Tag Archive for bike polo future

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?


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


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


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