Tag Archive for bike polo practice

Getting Better Doesn’t Just Happen, Bub.

blame

There are times in my past where I felt as if a switch would be flipped. Like a lever would be pulled down in my brain and suddenly I’d be up-to-snuff with other bike polo players that I’d come to respect and admire. But the fact is that doesn’t happen.

Believe me, I’ve pulled on everything I could all over my body, and the only thing that changes is you’re not allowed to go into certain businesses anymore.

I think part of the problem was that I was hoping, incorrectly, that the problems I had with certain fundamental skills (shooting, passing, speed, court awareness) could be ignored until I played long enough that they would, inherently, be corrected.

But I’m here to lay some truth down on you, friend: the problems you have now as a player will be the problems you always have unless you work to correct them.

If you find that you aren’t very good at connecting with the ball–like your mallet scrunches up as if it were some delightfully hilarious flamingo when you’re whapping at the ball–then that’s something you need to address right now. Not down the line, not when it magically solves itself because somehow at seven months of play it disappears, right. now.

If you’re not too good at disrupting a play and then getting control of the ball, work on that with a friend immediately. If you can’t collect a pass or make a quick shot on goal; try to exercise those muscles at your next pickup day.

There isn’t a magical clock in your abilities that suddenly starts going off as soon as you play X amount of games or reach an undisclosed amount of years playing. Truth is, if you just keep playing the same way you’ve always played, you’ll…uh…always play that way.

You must take ownership of your own development if you indeed want to grow as a player (if you don’t want to grow as a player, then ignore this whole post. If you’re just in it for the funsies and nothing else, you’re all set, really. Just keep having fun. I’m not talking to you lucky devils). There isn’t anyone who is necessarily going to take you under their wing and teach you how to become the next great polo phenomenon unless you’re asking around and listening to their advice (even then, in all honesty, chances are you already know what they’re going to tell you, but aren’t willing to practice enough to make that knowledge anything more than knowledge).

There are limitations, of course–both physical and situational–that can limit you in your growth. Believe me, if there is one person who should be aware of limitations in growth, it’s me. BUT! That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about even the most basic skills going un-developed because players aren’t willing to work on those skills. I’m talking about always having trouble getting the ball off of the wall, wanting to get better, but ignoring the fact that getting better means putting in the work to do so.

So this is my tip for today. My plea, really: take ownership of your development, and accept the challenge of working at getting better at bike polo. Don’t rely on time or pickup games to somehow bless you with the skillset you need to get great. Become a student of the game and get your hands-on-education started up!

Bike Polo Boot Camp: Turning, Chasing, Ball Control

boots

When someone first starts the altogether goofy endeavor of playing bike polo, they nearly always look as foolish as can be. There’s so much to consider: the mallet, the bike, the wall that is APPROACHING OH MY GOD HOW DO I AVOID THAT WALL?! and so forth.

And it’s so easy for those of us who have been playing for a while to suppress those memories to the same dark, secret corner of our minds that hold the memory of Uncle William drunk while dressed up as a clown and that time we peed ourselves in front of the classroom in 5th grade. Same event, actually.

But it’s a horrible thing for us to forget, as you’ll hopefully get new players and you’d be able to help them learn faster than you did if only you’re willing to take some time to teach them.

It’s with this in mind that I present a few practice drills that our dear Horse has developed to help newer players learn the basics of the sport. Keep in mind: these are probably boring as hell to more seasoned players, but to newer or less skilled players, they are well worth the effort.

Point in fact, I learned while going through these little maneuvers that I could certainly stand to work on my turning and comfort in doing so quickly. So maybe even the more experienced players should give a try to some of these just to be sure that they aren’t themselves missing out on basic bike polo skills.

Turning

1. The Simple Circle/The Figure 8

figure 8The premise of this one is simple, as described in the name. Get two cones/bags/whatevers and put them about four bike lengths apart. Then just have your students (or yourself) ride around going one direction. Then go the other direction. Try to turn as closely to the bags as possible. start slow and then speed up until you don’t feel like you can comfortably go any faster (to start).

Next, keep the bags exactly where they are, but cross in-between them (making a figure 8).  Do the same thing as before: start slow and then speed up a bit. These two exercises are teaching you how to turn effectively, which is a skill you definitely need to have on lock down.

2. Three bag figure 8

Now spread out those two bags a bit more and add a third. Try threading through the three bags, now. staying as close to the three bags as you pass them. Essentially, the first bag you pass will be on your left, then the next one on your right, and the last on your left again. You’re weavin, baby!

This will teach you to be comfortable with your bike working alongside momentum and speed, as you should try to do this one as quickly as possible. Again, do this by trying to stay as close to the bags as possible.

3. You’ll feel drunk

Now get just one bag (hell, make it your own!) and try to circle around it going both directions, mallet in hand. Try keeping your back wheel as close to the bag as possible. While doing this, figure out a place to vomit.

 

A few notes here:

  1. Keep your pedals even (not one down and one up) when going through the three bag figure 8. By keeping your pedals even you are more ready to start pedaling once you clear the obstacle.
  2. When going around a turn (in the simple circle and figure 8), keep the pedal on the side your turning into up. it stabilizes your weight and reduces the chance of a pedal strike.
  3. If you feel like your front end is wobbling/bawking while doing this, try putting as much weight as you can on your saddle. By doing this, you’re taking weight off the front end of your bike, which reduces that twitch.

Chasing

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You ALWAYS Have Numbers For Polo

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Guest post by Alias Tagami of DC Bike Polo

Clubs have highs and lows for turn out on any given play day, and having big numbers means big club success, right?  Well, maybe.  Let’s try this another way, what defines failure?  To me, it is people wanting to play, and not getting to. So if you don’t have six players, is it worth your time to show up?  I believe yes, and here’s what I think you should do with your time.

 

 

You’ve got one player, yourself, go practice.

OneSure you might feel pathetic, but you blocked the time off, right?  This block of time was for polo, so use it for polo.  The temptation is to use your time for other things, but nothing says you must spend all of that polo time for polo.  Think of it as time gained and skills improved.  Moreover, it’s your own way of committing to your game and your club.
Okay, that was a hard sell…

 

You’ve got two players, it’s social, it’s knifefight time.
twoThere’s a long heritage of polo in non 3v3 form, and the skills you learn in these ancestral games are important.  You won’t be wasting your time. Setup two beer cans water bottles and have a little one-on-one polo samurai showdown to knock over your opponent’s can bottle.  I like this because it works on the small surgical ball-play that you might not get to work on in a full game.

 

You’ve got three players, no polo fun? False.  Play Bruceball or 5-Hole
3Bruceball might have other names with other clubs, but here in DC, it’s named for the living legend, and longtime bike courier, Bruce.  Put a bag or some Pomeranian sized object on the court in the center of any area that has some closed line around it.  The objective for the ball carrier is to hit the bag.  The game is 1v1v1, so the other two might work together to defend against you.  If there is a turnover, the ball must be taken outside of the enclosed lined area to reset it (much like playing half-court basketball and dribbling back to half-court before shooting after a turnover). Read more

When the Godfather Talks, You Listen: Practicing Plays

godfather

Kyle–the Godfather of Lancaster City Bike Polo and gravity-denier, recently made the following statement about how we (Lancaster United) are playing during our pickup games:

Kyle suggestion

My first response, of course, was to think: How DARE you tell me that my same old bullshit isn’t valid, jerkhead. But I got past that initial emotion to think about what he was telling me.

Because, Paisan, when the Godfather talks, you listen.

Or at least you don’t shut him or her down right away like you would some other bum in your club.

It’s easy to get into the habit of making pickup just happy-funtime. Mostly because that’s exactly what it is (and to a point, should be). However, you’re not doing yourself a service nor anyone else in the club by treading water and running the same comfortable play.

Instead, consider working on plays. Kyle mentioned in the comment section that spawned from the question above that it’s hard to do that when you don’t have teams to commit to, but I disagree: I think it’s possible to run plays within the entire club (much like I did in Lacrosse) so that no-matter who you’re playing with, you’ll all have some fundamental knowledge of a series of plays to attempt.

I’m not talking about running clinicals (not because I don’t see the value in doing that, but because if your whole club isn’t into it, they will hate you for suggesting it)–what I’m talking about is running plays every so often during pickup so you become comfortable with being part of an orchestrated effort. This makes the two other players on your team part of your team and not just two other guys who might also try to shoot the ball.

I’ve been saying it a lot, I know, but it bears repeating: practice playing during pickup like you play during a tourney. Otherwise, you’re not gaining anything but sweat in your eyes and some cold beers, probably.

 

What are you practicing in the off season?

Off season – what the hell is that?

Well, unless you’re a country bumpkin like most of us here in the middle of the Commonwealth, it means that the regular season of bike polo is past, and we now get back to our roots of cold, drunken, heckling-with-snot-coming-out-of-your-nose bike polo. It’s both a time to bond in the frigid 56 degree December that we’ve had the past few days and also a good time to work out some of the little things you haven’t had time to work on (or realized this past season you need to develop).

If you aren’t looking at the “off season” as a time to practice for the next season (and, of course, you also plan to play and do well in tournaments), you’re wasting time. It’s a great opportunity to just practice one or two things that you want to get down without thinking, or build a team for the next season, or build up that tolerance for grain alcohol that you’ve been meaning to.

My own list is as follows:

1. Learn the new bike: My 925 was much longer and much slower in turning. I want to get past the point where I throw myself from my bike on the new rig.

2. Wrong Side Shooting: Over the bars, past the BB – just anything on my non mallet side. I want to get at least a little better at controlling the ball when it isn’t on my dominant side.

3. Passing: I think 89% of bike polo needs to work on this. Call me crazy. Or cray cray if you like. I want to be able to pass without thinking and pass quickly.

4. One Timer Shots: When I first started playing I was advised by the polo elders to trap the ball then shoot. While this is good advice, it isn’t good advice to keep using. It’s good for about 6 months and then you should drop it. Quick shots is where it’s at and what I kinda suck at right now. I don’t want people on the bench during pickup to cheer like crazy when I make a goal off a one-timer. I want them to just take it for granted.

 

And I think those 4 are enough for the winter, don’t you?

Do You Practice Bike Polo?

This isn’t a post for the new players nor is it for the old heads. It’s a post for the slightly used bike polo player: do you practice? Like – at all?

I find myself at an interesting crossroads – I no longer feel the drive to practice bike polo as much as I had when I first started playing (read: practice was pushing the ball ahead of me without crashing into a road sign or a fence), but am acutely aware that there are skills I never picked up. I can hold my own when it comes to moving the ball and getting around folks (and shooting, and goal tending, and making fun of people when I’m not playing), but I am cognizant of my weaknesses.

I feel like there are very few players in Lancaster United who spend hours practicing their bike polo mojo on days that we aren’t playing. I know Karl does, and I know Yeager has in the past, but I don’t know of many others.

This isn’t such a good thing, I think. All sports, no matter how supercool/underground/hipster fueled, require practice and constant skill building. Learning during pick up is great (and yes, that is a form of practice if you want to get down to it), but pickup doesn’t allow you to drill on your weaknesses nor practice new techniques effectively.

So how can you implement a practice regimen?

Give yourself 30 minutes a day. Instead of surfing around on the worldwide interwebs or trying to teach your cat how to use the toilet (he already knows, he just hates you), give yourself a half hour to specifically work on your weaknesses. Are you great at shooting on goal? Super! Now do something you’re horrible at. Do it for 30 minutes straight so you can do it without thinking in a game. Do it so much that you start worrying whether you remember how to shoot anymore.

Get tips from the elders. Sometimes you don’t know what you are bad at – and that’s ok, chum. Find some players on your team who you look up to and ask them what they think you could strengthen. Chances are they’ll have a good idea of what you’re good and bad at, and can point you in the direction needed to strengthen your game. Even if you think you’re the cock of the walk, listening to what others see as your downfalls is a useful exercise.

Set a goal, and follow up on it. It’s hard enough to dedicate yourself to the ambiguity of “practice”,  so do yourself a favor and set some goals. Make them realistic, too. Something like “be better than Horse” isn’t really an achievable goal, as there are a lot of factors that would go into that effort. Instead, set goals like “block 4 out of 5 shots while in goal” or “move the ball through my frame while going up court more effectively.”

Setting goals also gives you the chance to achieve something in your practice, and—God forbid—recognize that you’re getting better.

So do you mid-range players keep practice on the agenda, and how?