Tag Archive for bike polo technique

The Difference Between Us: Recognizing Mistakes v. Style

janus

Horse, for better or worse, is my bike polo coach. I think it’s a mix of us talking about polo so much, he being the guy who got me involved in the first place, and the fact that Horse pretty much has an opinion on everything (and is very willing to share it). It works out pretty well, as he’s one of the best players we’ve got and knows how to explain plays, techniques, and other sundry details of the sport to me in ways that a writer can understand (“Crusher, shooting the ball on the goal accurately is like the way a woman’s hair looks in the moonlight – it’s just right, man. It’s just right”).

However, there are times when he makes suggestions where I just get peeved. It’s not when I’ve made a big, obvious mistake and he points it out (though that does curdle my girdle as well), but more when he points out a way that I play as something than needs worked on.

This got me to thinking: are there times when players are trying to correct something that really shouldn’t be corrected? I don’t think anyone would deny that people are all individuals and there’s not a single best way to play polo, so why is it so hard to recognize when another player simply has a different style than your own?

New?

newguyThe most obvious identifier is how long they’ve been playing the sport: if they are only a month in, it’s safe to assume that suggesting things is not trying to impose your play style on someone else. In fact, the worst thing to do would be not telling a new player what they are doing wrong.

Dangerous for no reason? Read more

Be a Cobra – Not an Elephant

elephant

Those are the very best mallets you’ve every seen in a graphic and you know it, don’t you.

There are lots of ways to describe bike polo players and the styles that they embrace to play the sport, and I for one am all about being creative in those definitions. So in my weird noodley brain I came up with this little comparison when it comes to play styles: cobra players and elephant players.

The Cobra: 

The cobra (in bike polo) is the player who can be completely still in one moment and stealing the ball from you in the next. They are the player who actually leaves the ball for you to try and take – but at the last minute uses your reaching mallet and poor position to shoot past you and make a goal. The cobra is completely deliberate in his or her movements – subtle in intentions but powerful in action. They aren’t, perhaps, the most visually stunning in their play style, but when the chips are down, the cobra player is able to strike – and strike fast.

The Elephant:  Read more

The Basics: Who is in charge – the ball or you?

There is an easy way to tell if someone is a polo veteran or a wet-behind-the-ears polokinder who is just getting started in the sport, and that’s ball control. The veteran player, you see, will have a pleasant conversation with the ball: take it out for some drinks, talk about fine cheeses and leather bound books, and then (as they get closer to the goal), smack that ball into the honey-hole.

If you want to avoid all of that goop up there: a more experienced player knows how to make the ball follow what they want to have happen and then put it in a position to shoot (or, even better, shoot it from almost any position).

An inexperienced player on the other hand, is like a amorous high school lover on a first date – all stuttering contact and impulsive movement. A new player lets the ball dictate what’s going to happen – trying to speed up and catch the ball without using their mallet to slow it down. A newer player will likewise need the ball to be in the exact right position before taking a swing.

And while that’s all well and good when you start out, it’s important to break that way of thinking as months tic off of your polo calendar. I recommend the following exercises to help out with this, in order of skill building:

Begin with riding around the court (start at one corner and roll from there around the entire court) while keeping the ball at your front hub. Keep doing this until you aren’t changing your speed based on the speed of the ball.

Next, start pushing the ball under your bike and ride over it to get used to moving around the ball for positioning. I like to call this “threading the needle” in my head, but don’t ever say that out loud because you’ll sound like a jerk.

After that, have someone hit the ball to you while you’re in motion, and work on gaining control of the ball without big changes to your movement or momentum.

If you work on those three elements, you’re sure to get a bit more familiar with ball control and skill level. So whether you’re just starting out or are a bit weak when it comes to getting the ball to do what you want, I hope you consider the above as a way of honing your polo skills.

Learn the Close Game: Trench Bike Polo

Taking big swings feels great, but knowing how to work the ball around your bike in a tie-up is probably more important. For one, you’re not moving fast, so losing the ball means you are effectively out of the play. Secondly you look like a buffoon. Seriously. We all talk about it.

Learning how to control and keep the ball when you have the opposing team all around you is a key lesson for any bike polo player. Without this ability you effectively become useless anytime another player is saddling up next to you. To help the polo community at large (which, as you know, I feel compelled to do so very often), here are three quick tips to help you keep your nuts in the squirrel house.

(I don’t know where that came from, either)

 

1. Dribble the ball

This is probably the most basic but most useful way to keep other mallets from stealing your lunch. Instead of just pushing the ball along and waiting for someone to pluck it from you, move it around a bit with your mallet. Push it forward and backward and to the side and back. Moving the ball around when people are trying to take it from you makes them a little less apt to succeed.

This has the fringe benefit of increasing your hand/eye/ball/mallet coordination as well, and I think that’s probably important, too. Read more