Tag Archive for Bike Polo

Migration Patterns of North American Polo Players: A Study

migration

I recently received a message from a fellow polo player who expressed concern and interest in the migration patterns of the species known as the North American Bike Polo Player. Having studied this particular species in detail over the course of 4 years, I was more than happy to share his concern and particular interest in the subject.

Okay, So really he’s concerned about how many people are moving to the West Coast (the best coast) from the East Coast (beast coast), and beyond (… I don’t have one for that). But why be concerned about it? If you’re getting great polo out on the WC why not join in on the fun.

What it comes down to, dear reader, are the ideas of balance and development. Lemme explain. Sit down for a second.

So a big part of bike polo is the nomadic nature of the sport. We players travel all over, typically, to play tourneys, to live in new places, and to just generally live our young adult lives. One thing we have, however, is a variety of players. You’ll have a few stars in each club who are, just by being around and playing, helping entire clubs grow stronger and more competitive in play (this doesn’t imply just for tourneys–the competitiveness of play within a club is also an important factor in keeping a club healthy and growing. Clubs that are just kick-around, beer drinking ways to spend time generally disintegrate fairly rapidly).

But–and this is a biiiiiig but–the really great players need to stick around. When they go, the hierarchy of the club gets wonky, and then you find that there isn’t a catalyst for the other players to get better and grow. Regions lose their “heroes” and great teams, and they don’t necessarily have any way to practice playing against really top-notch players. This, naturally, puts them at a huge disadvantage when they go to play in larger tourneys against the region which (now) has a firm hold on the very best. Read more

Bike Polo Players: Horror Movie Survivalists

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Starting around September 30th and continuing until November 5th or so (up to December 25th if we’re talking Nightmare Before Christmas) I begin my yearly feast of monster movies. Old black and white Dracula, horror films from last year–comedy, slashers, down-right horrifying…it doesn’t matter. I’ll watch it all and give myself the hibbidy jibbidys to a point where walking down my hall to pee in the middle of the night becomes an obstacle course between my imagination and my rational mind.

So now that I’m in the thick of it, I naturally began blending this rather large part of my life into the rest of my life (the rest of my life being polo, I guess).

If you think about it–and I’m so very sure you think about it all the time–you’ll see how bike polo is preparing us for a horror film. Well, okay not for a horror film, but for a horror-film like situation. If we just take a few hand chosen examples (which naturally lend themselves to what I’m saying here), you’ll come to find that it makes.perfect.sense.

dontZombies (The Walking Dead): With the new episodes on Netflix I started back up in watching this series, and it’s frankly startling how little folks use bicycles! Sure, there is the good sheriff in the beginning who steals the bike from that poor legless zombie woman, but outside of that I’ve yet to see anyone else pedaling around. I think the survivors of the zombie apocalypse will be small packs of panicked survivors and a huge gang of bike polo players who are LOVING the amount of places they have to play.

For one, our cardio is higher than most people (which, as evidenced by Zombieland, is a very important factor). Furthermore, we’re used to hitting things while on the bike, and I do believe an XT Mallet with a capped mallet head could really do enough damage to a rotting skull to see us steer clear of real trouble.

If nothing else, our general smell and look would confuse the zombies, buying us extra time and comfort in knowing that we could pass as one of them.

Vampires : just slap a wooden stake on the end of your mallet and you’ve got a new game that bike polo players would excel at. Well, most of us. I wouldn’t. But then I’d be a vampire anyway so I don’t see how I’d really be losing. I’d be an adorable vampire.

Jason: Dude is so slow. Really you could just assign a few bike polo players to circle around him all day with GPS on so everyone else could know where he is. PLUS he might stop being so murderous if he was surrounded by people who also wore facemasks in non-facemask situations.

trolls2Trolls (2): Let’s just think about how perfectly ready bike polo players would be if the events which occurred in Trolls 2 ever came to pass:

1. A good percentage of bike polo players are vegan, so the whole green-milk-that-turns-you-to-plants wouldn’t work, because milk.

2. Trolls are vegetarians, lots of bike polo players are vegetarians. Instant brother and sisterhood.

3. We could easily bike out of the ONE SINGLE TOWN INHABITED BY TROLLS

The one problem is that the only way to save yourself is a double decker bologna sandwich, which would kinda backfire for some of us.

Snot piccary Clowns: nope nope nope nope nope nope nope.

 

Really, thinking about how bike polo is saving us from being the character that immediately gets eaten/sliced in half adds yet another layer to love. I encourage you–no, implore you–to watch your next monster movie with this in mind: how would your vast bike polo arsenal see you through.

Have a Plan, but Have a No-Plan Plan, Too

RVA Pickup (18)

I spoke a little bit about this in the past (as I think I’ve talked about most thing in the past at this point), but I want to bring it up again from a different angle–the no-plan-plan angle.

I’ve spent lots of time on this blog discussing tactics and tips for playing–little ideas that might pay off in big ways when all the ducks line up and you’re able to make something happen. But one thing that I don’t discuss very often is how important it is to be prepared for every single one of your sweet moves to fail.

There’s a saying I’m sure you’re familiar with: everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. It’s something that is more than some machismo idea of forward thinking: it’s an absolute truth. People (myself included) can have lots of ideas about what will and won’t work, but when the rubber meets the purloined tennis court, all those plans count for bupkis. In bike polo, getting punched in the face–if not literal–refers to the ball getting stolen right as you start your big play up court–or what happens when there is a breakaway and all 3 of your players are in the offensive zone.

The point I want to emphasize here is simply that you shouldn’t build your entire repertoire off of plays, nor should you build it off of situations–at least not entirely. You should, hopefully, be able to work on your awareness and responsiveness on the court. It’s a great thing to know how to triangulate your position or how to scoop-pass to yourself, but if you don’t know what to do when something new happens on the court, you’re not going to become as strong a player as you can be.

It’s about mental elasticity: promote in yourself the ability to quickly respond to new situations and address them as they come. By opening yourself up to this kind of rapid, lateral thinking, you’re creating an environment where a play gone wrong doesn’t spell disaster for your team or for the game.

How can you work on this? I think it’s a mix of a few things, but the biggest of the things is to not think “no, and-” and instead think with “yes, but-”

An example:

You’re cruising down the court and are waiting for your team-mate to swoop around the goal to line up for a pass/shot. They get in position and you send the pass to them. Unfortunately, an opposing player read your play and has intercepted the ball.

The wrong thing to do is think “No, this play didn’t work, and now they’re going to score/and now I’m out of position/and now everyone will know I’m not nearly as good a player as I think I am.

The right thing to do is think “Yes, the play didn’t work, but now my team-mate is in the right position to stop the break away/but now they’re expecting that play, so I can try something else/but now we can pull them all out of position.

It’s a matter of perception: one will result on dwelling on the play or effort not working (and letting that flavor your response to it), and the other is using that situation to build your response quickly. It opens your eyes to the possibilities rather than the single possibility that escaped you.

 

I know, heady stuff for Wednesday morning. You can handle it.

Stay In Their Lane!

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This past weekend I was fortunate enough to play in the Chilidelphia A/B tournament (on the B side). I had a good time, meeting a few new faces and having my chain pop of mid stride, causing me to crumple over my handlebars and hit the soft, urine-soaked pavement of PHI-town learning a few new things about how I play tournaments.

Playing in the B tourney also gave me lots of time to remember some of the more rookie mistakes we all make on occasion, and the one that really struck me was how folks sometimes forget about lanes.

Lanes are, in I CAN’T HELP MYSELF LANE-MAN’S TERMS HAHAHAHA I KNOW IT’S LAYMAN’S SHUT UP how folks move up and down the court–mostly from one goal to the other. Their lane is the open path they have between where they currently are and where they want to be (which is normally a shot on goal).

What happens, I find, is that newer or less experienced players will not close down a player’s lane–they won’t get in that same lane to stop them from having a clear path to the goal. This is most notable when a player is trying to defend the goal and–instead of getting in the shooter’s lane to potentially deflect the shot–make a loop to get in position as the goalie. This causes a situation where the goal is not only missing a goalie (until the person gets in place), but there isn’t even someone to shoot around on the way to the goal.

So the quick tip here is: if someone has a clear lane and you don’t want them to score, try to get your bike and body in that lane (note: this doesn’t mean right in front of them. This means physically putting yourself in their line of site from where they are to the goal).

Likewise, if you’re trying to help your own teammate get to the goal, try to keep their lane clear by blocking other players out.

reading rainbowIt takes practice (most everything does), but when you get the hang of it you’ll find that you’re more often in a good position to stop or help a play than you are if you’re simply chasing the ball or your trying to get yourself in a good position for something that hasn’t even happened yet. Thinking strategically like this makes you a value to your team and a constant disruption to your opponents. But don’t take my word for it: practice it a bit at pickup and see how it works for you.

Cutting Out Ego, Increasing Flexibility

Buddha

Carter is a few things to our club. For one thing, he’s the youngest player (I think 14 now?). He’s also the coolest. He was our mascot for a while (when he was so young–10 I guess–that we wouldn’t let him play because we were afraid he’d get hurt or be overwhelmed–things that seem absolutely ridiculous now.

Carter is also one of the best players we have, and I’ve been setting out to crack the code as to why.

One of the elements that make him such a strong player is that the dude has no ego. Zip. None. I think it might be because we all out-age him by almost 20 years or so, but whatever the reason, it isn’t there. You can say “Carter, be right here for the pass” and he’ll say “yup” and be there for the pass. You can say “Carter, this is what you could have done better that last play” and he’ll say “yup” and the next time that same situation comes up, he’ll do the better thing.

You can tell him he needs to work on a skill, and he’ll work on that skill until he’s better than you at it.

And he smiles the whole time. The. Whole. Day. Read more

4 year polo anniversary

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Well, I’ve done it.

I’ve kept my interest/body/willpower up high enough to continue playing this sport for another year.

On this day (the 25th of September), four years ago, I played my first game of bike polo–and have been playing fairly regularly ever since. I think playing for 4 years is really quite an achievement, and it better be as I don’t have much else to show for the effort other than a bunch of grumpy joints and a new appreciation of jorts.

Looking back now, I want to condense my 4 years of polo life into a few takeaways, which I’ll try to do right meow:

The spooky crew.

The spooky crew.

To start with, your club is going to change a lot. Like, every year. We have some of the old guard still playing, but I’m comfortable in saying that at least half of our club are people who started after me–and if I remember to recruit actively this upcoming spring, the people after me might find themselves in the same situation. It’s great and not great, depending on whether you’re the sort who likes meeting new people and developing players or not. For my part, I am always excited to see new faces and learn from them as much as they mistakenly try to learn from me.

Next, I’d say it’s safe to realize this is an expensive sport. Sure, you can get into it with a cheap bike and a borrowed mallet, but like all things that grow on you, eventually you’ll start slapping down your shekels for a polo specific bike, new mallets, and everything else we come to associate with bike polo. I don’t want to think about how much money I’ve put down on this sport now, honestly, and I reckon you shouldn’t, either.

DSC_0512Likewise, I’ve come to realize that I’ll probably never be able to travel to a lot of tourneys and I still don’t understand how lots of you do. It’s so expensive! How do you do it?! If I went to even half of the tourneys I wanted to, I’d be flat broke.

Over the years I’ve also become aware that almost everyone reaches a certain level of ability and just hangs out there. I think I’m about as good at the sport as I’ll ever get, and I’m supremely comfortable in that. It doesn’t mean I don’t strive to become a stronger player or anything, but I don’t try to take it so hard when someone is able to do something I simply don’t have the aptitude for. And I can hear you now: “you should always try/you have no limitations/listen to your spirit and truth and light” but I don’t need the comfy blanket of “maybe” to enjoy myself and the game. Thanks. Thanks but no thanks. I’ll just keep making cat noises and be happy with that.

Also, one of the first weeks I started playing back in 2010, I sang:

Down in the west Texas town of El Paso/I fell in love with a Mexican Girl.

And I’ve been singing it with some regularity while at polo ever since. I have no idea why. Four years I’ve been doing that and I can’t stop.

Anyway. A long rant for a rainy day. I’m thankful for my club, which has had no small part in keeping me coming back, and thanks to the sport as a whole for being such a hoot. Let’s see if I make it to year 5 (which is I think is the year I need to create Dumbledore’s army, right?).

I Hurt Myself and Now I Can Shoot Better?

MattRookie

There is no way I can explain how I injured my left index finger without making it sound like I assaulted my wife, so let’s just try for it and see how it goes:

I was play-fighting my wife and I forgot, somehow, that her father was a boxer in the Navy. Long story short, I went to do a haymaker over her head and she, with reflexes like a gorram tiger lifted her elbow at the right wrong moment, causing my half-closed hand to strike her steel elbow. We heard a series of pops and crunches, and then my wife laughed and asked if I was okay.

I was not, dear readers. I was not okay.

Long story short, that was about two and a half weeks ago and I still can’t make a fist with my left hand. My left hand on my shooting arm. I think you are picking up what I’m laying down.

So I skip out on bike polo for one night but then go the next time we’re playing, and it hurts like hell after the day is up but I manage to squeak through alright. Then we go to Philly the next weekend and sister, I played really, really well.

Somehow, because of the way I was forced to hold my mallet, I managed to get shots that were a touch more peppy and a touch more accurate. At first I chalked this up to Philly being nice to me and to some strange dumb luck that comes from stepping in courtside dog poop. However, this past Sunday back home I played and again: accurate, powerful shots.

rookie-of-the-year-photoBeing the kind of guy who dwells on things, I tried to figure out what’s really going on, here. Sitting up in my polo aviary, I help my mallet in my hand and watched it as I swung it around. What I noticed was how I needed to lift my index finger off of the mallet when it began it’s forward swing (because of the pain that came with the fulcrum of the mallet going forward). In lifting off that index finger, the mallet had less guidance from me as it approached the ground–meaning that it had a bit more snap to coming down, and a bit more of the initial accuracy I planned on having when swinging at the ball to start with.

It makes me wonder, actually, what kind of hand position that various players have in the sport. I wonder if, all this time, I was being too rigid with my grip and losing something in the manner of strength or accuracy.

Anyway, as the movie goes, chances are that I’ll re-injure my finger somehow and then I’ll lose my new shooting abilities (and I don’t want to overstate it: I’m not like a super powerful shooter now–just a bit stronger than what I was before the…incident…).

But for now, it’s pretty fun to see how this injury is impacting my play. And even more fun to lose the ability to use my index finger for about a day after playing bike polo.

Help Bike Polo Journalism Stay Alive!

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I and my mortal enemy fellow polo blog writer, Aaron Hand, recently teamed up to figure out a way for the both of us to cover our operating costs while still giving the community we love something in return.

Taking hold of the Association of Bike Polo Journalists I came up with a little while ago (which is most strongly comprised of 321 POLO! and this site here), Aaron developed a great plan to make a great bike polo shirt that not only kept you looking…how do they say it…fly, I think…but also to help Aaron and I cover the not-small expense of running sites, writing articles, and keeping up to date with bike polo news.

Let me tell you, it’s not free, and it’s not quick. This work legitimately takes a large chunk of my life to do, and I’m sure that Aaron is in the exact same boat.

So we teamed up with One to One Print Shop and Paulette à Roulettes to put together this pretty fantastic tee shirt (and sweatshirt):

ABPJ-Shirt

Caro gave us the cool picture on the back (Luca of Call Me Daddy and Marc of Steel Magazine), and Lancaster’s own Lumberjack made the ABPJ graphic on the front. With One to One doing the printing, this is shaping up to be a pretty outstanding way to show your support for your humble bike polo journalists while having another cool bike polo shirt to show off to your cool friends in the cool days of bike polo.

We’re offering the “Heavy Hitters in Hardcourt News” design as a t-shirts for only $20 +shipping and as a crewneck sweatshirt for $35 +shipping. You can find both designs right here.

Speaking for both Aaron and I, it’d mean a whole lot if you’d buy one of these shirts/crew neck sweatshirts. Not only will it be nice to recover at least some of the costs we put into running these blogs for you (yes, also for us, but we love you so), but it’d be so heartwarming to see you guys at tournaments wearing them. I might just cry like a little crying hobbit.

Thanks!

VANDALrgz: Giving Bike Polo its Style

VANDALrgz_WE-2

VANDALrgz was first spotted, (in my case), at Worlds in 2013–and from that time to now the clothing company has sprouted up everywhere you look when it comes to bike polo tournaments and culture. I managed to pin down Malakai Edison and Spencer Sward for this interview regarding what VANDALrgz is, what it does, and what they hope it will be in the future.

Who are you, and what are you making/how did you get started?

We are Malakai Edison and Spencer Sward. We have been playing Bike Polo for 5 years and instantly fell in love with the game and the culture. We are thoroughly invested in the Bike Polo community, Bike Polo lifestyle, and see Bike Polo as an integral part of our identity. VANDALrgz began as a late night conversation after polo. (Malakai:) I told Spencer about these dreams that I had been having about starting a lifestyle brand that centered around Bike Polo. I wanted to join in the growth of Polo as a larger form of expression, much like skateboarding.

VANDALrgz_WE-1Spencer and I had both grown up as skaters and witnessed the the strength of the skateboarding scene. I explained my vision for what I saw was possible in the future and Spencer immediately said he wanted to be involved. We immediately began meeting regularly to go over designs I was working on. Themes began materializing including the Three Hearted Octopus, Watermelon, the 8 Pointed Star, and Vandalism. We both have Fine Arts degrees and Spencer was receptive to my insisting to really develop the theme, logo, and over all branding of the project. I kept drawing and getting more confident with the cohesive collection of imagery that I had been amassing.

In 2013 we had our soft launch of a few products and the creation of our online store and the VANDALrgz brand. We agreed that our brand wouldn’t be about making money, but instead fostering another part of the Bike Polo scene that was not only centered around equipment. Sean Ingram of Fixcraft was a huge supporter from the get go and encouraged us to do something all our own.

A big part of VANDALrgz is the “polo is life” mantra–how do you sustain that?

“i LIVE BIKE POLO” is as simple as it sounds, we see Bike Polo as an identity. Just like with our pasts in skateboarding, we identify as Bike Polo players. It is not only a sport, it is a style… a community… a culture… Bike Polo is one of those action sports just like skateboarding or surfing and has a whole culture that goes along with it. Bike Polo is often how we live. We approach BIKE POLO with the mediums of Art, Music, and Apparel.

What is the rgz of the VANDALrgz? I just want to know.

VANDALrgz can be pronounced VANDAL-ragz or vandal r-g-z. The rgz refers to ones style, fashion, or look. rgz could be synonymous with “colors” or flag or crest.

What separates your clothing from what I could buy in other places?

Read more

From the President of the NAH: 4 Questions Answered.

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I’m fortunate in that Ben Schultz doesn’t hate me. Besides being a stand-up guy all around, he’s also the president of the NAH and as such it’s beneficial to me to have his ear and his willingness to answer questions when I’ve got them. It’s exactly this that brings us to the article your excited little eyes are now reading.

After Worlds and concurrent with my “The NAH Killed Bike Polo” article, Ben and I were in discussion about where the sport is and where it’s going. He was kind enough to answer some of the questions I had concerning the mistakes and lessons he and the NAH have gained over the past year (and, indeed, past years):

Why is experimentation and failure important to the future of the sport?

Ben: So many old chestnuts come flooding in……Both are essential to learning about what you’re doing, and progressing from there. Experimentation should be fun but failure is a part of that process, which means frustration can also be a part of that process. So I try to keep in mind that one, every failure is a step closer to getting it right, and two, what are the stakes? This is polo we’re talking about, so my patience for the process is pretty high at this point.

How do you & the rest of the NAH consider rules and what to change?

Ben:Those surveys helped a lot, hahaha. Observation and vision. And it’s important to understand – this isn’t a process limited to NAH staff, never has been. We all play and we all watch the game being played. Similar situations unravel on the court, but we all interpret them differently. So even though the NAH staff has to do the actual work, we always consult other players, on the phone, in email, on LOBP, on social media, or on the spot. We pool these experiences and varying ideas of what the game should be and then we do the best we can.

What is the power split, in your mind, between what the NAH decides and what regions themselves decide, how do you think that’s going to change in the future?

Read more