Tag Archive for bike polo games

Skills Practice: Let’s Talk About BRUCE! Ball


Lead photo by Steve Bourque

Last night Horse, Kokus and I were waiting for the rest of our club’s players to come out for humidity +6 bike polo, and we found it hard to just sit in the sun like that and wait. Horse suggested we play BRUCE! ball so we did that for a while, and something struck me.

I’d played BRUCE! ball before, but I hadn’t played it after taking time off nor when I planned to really pay attention to what I was doing. I found it was both fun and a great way to sharpen up multiple skills all at once.

For those who are uninitiated, BRUCE! ball came to Lancaster via DC bike polo (and, point in fact, isn’t at all what DC calls Bruce Ball. It’s actually just called “Five Hole” or something down there. Whatever. We like calling this game BRUCE! ball anyway). I don’t know where they got it from (and feel free to tell your creation story below, DC), but the way we play it here in Lanc-Land is as follows:

  • There is at least one ball used during play. You can do more than one, and that adds a bit more excitement.
  • Players attempt to shoot the ball through the 5 hole (the space between the back wheel and the front wheel) of other players
  • Each time a ball passes through your own 5 hole, you earn 1 point
  • Once you reach 5 points, you are eliminated from play
  • The goal is to not get any points, or to at least get the least amount of points out of all players

I really like this game for a few reasons. To start with, it’s something to do when you don’t have numbers. It’s also a good way of just goofing around with other polo players. In a more practical sense, however, you’re learning how to defend your 5 hole against shots (which will make you a stronger goalie), you’re learning positional awareness, as you’re always trying to stay perpendicular to other players who want to shoot at your 5 hole, and you’re gaining accuracy/ball control.

On top of all of this, you’re also learning how to shift from offensive to defensive positioning and mindset quickly, which is a skill that pays HUGE dividends in the long run of your time in the sport.

BRUCE! ball also didn’t feel like something stupid to do while we were waiting to play a match. It felt like a completely different game entirely rather than a replacement, which was enjoyable. I felt like I was warmed up for playing polo, sure–hell, I even felt like my mind was more prepared for hand-eye coordination and skill–but I wasn’t upset that I was playing it instead of being in a match.

Anyway, I thought I’d pass this along for folks who hadn’t considered it before. I thought it was a pretty swell way to pass the time while building up some core skills all players need to have.

You can’t pay attention for ten minutes?

ten minutes

I’m shamelessly self involved, self absorbed and self worshipping.

And I’m aware of that.

I want to play serious polo at all hours of the day, with all of the rules, with refs, with whistles, with no countdown, etc.  In my club, and I imagine most clubs, I’m the minority. The guy everyone secretly or not so secretly hates because sometimes my seriousness sucks the fun right out of your veins.

I get that.  I’ve accepted that.

I get that not everyone wants to play serious, tourney polo at every pickup day.  That’s why we throw A games and get our serious ones in every so often, to purge the need.  But just how unserious should you take it when it’s not that competitive A game?  I think there’s got to be a limit (are you surprised?).

Here’s my angle: We’re all leaving our homes to meet up at this place where we can play this sport, to some degree or another. We’re cutting out of work early, leaving the wife and kids behind, and shuffling obligations to make it out.  We’re doing work, so that we can play. In my mind, those people doing that work deserve some quality play. That doesn’t mean reffed pickup games, and super-dooper seriousness,  but it does mean not being super surprised when your thrown in a game and taking 10 minutes to get ready and out on the court.  It does mean if you’re going to put your mallet in the pile, to actually play the game with some sort of effort.  It does mean not robbing the other 5 guys of their good time for the sake of your “good time.”

Now, I’m not saying don’t come to polo.  Saying something like that is a really good way to get your clubs numbers down in a hurry.  But I am saying to consider the 5 other people on the court with you.   They might actually want to play something resembling a game, and just rolling around uninvolved/disinterested is robbing them of that chance. There are beers on the bench for that reason, feel free, they’re there to share.  If you just want to get shitfaced and heckle, awesome.  If you just want to ride around carelessly then I promise you the parking lot won’t complain.

Why is this important?  Well, for the newbie players.  Yes, they suck right now. They’re not fast, their shots aren’t accurate, and they don’t really have any flow, but you throwing any shits-given to the wind and just watching the clock tick down isn’t helping them get any better, and chances are if they’re still showing up, they have some sort of aspiration to do more than be sub-par players. It’s also not going to get them coming back.  Why should they go through all the effort to get there if games resemble the 4th hour of a frat party?

So how do we change this?  Well, we can’t.  We can’t point at someone and say “you’re not serious enough, don’t play this game.” But we can hope that you’re at least cognizant of your reasons for coming, and if they aren’t the reasons the other people are there, and act accordingly.

I dunno. What have you guys done to deal with this problem?

Post by Horse