Tag Archive for bike polo future

There were about 30 less tourneys in 2014 than 2013

2014-07-12 09.50.00

…and I’m not really worried about it

Counting a discussion last week with Horse, there have been about four people who approached me (either via email, message, or in person) this year who were concerned about the amount of tourneys being hosted this year compared to years past. They all thought, more or less, that it was a sign of either the dwindling of the sport or the dwindling importance of tourneys.

Well, I just don’t buy it, honestly.

To Horse’s credit, he cited that part of the reason for the reduction in tourneys was the proliferation of regions and the need to have qualifiers in those regions (a problem that I think will probably be worked out sooner than later). Because of this, local tournaments were put off because everyone was too busy trying to prep and/or run their own NAH sanctioned event.

I think consideration that must be paid is that the tourneys are getting bigger, the quality of the tourneys is getting better, and the expectation of going to certain tourneys over other tourneys is becoming more and more of a reality. If anything, I think it shows a growth in bike polo (or at least in the quality of bike polo): not every city can have its own top-notch tourney–which is fine, but it also means that more and more folks are waiting for those really solid tourneys to latch on to, and the smaller ones never really come around to being actualized.

Plus, if you really want to get down to the scientific method: just because a tourney isn’t on the LoBP (ALL HAIL!) it doesn’t mean that tourney didn’t happen. It might just be that there are smaller tourneys that aren’t using the site. I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but it very well may be.

Try to think back, if you can, to just a few years ago: what tourneys were like. No boards, sometimes just open sides with bags to stop the ball from going out of play. Cones for goals and tourneys that would occasionally not even really be completed. Those tourneys are what made up a fair amount of those many-more tourneys we see if we look at tourneys per year. Now, however, we’re seeing more organized and more tourney-like tournaments, and just because there are fewer doesn’t mean we’re losing anything.

So there, naysayers. So there.

From the President of the NAH: 4 Questions Answered.

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I’m fortunate in that Ben Schultz doesn’t hate me. Besides being a stand-up guy all around, he’s also the president of the NAH and as such it’s beneficial to me to have his ear and his willingness to answer questions when I’ve got them. It’s exactly this that brings us to the article your excited little eyes are now reading.

After Worlds and concurrent with my “The NAH Killed Bike Polo” article, Ben and I were in discussion about where the sport is and where it’s going. He was kind enough to answer some of the questions I had concerning the mistakes and lessons he and the NAH have gained over the past year (and, indeed, past years):

Why is experimentation and failure important to the future of the sport?

Ben: So many old chestnuts come flooding in……Both are essential to learning about what you’re doing, and progressing from there. Experimentation should be fun but failure is a part of that process, which means frustration can also be a part of that process. So I try to keep in mind that one, every failure is a step closer to getting it right, and two, what are the stakes? This is polo we’re talking about, so my patience for the process is pretty high at this point.

How do you & the rest of the NAH consider rules and what to change?

Ben:Those surveys helped a lot, hahaha. Observation and vision. And it’s important to understand – this isn’t a process limited to NAH staff, never has been. We all play and we all watch the game being played. Similar situations unravel on the court, but we all interpret them differently. So even though the NAH staff has to do the actual work, we always consult other players, on the phone, in email, on LOBP, on social media, or on the spot. We pool these experiences and varying ideas of what the game should be and then we do the best we can.

What is the power split, in your mind, between what the NAH decides and what regions themselves decide, how do you think that’s going to change in the future?

Read more

Why You Don’t Get The Blue Shell.

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A little while ago I came across a really solid, my-generation analogy of how and why reverse racism (that is, the “majority” saying they are persecuted as much as the “minority”) doesn’t work out. Despite how much this statement drips with privilege and assumption, it is singularly one of the silliest things anyone can say when they know they’re pinned and can’t quite work out how to respond. More specifically, how the argument of “they get their own special things and I don’t” doesn’t make sense: and it all came down to Mario Kart:

blue shell

And despite the poster only having 24% battery life, I’m glad they shared.

Now, relating this to bike polo:

mario2There is a lot of talk about making the game as competitive as possible–and as enjoyable to watch as possible. But rarely is there a discussion about what competitive and enjoyable means. There’s so little effort in making the game welcoming to newcomers that we may just make a super competitive game that is enjoyable to watch up until the point where this generation stops playing and we realize that there is nobody to fill the void we’ve left (I’m using the editorial “we”, as I’ll be easier than hell to replace).

I’ve talked about it before on the blog: the importance of creating competition for more than just the best players (my suggestions included making a separate league for newer or less skillful players, creating B or C specific tourneys, and actually trying to recruit and train new folks rather than hope they stumble across your pickup day), but it seems that my blog doesn’t move and shake the very core of bike polo as much as one would think. In the past the NAH has created rules to favor the uppermost level of play because, simply, those were the people who were playing and making the sport more visible.

mariokart3But there is another, more sustainable way to get the sport into the eyes and wallets of sponsors and sports shows: sheer numbers. The work of 6 amazing teams can be drowned out by the effort and fun of a nationwide or worldwide sport. Recruiting as many players as possible changes the demographic of who plays, and that increases the likelihood that our sport will become more visible and more accepted. When creating rules we should think about what benefits the newest players–not the best players (they will do well no matter what, despite all their grumbling). The sport will survive only if we create an environment where it can do so, and right now we’re too focused on how to make the same people who always win happiest, rather than helping people who’s impact is less visible but much more powerful.

It’s time, I think, for the very best players to recognize that they are outliers in the sport. They are the ones who are impacted the least by new rules or by the success of the sport. In essence, the best players are the least important–and they aren’t the ones who need to be helped. Let’s give the blue shell to the folks who need it–and to the folks who will help keep polo going after we’re all too wrecked to care.

 

3 Ways You Can Shape Bike Polo’s Future.

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If you have big hopes of changing the way that American Football is played, you might as well go after changing the course of planets. It’s a remarkably cemented sport full of people who are more important than you making big-time decisions (read: trying not to change much of anything) for their own profit and gain.

Same goes for most sports, probably.

But hardcourt bike polo is so young, so flexible and willing to listen that you (yes, you!) have a chance to make a big impact even now. There are a few reasons for this, but if I had to cut it down to a little list, I’d say the impact of the individual is stronger in bike polo because:

  • The administration (NAH) is tiny
  • There isn’t any money in bike polo
  • Most people know each other

These three actualities give your average, involved bike polo player the opportunity to speak her mind and have those words travel all the way up and down the polo community.

But it’s not just a simple matter of making a forum post on LoBP (ALL HAIL!) or by making suggestions on your club’s Facebook page–though both of those are a good start. It take a bit more involvement and patience, I think, to shape the future of the sport we all want to succeed (but seemingly don’t believe will).

1. Volunteer to take a role with the NAH: The NAH is currently four people. Four! We have Nick Kruse writing rules, Joe Rstom helping write those rules and creating training for refs, John Hayes helping with tourneys and Ben Schultz working alongside those three while also trying to push the sport forward with sponsorships/structure/every other damn thing. There are club reps and regional reps, sure, but they aren’t necessarily “THE” NAH. They are ambassadors between the NAH and the clubs/regions.

Because of this, they (the NAH) are desperate for more help. I bet you dollars to cronuts that if you were to contact anyone in the NAH , they would be excited to have you help out. It doesn’t take much to get your foot in the door. Volunteer to help with rules or to start up community outreach or ANYTHING. I’m sure they have a whole bunch of things that simply haven’t taken off due to personnel constraints.

2. Don’t rage quit: If helping out the NAH isn’t your idea of a good time (or you aren’t willing to join that group in order to fix the problems you see them creating), then don’t get in their way, either.

I’ve seen some posts here and there from people expressing “fuck the NAH”–which is fine, of course. Saying that is how I start every morning.  But that kind of sentiment really isn’t helping anything. Honestly, if you were able to get just 10 of your friends to join the NAH at an organizational level, you could easily take it over from the inside.

But if, instead, you decide that the whole mess is just too much stress to deal with, the logical option would be for you to step out of the argument. Participate constructively or don’t participate at all, but turning over tables and saying that anyone is trying to destroy the game is as foolish as it is goofy.

3. Make a stronger club/local scene: Charity starts at home, and in all honesty the majority of us play pickup more than anything else. This might come as a surprise, but you can do whatever you want in your own polo club.

This also means that you can make your club a model for bike polo as a whole. If you think that the way your club handles rules, local tourneys, and the game in general better than others, try to help your other local clubs work the same way you do. I don’t mean this in the “you should do it this way because we are better” sort of way, but more in the helpful, fostering sort of way.

Think of it as a big brother or big sister program for clubs that are just starting out. Not only does this help grow the sport, but it also makes local tourneys more fun and bigger, creates a better relationship in-region, and gives you some of that good ol’ “one voice” power that comes from a unified group of people. This helps you (and your club (and your region))) do more than just suggest a good idea that is lost in the sea of other ideas.

 

The truth is, we’re a very young sport with some very dedicated people playing it. We’re also experimenting and messing up here and there. If you want to see the sport go one way or the other (or the tournament series, or the style of play we embrace, etc), it’s still possible for you to make an impact by voicing your ideas. This isn’t true with many sports, and I’d hate for intelligent folks to squander that sort of opportunity.

Growing Pains: Bike Polo and American Football’s 400 Year History

football old

Huge hat tip to Gene Fruit for pointing out this podcast to me recently. 

It seems, at times, that bike polo is doomed to get lost in a mix of arguing over rules, equipment requirements, and a general “we do what we want” attitude holding back any real formation of a standardized way to play (as evidenced in the bench format/3 man/no set positions arguments we see every single year). But we are not alone in the chaotic birth of a new sport.

Point in fact, we need only look to the glory and absolute majesty that is/was the Superbowl to see another sport which, in it’s beginnings, was wrought with confusion, double standards, and a complete mix-up when it came to it’s future.

Native American FootballAmerican football started before America was America. According to a recent podcast by On Point, Native Americans were playing a form of football that English settlers quickly identified to have similarities to their own more bloody, less sportsmanlike “mob ball.” As Susan Reyburn (Author of Football Nation: 400 Years of America’s Gameexplains, the Native American game was quickly absorbed by settlers. (Their lands and own gainful existence was also taken by the settlers, but that’s a different topic altogether).

What is interesting in this podcast and in the history of early football is it’s eerie similarity to the problems we’re currently facing in bike polo today. Consider the following: Read more

What Are You Afraid Of?

afraid

As a member of the polo press (The Association of Bike Polo Journalists), I probably spend more time thinking about the future of bike polo than most people should. I think about not only where I’ll be in regards to the sport in ten years’ time (in a wheelchair, writing cryptic missives from the bench), but where we’ll all be in even 5 years.

It makes me creep out, sometimes, as there are days where the current discussion around the game spins its way into something close to collapse. In particular, there are a few things that I’m afraid of whenever they come up or someone gets particularly riled up:

balanceWhen folks think there is not a balance between no-rules and NAH rules. This one is more boggling than anything, and strikes me as the same nonsense that comes out of super-liberal or super-conservative arguments. There really isn’t any reason to believe that one side is going to kill the other, nor that one will triumph in the future. There aren’t very many absolutes in the world, and I don’t think there are any in bike polo.

But the conversation remains heated: people who follow the rules are mocked when in the minority, and likewise people who don’t know the rules are shunned when they find themselves in a sea of pro-rules folks. Outside of the enjoyment in watching these groups attack each other with confusing and non-applicable rants (“You’re doing it WRONG!” or “You’re RUINING what bike polo IS!”), they fail to see that this kind of self-challenging is a healthy way to balance the way the game develops as we see more involvement and standardization in play.

What scares me is, simply, that people will become so very blinded by their belief there is no chance for balance that they actively work against it, resulting in a longer-than-necessary growing pain period.  Read more

You Can’t Define Bike Polo Yet

dictionary

With the posting of my article what will kill bike polo came a slew of people reaching out to me, telling me I was way off base. After I stopped giggling at how they took my writing seriously, I realized that one of the major complaints (besides the bench format thing), was how I assumed that bike polo needed to become something more.

They were upset, more or less, at how I was defining bike polo, and how that definition disagreed with their own understanding of the sport. I thought this was an interesting thing to get upset about, as I was under the impression in my own mind that you really couldn’t define what bike polo was–as far as legitimacy or sport or whatever.

Not to put too fine a point on it: saying what bike polo is, or will be, is the same as telling people your newborn baby is going to be a brain surgeon. Sure, it’s nice thinking, but the kid still hasn’t figured out anything more than how to poop and cry, so maybe give the little fella some time to work itself out, right?

That’s the second time that babies have come up in writing today. Maybe I’m nesting.

Bike polo is the same thing as that little poop-factory. It’s so young and underdeveloped–how can any of us really say what it is or what it’s going to be? It’s a nonsensical argument. I get it, some folks want it to stay punk. They want it to stay DIY and tiny. That’s fine.

Other folks want it to go to ESPN levels of recognition, with full sponsorships, TV coverage and sportswriterswhomakealivingwritingaboutpoloohgawdyes. And that’s fine, too.

But let’s be honest in both camps: none of us have a slightest idea of what bike polo is going to be ten days from now, much less ten years. It simply is what it is, and there are forces at work who are guessing, at best, how they can affect it.

So before we start going after each other over semantics, let’s recognize that all we’ve got at this point is a bunch of people who are really passionate about the game & who don’t want to see it disappear. Let’s meet up again in five or so years to see how the dictionary entry is coming together.

Except for you, GOALHOLE. You keep rocking that polo dictionary.

What will Kill Bike Polo

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Our sport isn’t as established as disc golf—not even close to it, really, though both Bike Polo and Disc Golf are fringe sports. Same story with Roller Derby: fringe sport that has a small community of support—a ferocious, tenacious community of support. Somehow, however, bike polo has a hard time gaining even a modest foothold with sponsors, securing polo-specific play areas, and gaining general recognition with the public.

Yes, there are moments where bike polo flares up into the public conscious: a news report from a local station here, an NPR piece about North Americans there—but we’re on about the same level as a cat costume parade (less, actually, as more than 1 national media outlet will cover a goddamn cat fashion show, but not a bike polo tourney.

When I sit in my polo war room and think about the future of our sport, I’m not all sunshine and rainbows. For one thing, the polo war room has horrible lighting, and that makes me broody. But more than that, I can see how our current polo culture is one of cutting our own throats, and it frightens the hell out of me. There are just some things that we’re doing as a group that are, more or less, going to become a self-inflicted wound which will lead to our sport’s early demise.

nah_certlogoConsider, for instance, how little support the NAH gets from the bike polo community as a whole. We don’t exactly roll out the red carpet for the people who are trying to legitimize the sport through agreed upon rules, sanctioned tourneys and sponsorships. Part of the problem (if not the biggest part of the problem) is that nobody pays dues to the NAH. I’ve talked about this in the past, but I bring it up because I still feel like it could solve a huge problem of legitimacy: if the NAH is going to create world-class tournaments that draw in sponsorships and respect, they need to have a base of funds to work off of from the very people they hope to help. It’s mind blowing to me that anyone in our sport expects there to be a strong organizing body that operates without any continual funding from the players.

Also, the very format of 3v3 is a dividing and limiting maneuver. Right now, as it stands, we have city clubs that have individual teams within them. These teams are autonomous from the clubs, meaning that they can take or leave the success of the club if they so choose to be so cavalier about it. The net result is a club that doesn’t need to care how much the other club-mates are learning or growing. Read more

How Much is Bike Polo Worth?

We started polo with gas pipe, ski poles and whatever bike we didn’t care about – I think that’s a pretty standard level of initiation for most everyone who plays polo.  Now, however, we’re willing (as a community, not strictly on an individual basis) to buy 25 dollar heads, fifteen dollar shaft, polo specific gloves and bombproof equipment on our polo-ready bikes.

As a sport community we are spending more and more money on getting the right equipment for our game, and that’s a great thing for both the people who have the know-how to make our equipment and for new players who won’t struggle to get the stuff we only dreamed of a few years ago.

So here’s the setup: We are spending hundreds of dollars a year (potentially) on equipment purchases, registration fees, travelling to tourneys, and a few bucks for cases of PBR. We’re buying new bikes that fine people are making for bike polo, and that can up the number per year to a thousand.

So why aren’t we paying any dues directly to our organizing body? Read more