Tag Archive for Bike Polo

Maybe It’s Not About More Big Tourneys

Quittich

For the past year or so, there has existed a significant push towards having bigger, better, higher budgeted tourneys in bike polo. It makes some sense, this drive to move away from poor courts, iffy organizing, and what not. To be honest, I think this kind of shift is a natural progression of the sport (as it develops, so too do the tourneys we put on. It’s not brain rockets), but I wonder about something else: maybe the answer to growing the sport isn’t bigger, better tourneys. Maybe it’s smaller tourneys that happen more often.

First, let’s establish what we’re aiming for. In my case, growing the sport means having more people playing. That’s it. I’m not talking about getting people to watch the thing, nor am I talking about getting sponsors lined up. I’m talking about sheer number of bike polo players on the courts.

Using that as my measurement for success, I can begin to make the argument that having 5 little, regional (read: within 2 hours of where you live) tourneys might be a better bet than having 1 big regional (read: in your NAH Region) tourney, or even just 2 larger tourneys that have nothing to do with qualifying or the NAH. Read more

Should Each Club Have A Medic?

medic

The first time it happened, I think, I was at the Thaw–Peter took a hard crash in front of goal and was groaning a bit and not getting up, so I ran out to make sure he was alright. I had him breath in and out, pushed where he said he had pain, all that jazz. He was fine, but that’s when it started.

From that point on, I’ve been increasingly called on to address (either through my own will or by people shouting for me) cuts, falls, and broken bones.

Now let me be clear on this: I’m not a legitimately trained professional in any way. I was a boy scout who learned a little bit more than the basics of first aid, and my mom is a nurse, so I have some background knowledge on top of that. But when someone is bleeding like a punctured bag of Capri Sun, I’m not the worst guy to have around to address that.

What concerns me is not that I’m asked to help in first aid situations (I’m more than happy to help), but that I specifically am needed to be called at all. There were only two instances where someone else was more qualified than me: Worlds of 2013 (Medic Mike was there, as was an ex-marine with trauma training), and North Americans, where Jacques (an EMT, if memory serves) was more than capable, though he did let me hand him things, which was fun. Every other tourney, however, I had the distinct feeling that nobody was really ready or willing to jump in if needed.

This is also where I note that, while at Worlds 2013, I did the ol’ “follow my finger with your eyes” move that Mr. Do captured and  Horse is so fond of making fun of me for. If I don’t say it here he’ll mention it in the comments, so here it is. HERE IT IS, HORSE.

And that gets me to thinking–should clubs at least try to get one person to be first aid certified? Would it be beneficial if we, as North American Bike Polo, could be sure that at any given tourney we have at least some first aid certified folks bopping around? If you go through the Red Cross it’s about 90 bucks for adult first aid/CPR certification, and that could go a long way in addressing ouchie boo boos in a good way during a tourney (or knowing when a person needs to go to a hospital).

I’m not saying that we all need to be trained EMTs or nurses, but it’s concerning when a group of people surround someone on the ground and nobody knows quite what to do. We’ve been terrifically lucky as far as injuries go in the sport, and I say that in full knowledge of some of the big injuries players have had. I’m curious about how other clubs deal with this, if at all, and if getting some club members to enroll in a simple first aid class would be helpful to the sport as a whole.

IT’S A TRAP!

trap

Recognizing and Avoiding Positional Traps in Bike Polo

Editor’s note: I’m only writing this post to use that featured image.

There are lots of easy ways for an experienced player to get newer players out of the way. The first might be the smell of their equipment, but the second is maneuvering in such a way that the newer player is out of the play. You’ve experienced, witnessed, and completed these sorts of maneuvers quite often yourself, I’m sure. The problem (and the way to avoid getting put into this situation) is fairly simple: recognize when the trap is occurring, and do the opposite of what triggers the trap.

One example of this is when the opposing player (who has the ball and is approaching your goal) tricks you into coming out of position. Let me draw you a picture:

out of position

As you can see in this highly skilled, somehow patriotic diagram, the player who is helping cut the line steps out of place (to attack the upper opposing player who has the ball), leaving the goalie to have a harder time either a. dealing with a pass to the other player or b. be facing the wrong way when the ball carrier moves further down the court. The advice I have for you here is to stay closer to the goalie (not like, in the crease or anything, but close enough to help disrupt a pass or block off another player) and to not face the opposite way as the ball carrier (or at least not put your momentum into going the opposite way that they are going). As I and many other smarter people have said before, it takes very little to get past someone when they are pedaling towards you. Read more

Modifide: Why You Shouldn’t Have Favorites

arc4

I have used a Modifide Arc 4 mallet head since October of 2013. I am crazy about it. I reviewed the original arc and its little brother on the site, and the Arc 4 has been as reliable as it has been fun to use.

And now, as I’m sure we’re all mostly aware, Modifide has called it quits because, let’s face it, life often dictates that sort of thing. Now I’m faced with a few choices to make as a player:

  • Do I try to buy up all the ARC 4s I can?
  • Do I hope that someone else buys the company and continues to make the head?
  • Do I learn how to use a standard shaped mallet head (there are plenty of great options out there, no doubt).

This is a dumb situation to be in, but one that I think folks in our sport come across more often than not: a company makes something you integrate into the way you play, then that company disappears and you’re left needing to fundamentally change a few key aspects of your play in order to keep up.

Now I’m probably overstating this (hell, this is yellow page journalism at its best!), but it is an inconvenience I’m going to find myself in sooner or later. There simply isn’t enough of a market for multiple companies to really find value in competing with each other for sales, and that leads to a lot of good folks stepping away from fine products only a year or two into the business. And that’s fine–the fault isn’t at all with them. The fault is in a flooded market & a lack of demand.

Instead of leaning so heavily on a single product that has the chance to simply disappear (which is such a funny thing, really, when you think about how the shape of a game’s equipment is traditionally specific), you should try to be strong on all sorts of mallet heads. That is to say, you should be at least comfortable using various types of equipment. I’m not saying at all that your entire game will be different for years after company XYZ stops making the Wizzbang mallet head, but it might push into a different product which, for at least a little while, will take more of your attention to use (in my case, having mallet heads that are longer and catch on the ground in a different way than what I’m used to).

So how do you familiarize yourself with different mallet heads without spending $200.00 a year? Hell, I don’t know. I realize this is the part where I’m supposed to give you some sort of over-the-top solution about the problem, but I don’t have one. I guess maybe you should be aware of the situation and be open to re-learning your equipment. Does that work? Okay maybe that doesn’t work.

Anyway I’m just frustrated that my currently most-used mallet head’s company is stepping away from production. Sure, there are so many options out there for me to have fun with, but MAN that gets my goat.

2014 Eastside Frost: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

drying gloves Keegan Bursaw

(featured image: Keegan Bursaw)

The 2015 Frost was, above all else, a tourney of experiments. First, how a 5 man bench tourney would go down in the ol’ Eastside region (I think this was the first). Second, whether you could introduce a crease rule and have it stick (which certainly has been experimented with in other tourneys), and third, whether you can create a tent village to keep people dry enough to play.

Well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

In all truth, and I’ll say this now to spare you all the suspense, the Frost was an enormous amount of fun for a variety of reasons, which brings us to the first part of my over used title:

The Good

2014-12-06 09.58.35The Frost’s format, five player bench, is just so much fun. As Horse said perfectly on our way back to Lancaster, it’s a bench where instead of feeling like you should play everyone, it’s one where you need to play everyone. The 2 people who are sitting on your bench when a game is happening are actively involved in coaching, are ready to jump in, and don’t feel (at least in my case) like an appendix in an otherwise useful body.

The games were also 30 minutes long, which seemed just a touch too short–which is perfect. I left games feeling relatively good, and not at all over-worked. One could certainly chalk that up to my general laziness on the court, but let’s say that it’s more of a signifier of how solid the length of the games were instead. Yeah. Let’s do that.

Even with all the metarequirements of a tourney (lodging, eating, palling around), having 5 people instead of 9 really worked out well.

I guess when it comes down to it, I’d probably travel further for a 5 person bench tourney than I would for a three person tourney.

The Frost organizers also did a bang-up job on creature comforts. Yes, Saturday was probably the worst conditions I’ve ever played a tourney in, but we had a shanty town and outdoor heaters, and that went a long way to make me comfortable. Okay. I wasn’t comfortable at all, really. BUT I really appreciated the effort and WTF ever, rain. I don’t even care ’bout you. Read more

Bully Polo: We Don’t Have Time, Move Over

bully

I’m a sensitive guy. I’ll admit it. I get choked up at some commercials, will blubber at films, and have spent the better part of an afternoon sobbing on my bed after reading the last line of Love in the Time of Cholera. It’s part of my character (the blubbering sensitive part, I guess).

Being as sensitive as all that, I’ll also say that I’m very well aware of when other people are, you know, trying to get under my skin or, probably more likely, just being jerks.

There are many groups within bike polo, so making the ol’ “there are two kinds of people” won’t work here, but I will say this: there is a subculture in our sport that fosters the devil-may-care, I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-you sort. Folks who try to hurt you when playing just to hurt you, who try to make you feel small afterwards, and who, generally, don’t give a damn about your feelings.

But I’m going to lay it on the line, here: you can only be so badass when you’re playing a sport like ours. Let’s get real about this. None of us are that far outside of being a bunch of bike nerds playing a fringe sport. That’s just how it is. To lord yourself over another player because you think they aren’t part of your core group is just silly. It’s middle school antics, and we don’t have time for it.

Out of all the tourneys I’ve been to, it’s probably only happened three times or so: where a small group of people are viciously (not for funsies) yelling at refs or yelling at the other team or being mean spirited. It’s lame, and everyone who isn’t in that small bullying group doesn’t find it all that helpful. It’s also kinda weird for our sport, as we are generally such trusting, lovey-dovey sorts.

Bike polo is evolving, as much as it ever does, and for my part I believe the folks who try to stand in the way of other folks–the folks who try to pull others down–aren’t going to have a place at the table soon enough. Our sport is really big on inclusion and good feelings (we’re all nerds, after all), and those who are against that are going to come up against a pretty significant brick wall in the coming years. Sportsmanship is a huge thing in our sport, lest we forget the first rule of bike polo.

I’m not free in this jaw-waggling attack, either. I have been, at times, the aggressor in situations where someone was new to a group or an easy target, and I attacked. It’s easy to be a jerk, it really is. It’s by far much harder to be friendly.

So if you find you often judge your performance at tourneys by how much you can tear someone else down, go ahead and start a new sport or just make a “We’re cooler than you” version of bike polo to play with the other 20 people who think that way in North America. We’ll wish you well on your way out.

Thoughts on Turducken and 2v2: Great, but No Thanks

trdcknvii

Turducken was a blast. Truly. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates than Carter and Ransom, and we went further along (I think tied for 7th/8th? I don’t know) than I imagined possible. All in all, I’m deeming it as a success. The hosts were very hosty, I ate more tacos in 2 days than I normally eat in 2 weeks–yes, I eat tacos every week–and the hotel only had one toilet that didn’t work (thanks, Alias, for letting me use yours).

The tourney was also my first ever 2v2 tourney. The rule for this was very simple: you play 2v2, and you have to switch out one of your players with your third each game. While I had played 2v2 at pickup when we can’t get numbers, I never did it at a tourney and, to be honest, I was disappointed when I learned that this tourney wouldn’t be 3v3.

The first day was difficult: I kept expecting to have a third person on my team, and I quickly learned that a tourney of 2v2 counts on a few things:

1. The other team messing up

2. Passing

3. Getting the other team out of position

If you manage two of those 3, you’ll win your games (or at least not look horrible in losing).

I’m going to be honestfrank with you and say that my playing on the first day was horrible. For one thing, my heart was going nuts and that made me not necessarily care how I was playing (as dying is something I’d like to avoid), but I also just wasn’t carrying my weight on the team. Carter and Eric were clearly the strong 2 of we 3, though they were both very kind to me in my uselessness.

The other teams seemed to have the same difficulties we had (save for a few slayers, of course, who could probably play with 1 and 1/4th of a player and still do well). The games weren’t slow, as I was expecting, though the pacing was certainly different. There wasn’t necessarily constant movement, but rather a ebb and flow of movement that dictated how a play either was (or was not) going to work. I found that I had more open breakaways, obviously, but I also felt like every action I took had a much more profound impact on the game than I would if it were 3v3.

I think that’s what the most valuable lesson was that weekend, outside of learning about the Turducken Taco from Cultured Swine, was that new sort of court awareness. I was keenly aware of helping the ball carrier rather than just trying to become the ball carrier. I either worked towards getting the 2nd player out of the play, or in getting my own guy to a good position.

That being said, I found that my leftyness came into play in an enormous way, as did my slow-game-ball-control nonsense that I do so enjoy. Furthermore, tricks became somehow more important (tricks, in my book, include dribbling the ball around other players in the air, weird shots, etc.).

The second day was a much better showing in my case, and I believe I managed to help Carter win every game we played together. I had a stronger understanding of what my role should be and managed to remind myself of that understanding whenever I got in the heat of a match.

Even so: as I left the tourney without saying goodbye to most, and drove my little truck the 7 hours it took to get home (thanks, traffic), I knew that I wouldn’t want to play a 2v2 tourney again. It was great fun, but it didn’t really scratch that itch I look to get scratched at a tourney. Or, maybe I should refine that: I don’t see myself playing in another 2v2 tourney unless it’s happening within 1 hour of driving distance. With Turducken Tacos, maybe 2 hours.

…And 5 Kinda Longer Ways to Get Better!

5

Okay, so I gave you the quick and dirty way to get better as a player in fast order–now let me lay some heavier learning down on you.

Bike polo is a game that takes very little to get the hang of, but much longer to become a master of (if ever–truth be told I’ll never be a master of this sport. I’ll just be lil’ ol’ Crusher watching games and armchair generaling). But I can give you some of my  tips to help you gain that next level of understanding and play:

1. Repetition: This isn’t fun. At least not, like, playing the actual game fun. Repetition means practicing the same pass, shot, or bike maneuver over and over until you can do it in your sleep. Repetition means finding some of your polo buddies and having them shoot on you in goal for a whole afternoon–and then doing it again and again and again. Repetition means working on your mallet control in your driveway or alley. It’s the unfun stuff that pays off huge in the end.

2. Be a student of the game: Watch Mr. Do videos. Watch games at tournaments when you aren’t playing. Watch, but don’t just be watching: be studying. There is a huge difference between witnessing a game and understanding it, and you’ll want to be solidly in the understanding zone. Try to figure out what great teams (and even what not-so-great) teams are doing that works or doesn’t work. Watch to see what they are doing and try to understand how you’d do it, too. You better believe they didn’t just happen across how to block out opposing players while moving up the court: they worked on it, and you can learn from  their work.

3. Live on your bike: (h/t to Autumn for pointing this one out). I suspect lots of us already do this, but I mean your polo bike in particular. Form a relationship with it, take it out to dinner or to drinks every once and a while (I meant that as a joke when I first started writing it, but now I realize that I could be serious: take it out with you when you’re living your day-to-day life). Learn how your bike responds in all situations so you can better understand how it’s going to perform in all conditions on the court. I realize this isn’t necessarily practical in some situations, but oftentimes it’s possible, and you should try for it.

4. Condition yourself: this won’t be a popular one, but it’s true. You need to be in good shape to perform better. It’s a fact. If you’re somehow really serious about getting better and doing better, you should limit your drinking, limit your smoking, and do some cardio conditioning. Yeah, I know. I’m not going to do this one either. But it’s true.

5. Refuse to give up: tenacity is kinda my key to life. I’m not particularly strong, I’m not particularly smart, and I’m not particularly attractive. Tenacity is how I succeed. Dogged stick-to-it-iveness will win out against skill any day of the week, and that’s something that we’ll al need if ol’ number 4 up there seems like too much. I’ve watched plenty of teams simply fall apart when they were down by 3 and had only two minutes to play. It’s nonsense to do that: anything can happen. If you have tenacity and can infuse your  team with it, amazing turnarounds might just occur. If nothing else, it will help you build up some of the other elements needed to play well, and that never hurt nobody.

5 Ways to INSTANTLY GET BETTER

Demuth-Figure5InGold

(You Won’t Believe #3)

Bike polo is all about honing in on a skill set that all great players have. The problem is, of course, that the repetition can make you overlook other skills that are just as important to your game (and you somehow keep ignoring the development of). Well, Ol’ Papa Crusher is here to help. I ask only this: keep an open mind. I realize that all of us are on our own little paths to polo greatness, but if you look at your own development in an objective light, you might find some things you’re simply overlooking.

1. Pass more: this is aimed at hero polo players and newer polo players: passing is scary and unrewarding at times, I get it. But passing is the bread and butter of great plays, and only a silly goon would think otherwise. If you’re finding that the teams you’re on typically don’t do very well with holding onto the ball or staying in the offensive half, try more pass-work. Try passing when it’s not even necessarily called for. Try passing on your bad side and in poor passing situations (like when you don’t have a clear view of your team-mate or when you’re surrounded by opposing players).

2. Learn to stay between the goal and the ball: This one is super simple but lots of players don’t do it. When the opposing team has the ball, try to stay in the way of a direct shot on goal. It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 feet from the goal or 50 feet: getting in the way of a straight shot increases the chances of stopping a point happening. If you go out to challenge the ball carrier, don’t go out too far from the goal, and get back in line to block their direct shot.

3. Shave your eyebrows off. Just do it. Do it. Do it now right now.

4. Have a goal: I feel like lots of folks go out on the court with the ambiguous goal of “not messing up” or “winning”, and those are both noble pursuits, but aren’t valuable ones. With every game, try to have one big goal: not get stuck on the boards, pass more than I shoot, not get caught facing the wrong way when an opponent gets the ball. These are all situational, of course, but they help you stop yourself from just zoning out and getting tunnel vision during play. Bike polo is a thinkin’ game, and as soon as you stop thinking, you’re suffering.

Really I think that’s life advice. Don’t stop thinking.

5. Don’t be hard on yourself: there is nothing so useless as self hatred in the sport. It shuts you down and closes you off from your team mates and from the fun of the game. Messing up plays, plopping your foot down for no reason, and missing easy shots are part of what bike polo is. Just allow it to happen. I mean of course learn from it and try to avoid it, but don’t hate yourself for it, either. As a wise man once said: it’s not worth it.

Code of Conduct: Here, Take This.

thCA1TR4M0

I’m one of the “elders” of my club–that is: I was elected, along with two others, to be the executive branch of our group. When it comes down to it, the post means that I interact with the local government, I try to carry out the will of the club, and I act as a mediator when tempers flare or stuff goes down.

It’s both good to do (as I feel like I’m helping) and stressful (as nobody is every very happy with authority figures in our game).

Part of what I was tasked with doing was to create a “code of conduct” for our club. Essentially, we recognized that we didn’t have a locked down way of dealing with situations where players were acting against the interests or enjoyment of the club.

The document is, effectively, something that our club can fall back on to remove emotions and subjectivity from tense situations. Previously we’d have a spat or raised tempers and we’d go through this series:

1. everyone would yell at each other

2. We’d all email each other and keep yelling

3. We’d agree, more or less, that something can’t happen again.

4. repeat.

With this document we have a series of steps and procedures that, more or less, takes discipline and behavior out of the hands of anyone and into the hands of an agreement. If you do X, you are disciplined with Y.

If you play with our club, you’re agreeing to the code of conduct. If you’re a member of our club, you’re agreeing to the code of conduct (naturally there was a voting on the document from the start, to see if anyone actually wanted it to exist at all).

So I offer it up to you, readers. Use this as you think you need to (or as a starting point for the discussion in your club). Keep in mind, however, that much like the Torah of my people’s religion, it was written by a small group for that group, not for the world. Make sure if you’re using this document that you modify it to fit your culture and own club’s needs.

Lancaster United Bike Polo Code of Conduct