Tag Archive for Hardcourt Bike Polo

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.

 

Bike Polo And The Art Of War

Sun Tzu

The Art of War by Sun Tzu is read by military leaders, kids who recently acquired cheap, knock off “ninja swords” from ebay, and guys in B&N cafes who want to seem mysterious to the teenage girl who just poured them green tea (“no sugar, please. It is against The Way”).

Frankly, the book doesn’t really apply to warfare unless it’s being waged in a post apocalyptic scenario where the only weapons you have are the ones you can make–but really, I’d be trying to learn more lessons from Red Dawn, in that case. Because I think you need to practice to eat a deer heart, right?

But I’m up to the challenge of taking the basic lessons provided by this noble work and trying to apply them to the much more important art of bike polo. Here goes nothing:

planning始計,始计: Detail Assessment and Planning

In this chapter, Old Sunny is talking about the importance of planning before doing. In particular, deciding the likelihood of success in war (depending on the season, commanders available, strength of force, and terrain, among other things).

In Polo: 

Before you start a match at a tourney, try to watch a game or two from the people you’re going to be playing against. See who they leave near the goal, who is the most active and who is the most accurate. Be familiar with the court surface and how your tires respond to it. Take a few shots to see how the weather is affecting the ball. These are little maneuvers before a match that can provide a slight advantage over the less curious polo player.

Hell, that one was easy! Let’s move on.


war cats作戰,作战: Waging War

Sun Tzu’s second chapter focuses on the idea of a quick battle: how war is more easily won if the battles within it are quick and decisive. Essentially, limiting the cost of the war.

In Polo: 

I think this is an easy one, too. If you are able to shut down a game quickly, it’s a good idea to do so. You’re saving your energy, limiting the amount of time that other competitors can study your strategy, and opening up more time off court for shit talking and beverage consumption.

BOOM!

catplane

謀攻,谋攻: Strategic Attack

The next chapter defines the source of strength as unity, and lists the five most important factors (in order of importance) to winning a war: attack, strategy, alliances, army and city.

In Polo: 

This one is a bit more tricky…okie dokes… Read more

New condition discovered: pololow

scientists

A recently non-published scientific study found that a staggering number of polo players seem to be suffering from a condition known as pololow. Pololow is especially common amongst players living in regions around the high and low latitudes which are exposed to climatic changes, making polo playing up to weeks in succession near to impossible.

The first symptoms appear with the falling of the leaves mid to late October (may vary), the researchers found a correlation between large numbers of leaves on polo courts and the slipping away of bicycles to induce to the first symptoms of pololow. The average playing speed decreased substantially during the 4 week observation period of polo players across the nation (players with courts that are not surrounded by trees were not affected). The onset of the condition will appear at the latest with the first snowfall and the coherent numbing (and subsequent aching) of toes in insufficiently insulated shoes.

For the unknown observer (Polo-Muggles aka Puggles) this form of depression may not be instantly noticeable, yet common withdrawal symptoms can include:

A polo player in hibernation.
Sleeping through the winter is one form of preventing pololow.

  • Restlessness
  • Intense boredom
  • Mood swings
  • A loss of libido
  • Bursting into tears when videos of polo tournaments are posted on facebook
  • Some species of polo players report an uncontrolled yelling at traffic lights with each changing colour, the common phrase to be heard being “3, 2, 1.. POLO!”, followed by a hectic sprint.

A form of hibernation has also been observed amongst polo players, this form of metabolic suppression is commonly maintained by a regular inducement of mulled wine. The closing of christmas markets at the end of December considerably complicates the uptaking of these alcoholic beverages.

Other attempts at delaying the onset of this condition include taking a sudden interest in knitting, stamp-collecting and ironing undergarments. None of these attempts have proven successful in completely preventing the outbreak of pololow.

There is a scientific consensus that the acute lack of roofed playing grounds for polo players is responsible for the consistent rise in cases of pololow on a global scale. It cannot be ruled out, that the condition may reach an epidemic state within the coming years if a solution is not found.

 

 

 

We Didn’t Play Polo, But…

2013-12-08 12.14.30

Sunday morning started like any other Sunday here at Lancaster Polo Dot Com headquarters–with my dog’s nose pushing on my forehead, reminding me that it was time to pee and eat food. So that’s precisely what I did, taking a peek outside to see that there was indeed no snow on the ground.

Around 10 AM I made omelets for my wife and I (mushroom, pepper, and onion, as I’m sure you’re curious) and there started to be a few flakes flittering down from the heavens.

What-ev-ah, I said. I’ll just put on a hat to protect my delicate skull from melting snow.

2013-12-08 12.14.34But by the time I actually hit the road, it was coming down very well. My normal drive of twenty or so minutes turned into one of maybe a half hour. Not terrible, I grant you, but I certainly could have read the signs at that point.

Where we play is perched on top of a hill, and that hill makes itself very apparent when there is ice or snow. This isn’t important now, but it will be later on in the tale.

So I get to our courts just as the hockey players are leaving. The goalie (a boisterous, foaming-at-the-mouth type) tells me that they played for as long as they could, but the court was getting too thick for their roller blades and they decided to pack it in. I told him we’d give it a shot and he laughed at me long enough that I felt the need to turn away from him.

Rodney showed up then, and we discussed how stupid we were for being there. I went out on the court and did a series of front wheel skids, which was a new experience for me and not altogether unenjoyable.

2013-12-08 12.14.38Then Troy showed up and promptly announced we were idiots, and we agreed. From that point all three of us rolled around the court, and I found one of the ice patches that formed near the goal.

I didn’t hurt myself too terribly when I fell, but I decided to take my time getting up by first making a polo snow angel. That was the best thing to have happened while courtside.

After I got up and snapped a few quick pictures (to prove that we three were the strongest and dumbest of our club), people began posting on facebook that they were not coming out. We weren’t surprised, and decided to head back to our warm little polo hovels ourselves.

And that’s when that hill I told you about came into play. You see, I tried to go back the same way I came, but an ice truck had slid sideways about halfway down the hill, and I was waved to a stop by a woman in a van.

“If you go down that way, you’ll DIE.”

I thought it was a bit dramatic of a statement, and I tried to peer down the hill to see the Earth opening up with tentacles coming out (how else could she be so sure of my death), but she said it again and then told me to go any other way. She was a goof, but not incorrect, so I turned my delightfully bad-in-the-snow Saturn Ion around and found the highway, taking a good hour to get home.

So instead of playing polo I cheated imminent death and read 200 pages of Storm of Swords.

Bike Polo Isn’t an Institution. It’s an Experiment. Calm Down.

Experiment

The announcement of proposed changes to the structure of the regions in North American Hardcourt Bike polo came with it’s expected share of tooth gnashing and dismissive, regurgitated whatevers from across the polosphere. And for good cause–regions are being broken up, most established regions are losing allotments for the upcoming year (South East losing something like 40% of it’s allotment, I believe I read), and conversations springing up discussing how all of this is either going be a good change or yet another horrible one that nobody likes God-why-do-I-even-play-this-game.

But there is something to remember in the midst of celebration or disappointment: nothing is written in stone. Point in fact, it’s not even written in wood or dirt or…uh…I don’t know, sand? Sand I guess?

Bike polo is so remarkably under-developed as a sport, and it’s one of the reasons that the rules, regions, voting, and processes change almost every year. The people we entrusted to help solidify and protect the game are (as we all are) still trying to work out what works best. Whether you’re a confederate or a federalist (that is, don’t care what the NAH has to say or are a staunch supporter), the truth remains that those folks are attempting to do what’s right for bike polo as a whole, as we all are. Mostly.

So when you feel as though some core value of what you understand bike polo to be is being attacked, keep in mind also that bike polo isn’t an institutional thing being attacked by some radicals. It’s a developing sport which is so new it can take enormous hits from experimentation. There are no sports that were completely formed even years after they went onto a national level (American football played around with the points system, moving the field goals, allowing for the forward pass, etc). Hell, even President Teddy Roosevelt had a say on the safety rules of Football, and I’m pretty sure Obama hasn’t even heard of bike polo (thanks, Obama…). 

So when your hackles flare up because it’s decided that a crease will exist in the sport/not exist, or you see that your region is being split up/not being split up, try a few breathing exercises and remind yourself that it’s probably not forever. That which does not work will be abandoned, and that which does will be kept.

The real danger, I feel,  is in not allowing for those experiments to take place. Bike polo can’t possibly be as good as it’s going to get in structure, and it’s our jobs to be open-minded enough to make mistakes until we find the successes open to us.

Is there such a thing as sneaking around on court?

image from threadless.com

We have a particular player on our club, Carter, who is the ninja-ist ninja player I’ve ever encountered. He is quiet on the court, is able to dodge around other players, and sneaks up on my blind side to steal the ball more than I care to admit. Sure, he’s only 13 or something, but after he steals from me (and laughs…he has this flippin’ laugh!) my first though is “I wonder how far I could throw him.”

But that’s one of the things that makes the kid great–he’s exceptionally good at sneaking around the court. It’s a rare thing to encounter and I’m curious about how much of a place that kind of strategy has.

Naturally there are some limitations. With only five other people on the court during a match, you’re not going to be lost in the crowd. But I do believe there are ways to make yourself less conspicuous and more likely to ninja the ball away from an opposing player.

all ahead fullFor instance, I think always pedaling at least a little bit when you’re behind a distracted (working the ball, looking ahead of themselves for a shot/pass, etc.) is a great idea. It stops your freewheel from clicking and gives you what I like to think of as operational silence. I’m not saying that the opponent is forgetting that you’re back there, but they might have a bad judgement about how far away you are. Swoop in and take that ball, Polo-san.

Another great way to make yourself more of a sneak is to mask just how quickly you can go–or lull the other player to sleep with slower movement until you start mashing. You’re counting on the other player to be slower on the uptake, but even a second’s worth of a head start can give you advantage.

Stretch Armstrong imageWhy not try to do the same thing with your mallet reach? Let the other polokin think you can’t possibly reach the ball from where you’re at, and then snake it away from them. Again, this counts on a lot of other variables, but if you can manage it, there will be an equal share of frustration from the other player as there is accomplishment from you.

 

New Regions? Well…If I May…

Hipstervania

The NAH announced a proposition to create new, more balanced regions for North American Bike Polo. I for one think this is a lovely idea, as there are a good amount of players who were relatively distanced from the center of their region and look to benefit from a re-drawing of the regional lines.

However, what is very disappointing is that the NAH is not taking this opportunity to re-name regions. But don’t worry–your old buddy Crusher has done it for them.

I present to you my 2014 proposition for the renaming of the potential new regions:

Regions2