Tag Archive for Bike polo tips

My Argument for No Goal Limit

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Game format is something that people get mighty touchy about when brought up. By way of example, just bring up the idea that bench format should be more prevalent (and see how many people either tell you how wrong you are, or just stop listening altogether and decide to not invite you to their son’s Bar Mitzvah). It’s one of the holiest things in bike polo–surprising, given what bike polo is.

Currently there is a vote occurring to determine what rule changes are on the minds of bike polo players. The NAH (Specifically Chairman Kruse)  hopes to gather up enough information through the votes in order to better determine how they can create rules which satisfy players. I for one think it’s pretty awesome that they are going about it this way. One polokin, one vote, I say.

So naturally I voted, and generally speaking, I don’t share opinions of where the sport should be heading with bike polo at large (save for jousting, contact rules, and the idea of the crease (though my vote is in 2nd place right now, I still have lots of people that agree with me (I just need validation))). But what bothered me most was this:

game formatOkay. Okay. I get it. Doing unlimited score would fundamentally change bike polo. I’m not fighting that argument because I don’t have much ground to stand on.

But PEOPLE! We’d be introducing two elements to bike polo that are very important and valuable: consistency and the importance of strategic planning! …at least in my mind right at this moment. Read more

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.

Here’s an Idea: Try Using/Not Using Your Mallet as Much

mallet

Players can be heavy on the use of their mallets for plays, or they can be weak on the use of their mallets. If you wanted to break it down, I’d say that the majority of great polo players are mallet centric (use their mallets to get out of sticky situations or to create plays via clever passwork/shooting), whereas newer players are bike centric (depend on break-aways, raw power and speed to make plays happen).

I think both types of players can benefit from doing a little ol’ role reversal once in a while.

If you’re a mallet-centric player, try spending a few pickup games working on your bike position and blocking for other players. It’s easy (if you’re very good with your mallet) to forget that you’re not a one person team, and by limiting yourself for a few games to just acting as a wingman to other players, you can remind yourself of how positioning and blocking can make for a stronger overall team effort.

Likewise, if you’re more of a blocker/position master, but weak on your mallet work, consider letting someone else take the role of wingman and work on weaving the ball around yourself during play. You can only learn so much mallet control by yourself on the court–you need the pressure of other people trying to take that ball away.

It’s important, I find, to keep yourself out of a groove. You might have some skill set that is tried and true, but limiting yourself to only one set of moves will make you get stale and predictable. Becoming too dependent on mallet work (or on bike work) will make you, inherently, weaker in other areas.

Just some food for thought on this lovely Tuesday.

Top Players Don’t Do Tricks

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Why The Basics are Still Best

If there was one thing I was expecting to see at Worlds, it was some amazing trickery with the ball. I mean, these are the top players in the world competing against each other. Maybe there’d be a moment where one of them would actually make the ball disappear, only to re-appear moments later a foot from the goal where a team-mate would be waiting to zap it into the goal with laser-eyes.

Laser eyes, everybody.

Instead, I saw quite a lot of the same stuff I see on the Lancaster United courts: just performed without flaw and consistently. I saw rudimentary bike polo.

The very best players/teams established themselves as the best by working on the basics of bike polo (mallet control, keeping the ball protected, and intelligent shooting) over and over. They train on the same thing that new players are learning, and that’s what makes them outstanding players.

Consider the moment that you get the basics down. I realize this is kind of a rhetorical question, as I don’t think many of us have the date written down of when we stopped falling over every three seconds and were able to actually engage in a play, but let’s use generalities. Once you managed to become an “okay” player, you probably started working on the more exotic things in bike polo: scoop passes, nose pivots, etc., etc. While these are all certainly valuable in the sport, they are far removed from the more basic (and arguably more valuable) skills of passing, shooting, and ball control.

The Beavers are a great example of this simple truth: they are fully capable of doing amazing, flashy things–but they oftentimes will stick to the basics, and that’s what leads them to, oh I don’t know, winning world championships. They don’t depend on fancy tricks to get them goals, they keep those tricks in their back pocket and instead rely on the ability to always cycle through the standards of the sport.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t learn how to do wheelie turns (Horse, stop crying. I’m not saying that), but you shouldn’t think that being able to do a wheelie turn is going to get you to the podium. What will get you there is dogged practice of the most fundamental elements of bike polo. You need to be able to keep the ball on the end of your mallet without thinking. You need to be able to use your team-mates as buffers and passing opportunities. You need to work on shooting from close, mid, and far ranges, not just micro-shots and not just huge, court-long ones.

A mastery of the basics, dear readers, are what make for champions.

5 Things I Learned at Worlds

Welcome

Worlds was an eye opener for me. I have seen in my travels some high levels of play, but none so amazing as what I saw on the final day of the championship. It was humbling to say the least, and I want to share with you, dear readership, just a few of the lessons and tips I learned from the biggest event on the polo calendar.

These are just a few of the observations I made, and honestly, in just those three days I came up with more post ideas than what I’ve had in months (not all about Worlds, but about polo in general). At any rate, these are the five that spring to my mind right at this very moment:

Dillman1. The Beavers, Call Me Daddy, Assassins, and Edisons: make anything I do look like goofing off. Seriously. If what they do is bike polo, what I do (and most of us do) is playing dress up and pretending to be polo players. Holy mother mallet, it was just inspiring to watch these teams kick up their play to top gear and keep at it for the championship. I just can’t fathom being at that level, and I wonder what it’s like for anyone on those teams (and others) to wake up and know they are better than most other players. Gotta be something.

Call Me Daddy2. You don’t gotta be fancy: Lomax actually brought this up the last night we were there, and it’s a great point that I wouldn’t have noticed: Most of the top teams don’t do anything fancy with the ball. Okay, you’ve got some pretty spectacular passes and avoidances, but you don’t have people scooping under their BB to catch the ball in the air, and then hit it with their head, and then into the goal (though that does sometimes happen).

What you do have are players who keep the ball conservatively, move it intelligently, and shoot the ball from a million miles away and still get a goal ohmyGodIjustcan’tgetoverit. But mostly to the point,  great players aren’t doing ridiculous stuff with the ball–they are playing intelligent, basic polo. They’re just doing that basic stuff a million times better than us mortals.

Huggles3. The love is still there: Even with people coming from thousands of miles away, we all still got along (off the court) like we were from the same club. It’s good to see that we are maintaining that small-group feel although our sport and our clubs are growing past the point of knowing everyone.

Why is this important? Because it allows for our sport to keep growing. Being friendly means that we aren’t turning on each other, which helps create a positive atmosphere, which brings more people to the sport. I know it’s kind of convoluted, but it’s something I consider to be true, so to hell with you for doubting me.

MILK Mallet shafts4. The polo mallet is dead–all hail the polo mallet: I don’t think I saw a single player who was using anything but polo-specific shafts and mallet heads. I think it’s unreasonable to assume that everyone was using polo-specific equipment, but I didn’t see anyone rolling around with gas pipe or ski poles.

We can’t say that a Northern Standard Shaft or a Magic Head are going to make you a Worlds contender (I’m sure gas pipe in the hands of Call Me Daddy will be just as effective), but we can say that the highest level of bike polo has moved away from borrowed/re-purposed equipment and now depends on off-the-shelf solutions. It’s a good thing, really, because I think polo equipment companies are going to be what sustains the growth of the sport MORE ON THAT IN ANOTHER POST STOP ASKING QUESTIONS.

reftalk5. We need full-time, non-playing refs: There is simply no way around it. We need to have a reffing league who only has one purpose: to ref and enforce the rules set forth by the NAH and approved by the players. Simple as that. Having players who also ref is, by definition, a breech of ethical behavior, and while the refs for the final day did an awesome job, they really should have not come from the ranks of folks who initially came to play. They should have been brought in by the NAH, sanctioned by a reffing league, and knowledgeable in all areas of ruling the game. Again, more on this in another post.

 

I also learned that not packing your own food whilst in Weston, Florida is a bad, bad move.

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 to Coach: During or After Play?

coaching 1

You’re not a newb anymore: you’ve been playing for a couple of years, have been to tourneys and can be recognized by polo players outside of your club. Sure, you’re no A+ player, but you can hold your own against even the toughest players (note: in the case of playing Portland United or the Beaver Boys, “holding your own” means you don’t cry uncontrollably).

So you’ve already made it past the question “should I even tell this guy what he’s doing wrong?” The question that you should be asking yourself now is this: when is the best time to bring up something another player could work on.

First, let’s set a ground rule, here: if the other player knows that they are doing something silly (scooping the ball out of the court), there really isn’t much need in coaching them out of that behavior. They know it’s stupid, you know it’s stupid, and that’s that. What I’m talking about are the mistakes the players make and are unaware of: the little errors that add up to missed opportunities. The things that you can easily see as a flaw in their play but they, perhaps, cannot.

But when is it best to bring up these mistakes? Should you (after the play itself has stopped and you’ve moved back to your own net) bring it up with the player? Should you do it as soon as possible? Or maybe wait until the game is over to pull them away from the group and explain how they can improve?

It comes down to a few things, I find:

  • Level of emotion
  • Relationship with player
  • Severity of mistake/error

Level of Emotion: Did the player make a mistake that was clearly a result of their own frustration, did they make a mistake and then throw their mallet? In these cases, it’s best to lay the hell off of them until they cool down. They won’t listen to anything you say, and at worst you can make the situation much worse by seeming condescending (even if you truly are not trying to be).  In this case, wait it out until after the game and then bring it up in a gentle, “hey buddy” sort of manner.  Read more

My Favorite Last Game & the Importance of Gumption

gumption

Yesterday’s pickup had an interesting dynamic, as some of the always-there, always-serious players were missing (notably Horse and Hbach), leaving some room for a different style of play to emerge–this style of play being a more talkative, more learning style, I would say. I don’t want you to misunderstand me, here: we did play some very tough games, but when one of us would mess up both teams would laugh or give a bit more leeway on the rules because, hey, daddy isn’t around to keep us in line, amiright?

Anyway, the more relaxed atmosphere brought on a weird sort of thing that doesn’t normally happen around these parts: everyone was playing to their own potential. Not to someone’s expectation nor to what they thought was necessary, but to their own abilities. This meant that each player was bringing their own skillset to the court, which made for some really varied, interesting games.

But then Hbach did show up and ruined everything.

Well no, he didn’t (of course) ruin anything–he showed up in the last hour with a fresh pair of legs and the whole course of the day’s play shifted again. Now I had to figure out how to shut the non-tired guy down or, if he was on my team, utilize him as best I could. It was a fun mental exercise for weary bones to undertake. Read more

What I Learned at Pickup: I Thought it Was September Edition

professor

Yesterday was Lancaster United’s pickup day, and despite the why-is-this-happening-to-meeeeee heat wave that rolled through the midstate, we managed to get six people (eventually) to come on out and play our funny little sport. It certainly wasn’t a day of magical plays and 100% tourney action, but it was fun and exactly what I needed for that mid-week stress relief. So, on to the lessons:

1. Our youngest player doesn’t need coddled: Our youngest guy is 13 years old (or so) and he’s really managed to make himself a great player. He started with us two years ago, but we hadn’t seen him much after we stopped playing in the city. Well, he started coming out to our regular polo grounds now, and it’s obvious he was practicing that whole time. The dude is a legit player, and I’m quite sure he’s going to be the name that people know from Lancaster United in short order.

2. Always let big swingers swing: Due to the nature of a big swinger (the folks who dramatically lift the mallet behind them all the way up to the sky and then sweep it down like they are taking out wheat or doing their best golf player impression), you should always allow them to try for the shot. Why? because you have a good amount of time to shift the ball away from them while they are mid-arc in drawing back or moving forward their mallet. Just the tiniest of taps and you’ve ruined their play. It feels so good to do, to.

3. Know how to swallow your ego: Dave is a guy who, and I don’t think he’d disagree with me hear, isn’t willing to put up with your shit talk. He really doesn’t dig it, is what I mean. Last night during play, he was doing all sorts of fun things that he normally doesn’t do (sharper turns, longer shot, ect.) and had a mix-up with another player.

Well, long story short, his front wheel got a little bent out of shape (though he didn’t), but we only had six folks at the time, so he got a quick fix-up and came back out. This lead to him taking a turn, his wheel wobbling, and him crashing splendorously in front of the goal.

When we asked him if anything was hurt, he laughed and said “just my pride.”

I appreciated that answer, because it did two things: it eliminated our natural inclination to attack (he already admitted the defeat), but it also showed that he was taking it in good spirits. It’s important to recognize when you’ve done something goofy–nobody likes a serious Sam all the time.

You are so dumb. You are Really dumb.

dumb

Bike polo (as my dear friend Ted has aptly explained) is a thinking man’s sport. It requires a certain level of foresight, strategerie, and learning in order to reach the potential available in every player.

But if you’re rolling around with big dumb rocks in your head, you’re not going to get anywhere, are you?

Do you find yourself:

  • Getting a stare-down from team-mates after a botched play?
  • Doing the same thing over-and-over without getting the expected results?
  • realizing you’re the only person facing the way you’re facing?

Well, it might be that you are dumb. So very, very dumb. 

But take heart: you can rise above your inherent dummy-ness and make something of yourself in pretty short order. Let me show you the way.  Read more