Tag Archive for Bike polo Tournaments

I Just Met You, And This is Crazy:

maybe

But There’s this Tourney–So Team Up, Maybe?

One of bike polo’s greatest strengths is the ability for any 3 people to team up and play around. This is doubly true for tournaments where all of us can find friends from new places and play around at this goofy little thing we’ve got ourselves wrapped up in.

Do we normally win when we do that? Well, no–but it’s not always about winning, is it?

Oh…oh for some of you it is? Oh. Well then.

Uh…

Hmm.

So let’s say it is about winning, for you. Let’s say you know how to have a good time and you’re not trying to bloodsport around out on the court, but that you do want to make it further than your first 2 games on the second day. If I might make a suggestion in that regard: play with a team you’ve played with for at least a season before.

Yes, it means that some of your spontaneity will be gone–you won’t be able to just post “anyone need a third?” for every tournament you want to involve yourself with–but I suspect you’ll begin seeing a bit more reach on your 2nd day tourney adventures than what you have in the past. This is also why, I believe, you shouldn’t necessarily think that teaming up with the best players you can is equal to if not greater than teaming up with the most consistently-available-to-play-together players. The way I’ve witnessed it, the team that plays together more…

dogAh damn…let’s see here.

The team that plays together more…hmm. Stays together more? Like, stays together during Sunday because they aren’t boozing and crying by themselves. I don’t like that one but it’s all I’ve got. Damn.

The only other one I have is the team that knows each other grows each other, but that seems to be a bit more sexualized than what I’m going for. I really worked myself into a corner. Shoot.

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at (a team that lasts is one with a past? Hell.) is how much more important it is to have experience playing with the other people on your team over how much your team has experience or skill on their own. Naturally if you bring in an all star your team is going to pummel most other teams–but it won’t pummel other teams full of all stars. To have a better chance at that, look to the inherent expectation and ability to read your team mates that comes from having a history with them.

A team that gets it can’t quits it?

Forget it, I give up.

 

Why Do We Even Have Qualifiers?

cart horse

Note: This isn’t a post hinting at Lancaster not hosting ESQ2014. We are. Promise. 

A Qualifying Series Lends Credibility, But Not When There is Nothing to Qualify.

The NAH Qualifier series is certainly something that I look forward to every year. Not because I necessarily play in it (I skipped the Eastside Qualifier last year), and not because I necessarily watch them…

Wait. Why do I look forward to them?

I guess I look forward to them because they mean polo is happening, but as far as my day-to-day polo life goes, the Qualifier series is kind of beyond my scope. It’s just another tourney to either be a part of or aware of, but not much else.

In recent years (read: the past 2), I’ve noticed a bit of a drop off in attendance to the Eastside Qualifier, and I think that trend is felt in a few other regions as well. I’m not saying that this is a sign of the decline of bike polo here in the states (just the opposite, I’m in firm belief that bike polo is growing), but it does point to something.

The Cart Before The Horse

The NAH was originally created to investigate and gain sponsors for the sport (NOTE: I was told this a year or so ago during a phone conversation with an NAH official. I  can’t verify it and, futhermore, have received an email saying it’s false. So feel free to ignore this line while I try to verify). The idea was, if I am remembering my history correctly from The NAH and other Magical Creaturesthe idea was that money would help the NAH take care of rules, running tourneys, and solidifying the sport throughout North America.

Well, as it turns out, that didn’t quite happen. The market of support simply wasn’t/isn’t around for bike polo, and the NAH as it stood needed to fall back to what it could do, namely create rules and orchestrate a qualifying series.

From the point of inception, the NAH has been dwindling, however. Through a mix of payless work and hours of stress, the core of the NAH is down to just 4 people, and those folks are often the only line of action when it comes to organizing the sport nationally.

What does this have to do with the NAH Qualifier series? To put is succinctly, I think bike polo isn’t big enough in the US to justify such a large series. Furthermore I think you, dear reader, probably know this in your heart as well.

It only takes a passing glance at a few of the regions to how this argument can be worked out. Hell, just look at the SC regional lineup as it stands at the writing of this piece:

SE qa

That’s 5 teams registered for a tournament that is coming up at the end of this month. 10 days away.

If the Qualifier was a big deal–if it was something that people just couldn’t wait to be part of, why can’t an entire region manage to get more than ten teams to register and pay up?

If we look at all qualifiers so far :

  • Cascadia: 23 confirmed teams (out of a potential 24)
  • Mexico: 13 confirmed teams (out of a potential 24)
  • Great Plains: 7 confirmed teams (out of a potential 24)
  • South West: 7 confirmed teams (out of a potential 32)
  • Eastside: 24 confirmed teams (out of a potential 36)
  • Heartland: 19 confirmed teams (out of a potential 24)
  • Great Lakes: 18 confirmed teams (out of a potential 24)
  • Northside: 12 confirmed teams (out of a potential 24)
  • Southeast: 34 confirmed teams (out of a potential 34–the only full qualifier, at this point in time)

Clearly there are a bunch of things to take into account with these numbers. Maybe the amount of potential teams is too high for some regions, maybe folks are just waiting to register because they know they have time, etc.

But one thing is clear: the qualifiers are a very big process that simply isn’t drawing in people as quickly as it should, and maybe the way around that is to simplify the system.

Two Tourneys, One North Americans

The thought I keep having is that we’ve over-complicated something that needn’t be complicated. Here’s my suggestion for the NAH (which I’m sure they’ll deeply consider because damn, I’m just that important to the world, right?):

  1. Keep the regions, but
  2. For qualifying for NAs, split the NAH regions in half.
  3. NAH West qualifier, NAH East qualifier
  4. Top teams go to North Americans.

splits

I think regional tournaments are still fun and a great way of sharpening skills/playing bike polo. Futhermore I think having a good idea of how individual regions perform is good. I’m not suggesting that we completely eliminate regions.

Well, okay, maybe I am. But it doesn’t matter either way in this suggestion.

Outside of the complaints coming from the folks who are directly on one side of that line or the other, this would effectively make it fair for players to play in this bare-bones style qualifying series. While I was tempted to suggest that we just have North Americans, I realize that it would be entirely too large to manage for any one club (and maybe this would be, too); but by splitting North American Polo in half, we could create 2 qualifiers, West and East, to figure out who goes to North Americans.

The NAH West and NAH East qualifiers would also need to be more days, obviously, maybe something closer to Worlds in that it’d be 4 days long instead of a weekend. Furthermore, more teams would qualify this way (rather than figuring out how many qualifying spots are provided based on regional affiliation).

In my mind, a few clubs (and the regional reps) would help put on these tourneys, and they’d have a whole year to set it up. This allows for a great concentration of effort by a large amount of polo players to find a well placed location, get it polo ready, and plan.

The Benefits

Outside of the complications coming from 9 qualifying tournaments (if my hand counting is correct), we’re also concentrating the focus for players, removing some of the headaches that the NAH faces, and creating a larger event where more players are able to come together. Yes, we’ll need to request off of work for more time, but you’ll be able to do that almost a year in advance, and if your company won’t give you off for 4 days with a year notice, you shouldn’t be working there anyway.

Futhermore, regions aren’t so dependent on how many teams sign up–being one of those organizers this year, I can tell you that I’ve been sweating bullets waiting for the money to drop so we can keep working on what we need to work on. Instead they can focus on…well…helping all the regions around them put on this mega-tourney.

The Risks

I really have no idea if this would work or not. I feel like it would, if we step out of our “this is the way we’ve always done it” mindset and start thinking of how we can streamline the process of qualifications and make our events a bit bigger & a bit more sponsorable.

I think one of the biggest risks is making sure that teams all have a fair shot at going to North Americans. Surely we limit the dream-killing destructiveness of some teams by keeping them locked up in regions, but opening the series up to just 2 qualifiers (East and West) means lots of teams are going to get thrashed pretty early on, and that might very well be disheartening.

But, if I can be Machiavellian for a moment: conducting the tournaments like this is a hands off sort of way to make sure that the North American championship only has the best teams, as the weaker teams will be knocked out during the larger qualifiers. We’d save time and travel expenses for folks who really weren’t going to make it very far anyway.

(I’m one of those people. I can say it because I’m one of them. Isn’t that how it works? I have lots of not-going-to-make-it-through-North-Americans friends.)

 

So give this some thought and let me know what you think yourself. I’ve just been spitballin’.

 

 

 

The Cold War: Veteran Players vs. The New Wave

cold war

More Importantly, Who Will Win?

It’s just subtle enough that you might not even notice it, but bike polo is locked in a cold war of sorts.

On one side are the forces that we come to associate with bike polo’s history: clad in mix and match sports equipment, armed with home-made mallets and normally treating bike polo tourneys as social events as much as a sporting event. These are the people who, without question, made bike polo as big and as fun of a sport as it is today. They are the folks who struggled to find a place to play, were often run off by officials and the police, and simply didn’t give up on the game. They are world-forged in the sport, and are oftentimes the people who can identify almost every other veteran player from every other club.

propogandaOn the other side is the second wave of bike polo players: these are folks who look more like they are playing a sport. They have equipment specific to bike polo, they are more likely to wear padding and face cages, and are likewise more likely to avoid drinking heavily until after they’ve played, if at all during the day. They play the sport for the sake of achievement, and are consistently thinking of bike polo as something for everyone (rather than something “for us.”) Because of this, they might also not be as solid on their feet as the veteran players, but what they lack in skill they more than make up for in tenacity and willingness to learn.

But before I dive into this cold war, a caveat: I’m making sweeping generalizations and categorizing all polo players into two groups, which really is impossible to do. Just allow me this editorial hyperbole for the sake of writing coherently, okay?

What Caused the Divide?

When it comes down to it, bike polo has always been a sport for others. It’s creation story is surrounded by people who didn’t quite fit into the sports crowd, nor did they fit into the non-sports crowd. It brings together misfits, really, and that’s part of the draw of it.

quietHowever, all things that are made for a particular group eventually bleed out into the world at large (that is, if they are ever worth a damn), and that’s precisely what happened to bike polo. What we have now is a mix of people who are emotionally invested in keeping bike polo the way it is (that is, not making it too mainstream), and people who are emotionally invested in making bike polo into more than it is (or, more appropriately, into something that gets sponsors and write-ups in sports columns).

The war itself is played out most clearly in any online forum or discussion where veterans call out movements towards regulation (ANY new ruleset), new equipment, or new requirements. It might just be a simple “fuck this” or longer explanation of how we’re making the sport too rigid to play, but it’s all there to be seen. The other side can be identified by how they overstretch to discuss relationships with potential sponsors, how they’re willing to drop thousands of dollars on having the “best” equipment, and how little they regard people who are still using non-polo specific equipment. They build online communities and sustain them, or they actively engage in defending new developments in the sport.

Tear Down That Wall

BERLIN-WALL-pan_641537a-29jw5nyI don’t think there isn’t room for both groups in the future of bike polo (veterans might say “what future” here, but let’s just use our imaginarium caps). Any activity needs people who protect the heritage of the sport as much as people who press forward blindly into what could be.

The truth of it is, I think all polo players have some aspects of both wanting to keep this sport all to themselves and also share it with the whole world in any way possible. Most also lean more one direction than the other. The way to avoid either

  • Losing the foundations of our sport to over regulation and increasing costs
  • Allowing our sport to become stagnant and shrinking

is to recognize the reason and not the manner that people communicate. Sure, Johnny Old-Head just said your new model for a prototype wheel cover is lame and you don’t know what you’re talking about, but it might just be because he’s scared of watching the sport fundamentally change. In the same vein, Susan New-Idea may have just called you out for refusing to recognize the new ruleset, but really it’s because she doesn’t want to see injury befall you or anyone else who’s playing.

Between the veteran players and the new wave, there’s little more to do than try to seek balance. Sure, that might come off as a Russo-inspired phrase, but really it’s the best advice I can give (and anytime I can bring in a Russo-esque thought, I will. Because Russo is a favorite).

Congratulations to the Means and to COMO bike polo

Editor’s note: So much haterade and so little time to drink it down. Anywhoo, I was looking at Podium in a Monday fashion and misread the morning bracket as the final outcome of the Eastside Regional. The 2nd placers  were not in fact the team called Philly, but the team called D G T. My apologies for the butt hurting.  

Just a quick note to wish well the winners of the Eastside regional qualifier and  the Battle for the Midwest II.

COMO beat out MKE with 16 goals to their 12 (with ten of those 16 being from the one and only Nick Kruse), taking the crown from the defending champions and looking sexy as hell while doing it.

In the Eastside Regional, The Means beat Philly D G T for the title. From the reports I’m getting back, it was an exciting second day up in Hockey Town, and lots of good polo to be witnessed and had.

While my involvement in either was minor (I just followed online), I did want to mention how awesome the coverage was of the Battle for the Midwest – great commentary and camerawork. It made all the beers I had go down so very smoooooth.

 

 

From Me to We: a few quick tips on building teamwork

ESPIs Seven 2012 (432)

The biggest difference between a team of bike polo players and just three people wearing the same colored shirts who play bike polo is simple: it’s the mindset of teamwork. Polo is a sport that promotes the idea of individualism in play (this is you taking the ball up, this is you shooting, this is you cursing as the ball makes a 90 degree turn away from the goal, somehow), but doesn’t reward a lone wolf sort of player.

So while it’s a natural feeling, I think, to conceive yourself as a single element that may or may not have a positive impact on the game, it’s not the right feeling to have, nor is it the right mindset to have if you hope to create a strong, dependable team.

ESPIs Seven 2012 (270)We here at Lancaster United bumped into this as I suspect many clubs have: when planning for ESPIs in Frederick last year, we wanted to come up with the best teams possible to send. Well, the best team possible, really. Instead of thinking about who plays well together, the 3 “best” players teamed up. This left six more of us that were interested in going but didn’t expect (we were, after all, not one of those three) to do well. Because of this, we formed up teams with each-other based on how well we played together and, generally, just because we were fond of listening to each other sleep in hotel rooms.

The A team we sent didn’t do nearly as well as all of us expected, and the reason was, frankly, because they weren’t a team. They were three great players who were all playing a 1 v 3 game against every team they came up against. No matter how good of a player you are, that kind of strategy won’t win a tourney and it certainly won’t win you any easy victories, either.

It’s teamwork that gets a, ahem, team, to succeed. While some people just come by this naturally, others need to work on it a touch during pickup. There are three elements that I want to touch on: Read more

How Much is Bike Polo Worth?

We started polo with gas pipe, ski poles and whatever bike we didn’t care about – I think that’s a pretty standard level of initiation for most everyone who plays polo.  Now, however, we’re willing (as a community, not strictly on an individual basis) to buy 25 dollar heads, fifteen dollar shaft, polo specific gloves and bombproof equipment on our polo-ready bikes.

As a sport community we are spending more and more money on getting the right equipment for our game, and that’s a great thing for both the people who have the know-how to make our equipment and for new players who won’t struggle to get the stuff we only dreamed of a few years ago.

So here’s the setup: We are spending hundreds of dollars a year (potentially) on equipment purchases, registration fees, travelling to tourneys, and a few bucks for cases of PBR. We’re buying new bikes that fine people are making for bike polo, and that can up the number per year to a thousand.

So why aren’t we paying any dues directly to our organizing body? Read more

Making Refs Matter: The Future of Tourney Officials

I’ve noticed a lot of scuttlebutt on the LOBP (ALL HAIL) boards about the need to enforce rules and have refs who know what is going on. Most of the conversation (at least this round of it, as it’s always discussed here and there) came after ESPI 7, though in being there I can say that the volunteer refs did a great job.

Read: I was one of the volunteer refs for 7 or 8 games.

But there are some inherent problems in our sport with getting the rules we create applied evenly and fairly in every game at a tourney (or even between tourneys):

1. Refs are only volunteering

2. Refs aren’t completely clear on the rules

3. Players don’t particularly care/understand

4. Refs fear making a wrong call

5. Everyone is drunk

When you look at that list, there are clearly some things that won’t change anytime soon (number 5, for instance, jumps out at me. So does number #1). I don’t want to spend anytime rehashing things I’ve seen others post on the boards, but rather explore three possible future outcomes that I think could happen.

1. Professional/Full-Time Refs

Ok – I hear you. Yes. Yes. Of course. I understand. Uh-huh. I get wha-STOP INTERRUPTING ME WHILE I’M SPEAKING YOU CLOWN.

So one of the possible outcomes in the future is having full-time refs (by this I mean refs who aren’t playing in the tourney at all and are solely there to ref). The benefits are pretty obvious: you’ll actually have refs. Refs who don’t try to scuttle away in between games.

The problem is that no current player is willing to drop their mallet and become a ref – yet. I know that as we all get older, fatter, and less interested in moving, there will probably be a few of us who are still interested in the sport – and then you’ll have your experienced refs, beer guts and all.

Again, we’ll run into the problem of having folks who are volunteering their time, and the idea of paying someone to ref is like oil and water in bike polo currently. However, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for a group of refs to be formed up and paid for services rendered. Read more

Seven things I learned at ESPI 7

1. I don’t get nervous at Tourneys

I fully expected that I’d get the jitters with the thought of facing down some of the best teams around, and wore my Depends just in case. But as it turns out, I wasn’t worried in the least. There may have been a few fleeting moments of nerves – but those were when I thought the beer ran out or I was concerned with how I looked to the polo girls.

Spoiler: I looked like a furry barrel with a beard.

2. I didn’t feel completely out-gunned

This kinda feeds into no.1, but I also expected to be completely schooled at this tourney. I mean – we were playing against folks who have been in bike polo longer, practiced harder (maybe), and knew what they were doing (probably). Much to my enjoyment, Scrimmage held its own rather well the first day (5 wins, 2 losses), and didn’t make a bad show of losing our first 2 games the second day – we scored points, after all.

So what I learned was: you’re probably better than what you think you are. It makes sense, really. If you play at something each week for a year or so, you’re bound to have picked something up that’s beneficial.

3. Everyone is excited

Everyone.Wants.To.Be.There. It’s awesome. The whole of ESPIs was filled with this intense desire to be part of it. Everyone was approachable, happy, and willing to talk about what was going on. Community. I’m telling you.

4. Drink water, son.

I listened to Chandel’s advice about hydration and made sure to drink plenty of water. Lemme tell you – it was pretty clear by the last game that my body was pissed at me, and if I hadn’t hydrated, I’m sure I woulda woken up in the middle of the night with Charlie horses and my team mates thinking an intruder was assaulting my nether regions. Read more

Bench Minor will make bike polo a mainstream sport

How do you like that for 100% authoritative statements pal?

I was taking my weekly shower out of mason jars and the thought came across to me: what are a few reasons that our darling sport isn’t more well-known? I am aware, of course, that sports in general take a while to get into the public mind (American football began around 1892 and didn’t really become “the greatest game ever played” until 1958)(thanks Wikipedia!). But beyond that, what is going to propel our sport into the next phase of development.

The phase where we start growing hair in different places and noticing other polo clubs are changing, too.

People need a team to root for
Most major sports—short of tennis, which is kind of goofy anyway—have teams. Most times they have more players on those teams than can play at any given point. The idea of this team, this group identity that folks can get behind, is what makes them so damned loyal to that team.

Right now we in polo have 3 man teams that we draw up out of our club cities (mostly). While this makes 100% perfect sense, it doesn’t lend itself to that big team identity that people can stand behind.
Instead, you can have a club playing against itself, inconsistencies with those teams in smaller or more flexible clubs, and so forth. It doesn’t create a stable identity for spectators to get into.

In Bench Minor format, you do have that whole club feel because, gosh golly, most times it is your whole club or at least most of it. Instead of playing against your own club’s players you’ve got an “us against them” mindset – something that draws spectators into the game a bit more.

People need leaders
One thing that makes bike polo awesome is that a club is pretty autonomous. Sure, we have star players and decision making folks out there, but we’re an immensely democratic sorta operation.

This is also something that hamstrings us, though. Read more

Get Ready: Espi7

from DC Bike Polo

DC Bike Polo is proud to announce that the 2012 Eastside NAH Qualifier–aka ESPI 7–will be held on June 2nd and 3rd at our Polo Camp location in Frederick, Maryland.

 Visit DC Bike Polo for the announcement post and more info.

Let’s go, Lancaster United, Let’s go!