In late July of last year, Chandel visited Lancaster United and intimidated me so much that I did a “secret interview” (read: I took notes of how she played and shared it). Since that time I’ve gained a pair and recently asked Chandel to share her thoughts on her own illustrious past, her involvement with the NAH, and the roots of what makes bike polo a great sport:
When did you start playing polo, and with which club?
I started playing the fall of 2008 in Toronto, On Canada, really only played for a couple of months, then winter set in and we took a “break”; so I’d say a total of 3 solid years playing now under my belt.
You’ve played in a lot of places – how many clubs were you a steady member of?
I have been a steady member of 4 clubs total. First Toronto, then NYC for a year, then Philly Bike Polo for a year, and now I’m a member of the Austin Texas Bike Polo Social Club [ATXBPSC] and have been here for 6 months, but do see this as my home for the foreseeable future.
What differences do you notice between clubs? Culture? Seriousness? Etc.
Technically those four clubs fall into three separate regions. The northsides, then eastsides, and now the south central. They all play differently and have different perspectives about camaraderie and club support. The culture of bike polo in Toronto, at least when I started, was much more for fun. I actually started playing in an all-ladies group. One of the local couriers, Shane Murphy, was a player and really wanted ladies to start, so found a bunch of us that would at least try it. It really did have a lot of courier/messenger influence as players and it was much more a hang out and play fun, though we did take it seriously, I think it’s a lot more organized and conservative than it was when I started there.
The eastsides bike polo is very different. It was definitely a lot more serious than what I was used to. Playing in New York at “The Pit” is not only an amazing experience, but one that many bike polo players worldwide dream of doing. I was fortunate enough to be able to live and play in NYC for an entire year. I learned a lot about the NYC way of life and how to play better as a group there. The birthplace of the “new format” or “bench minor” style of play was just being developed when I was there and I don’t think I saw the same club support that they are displaying now. Having said that, some of my polo mentors came from that club and I still very much respect who they are and what they are doing. Paul Rauen would be on the top of that list. The style they play isn’t much different, but they are consistently breaking new ground in terms of equipment. Developing new brake lever styles, frames, handlebars, etc. A fun club to play with but I’d say my greatest “like” for the club is the chance to meet people from all over the world that would come to “the Pit” to play. Great way to see other styles and make new friends.
Philadelphia was much different. It’s very much a closed type of club. They welcomed me nonetheless as the only female player when I moved there, which I’m happy to say has changed and there are more females that play there now. I learned a lot and had some good laughs, but they are more internal than any club I’ve played with. For the most part their skill level is very high, but they travel far less than any other city I’ve played with, with the exception of a few individuals. They are a serious club and they take their opinions on how they play conservatively. A great weekly spot to play at, large smooth hockey court, I did learn a lot about bike control, speed, and ball control while there.
Austin Texas and the south central region are completely different. It’s called the Austin Texas Bike Polo SOCIAL Club for a reason. That’s not to say that we don’t take it seriously, but I immediately felt like it was a group of people that do support one another and do also hang out outside of pick up when possible. There is also a great divide in player skill level here, which is GREAT because we know we’re getting new people into the sport with us oldies [haha]. It’s a younger club but still with solid roots. The Texas clubs all actually play together on a regular basis. In the last 6 months I’ve been to and seen presence at our club by 6 different Texas clubs and that’s just for smaller fun tourney type things. The club itself has limited experience with the “new format” style of playing, but that’s changing in the next few months. There are serious people that play and there are those that play for fun here, so we actually have ‘designated’ nights to try to keep everyone happy. The Austin culture is different in that ‘everyone is welcome’! It’s refreshing and there are a good number of both genders present at pickup every time. The other bonus to the south is being able to play virtually all year long. =]