Tag Archive for Hardcourt Bike Polo

Introducing The Insta-Ref!

2014-03-19 08.19.52

Want to run an NAH tournament but don’t have the time or desire to learn the rule-set?

Can’t seem to find anyone willing to blow a whistle for a full day?

Tired of players attacking refs and ruining the joy of the game?

Well the future is NOW!

Introducing The Insta-Ref by Lancaster Polo!

The Insta-Ref™ is the automated, one-touch solution to all of your referee needs. Developed in the secret sanctum of the polo war room deep in the heart of Lancaster County, The Insta-Ref™ is your one-stop solution for any NAH Tournament.

Using the Insta-Ref is Easy!

All you need to do is:

1. Wait for a “potential-call” moment

2. Press the Insta-Ref™ button

3. Perform the action prescribed by the random selection of the Insta-Ref!

2014-03-19 08.20.39

Possible Actions Include:

  • Make Up A Rule
  • Distract With Animal Noises
  • Yell “I AM The Law!”
  • Blankly Stare At Players
  • Blow Whistle Louder
  • W.W.N.K.D (What Would Nick Kruse Do?)

Each of these possible solutions are specially formulated to simulate actual, real life reffing!

Order Now!

The Insta-Ref™ ref management system only exists in limited quantities (read: 1) so act now! The first order will also receive the Insta-Heckle 4000 AT ABSOLUTELY REGULAR PRICE!


Not Embarrassed.

2014-03-05 09.30.02

So I’ve been working at memorizing the 2014 NAH rule book. In particular, I’ve started making flash cards to quiz myself on sections/language of the rules, hand signals, requirements of play and penalties.

Basically, I’m nerding out as hard as possible on understanding and remembering the rules. I’m not ashamed. I’m not embarrassed.

One of the main reasons I’m doing this (besides the Eastside Qualifier coming up here in Lancaster and my own aspirations in becoming a top-notch ref), is because part of the Eastside Thaw this year is a…well I don’t quite know how to phrase it, really. Alias is asking folks to work on being refs, and particularly “good” refs (I think this means you don’t start crying after players tell you everything that’s wrong with you) win stuff and acclaim.

And gamification works on me, folks. It really does.

So I’ve spent the past week reading over the rules every night before I go to bed, and by the end of today I’ll have flashcards to carry around and drill myself on whenever I have a spare moment or my boss pulls me into a meeting.

Is this going too far? Maybe so–but it’s something I want to be good at, and like all things you want to be good at, you’ve got to embarrass yourself a little bit to get there.

So anyway, we’ll see how much sticks and how well I do as a ref during the Thaw. Here’s to hoping, right?

…got my own whistles and everything…


Shake off the Winter Blues: It’s (almost) Polo Season

Distant Elmo

Friends, we’re almost there.

March is here and that means that polokins everywhere are going to be coming out of their caves and log cabins to crack open a High Life and get to work on the 2014 NAH/Tourney series. While it still might seem like a ways off right now, the truth is it’s just around the corner, and that’s certainly something to get excited about.

2014: The Year of Rules

As for this humble editor, I’m seeing this year as one that is more or less focused in on the new rule set we’ve been given this year–namely the interference rules and how they’re going to play out in actual game play. A good thing about these new rules is that they seem to be focused on evening the playing field a bit and are likewise some of the most articulate we’ve seen in our sport. A bad part, I fear, is that to actually enforce the rules will take more than just 1 ref.

Consider this: if there is an interference call to make, the infraction needs to occur near the ball carrier or the ref needs to not be watching the ball carrier (which opens them up to more missed calls). Really, I think this can be avoided by giving more power to the goal judges to signal that an interference infraction as occurred (which the ref can then choose to recognize or not), but that level of power doesn’t currently exist for the goal judges.

So, like I said, I think there are going to be some late night meetings and long forum discussions on the interference rule. Furthermore I see at least one helmet thrown in anger per tourney until we get to NORTH AMERICANS JOE RSTROM, where people will either have worked it all out or simply given up.

NAH Qualifiers Feel like Qualifiers

This year I also think we’ll see the rise of more well-run qualifying tourneys. No, I’m not saying every single qualifier in the past was horrible: I’m saying that it’s just a natural matter of course. As we progress, we’ll get better at doing things. This year, we’ll get better at throwing the qualifiers. Clubs are getting more time to prepare, to make inroads with local businesses and motels, and are securing great spots to host. I think it’ll be a banner year for the qualifiers and set the bar for what comes next.

This is also the year that the Mexico Region will host it’s first (I think, right?) Qualifier. Altogether exciting, the Mexico qualifier is going to be a fun one to watch with teams that most of us are relatively unfamiliar with–for now.


The Year of The Newbie

Let me qualify that statement: the 2014 season will bring about a heavy focus on gaining more players (and those players going to tournaments). This is more of a wish, I think, but it’s about time we get another big injection of new players into tourneys and clubs, and as a club member, it’s your job to make that happen.

The sport is beginning to get some footing as far as folks recognizing it, and that means it’s time for bike polo clubs to actively recruit players (instead of just accepting them when someone stumbles into a pickup day). Put out flyers, get the slightest bit involved in your community, and you’ll see a drastic influx of newer players.

Yeah, it’s rough for more veteran players to take on new players, but you’re tending to your future, not your present. Without heavy recruitment every once and a while your club is going to falter.

Tourney Interview: Alias and the Eastside Thaw

Thaw 2

The Eastside Thaw is, more or less, the start of my bike polo season. Held early in March, the Thaw is a chance to meet new players, old friends, and play the game in two of it’s more interesting varieties (these being Bench format and a random-draw team). Alias, who is again heading up the Thaw, was kind enough to answer a few questions I have for him: 

I went to the Thaw last year and had a blast–as the organizer, do you think it went well?

It started out a bit touch and go, but eventually I got into a rhythm and things smoothed out.  It was my first tournament in a lead role, and while I was pretty prepared for the known-unknowns, a few of the unknown-unknowns got me.  I definately had a lot of lessons learned, and I’m more prepared for this year.

What surprised you about running the tourney, and what have you learned from it?

Eastside Thaw  (14)You’ll want to be in more than one place at once, and you’ll panic the most when you don’t have something to do.  What I’ve learned is largely about what prep-work can be done beforehand.  Attempting to do early morning court setup, and the card draw was a mistake.  It took too much time, and cut into play time.  The lesson here is to have a check-in event the night before.  This year, we’ll have evening access to the courts on Friday until 10:00pm.  We’ll do the card draw then, and it will have the added benefit of encouraging players to arrive on Friday instead of early Saturday morning.  I think adding this sort of feature to an event gives me as an organizer an administrative buffer to catch any details that slip throu… are you still awake?

What can we expect to see changing this year (and give a little run down on how it worked last year as a point of reference if you can)?

Eastside Thaw  (15)Like I said, card draws on Friday.  This will speed things up on Saturday.  I also have a better plan for how to do the bench team draft.  This should make it easier on the captains.
We are at two identical inline hockey courts, so there’s a better symetry in all the games–no more dead boards.  The courts are very large, so players that are used to tennis court games will find that the games will take more out of them.  This will matter a lot more during the bench games.

What do you think are the essentials for putting on a good tourney?

Eastside Thaw  (49)A good relationship with your parks & recreation department/office (or whatever host location you are using).  No event exists without a place to play.  Everything else is icing.

But let’s talk about icing.  There’s a structural benefit to providing food at the court.  It keeps players close and ready to play.  Additionally, I’m providing bike valet parking for security reasons.  Bikes have been stolen from Frederick at past events, so I wanted to provide this as a service/conveniance.  It also looks better than a grass plot littered with bikes.

Lots of what I’m able to provide comes from local bike-shop support and partnership.  Involvement with your local shops goes a long way.

The Thaw is a pickup tourney on day 1 with a bench format tourney on day 2. Do you see this as a great way of getting the best of both worlds? Which part is your favorite of the two?  Read more

To Answer Your LoBP Question: You Are A Brat


On February 26th, a post went live on LoBP (All Hail) which discussed a recent tourney in Arizona (DPI 6). The gist of the post (I invite you to read it here and scurry back) was that the writer expected lots of prizes to be handed out in a particular way, and that didn’t happen.

In particular, many of the items that were given by sponsors to the organizers were raffled away, with the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams getting only a few of the prizes overall.

The rest was raffled to whoever wanted to enter for tickets, which resulted in items going to some players, some fans, and a few local folks, too. This frustrated the writer of the post (I don’t know the person other than their handle, Ghabe), as he states:

I recognized a problem and would just like to get to the bottom of it.

I know it seems a bit like I’m being greedy and ungrateful, but come on. It was the first time I podium’d in a tournament. I was looking forward to some sick prizes.

I enjoyed the tournament. I enjoyed playing in Arizona. I enjoyed socializing with fellow southwestern players. This is just something I thought should be brought up.

Was this an actual problem that needed addressing? Or am I just a brat?


I’ll go ahead and help you out here: you’re being a brat, and an ungrateful one at that. 

I realize that’s a hard line to take, but I can’t sell papers without being provocative, so just deal with it.

Now, if you want me to build the case, I’ll be happy to do that, too.

You’re going to win, not to win prizes.

champsphTo start with, you are going to a tourney to play in a tourney. Prizes should be the last thing on your mind. Point in fact, if you’re looking forward to prizes more than reaching the podium, I think you would be better served by:

1. saving the money to enter tourneys, buying yourself cool bike stuff

2. giving that bike stuff to your friends

3. having them, randomly, throughout the year, knock on your door and say “congratulations! You reached the podium for pooping in the morning! Here’s a Paul brake lever!”

4. high-fiving yourself repeatedly

Bike polo tournaments have a weird expectation of giving away stuff, and I am likewise happy when I get free goodies, too–but I’m not indignant if a tourney doesn’t have anything other than a well run tourney where I get to hang out with my friends. That’s what I’m paying for: for the experience, to play, and to challenge myself against others.  Read more

A Guest Letter From A Mysterious Moustache


I just got this in the ol’ email today from a mysterious writer who identifies him/herself only as “Handlebar Mustache.” As it turns out, it seems the general malaise I’ve been feeling about bike polo isn’t a singular thing:

I want to play bike polo so bad it hurts. I’m currently under a foot of snow, slowly withering away into nothingness. I have to take public transportation to work with the yuppies. I have to wear fifteen layers and stare directly into the sun just to remember that I am in fact alive. Every day that there is ice on the polo court, my sadness and frustration multiply exponentially. The ennui grows within me like a tumor in my heart.

Watching the videos on Mr. Do momentarily abates my listlessness, but I am jarringly rocked from my fantasy world when the video ends and the Fixcraft logo appears and I’m staring at a blank computer screen. It’s like watching porn, except I don’t feel as ashamed when I watch people having sex.

Sometimes I rub chain lube on my fingers just to pretend like I’ve done work on my bike. My mallets are all capped, taped, and tightened. My wheels are trued and covered. My brake pads are dialed in and toed in.

I just want to feel alive again, I want to feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins when I am hurtling down the court on a breakaway. I want to feel the pressure of a goon’s shoulder on mine as we smash into the boards together. I want to feel the thrill of scoring a goal on an overhand shot with zero angle. Ok, maybe that last one has never happened, but I want to believe that it COULD happen if I were back on the court.

bald flag

My body aches for contact. My heart aches for drinking beers court-side. My joints… don’t ache. They feel pretty good, actually. My knees haven’t had this much scab-free skin in quite a while. My elbows don’t have bruises and my quads aren’t sore. I don’t have any black eyes or helmet hair. It feels unnatural. My day job productivity is way up, and my free time, on a scale of “one to America,” is as free as a bald eagle flying over Mount Rushmore. Maybe I could get used to this! More likely, however, I won’t, and I’ll just keep waking up every morning with my arm outstretched, as if waking from a dream where I scored a game winner and went into the boards at full tilt. C’est la vie de polo-vélo.


Monday Impossible: Break Up Players Into Divisions?


A few weeks ago I went out to the local beer hole with a few bike polo players to talk shop and see who could drink the most while still maintaining verbal acuity (the answer was nobody). Early in our frivolities, we got on the subject of really outstanding players and how they make going to tourneys (with the idea of winning) a forgone conclusion for most other players.

In the past I’d mentioned having a major and minor league for this very reason, actually, though when I brought that up the people around me made the wise choice of ignoring what I was saying. Good on them, really.

But then Lumberjack brought up this idea:

What if we had divisions in NAH Tourneys?

Now I realize this isn’t a new idea. As far back as 2011 people were suggesting this very thing on LoBP (ALL HAIL!), but I wasn’t part of those conversations and I’m willing to act like they didn’t happen.

What Lumberjack suggested, more or less (the beer was taking it’s effect on me at this point), was the following:

  • Players would, for 1 year, have their records of goals/wins/other important data recorded
  • After that year, the club reps would tally up the group and split them into A/B/C rankings based on defined measurements from the NAH
  • Those players would then go to tourneys and play in those divisions (C players playing on Friday, B players on Saturday, and A players on Sunday, much like (he says) MTB racing does.
  • Players individual records are continuously kept, allowing them to either move up or down based on performance.

There are lots of problems with this model, but I’ll get to those in a second. First let’s talk about the benefits.

1. All levels of players have a chance to win big: Let’s say you’re a C player and you really want to go to a tourney, but realize you’re just going to be pushed out of the thing by Saturday. Well, that really doesn’t give you much of a positive outlook on how things are going to go down, is it? If we broke things into divisions like this, there’s a very real possibility that your team could make it to the podium, as there’s an equally good chance that the folks you’re playing against are around your same level of play. Same with B Players, too.

2. Seeding is less difficult: Instead of having a day where organizers try to work out who is the strongest and who is the weakest team, they can simply start up the tourney for each division respectively. Since everyone is already vetted into a group, organizers can simply create brackets and start the event!

3. bigger tourneys, smaller brackets: Sure, we’re talking about having three individual tourneys happening here, but the brackets will be far smaller for each one, and that leads to a faster event.

4. More entertaining to watch: One of the big things that gets tossed around in bike polo is making it more exciting to watch. Well if you have players who are all closer in skill, the games get more fun, and you have more people to root for. Breaking up NAH tourneys into Divisions gives viewers more champions to root for, and inherently creates more viewers simply because the people who are playing in other divisions will more than likely want to cheer on their friends who are in the currently playing group.


And now some of the problems that I can see with this: Read more

Don’t Be Afraid To Fail, Or: None Of Us Are Cool.

bike fall

There is a hope in any person who endeavors to take up a sport that they’ll be cool while doing it. Not good, necessarily, but cool-looking whilst throwing a spheroid like ball into the air or catching one. Humanity hopes that by hitting a rubber thing with a wooden thing that we’ll be able to make the rubber thing go into a net–just so long as we don’t make a goofy face while doing it!

This is one of the reasons that professional face wobbling has never gained a very big following.

But, moreover, we don’t want to fail. Failure (at least in the culture I happen to reside in) is seen as an end point, more often than not. It’s seen as something to be avoided and shunned. Unless you’re in the business of brain surgery or Jenga, failure isn’t exactly an end. This is probably doubly so for bike polo.

bike fall 2

The thing of it is, our little sport demands quite a bit of a person. There’s endurance, strength, hand/eye coordination, technique, awareness, and not least of all, the ability to not take oneself too seriously. It’s easy to feel like (whether you’re new to the game or you’ve just hit a slump) that there’s really no way you’ll get any better.

And this is the part where you’d expect me to say that you will get better, if only you’ll stick with it for just a bit longer!

But that’s a lie, and I won’t tell you it.

You might not get any better than what you are now or, probably more accurately, getting any better might be a tooth-and-nail struggle that takes months and months between trying to learn how to do a particular move and finally being able to do it. And that’s fine. That’s okay.

You might not be any better than what you are now, and you shouldn’t let that bother you too terribly much.

Being afraid to fail can steal all of the enjoyment from bike polo. It’s possible to get so concerned about messing up that you don’t remember to have fun and be happy at the achievements you are able to accomplish. Don’t be so worried about how you look when you fall or how goofy it is to miss an open goal. None of us are cool, we’re all just trying to have fun and make the best run of it we can.

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Want to Strengthen Your Whole Club? Take Off The Training Wheels.

training wheels

There is a standing rule in Lancaster United and, I think, probably one in a good number of clubs out in the poloverse polanet that states, simply, take it easy on newer players. It makes sense and it helps introduce someone to the sport without introducing them to your shoulder/the court surface at the same time.

But I think there isn’t a standing rule on when to stop being so gentle/careful with our club, and it hurts us in the long run, probably.

It depends, of course, on how well individual players progress from being brand new to a bit experienced, but if the more experienced players don’t start introducing the other elements of the game to them (steals, easy blocks, etc.) they’ll never learn how to deal with those problems, and grow as a player.



Naturally, you’ll feel like a jerk the first time you steal the ball away from a new player who, up to that point, had been able to watch you circle them like a predator while they made their way to the goal for a shot. But that’s okay. Feel like a jerk. The sooner you can turn the pressure up on them, the sooner they’ll be able to grow into a more well-rounded player (and the sooner they stop feeling like a disadvantage on the court, which is something that can surely happen to a player who’s been at it for a while but is still coddled).

With the more recent recruits we’ve had here in Lancaster, there have been a few times where the phrase “it’s okay to play against me like everyone else” has been said. In each and every case, doing what was asked–playing against the newer player as you would anyone else–has resulted in a exponential growth in their enjoyment and confidence.

This suggestion–to be aware of how long you keep the training wheels on someone–isn’t flying in the face of playing against someone the same way they play against you (which I think is very important to do during pickup, too). If a player is not into checking and heavy contact, don’t be that jerk. However, don’t hold back if the new player once to see what that game is like. There’s a chance they’ll tell you to tone it down or that they decided they aren’t ready for it quite yet; but that should be their decision, not yours.

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Hate is a Strong Word…


Generally speaking, I’ll share something on Facebook and it’ll get passed around to about 200-300 people, and maybe garter a few likes along the way. If I do really well, I’ll get something that is viewed on Facebook by 700 or so people, and get 50 or so likes.

Well, when I shared the most recent hating on bike polo blog post, my Facebook page went batty with comments, likes, and views. Something like 1200 views in all.

After I stopped crying with the realization that all the work I do can be negated by a younger, more sexier blog, I realized that it must have really struck a chord with you polokins out there.

The chord struck ranged, it seems, from people saying they loved someone was speaking so candidly about the problems of bike polo, and people who were upset that someone was being so rude and negative. Again, I cried a little bit but resisted pointing out my own past articles that dealt with the very same subjects. Fine, I get it, nobody reads this blog I WORK SO HARD FOR ALL OF YOU EVERY–okay, I digress.

I also received lots of messages from people asking me what I thought about the whole thing, and to be honest, I was a little hesitant to dive in here on the blog, but I want to give my opinion on the hope to cash in on the wave of interest  clarify my position as a respected member of the Association of Bike Polo Journalists.

Hate is a strong word. It’s one that can be bandied around pretty heavily without much regard for what it means or how it can strike certain people. I for one don’t hate the author of Hating On Bike Polo, nor do I hate what he is writing. I think his ideas are not altogether groundbreaking or pulling asunder the foundations of the sport. He is, as any of us who write about the sport are, giving his opinions on bike polo. He’s focusing on areas he thinks need the most attention and are the most detrimental. What’s so new about that? Hell, go onto LoBP and you’ll come across dozens of posts that are more inflammatory than his.

Granted, that first post was a bit poke-your-eye-ish, assuming that everyone who plays has money, no jobs, and are all white, middle class males. But even in this I’m willing to not go to the word hate. For goodness sakes, different strokes for different folks, people. Plus I like to think as a fellow huckster that the first post was positioned to make people vitriolic, hence assuring readership.

Likewise, I think it’s odd that people are saying he should just clam up about his opinions. It’s a single blog, with a single guy behind it (I think he’s alone), and  he’s just a bit grumpy/accusatory. For people to get so upset strikes me as insecure, if anything, and I for one am excited to see what he goes after next. I’m hoping he’ll make fun of bike polo bloggers, actually. That’d be fun to respond to.

For what it’s worth, if you feel as though everything he says is wrong or negative, the simple solution is to not visit the site. I’d strongly recommend, however, that you’d be just as well off if not moreso in reading what he posts and taking it with a grain of kosher salt: you don’t have to agree with everything someone says.

Unless that someone is me, in which case you must. It’s in the V4 rule book.