This was a late loser bracket game, coming in after the brief rain shower. Solid play from two teams who are, I figure, by this point pretty tired.
This was a late loser bracket game, coming in after the brief rain shower. Solid play from two teams who are, I figure, by this point pretty tired.
So, I’m at a tourney, right?
But it’s not just a regular, run-of-the-mill tourney, as every single bike polo player I’ve ever met/heard of/seen is there, and little old me. I’m on a team with Jessi from Lexington and Dodi from Hungary. We’re up in one game, and we’re waiting courtside.
The court is under a huge tent-like covering, and has a dark tunnel to go to the gates. We’re under there chatting about strategy (Jessi wanted to form a wedge formation and let Dodi take shots on goal, where as Dodi wanted to do what he called “the Hurro-hurro-cane” which involved spinning in opposite directions until the other team was out of place, and then scoring), but once the game that was on was over (between Biddle/Lomax/Valentine and Schultz/Kruse/Birdie), the ref and judges left, too. So we’re just staring at this empty court.
The Beaver boys roll up, as they are on after us, and Kremin says he can be ref for us, with Joey and Dillman as goal judges. The only hitch, says Kremin, is that he can only call every other infraction, and that Dillman has been drinking so much that he’s pretty much blind.
I decide to find the organizer and get other people to ref.
So I ride my bike to the organizers tent, which is an actual Coleman tent with the flap closed. I hear a lot of naughty noises from in there, so I’m kinda scared to “knock” but I clear my throat and out pops the head of Danny from Florida, who tells me that “whoops, you better get back there, they just lined up.”
I’m panicked, because sometime between pedaling to the sexual healing Coleman tent and being told this, I’ve changed into a button up shirt and slacks, and lunch has been put out for players (bbq chicken, orange jello, some sort of mush that you’d see in that version of Peter Pan where Robin Williams just keeps shouting BANGARANGGG), so while I’m worried about missing my match, I’m also not a dummy.
I eat a drumstick and a slice of orange jello, apparently made by Kristalynn Helms (who makes great food for polo players) and run inside (inexplicably my childhood house has appeared) to change into my polo gear. But now I can’t find my mallet. And then I can’t find my bike. And then I find my bike, but my mallet is missing again. So I realize that they’re going to start without me, and just walk back to the court where, I learn, my team has replaced me with someone else, and they are up 3-0.
Not wanting to interrupt a good thing, I sit on the sideline and watch my team as they compete. I overhear Lumberjack arguing with Kruse about what “makes for the very bestest polo player” and I get involved.
I don’t remember what point I was trying to make, but at one point I pointed at Kruse and made a series of excited monkey noises, to which Lumberjack put his hands in the air and said “okay, you have a point there.”
After my point was made (whatever it was) someone tapped me on the shoulder to see Elena Mironova introducing herself to me with a hug.
At this point I freaked out and woke up.
It’s easy to lose your cool when playing bike polo. You’ve got five other people on the court, all of them expecting or hoping you to do something. When you get the ball (especially when you’re new), the first impulse is to immediately do something to it–shoot, knock it away, etc.
I’m here to give you the calm, easy-going, Bob Ross reminder that you have plenty of time, my little polokin, to take in the world around you once you get that ball.
Instead of immediately clearing the ball via a swiping motion forward or backward, why not take a little peek around and see where your team-mates and opponents are. See where the goal is and if you have a good line to it (for moving or shooting). It won’t take but a moment, and chances are that you have about a moment before someone is bearing down on you.
Let’s not be silly, though: there are times when the ball comes into your possession and you’re instantly challenged by an opponent: in this case, naturally you’re not going to be as situationally aware of the other players around you–but you can still keep and ear open for communication by your team-mates and the communication opponents are laying out as well.
I get the impulse: all of us have it: you want to do something with that ball–anything, and you want to do it quickly. But resist that urge as well as you resist the urge to eat with your hands or rub pizza all over your body as soon as it is delivered.
Is that just me? Oh…
But you’re not doing any favors by clearing the ball out of play or, if you habitually do this, into the mallet of an opposing player (who by now knows how to read you like a book about people who rub pizza all over their bodies).
So, instead, as soon as you gain control of the ball, pop your head up and look around–even if all you see is that you don’t have any open options, you’ll at least know it instead of playing blind.
Kyle, Godfather of polo in Lancaster and all around lexicon of confusing verbal cues, is fond of saying (after a long shot is taken on goal), “come on! You ain’t that desperate!”
And while I am loathe to disagree with Papa Karl, I gotta say in my defense, I’m always that desperate.
And you should be, too.
The thing about working on your longer shots is that, quite simply, you should only really be using them when you’re in a tight spot. Sure, it’s fun as hell to nail a goal from your own goal line, but unless you’re playing on RVA size courts, you’re also opening yourself up to a lot of mistakes (missing, of course, but also ball turnover, losing momentum, etc.). But the thing about tight spots is, naturally, that you don’t know when or how they’re going to occur. By being prepared for that eventuality, you’ll be more likely to work your way into a better position.
I’ll give you an example:
Ted, Troy and I (TEAM SCRIMMAGE AWWW YISSS) were playing a match together, and we found ourselves in overtime. I got control of the ball maybe 10 feet in front of our goal and lined up/took a long shot.
Glory be: it made it into the goal and the match was over. Now, could I have done my slow little dance up to the opposing goal and taken a higher % shot a few feet away? Yeah, assuming that I have any more likelihood closer than further away, I could have. But I would need to work my way through three rotating defenders, and that may have cut my likelihood of scoring way down.
I have been, for the past few months, taking pot-shots at goal from the opposite side of the court. I’ve gotten alright (for me!) at getting closer and closer to the goal. It’s another thing to add to my toolbox for bike polo, and something I feel every player should be competent with.
Will it always work? No–God no, it won’t. Will you mess up so much sometimes that your other team-mates will get grumpy? I mean, probably?
But if you can get that long shot down to something close to good, you’ll find yourself with plenty of opportunities where it’s a useful way to get that important goal.
However, don’t think that you need to windmill your arm around to get that big shot off. Try to move your arm as little as possible when taking that shot (while still keeping power). Point being, as you arc your arm up over your head like a barbarian bringing their axe down on some poor Roman, the ball is still moving. You’re increasing the likelihood of that ball getting out of position, hitting a rock, etc. You’re also damning yourself if you miss, as your follow through will render your mallet altogether useless.
So, instead of swinging wildly at the ball, try a controlled, powerful swing. I’ve managed to get myself to a point (after two flipping years of being aware) where my swing doesn’t get past my shoulder, and sometimes even stays below my saddle. I put all that power into my shoulder and elbow, which seems to give me enough to zing the ball down court. By doing so, I’m limiting the chance for an opponent to steal the ball, interrupt my mallet-movement, or even just get in my way.
In summary: learn that long shot, but forget that big swing.
I think the ref forgot how to ref:
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:
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
This is a contributed article by Christian Losciale, who I spoke to at Worlds about this topic (a bit) and others:
Our sport is young. In fact, it’s too young to care only about winning.
Don’t get me wrong. I want to win. I do. Badly. Hell, I might give a testicle if it meant I’d be a WHBP Champ. But at this point in the sport’s fledgling state, it’s not the only thing I think about.
I imagine our sport being watched by crowds of non-players. Beyond that, I don’t dream too much. Still, perhaps it’s too romantic of me to think like this. When I do, a particular style of bike polo excites me, a style I’ve heard a few people describe as Tic-Tac. It incorporates a hard forecheck, an aggressive offense and a load of passing. Players that perform this style well misdirect opponents. Tic-Tac players make aggressive moves when opponents assume conservative moves, and Tic-Tackers make conservative moves when opponents anticipate aggressive ones.
But that’s not the only style out there. Here are a few others:
The three-cog machine
Each player offers a different skillset. Usually, you get a quarterback who rotates deep in the defensive zone to protect the net. At the same time, the QB coaches his other two teammates. Meanwhile, an enforcer moves lightning fast to make room for the attacker. The enforcer is capable of scoring too, often with a hard shot rather than finessing in front of the net. An attacker poses an offensive threat. (S)he could be another hard ripper, or more of a move maker who creates one-on-ones at the net.
The Turtle, a.k.a. Triple Goalie Read more
With the roll-out of the new “Voting” website, there have been a QUAGMIRE of mistakes and errors (1), leading to perhaps the greatest failure in NAH history.
Today, just after hailing the great success of their newest voting web portal, the NAH released the following statement:
Hundreds of bike polo players are now disenfranchised as the website is now “practically inaccessible” according to the writer of this article.
This only illustrates the continued problems that the NAH has experienced with the bloated, under-developed efforts to further the political aims of Chairman Kruse.
With 2014 nearly upon us, this most recent flub throws into doubt whether bike polo will exist in the new year, much less if we’ll be able to argue over rules we only barely understand.
More as this story develops.
Last night brought about the first under 30 degree night of playing polo. Thankfully, there was very little wind, so it wasn’t at all bad to be out pedaling around in. We had probably the perfect number of players show up (8 early on, with 7 remaining the whole night + an occasional 8th (Couscous’ son)) and we had some very solid, very close games all night long. So! What did I learn?
1. Young players will be the end of us all: We already have one slaying 13 year old on the team, and as it turns out, Couscous’ son has all the trimmings to also be a slayer. I don’t like it. They’re so young–they have so much time to learn the sport. It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair at all.
But it also makes me very hopeful. If the starting age of polo players (who can handle the bulk and aggression of adults) is 13, then I can see a longevity of our sport. I can see it being something that is, at some point, part of a high school gym class.
2. Gentlemen Jack is disgusting: Don’t buy it. Really. It’s not worth the money or the amount of disappointment you’ll feel at having a swig. It does work at keeping your joints warm, though, so I am thankful for that.
3. Talking all the time, even if you have nothing to say, is a value on the court: I jabber a lot on the court. It’s just what I do to release my own tension and let my team know what’s going on. Last night my jibber jabber turned out to be more helpful than most times in showing off where I was and promoting my other two players to communicate back. It’s helpful if you keep in mind that you’re just playing a game (so don’t act so very serious when your on the court), and you’ll find yourself getting jabbery, too.
4. Cutting lines is as important as making lanes: I don’t know where I picked it up, but I find myself, when in goal, telling people to “cut his line.” What I mean is, cut the direct path a player or the ball has to the goal. If my other two players can consistently “cut the line” of another player, it makes those frustrating goals through my 5 hole less frequent.
In much the same way, making lanes for your ball carrier is the best way to stop people from cutting your own line and makes shooting on the goal so much easier. So instead of just rolling up-court and hoping for a pass to shoot on, think about how you can help the gal who has the ball on your own team.
5. Go fast when players slow down, and slow down when they are going fast: The easiest way I get out of a situation is to do the opposite of what the other players are doing. When I get a break away, I inevitably have someone who is catching up to me (slowski). So what I do is apply the breaks super-heavy when they get just out of reach. They zip past me and then I have a clear wing and, generally, a clear shot on goal.
P.S.: it took until about 3AM for my flanks to get warm again. I thank you, bodyfat, for the insulation.