Tag Archive for bike polo strategy

A Quick Tip: On Defense, Be The Weight On A Metronome

Metrinome

Consider the metronome.

This little clever device uses two weights, one on the bottom of a long, thin rod and one (which can be slid up and down that rod) which helps dictate how quickly the rod moves from left to right. No matter where the smaller adjustable weight goes, it’s always attached to the larger weight at the base by the rod it’s affixed to.

Now then, what does that have to do with bike polo?

Nothing. It’s for keeping time when playing music, you dummy. What a dumb question.

But if I had to stretch to come up with a link (since you’re forcing me to), I’d say that the humble metronome can be used as a good reminder of how you should play when on defense. Or at least a way you can play while on defense.

I'm SURE this clears everything up, right?

I’m SURE this clears everything up, right?

At the Thaw this year, Alexis told me several times early-on to “come back to center,” after I left the zone of the goal to disrupt a play. After the first few games I realized that I was basically creating an arc of defense around the goal, but that I should always swing back to center after I did my part to either move the ball out of play or, more advantageously, reverse the play entirely.

I’d swing out, interact with the play, and then when the immediate danger was past, come back to just in front of the goal (allowing me be more prepared for the play moving to one side or the other.

Back and forth, and back and forth. Like a freaking metronome.

And I saw the logic behind it: having a reliable, consistent point of resetting on defense allowed my other two team-mates to know approximately where I’d be, but also allowed me to not get stuck too far away from the focus of most offensive plays (this being the goal, of course). I tried not to linger too far to the right or left, and certainly didn’t engage too far away from my own goal when we didn’t have the momentum to support it.

Great offenses begins with gaining possession of the ball in your own half and charging past all those poor folks who are facing the wrong way, I believe, and acting more like a metronome allowed me to be prepared to make this happen.

So give it a try (instead of chasing the ball into the corner or shadowing your own player as he tries to dig something out from another player). So far I’ve been incorporating it into my own play and found it to be a very useful technique.

Lefty Brilliance: Learning to Work With Wrongsiders

lefty

The Wrongsiders

Wrong-handed, sinister, southpaw. The lefty players of the world (your humble editor included) are subjected to a slew of pejorative terms from the larger right-handed masses. And while we struggle to use scissors or to avoid ink marks on our pinkies, we have our secret benefits as well.

For instance, did you know left-handers typically die earlier than right handers do?

Wait.

Okay. Wait.

A recent thread on LoBP (ALL HAIL) asked what the future of left handers was in bike polo. The last time I looked, the general consensus was that there should be a lefty army tournament, which would be really fun.

But the sentiment is clear: left handers are a misunderstood bunch, with their plays often accompanied by a growled “lefty bullshit” from a goalie or shouted by some right handed plebeian on the sidelines.

Furthermore there are players out there who simply don’t know how to play with a left handed player (or are rusty when the opportunity comes up). Fear not! I will give you a few helpful hints. Read more

How to Beat the Beaver’s Strategy

beaver

In a post which appeared previously on everyone’s favorite hate site, a well thought out treatise was provided which explored just how the Beaver’s manage to win games (and, as the author posits, win them so very boringly). While I’m not taking issue with Ben’s points–I think they are pretty damned accurate, in fact–I do take issue with the idea that this is the end all, be all strategy to win.

Let me rephrase that statement: I refuse to think that the problem is the immaculate strength of the play. I think the problem is how people are falling into the trap of it without thinking.

Bike polo, as with any other sport anywhere that has ever existed, gets into ruts when it comes to how people play and what they think is effective. Folks will run the same sort of play in football as they have for decades because hey, it’s effective. But what if I told you it’s effective because the other team became used to that play and it’s effectiveness, disregarding the possibility of coming up with a more clever counter play?

The point is, it’s rather easy to think that the Beavs have it all worked out (in fact, they kinda have), but it’s silly to think that this one play is going to be the very thing that destroys the enjoyment of bike polo. Let’s take a look at the play as laid out by Ben:

Beaver Strategy

Ben’s Picture, not mine

Okay, so for one thing, those are enormous goals.

Anyway: there are some suppositions in this strategy chart I’d like to suggest. First: the goalie can’t move. I get it, that player really shouldn’t move, perhaps, given that Joey is bearing down on him at Mach Win, but as Rob Biddle has aptly showed me on multiple occasions, it’s very possible for the goalie to roll out and challenge an incoming player effectively. Second is the idea that [RED 2] is forced to go after the ball carrier.

The only thing you have to do in bike polo when it comes to strategy is figure out who you’re going to blame when it doesn’t work.

[RED 2] has a few options, I think. They could cut off [BLUE 2]’s progression, or place himself on the opposite side of [BLUE 1] to create a pinch between [RED 3], [BLUE 3] and [BLUE 1].

Hell, realistically this is all dependent on how the other team sets up. If they know they are playing the Beavers (and, really, c’mon), they could simply choose to all pursue the ball carrier directly, or cut off blocks to ruin the play. The benefit of this, assuming that you’re able to strip the ball, is that you now have a wide open shot on goal as all 3 of the opposing team are out of position to defend.

While I certainly respect the idea of this play (and the fact that it’s very successful right at this moment), as soon as something is discovered, it is often countered. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see podium teams drill themselves to beat this play (and in that process develop some new super-play that we all can get bored by).

 

 

A Little Strategy: The Hand Drill

Hand drills

Let me let you in on a little secret about bike polo: there are only three people out there who want you to miss your goals–out of six people! Assuming that your own team mates (or yourself) aren’t hoping that you’ll massively flub the next shot, you’ve really only got to worry about those other 3 players and what they plan to do.

In my limited amount of time in this sport, I’ve found that the best way to get rid of those 3 is to cut them out of the play. One possible way is a little maneuver I call the hand drill.

The basics are simple: keep your polokins spread out in such a way that the opposing team finds itself either a. stretching itself out to cover or b. turtling into the goal, giving your team free range of the court.

I don’t have my Tagami-grams on me, but to illustrate:

 

2013-11-12 07.58.44-1

Basic Hand drill positions: assume one X has the ball

This is one potential way that the positioning could happen, if the other players are indeed playing man-on-man defense.  You’ll see that there are multiple opportunities to shoot the ball, and the path of ball/player movement can be readily shifted:

2013-11-12 08.00.21

Ball movement

Player movement

Player movement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But let’s say that the other team does indeed turtle up. Well, then what you

2013-11-12 07.59.06

have, dear friends, is a shooting gallery. You just use as much court as you want, attempt to trip up the goalies, and make sure to keep someone who either has good legs or is far enough back to stop any potential turn-overs.

There is often a problem with players bunching up on the ball or ball carrier, and by keeping this little strategy in mind, you can, potentially, have a situation where all of the other team’s players are too close to one of your own, allowing the other two (if spread out as such) to get the ball and make an easy goal.

 

THINK Before You Act: How to Stop Reactionary Polo

thinker

I want you to think about a dog–go ahead and make her cute and with big dumb ears that you want to flop around.

Yeah, that’s good.

Now think about throwing a ball for that dog–see how that pup just runs after that ball? Now throw the ball again. Now act like you’re throwing the ball, and watch that dumb, floppy eared dog run like you actually threw the ball omg what a dumb cute dog hugs hugs hugs. 

And now you have pretty much 78.6% (scientifically) of bike polo players. Minus the big floppy ears, probably. It’s both part of what makes bike polo fun and part of what makes players not get any better: we’re always reacting to what is happening on the court instead of thinking about what we want to have happen.

Here’s a more appropriate example: you’re in goal and someone shoots, so you push the ball away from you/the goal. But now you’ve just pushed it to the mallet of another attacker, who shoots on you again. With just a single moment of awareness, you could have seen which way was the best way to redirect the ball, and made that decision. Instead, you just reacted, which led to another situation where the possibility of a goal against your team presented itself.

Instead of just reacting to the game, try to think a few steps ahead. Don’t just think “I need to get to that ball” on the joust. Instead think “I need to get that ball, and when I do I am going to pass to the guy behind me/shoot it at the wall to redirect/shoot on goal. AND if I miss it I’m going to circle around/cut off a pass opportunity/cry.”

It’s obvious when players are able to think this way about polo, because they always seem to have the most luck out of any other player. And, amazingly enough, the more a player is able to think about the series of actions they want to take, the more lucky they become in the game.

This is particularly useful if you have someone else on your team who is also planning ahead instead of reacting to everything. Devastating, really, against an entire team of folks who are just thinking about the end goal (winning the game, one could presume).

Give it a try, my polokins. Lemme know how the thinking cap goes for you.

Do We Undervalue Strategy?

strategy

Real talk: sometimes, when I’m not writing up my cute little stories or sending pixel rendered zombies to their doom, I fantasize about what it will be like thirty years down the line, when I’m part of a roundtable discussion with Lancaster United (now a 35 member, nationally recognized team facing off in the World Polo Cup) about strategy. I’ve inexplicably got a bowler hat and a cigar, and every time I speak, the gathered coaches and owners go silent.

Because old Crusher is going to talk about strategy, gents. He’s going to talk about strategy and you’d better listen.

But then I come back to real life, and I write a little blog post about how you should make sure your team mates are open for a pass before shooting one off to them.

Now, this is me talking–I come from a little club that doesn’t have a slayer team put together, but I figure by this point you understand that I don’t try to tackle many topics outside of my own understanding. That being said, I’m curious if strategy will ever be discussed as more than an offhand remark after or before a match. I wonder if, as more clubs spring up and tourneys become more laden with slayer teams, people will spend nights getting together with their team mates to discuss strategy.

I wonder why more of us aren’t there right now.

Sure: we spend hours learning how to scoop, how to work on passes, how to do wheelie turns, but as far as I can tell, we do all of those things a lot more than we formulate strategy. Why is that?

I have often felt as though a bike polo match is one part skill and one part luck, and I think more often than not, strategy could take the place (or at least a high percentage) of either. I won’t bother you with comparisons from history, but let’s just agree that strategy can make up for a lack of skill or luck, or at the very least can hold its own.

As a player who isn’t going to break any records for goals or speed (or looks…or charm…), strategy is one thing I can develop and strengthen within my own play. Naturally, strategy has plenty to do with the other two people on your team, but if that gal and guy are aware of your strategy (in that you discussed it, or heaven forbid, practiced it), there’s a good chance that you can get around any raw talent that stands between you and a competitive game.

Strategy in bike polo is something that can be strengthened in all of us, I think. More than our need to make better equipment or work on our mallet/bike work. With strategy comes another level of play, and a step closer to my daydream of becoming a strategist for hire.

A Quick Lesson in Slowing Down

Tortiose

I have moves. Moves like Jagger. But more like 70 year old Jagger and not 20 year old Jagger.

But those moves, they still exist–and they get me down to the goal.

Basically, I depend on the unwillingness of the other player to wait. I spend more time dancing the ball around with my mallet then I do dancing my bike around other players. It works out pretty well, because most other players have their heads so far in their own asses into the game that they can’t slow down. They’ll rush me, I’ll dart the ball away from them, and then they are effectively out of the play and I can keep marching forward.

JaggerWhen it works, it feels great. It’s like I dominated them without even trying (though it does take effort to be so calculated. Let’s give some credit). When it doesn’t work, it’s horrible, because I have very little momentum to work with.

This works particularly well when dealing with players who you know depend on their speed rather than their mallet-play. they will continue to dart at you head on, and this makes for a great opportunity to get them out of a playable position.

So, if you find that you aren’t exactly a racehorse on the court, consider strengthening your mallet work and learning how to become a tortoise: slow, steady and (relatively) unstoppable.

And super cute. That helps.

This is Why I’m NOT Passing to You

pass the ball

One of the penultimate butt-hurts of our sport is the missed opportunity for a pass. If you’re unfortunate enough to have the ball and shoot instead of pass to one of your team-mates, 9 times out of 10 at least one player will give you the you’re-a-selfish-jerk eye. This can eventually lead to you either perpetually feeling like a jerk (something that I and many others are generally okay with, it turns out), or always passing even when the situation isn’t the best for a dish.

So let me bring up a few reasons that your team-mates may not be passing to you:

For one thing, your position is horrible. You’re behind the net, for God’s sake! WHO IS GOING TO PASS TO YOU THERE?! That or you’re so far removed from the action that passing to you would essentially reset the play–and that’s only good if things are starting to go south. Read more

Thursday Quick Play

strategy

Horse and I have been trying this little move in practice (yes, you read that right) having seen it a few times during North Americans. In essence, the person who has the ball rolls up to goal and, at the last moment, pushes the ball to a team mate who has been trailing them.

The images you see are as we practice (me being a lefty and horse being a righty). First, I get the ball and roll up as if I’m going to take the shot on the back door of the goalie:

step 1At this point, the goalie is probably thinking “meh, it’s only Crusher,” but let’s pretend the person with the ball has an actual shot in hell of making a goal, okay?

I, as the ball carrier (the O closest to the goal, rolls in front of the goalie in the next step, provoking them to move a little bit with me as I “find my shot” (they want to keep their wheel in the way, naturally):

step 2As you can see, the’ve left their back door wide open, so when I drop the ball, Horse (the blue O at the top of that image) has a good chance of getting a goal.

Naturally this is all just a super-theoretic drawing–those other two X players are going to be getting in the way the whole time, so you may have your third player come up from the back and block one off or disrupt in some other way. At any rate, if you can make this play work, it’s devastating in it’s ability to make an easy shot come about.

 

 

You’re Gonna Lose That Joust

WRONG

321 POLO!, arch nemesis of Lancasterpolo.com, recently had an article featuring various polo players discussing the merits and styles of jousting. When I first saw the title and the summary I thought: “yes, this is my chance to take 321 POLO to task!

But then I saw that the article was mostly on how players handle jousting, and all the wind was taken out of my crushery sails. As always 321 POLO! was doing their job as a great resource for bike polo players blah blah blah blah.

What I wanted to talk about was strategy for surviving a lost joust: how to keep your team from instantly being on the defensive. I’m just going to act like the article over on 321 was about how you have to joust and win. It isn’t, but this is yellow journalism at its best anyway, so just deal with it.

YOU’RE SO WRONG IF YOU THINK YOU NEED TO WIN THE JOUST!

Point in fact, I think it’s sometimes a better starting position to lose a joust, and that’s not only  because my legs are stubby and I’m the slowest player in my club (according to Lumberjack’s children) (It still hurts).

Allow me to pontificate on the virtues of not taking the joust win as super important: Read more