Tag Archive for Hardcourt Bike Polo

Monday Impossible: Break Up Players Into Divisions?

MONDAY'S IMPOSSIBLE

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.

I CHECKED YOU FOR YOUR OWN GOOD, NEWB

I CHECKED YOU FOR YOUR OWN GOOD, NEWB

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…

ball

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.

 

Review of the 4.0 Ruleset: Curiosities

you can

First, and before I even utterly destroy this nonsense of a rulebook dive into what the newest rulebook offers, I’d like to recognize all the folks who put the time into getting us to a point where we’re on the 4.0 rule set. Sure, I could write up a post about how much this ruins bike polo (or about how much I hate bike polo in general, just to be on the inside), but things like this take a helluva lot of work, and I am not blind to that.

Now then:

I’m not going to be covering everything, just what I find to be notable. If you want to read the whole kit n kaboodle–and you should–go here:

http://www.nahardcourt.com/proposed-2014-ruleset-version-4-0-beta/

1.1: Ref

The first section that strikes me as kinda great is the hand signal section at 1.1.9:

Hand-Motions

Why is this great? Well, for one thing, it removes doubt visually for what is being called. I know I as a player can barely hear a ref, and as a spectator I definitely can’t. Adding visual cues is an outstanding way for refs to communicate instantaneously what their intent is.

1.3: Goal Judge

Section 1.3 (Goal Judge) is also a move in the right direction, as it gives more power to someone who should be assisting the ref as much as possible. I would like to see the power of the goal judge expand even more, honestly. While I think it’d be tough to implement a GJ who is able to ref in tandem with the ref, I would like the GJ to have the power to signal an illegal action has been taken, and then be able to signal to the ref what that illegal action was (infractions, illegal moves, etc).

An interesting bit of phrasing comes up around 2.1.2.3.1:

injured playersSo if you’re team-mate breaks their toes, is replaced, and then “thinks” they can play again, tell them to bugger off. No you won’t ruin this for me, Harold. You’re the one with weak toes. 

2.2: Courts

Only two notable things I want to bring up here:

1. Court boards are 4 feet high at least

2. Courts have two doors symmetrical to the half court line

Both of these are, for better or worse (I think better), putting the demands of running a good tourney into law. You can’t half-ass your courts for an NAH tourney anymore, and for a short guy like me, having doors required is super great.

2.3: Goals

I have a disappointment here, and I’m sure someone could explain it all away for me pretty rapidly, but why do we require that goals have firm top crossbars? It seems to me that goalies leaning on the top crossbar is a big issue (big enough to have rules written for), and we could eliminate that issue by making it so goals didn’t have firm crossbars, but rather just the net suspended in between.

Oh, I guess because falling on a standalone bar would suck, maybe. I think I just answered my own question. Carry on.

2.4: Bicycles

Crandall Rule

I propose we call this the Crandall Rule.

2.5: Mallets

I see we still have language about carbon fiber mallet shafts. Who the hell is using carbon fiber and could you please contact me? 

5: Ball Handling

This whole section introduces some changes to what we understand currently. Most notably:

Ball Handling

So, you can ball joint anywhere, but only for two seconds (I plan to shout while I’m ball jointing so the ref knows I’m following the rules), you can scoop, and you can’t carry. I enjoy that violating the time limit and the carry-rule results in a ball turnover.

Sorry, Dave.

We then get into penalty format which, while very interesting, I will not really cover here in full. I really strongly suggest you go out and visit the proposed rules to read over this section though.

Section 10: Bodily Contact Penalties

However, I will bring up a few of the body contact rules that struck my interest in particular the checking rules:

body movin

I like that a hard line has been drawn to remove some of the confusion over what constitutes an extension. Hit with your shoulders, people. It’s not hard to understand.

I also like the inclusion of ball-specific contact (anything outside of that, save for a moving screen, is deemed interference). This helps strengthen the fairness of the game, I feel, as we had some issue last year with off-ball contact.

Disappointingly, headbutting (10.6) is still illegal.

10.10: Flagrance

defenseless

If this is the case, I should never be physically struck, as I should always be deemed defenseless.

And that’s my overview. Again, not a complete examination of the rules, I’ll leave that to LoBP (ALL HAIL), but the parts that interested me the most.

What’s Your Retirement Plan: Life After Polo

forbesbikes

Let’s say there comes a day (and this day is surely decades away, right?) where you can’t play polo anymore. You’re just too old, too tired, or too broken apart by the sport to play anymore in the “big leagues” of organized tourneys.

It’s bleak to think about if you’re currently an involved, tourney-active player–but no person remains in peak condition their whole lives. Well, almost nobody. Lumberjack is inexplicably the most fit person I’ve ever met and he’s past the typical age of a polo player. Dude is going to outlive us all.

But let’s say, for whatever reason, you aren’t able to play anymore. Have you considered what you’re going to do? Have you given thought to how you can stay involved, or are you planning to just completely abandon the sport?

Well, my hypothetically retiring friend, let me make a few suggestions to you before you sell off your bike to a museum and start going to your club’s 50 year reunion. Read more

New Year New Polo New You

YOU'RE GREAT FOR BEING YOU!

It’s 2014, and I’m sure absolutely everything is going to be different, forever.

But let’s just assume (for the slightest of moments) that those big changes are going to require just a little bit of your own effort to achieve. So let’s talk about resolutions, in particular the sort that are polo related–we don’t want to talk about how you’re hoping to avoid gluten this year.

Resolution #1: Travel More

Masters Indianapolis 2013 (34) (Copy)I think this is a great resolution for lots of polokins out in the world. You have your club, and boy do you love them; but it’s okay to see other people. Travelling about like a medicine show salesman is a great way to learn new skills, meet great people, and strengthen your own bike polo experience. I’m going to try to take some of my own advice in this particular case, though I’ve got a big-boy job that really limits my ability to travel.

It’s horrible, and I advise you to avoid what I’ve done as much as possible.

Resolution #2: Get Polo Healthy

2013-04-28 10.40.20There is healthy and then there is polo healthy. For my part, I think getting polo healthy is a really good aim for at least myself, but probably for a lot of players out there.

What do I mean by polo healthy? Wellsir, I mean getting on the bike outside of polo to build up my endurance (of which I have none), my speed (none currently), and my comfort with bike control (I’m surprised I can stay on it at all, really).

I also mean getting my core a bit stronger so I can use my body to help direct my game. Right now I think of myself as a pair of strong legs attached to a barrel of Jell-o, topped with a brain. Oh, and that brings me to the third resolution.

Resolution #3: Pump Up The Self Esteem

rocky-iii-560-mickeyNo, I don’t mean I’m going to try to make myself feel better in all facets of my life, as I think that being a moody, self-deprecating person is an important element to being a successful writer. I mean I want to bolster my self-esteem when it comes to playing bike polo.

This doesn’t mean getting so good that I don’t have any complaints about my play. It means accepting the kind of player I am, allowing for mistakes, and trying to not get down on myself when I have a horrible day at a tourney/at pickup. It’s easy to get all sorts of angry with yourself in this dumb sport, but realizing that you’re there to have fun is a good way of getting out of that rut. Let’s all try that one together, shall we?

The Promise of 2014: Will Bike Polo Grow Up?

New Year Baby

Whenever I’m fortunate enough to find myself on a day which contains polo, my thoughts always lend themselves to three over-arching concerns:

1. will I be able to find clean bike polo clothing?

2. will anyone bring beer and/or snacks?

3. will someone come to the court to kick us off?

It doesn’t matter that we’ve been playing at the same location for years, now; we’re not supposed to be there. And with each encounter between ourselves and roller hockey players/parents of roller hockey children/police, we draw ever closer to a moment where someone in power will tell us we can’t use the rink anymore–and then Lancaster United is back to square one (as far as a perfect place to play is concerned).

glueBike polo is, for better or worse, a baby. It isn’t able to stand on it’s own, can’t support itself, and certainly can’t run with the bigger kids (imagine hockey, football and baseball personified as tween children running well ahead of a baby (bike polo) being pushed along in a stroller by Ben Schultz. Baseball is a kid who is eating glue near a pitching diamond, if you’re curious). Bike polo isn’t widely recognized, it’s not widely accepted as a legitimate sport by the townships and local governments that we so earnestly approach for our own space, and it’s certainly not in the collective conscious of our culture.

In short, bike polo needs to do a lot of growing up if I indeed want to stop thinking that we’ll be forcibly removed from our playing area every time we saddle up.

red bull2014 is a new year, and all new years carry the assumed possibility of big changes. I’d like to think that 2014 will be the year that the NAH manages to get some sort of big sponsor to foot the bill for the Qualifier Series, a Red Bull or Gatorade that will demand our sport be put in at least a nationally syndicated commercial for a few months–raising recognition and respect of our players. I’d like to think this is a possibility, that when a group of bike polo players approach a local government they don’t spend the first thirty minutes trying to explain what bike polo is, and then another thirty minutes trying to explain why it’s worth listening to their request.

It’s something that can’t happen, I don’t believe, without a bigger spotlight on the sport. All we need is one big spotlight just for a little while: perhaps Nationals or Worlds being a “Red Bull Event,” as much as that might stick in the gullet of a few people in our community. Or it might be as simple as Nike deciding to try sponsoring a few teams for a grand each (and putting pictures of that team up on their home page).

I don’t know quite what growing up would look like, but I know we aren’t there yet, though we should be if we’d like to start seeing multi-use courts welcoming bike polo players, the securing of tournament areas becoming easier, and bike polo as a whole continue to gain players and supporters rather than becoming stagnant.

Don’t Play Hero Polo

Wolverine polo

There is perhaps no more celebrated a sports moment when one player–after it seems like there’s no possibility to win the championship/game/division title/fight against basketball playing aliens–manages to turn everything around and win the game for his or her team.

Okay, it’s mostly his team because that’s how Hollywood rolls.

But there is a time and a place for those sorts of heroics, and the time and place for them isn’t when it strikes your fancy, surprisingly enough.

Polo kinda lends itself to giving players the mindset that they are much more important than what they actually are. I’m not saying that you can just slack off or that you shouldn’t feel like you’re just as special as a little snowflake, but believing that you’re the only thing holding your team together–or even that you’re the only player on your team that can make the difference–is the wrong way to go about it.

Sure, you very well may be the strongest player in your team, but in a game of 1 against 3, the team playing with 3 will have a much easier time of it. And it’s this sort of rationalized humility that you should be working from.

swordI have witnessed teams that fall apart only because one player believes themselves to be King Arthur, wielding around a mallet like it’s Excalibur and charging to the ball no matter how sensible it is to do so. I’ve also witnessed these players deal with the consequences of how the other two people on their team treat them after the game.

Even if you were able to win playing that way, you’re reducing the confidence your team-mates have in you to play intelligently–and you’re burning up lots of energy trying to save the known universe with your heroics.

So instead of getting it in your head that you can run the whole game from your saddle, consider instead how you can contribute to your team and to a 3 person effort. Hero polo is something that only the very new or the very under-informed play, so knock it the hell off already!

Monday’s Impossible: Introduction and First Impossible Idea

MONDAY'S IMPOSSIBLE

Why hello there,

A little while back I was struggling to come up with content for this little blog, and if today has been any indication (don’t worry, Nick Kruse practically forced me to punch myself for posting that eighthInch thing) , I still sometimes run out of ideas for new posts.

That last time, however, Alias of DC bike polo suggested that I write a post of “what if” ideas–ideas about the sport that might not at all be practical or possible, but were none the less interesting to think about.

Being a kinda in-my-own-head sorta guy, I thought this was a good idea, and I want to give it a try today. Recognizing that many of you will read these ideas and almost immediately see the flaws, I decided to name this particular segment of the broadcast “Monday’s Impossible.” I hope you get a kick out of expanding your mind and using your IMAGINATION.

So, for the first impossible idea:

What If We Eliminated The Dab?

The dab–the tap-out: it’s one of the first hard rules of our sport, and the one that nobody takes issue with (which is kind of unique, considering just how much we like to complain, no?) But what if we were to eliminate this requirement after someone puts a foot down/falls off their bike?

Putting on my imagination cap–oh, sorry, my imagination cap, I can forsee a few changes to our games. 

For one thing, I think that people immediately call for a rule that people playing goalie had to stay upright, which would eventually lead to people saying that there isn’t an official goalie, so how can you tell who is actually playing goalie/isn’t/league of bike polo (ALL HAIL!) thread for dayzzz.

But moving past that goalie situation, the impact would be huge, I think. A team’s strategy could no longer be to try to get the other team to dab, as  the other team could just pop back up on their pedals and keep going. This would be particularly frustrating if you were the offensive team and the defense just kept falling and getting back up like some sort of undead menace.

I don’t think it would have much of an impact as far as long-court movement went. If a player puts a foot down on your breakaway and needs to tap out or not, they are effectively out of the play anyway, so it works either way.

I think that newer players wouldn’t gain the legendary balance that polo players eventually posses-at least not as quickly, and that would be a shame indeed.

So, overall, the dab serves the purpose of cleaning out an area once someone has lost the battle against gravity, adds a requirement for a certain skill level, and also rewards those who are more in tune with their bikes than not.

As far as this fellow is concerned, this impossible idea should remain very much so impossible to enact.