.

But let’s talk about icing.  There’s a structural benefit to providing food at the court.  It keeps players close and ready to play.  Additionally, I’m providing bike valet parking for security reasons.  Bikes have been stolen from Frederick at past events, so I wanted to provide this as a service/conveniance.  It also looks better than a grass plot littered with bikes.

Lots of what I’m able to provide comes from local bike-shop support and partnership.  Involvement with your local shops goes a long way.

The Thaw is a pickup tourney on day 1 with a bench format tourney on day 2. Do you see this as a great way of getting the best of both worlds? Which part is your favorite of the two?  Read more

CONGRATULATIONS TO PUFF PUFF PASS AND DAVID

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This past weekend was the Philadelphia A/B bike polo tournament, and it is with no little sense of pride that I report Lancaster (at least in the B tourney) achieved ENORMOUS AWESOMENESS:

Jon Darby, Jon Kokus, and Kyle won 1st place in the tourney, while Dave’s team won second! Way to represent Lancaster, you crazy cats!

Lancaster sent quite a number of players to the A/B tournament, and I’m so very proud that we made such a strong showing. Well done, you hip kids!

 

Oh, and here’s this picture of Emforcer on her way back from the first ever tourney she’s participated in:

Emforcer

My first time..

rookie

Giessen has a pretty active polo scene and it’s also right in the middle of Germany, making it easy to reach for those coming from elsewhere. Giessen, if you’ve not heard of it, is a small German city and everything else I might be able to tell you, I read on Wikipedia, whilst on the train (shame on me!) bound for this bound for this pretty little town with a pretty big tournament in the German polo scene.

I’d been on the waiting list for the third Giessen individuals and wasn’t sure whether I really wanted to play or not, but thought I’d leave it up to fate to decide. Well, the list of players shrunk dramatically when the mercury dropped mid-October and the 15 names on the waiting list were pushed up to the participants list. So, fate had decided.

The prospect of playing a real tournament seemed very daunting to me, especially after reading through the list of participants and finding some “big names”. I was worried about making a fool of myself on the court. The reason being, I’ve never been the team sport kind of person. Sure, I played basketball and rugby at school, but since then I moved around a lot and wasn’t willing to commit to any team knowing full well that I’d probably be moving to another country soon. I started doing things like bouldering, snowboarding and cycling, any kind of sport really that you can do on your own. So what made me nervous about playing in Giessen was, I wasn’t used to disappointing anyone apart from me.

Ready to pounce

Ready to pounce

But this tournament wasn’t about that. The Giessen individuals is probably one of the best chances for a newbie to just give tournaments a try, without getting their team eliminated after 2-3 games. Sure, there was still a competitive air about the whole thing, but it wasn’t quite as dense as in Nürnberg, where I’d previously been to watch (although, we didn’t get to stay for the finals and I

hear they were full-on). Let alone the “special games” at the end of every round (e.g. with goals turned to the boards or only counting shuffle goals), which loosened any tensions pretty quick. I quickly lost my fear of disappointing anyone and just gave it a shot and tried my hardest.

The noble Knight

The noble Knight

One scene I observed pretty much summed up the whole weekend. Timmy (Nürnberg) was playing with Danny (Berlin) speeding down the court. All three opponents had fallen off their bikes and went to tap back in. The score was 4:0 and Danny and Timmy had an open goal. Instead of putting an unglamorous end to the game, Timmy parked himself in the goal and played goalie for the opposing team while Danny came up with the ball. He scored, of course, but it was an act of nobility that got the crowd roaring with props. And that’s the spirit of polo.

You may remember reading the article “Top Players Don’t Do Tricks”, but I’d like to notch that up further and say, top players also know when to keep their do-or-die mentality at bay. This means giving others, who aren’t quite on their level yet, a chance too, or at least show others what fair play really means. For me, as a newbie, it means them giving me a chance to taste the blood that got them hooked in the first place.

That’s what makes this tournament so special, it is still a competition which everyone joins with sporting ambitions. The difference at individuals is, the best players sometimes have to play with an amateur like myself, and that is when real strength in character shows. Playing with guys like Dany from Brno, Danny from Berlin or the Nürnberger troupe was pretty intimidating, but these guys and gals embody the true spirit of polo, so thanks for that Giessen and all the players I met there. Giessen is much more than a long Wikipedia entry, it’s one of those places I never thought I’d visit before playing polo, and am now certain will be a regular appointment in my polo calender.

 

5 Things I Learned at Worlds

Welcome

Worlds was an eye opener for me. I have seen in my travels some high levels of play, but none so amazing as what I saw on the final day of the championship. It was humbling to say the least, and I want to share with you, dear readership, just a few of the lessons and tips I learned from the biggest event on the polo calendar.

These are just a few of the observations I made, and honestly, in just those three days I came up with more post ideas than what I’ve had in months (not all about Worlds, but about polo in general). At any rate, these are the five that spring to my mind right at this very moment:

Dillman1. The Beavers, Call Me Daddy, Assassins, and Edisons: make anything I do look like goofing off. Seriously. If what they do is bike polo, what I do (and most of us do) is playing dress up and pretending to be polo players. Holy mother mallet, it was just inspiring to watch these teams kick up their play to top gear and keep at it for the championship. I just can’t fathom being at that level, and I wonder what it’s like for anyone on those teams (and others) to wake up and know they are better than most other players. Gotta be something.

Call Me Daddy2. You don’t gotta be fancy: Lomax actually brought this up the last night we were there, and it’s a great point that I wouldn’t have noticed: Most of the top teams don’t do anything fancy with the ball. Okay, you’ve got some pretty spectacular passes and avoidances, but you don’t have people scooping under their BB to catch the ball in the air, and then hit it with their head, and then into the goal (though that does sometimes happen).

What you do have are players who keep the ball conservatively, move it intelligently, and shoot the ball from a million miles away and still get a goal ohmyGodIjustcan’tgetoverit. But mostly to the point,  great players aren’t doing ridiculous stuff with the ball–they are playing intelligent, basic polo. They’re just doing that basic stuff a million times better than us mortals.

Huggles3. The love is still there: Even with people coming from thousands of miles away, we all still got along (off the court) like we were from the same club. It’s good to see that we are maintaining that small-group feel although our sport and our clubs are growing past the point of knowing everyone.

Why is this important? Because it allows for our sport to keep growing. Being friendly means that we aren’t turning on each other, which helps create a positive atmosphere, which brings more people to the sport. I know it’s kind of convoluted, but it’s something I consider to be true, so to hell with you for doubting me.

MILK Mallet shafts4. The polo mallet is dead–all hail the polo mallet: I don’t think I saw a single player who was using anything but polo-specific shafts and mallet heads. I think it’s unreasonable to assume that everyone was using polo-specific equipment, but I didn’t see anyone rolling around with gas pipe or ski poles.

We can’t say that a Northern Standard Shaft or a Magic Head are going to make you a Worlds contender (I’m sure gas pipe in the hands of Call Me Daddy will be just as effective), but we can say that the highest level of bike polo has moved away from borrowed/re-purposed equipment and now depends on off-the-shelf solutions. It’s a good thing, really, because I think polo equipment companies are going to be what sustains the growth of the sport MORE ON THAT IN ANOTHER POST STOP ASKING QUESTIONS.

reftalk5. We need full-time, non-playing refs: There is simply no way around it. We need to have a reffing league who only has one purpose: to ref and enforce the rules set forth by the NAH and approved by the players. Simple as that. Having players who also ref is, by definition, a breech of ethical behavior, and while the refs for the final day did an awesome job, they really should have not come from the ranks of folks who initially came to play. They should have been brought in by the NAH, sanctioned by a reffing league, and knowledgeable in all areas of ruling the game. Again, more on this in another post.

 

I also learned that not packing your own food whilst in Weston, Florida is a bad, bad move.