Tag Archive for Hardcourt Polo

Why You Don’t Get The Blue Shell.

blueshell

A little while ago I came across a really solid, my-generation analogy of how and why reverse racism (that is, the “majority” saying they are persecuted as much as the “minority”) doesn’t work out. Despite how much this statement drips with privilege and assumption, it is singularly one of the silliest things anyone can say when they know they’re pinned and can’t quite work out how to respond. More specifically, how the argument of “they get their own special things and I don’t” doesn’t make sense: and it all came down to Mario Kart:

blue shell

And despite the poster only having 24% battery life, I’m glad they shared.

Now, relating this to bike polo:

mario2There is a lot of talk about making the game as competitive as possible–and as enjoyable to watch as possible. But rarely is there a discussion about what competitive and enjoyable means. There’s so little effort in making the game welcoming to newcomers that we may just make a super competitive game that is enjoyable to watch up until the point where this generation stops playing and we realize that there is nobody to fill the void we’ve left (I’m using the editorial “we”, as I’ll be easier than hell to replace).

I’ve talked about it before on the blog: the importance of creating competition for more than just the best players (my suggestions included making a separate league for newer or less skillful players, creating B or C specific tourneys, and actually trying to recruit and train new folks rather than hope they stumble across your pickup day), but it seems that my blog doesn’t move and shake the very core of bike polo as much as one would think. In the past the NAH has created rules to favor the uppermost level of play because, simply, those were the people who were playing and making the sport more visible.

mariokart3But there is another, more sustainable way to get the sport into the eyes and wallets of sponsors and sports shows: sheer numbers. The work of 6 amazing teams can be drowned out by the effort and fun of a nationwide or worldwide sport. Recruiting as many players as possible changes the demographic of who plays, and that increases the likelihood that our sport will become more visible and more accepted. When creating rules we should think about what benefits the newest players–not the best players (they will do well no matter what, despite all their grumbling). The sport will survive only if we create an environment where it can do so, and right now we’re too focused on how to make the same people who always win happiest, rather than helping people who’s impact is less visible but much more powerful.

It’s time, I think, for the very best players to recognize that they are outliers in the sport. They are the ones who are impacted the least by new rules or by the success of the sport. In essence, the best players are the least important–and they aren’t the ones who need to be helped. Let’s give the blue shell to the folks who need it–and to the folks who will help keep polo going after we’re all too wrecked to care.

 

Spirit of Polo: The Cheap Trip Challenge!

spirit

The only reason I’m able to go the North American Bike Polo Championship is because the readers of this blog made it possible through donations. I’m constantly aware of this, and as such I want to make sure I’m being as prudent as possible with the money forked over to me.

This is precisely why (okay, that’s an outright lie, but it still works) I went with Spirit Airlines as my plane-of-choice to get to Minneapolis. Spirit—for those of you who don’t know—is the airline of bottom-line service. Basically, your ticket gets you a plane ride. Everything else costs lots of money (a regular sized carry-on costs thirty-something bucks, as does checking your bag one way, meaning $60 some dollars in total).

The thing is, Spirit is rated the worst airline by passengers for this very reason: along with the apparent cattle-like experience that passengers say the flight itself is like. But for a guy who is trying to travel on donated money, cheap is cheap, and I’m willing to give it a go.

Really, I feel worse for my travel partner, Horse, who is built like a regular sized human and will surely have cramps by the end of each flight.

But I thought if nothing else, travelling cheaply as possible would provide entertainment for you polokins, and what else am I but a fool for you. So I’m playing a little game called The Spirit of Polo: The Cheap Trip Challenge!

The rules are super simple:

  • I will find every single way to save money on this trip (within the rules of reason)
  • I will try to “live off the land” in Minneapolis (beg/borrow/steal)

So far, I’ve saved money by not buying any baggage space on the Spirit flight (saving myself $60 bucks right from the get-go). I’m planning to hit up a thrift shop/Walmart when I touch down for the cheapest clothes I can find, and perhaps a quilt for sleeping. I’m positive I can spend maybe $30 bucks on enough to get me through the 4 days I’m in Minneapolis, cutting my overall baggage costs in half. Spirit allows me a purse sized carry on for free, so I’ll be able to bring my voice recorder and notebook to do the reporting dance (maybe—and this is a big maybe—I’ll be able to fit my netbook. We’ll see).

I’m truly worried if I’ll be able to fit my Pith helmet in my pursebag. I’m going to try to wear it during check in and get by the restriction that way—but there is a good chance they’ll tell me I can’t wear a helmet on a plane, and then I’ll just have to play it by ear (if worse comes to worse, I can put it in Horse’s checked bag. But that wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining for my readers, so I’m hoping against hope.

In the spirit of bike polo, I’m also planning to eat as cheaply as possible—meaning I foresee a bunch of horrible eating decisions in my near future. 4 days of ramen, here I come!

Anyway, seeing as though it’s the week of North Americans now, I’m getting jazzed about this trip. I hope to meet a bunch of you there (I’ll be the short guy hopefully wearing a pith helmet and carrying a notebook).

 

The NAH Hand Dance

First: Boston bike polo did a great job with this visual guide to ref hand signals.

Second: I did this.

NAH Hand Dance

Interview with Ginyu Force, 2014 SEQ Winners

Sam Bennet 3

Ginyu Force, winners of the Southeast Qualifiers held just last weekend, were willing to sit down with me (read: write me emails) to answer a few questions I had about their team, the event, and their region. I was so happy to have learned about their win and that they’ll be heading off to North Americans where hopefully they’ll give me a free beer or something. Maybe a hug.

I’ll let Ginyu Force introduce themselves for the uninitiated:

[We are] just some goofballs from Tallahassee, Fl. Probably the same as every college grad. Working multiple jobs, thinking too much about polo, saving up pennies for Fixcraft gear, and asking off for every other weekend. Florida is alright though. Year round polo isn’t so bad.

LIKE US ON FACEBOOK! https://www.facebook.com/pages/GINYU-FORCE/121824234636364

Congrats on your SE Qualifier win! How are you feeling right now? 

 

Photo by Wade Thompson

Photo by Wade Thompson

Christopher Hill: Good. Really good. I’m pleased that we stuck to our game plans. We stayed calm and collected, and played “our” game all weekend. It feels awesome to win, especially two years in a row. I can’t wait to get to Minneapolis again!

Arnold Francisco: Feeling great! It feels good to play with Bob and Chris again. We spent the 3 or 4 tournaments we attended before SEQ playing with other friends so it was nice to play in this important tournament together. We had a good time and executed all of the goals we set for ourselves each match. 

Bob Delgado: We are extremely proud to represent our region for the second year in a row. We plan on bringing a solid group of teams to the North American Championship. It’s a shame we can’t bring more but we are doing everything we can to gain more spots for next season.

What were you surprised about at the qualifier?

C: Well, there’s a whole incident where 15 or so players awesome players from Florida were disqualified due to transportation issues (all were on the same bus, which broke down on the way to the qualifier). Long story short, the brackets became very skewed, teams got switched around and there were a lot of strong players that didn’t get their shot at qualifying. Toward the end of the PM bracket on Saturday they made it safely to the courts and organized a “Best of the Rest” tournament on a 3rd court that wasn’t being used in the tournament. It was an unfortunate incident.

Any teams that really put up a challenge? Why? 

C: Dauphins from Mobile are solid dudes. Their club has always been a rival and sister to ours. They know us really well and It’s always a pleasure to play them. I’m stoked to watch them at NA’s. 

Harmony Rose 3

Photo by Harmony Rose

Larry Hoover was tough because Kyle and Serg are both of TBP (well, Serg is formerly of.) They play pickup with us every week and know us better than anyone else there. But we stayed cool and capitalized. It’s going to be great to be in Minneapolis with those guys too. And you know we want to go to that NAH bench tournament! 

A: Dauphins from Mobile, AL. Mobile has always been a strong club with great people on and off the court. KG, Jaques and Bernard (who recently returned from a few months of school in France being sure to spend free time playing polo with some of the best in the world) play a very awesome game together. I’m glad they qualified because I believe they will represent the Southeast region as a strong and smart team.

The 2nd place team Larry Hoover, made up of 2 Tallahassee players, was also a challenge. They know how we play based upon their familiarity with how we play at pick up. The tenacity of their play style was certainly proven in their game against Dauphins as they came back from being down 2-0 to winning the game 4-3. I love teams that fight until the last second and I’m glad those boys are headed to NA’s!
Last but not least – Broken Bones from Memphis, TN. Solid guys and great players coming from a very young club in the region. They travel to a lot of tournaments and put a lot of work into being better polo players as well as trying to grow the Southeast. Our regional rep, Adam Hite, is on this team. They are very fast and their defense is incredibly strong. I can’t speak for Bob and Chris but they were definitely the team that made me hustle on the court. It was a great time.

B: We played a lot of good teams along the way.  The ones that stick out most are Larry Hoover (Mostly Tallahassee), Dauphins (Mobile) and Broken Bones (Memphis). We knew going in that those were the teams to beat. However the team wearing the Ninja Turtle shirts really caught us off guard. It took us over six minutes to break down their defense and score our first goal. 

As the #1 team in the SE region, how do you think you’ll stack up to the other region’s top teams?

C: Last year we were the quintessential “first timers” from your article on types of people. I was just so stoked to see top-level teams play for real. It was eye-opening. Getting shredded by the Beavers is always a humbling experience. But now we know what to expect. The stars in my eyes won’t be as blinding this year.

Wade Thomson 2

Photo by Wade Thompson

A:  We were lucky to not only qualify for NA’s in 2013 but also make the trip up to the biggest polo tournament on the continent. Last year was quite the eye opener for me. I think we were under the impression that there were some teams we were for sure going to beat. But one thing I learned is that every team there is there for a reason: they are the best players in their region and they traveled to show you why. I have changed a lot of aspects about how I play since then and I believe we know what to expect at a caliber of polo we rarely get to experience. Every game is different for us. There are a few basic rules we have set for ourselves but for the most part, we kinda figure out what we are going to do during a game 30 or so minutes before the match. So the short answer is: I have no idea how we will do but I know we’ll have a fucking blast finding out! One thing is for sure: I hope we get to play The Guardians! 

B: We will see come July. 

How has the SE region developed you as a team?

Read more

Bench Format: Tips From Some Veterans

BM1

Feature image from Urbanvelo.org

Bench format, for the first time ever, is going to be an NAH sanctioned event this year. With this announcement came the very expected responses of awesome or what? Why? and everything in-between (Awesome-wut?). I myself have only ever played in competitive bench games three times my whole entire life: twice at the past two Eastside Thaws, and once at the Keystone Classic Happy Fun Time day.

I wanted to provide you polocats with some advice on the bench format, but realized very early on that I didn’t really know enough to give any. No, that hasn’t stopped me in the past. No, I’m not turning over an new leaf. No, I’m not talking to myself someone’s actually asking me these things right now. Yes, I’m lying.

So I reached out to Nate Mumford, who almost immediately pointed me in the direction of Zach Blackburn and Paul Rauen, who both have been intimately involved with Bench games ever since they became a very NYC thing to do. Both of those esteemed gentlemen were somehow willing to answer my questions:

So below you’ll find Blackburn (B) and Paul (P) answering my questions. A few things of Note: Blackburn’s background is that he’s been playing bike polo forever, was in the first Bench Minor tourney (He named it, even), and has been involved in bench games all over.
Paul helped organize the Bench Minor tourney in NYC from the start to BM4, and while he isn’t nearly so involved in the bike polo scene nearly so much. But this gives him a very unique perspective, in that he can look back at it from a historical perspective rather than an active one.

When was the first time you played in a bench format game?

BThe first Bench game I played in was the inaugural bench format tournament, the Bench Minor in NYC. I actually came up with that name and asked Adam Menace to use it because I thought it was funny, “It’s a pun! The highest form of humor!” and he agreed. I think the northwest area tried to throw an even more inaugural bench tournament the weekend before ours and had this ridiculous poster that was drawn with a crayon and showed seven or eight passive aggressive hippies all dressed with the same jersey.

BM3No idea how their tournament went, but we had Benny Snodgrass, a co-worker and friend of mine reffing with a jersey and whistle and everything who had formally reffed peewee hockey games. He was scooting around back and forth on his bmx bike and getting a lot of satisfaction from calling our sport’s first interference penalties. We were using Menace’s ideas and just making up the rest as we went, and I’ve got to say, I don’t think I’ve felt like anything has felt quite as pro besides North American’s in Minneapolis. The ref chairs with umbrellas built-in would be the deciding factor there.

P: We played in pick up in NYC in the Pit prior to the first “Bench Minor”.  The Pit is the ideal venue for this style due to the ramps at the southern end.  No doors, and substituting is easy. I’m also biased because I learned to play polo in the Pit (2006) and have many wonderful memories of that park.  it’s pretty special. 

What were some of your initial concerns with bench format? What are some mistakes people make in their first game?

B: The ramps at the Pit in NYC seems to have been built with Bench games in mind, so managing the shift changes was basically telling people, “I want you on the court before your replacement gets to the bench, and keep leading out further and further until the ref calls us for a too many men penalty”.

Besides that, it was hard waiting for a goal to make a change because sometimes a goal wouldn’t happen for 5 minutes, and I didn’t want our players to get restless or cold from standing around too much. I already noticed the impact that mechanicals and injuries would have on an on-going game so I made sure the next line was ready to go way before they were expected to go on in case someone dropped a chain or got a toe stuck in a chainring or something.

PIll advised subbing, taking long shifts, “putting the team on their back” and trying to be a hero. Honestly, the biggest mistake is looking at the game and experience through the lens of the individual.  It shouldn’t be about what you’re getting or not getting from it, it’s a group exercise and different than your 3 person killer squad. Also, it’s much longer in duration, which allows for momentum swings.  Keeping a positive attitude isn’t just lip service; there is so much time to come back in bench format, that getting bent out of shape about being down a few goals is self defeating.  As Ian once told me, “don’t beat yourself.”

Are there skills that you work on for bench format that are unique?

P: Communication is key.  If you don’t talk or understand the skill sets of your teammates, you’ll be caught out. I think it’s also important to have a unified voice on the bench.  It could be multiple voices, but it must be unified.  No room for negativity, complaining about playing time, etc.  It should be positive 100% of the time.  All criticism should be constructive and about making a better connection on the next shift.  There’s plenty of time to unpack it after the match. Approach it from the angle of “how can my team grow and succeed and enjoy the experience?”

 BM2I think some people are really effective in this style, because they don’t need a lot of warm up (or they play so frequently they’re always warm– like a Koyo type). Others are only comfortable w/ certain roles, line mates.  I found it helpful to try and know as much about your teammates’ comfort zones, and then play to those strengths.  I think bench is a great vehicle for supposed B/C level players because they get substantial playing time in fast paced situations w/ strong teammates.  Some of NY’s best wins (one at Boston’s Allston court I recall) was purely on the shoulders of great, grinding defense from Tommy G and other B level NY folks.  ( i can call Tommy “b level” because he doesn’t play anymore, ha)
It should be relationship building.  You should be learning from your team about good choices and bad choices.

And what about the “manager” position? What skills do they need?

B: Keeping an ongoing dialogue with your team and keeping them motivated is completely different than managing yourself with just two other people. You need to let them know that if they’re out there playing like crap and making mistakes that they’ll get pulled early, and they have to feel inspired to do better. It’s a mix of positive and negative motivation and it’s nearly impossible to handle that while putting yourself in the game at the same time. 

P: Since I played this role for NYC and volunteered to manage the Bench for Julian in LA (wore the “A” in NYC and LA as well) , I personally think it’s quite important.  I think the manager has to have the respect of the cohort and I think if you don’t have that already via previously shared experience (pick up or tournament or whatever) than you need to show you’re there to facilitate, you’re acting in the group’s best interest, and you’re comfortable making difficult personnel decisions, which is chiefly calling subs, setting strategy, calling off a player even when they’re giving you the skunk eye, shortening the bench when need be and managing playing time across the bench.

Having a quick word with someone as they exit as well, finding the right way to reorient them. Also, I’ve found it much easier to concentrate to the degree necessary if I don’t also try to play.  The need for the managerial role is perhaps less important on a city team when everyone has bought into a structure/game plan, but the opposite could also be true if you have competing egos, which most clubs do to some degree. I’ve done a lot of management in my work life, and I always like to listen and observe more than I dictate, but managers need to find what works for them.  It’s definitely not for everyone, but I liked the challenge and responsibility.

One more thought: Alex Ferguson talks about a manger’s need for absolute power and control of his squad, and while that makes sense and has been proven through his career, managing in bike polo is difficult because it’s an informal environment without major assets in play. It’s almost essential to default to that policy when you’re managing a business like a enormous global franchise, but finding the right tenor for polo is difficult due to the varied degrees of maturity, commitment, sobriety and competency at play.

How important is figuring out the right rotation for players?

BM4B: Having the right three people together, and then making two more lines that are equally balanced is pretty tough. But implying that there should be a 1-2-3 rotation is going to let the other team’s manager have all the fun matching their lines against yours.

I think it’s important to recognize which player or line the other team has and make an anti-line. Tell them, “If those guys don’t score on us, we’ve won half the game. Shut. Them. Down.” Then you try to get your scoring line out while they have their weaker line on. And boom, the score is 30 to 0. Or more like 9-8 after 50 minutes because your “ringer” is more like a “wanker” and your shut down line is trying to make up the difference by being heroes and they’re just giving up empty net goals instead.

So, advice to captains: expect your team to struggle, so set the example and play responsible, energetic, and high quality polo. Inspire your teammates. Someone’s got to, and the manager is clearly dropping the ball.

 

A big thanks to both Blackburn and Paul for their time and insights. And, as always, thanks for reading, polokins. I hope you have a blast with bench this year.

What Battle Royale Taught Me About Bike Polo

BR1

Battle Royale is a movie I saw just last year for the first time, and it’s something that I wished I had seen earlier (like, when I was a kid–so I could play “Battle Royale” with my teen friends.

For those of you not initiated, Battle Royale is a Japanese film (previously a novel/a manga) aptly summarized by Wikipedia:

The film tells the story of Shuya Nanahara, a high-school student struggling with the death of his father, who is forced by the government to compete in a deadly game where the students must kill each other in order to win. The film aroused both domestic and international controversy and was either banned outright or deliberately excluded from distribution in several countries.

So, basically, it’s The Hunger Games before The Hunger Games came out. But it’s so much more than that, and furthermore it’s a learning opportunity for bike polo.

Buckle in, dear polokin. We’re in for some chop.

BR2There is Always Someone Better

in Battle Royale, there are several characters who just seem to get it. Despite being tricked/drugged into competing in the games, these lucky few are just outstanding when it comes to killing and/or tricking fellow classmates.

The lesson here is pretty clear: you’re going to encounter people in this sport who just seem to get it. It’s as if they were made to play bike polo (even though Bike Polo isn’t exactly a heritage game yet). They’ll be able to do things in days which took you months or years to learn. This just happens. It’s okay.

Mostly because in bike polo you aren’t summarily killed with a sickle by a young Japanese schoolgirl.

But really, what you need to focus on is your own skill set. So you’re not able to do a wheelie turn while scooping the ball past your front wheel and making an omelet. So what. you’ve got your own methods, and comparing yourself to someone who is seemingly made for the game won’t help anyone.

BR3

You’re Part of a Team…Mostly

Battle Royale is, strictly speaking, a “one against all” event. However, that doesn’t mean that these kids don’t team up for mutual survival (point in fact, that’s a huge part of the movie). Much to the same effect, bike polo is a game where people (3) join up to play against another 3 people.

But remember this: you’re on a team–but you’re ultimately the only person in charge of your own actions. It’s not productive to think of yourself as only one piece of the team’s puzzle. In actuality, you’re the only person who has a responsibility to yourself. As such you should rely on your team to work together, but not so much that you stop working as an individual, too.

BR4Strange Things Happen–Try Not To Panic

So there is this part where a character puts a hand grenade inside Toshinori’s mouth and throws it into Shogo’s hideout.

It’s probably one of my favorite parts because it’s just so ridiculous.

Look at that picture!
Anyway, lots of strange things happen in Battle Royale. Unexpected things that throw characters off enough that they aren’t able to respond in the smartest way. This happens in bike polo, too.

Sometimes the ball isn’t going to bounce the way you expect it to–or you’ll crash for no apparent reason. Sometimes an opponent will throw a head with a grenade in it’s mouth at you react in such a way that you are limited in your response.

Just take a deep breath. Don’t panic.

Some of the best players in the world are the ones who are able to respond to all situations evenly. Not necessarily powerfully or cleverly, but evenly. Don’t over-react, don’t give up. Just try to maintain.

 

There are other lessons to take away from this fine Japanese film, of course (namely, don’t trust anyone who seems like they really want to be your friend and never turn your back on someone who has a crossbow), but those are for another day.

The Ref Revolution.

JOER

How the new Ref Certification Program is dragging North American Bike Polo (Kicking and Screaming) Towards the Future

Earlier this week, the NAH released the new 2014 Ref Certification site. On the surface, this seems like a natural progression to share the rules and make sure people are at least flipping through the rule-set in order to get a passing grade in the section quizzes. But after some pre-release testing and experience with the new system, it’s very clear that there is much more going on.

Rules and bike polo have a strenuous relationship. Bike polo players, as a generality, are very willing to ignore rules when it’s convenient. That sounds like a mean-spirited snarkism, but in my experience it’s true. Because of this, the NAH of the past found itself happy if people simply accepted there was a rule set in general. It made them weak as far as governance went in tournaments, and weaker still when it came to training up refs to enforce the rules at all.

The Beginning of Training

Last year, however, the NAH introduced an online system of quizzing for potential refs to become “certified”. In essence, it allowed for the NAH to assure that people who wanted to be refs were able to parrot back sections of the rule book in the form of a multiple  choice quiz. It was effective in that it encouraged folks who wanted to learn some manner of having a test at the end of study, but it wasn’t exactly engaging and certainly one-dimensional. It was, however, a start.

This year the certification program has changed, and it adds a few things the program was lacking as of last year: explanations and challenges.

More than Check Boxes

new coursesThe new Certification program is now used in tandem with tournament requirements, as the front page of the new section points out:

A minimum of two paid and certified referees per court, available to be scheduled throughout the duration of the tournament. The names of these certified referees should also be sent to the Referee Committee prior to the qualifier. So, for a qualifier with two courts, four names should be submitted. These certified referees do not need be scheduled the entirety of the weekend. It is recommended that a certified referee oversee the scheduling responsibilities. This underpins what will be a single-referee system throughout swiss rounds and early bracket games, moving to a double-referee system later in the bracket.

After the meeting the basic requirements above, if the organizer wants to schedule unpaid, uncertified referees, that is their prerogative. It is also recommended to have certified referees scheduled for all winners bracket / late losers bracket games, especially when moving to a double-referee system. If a region has significantly less teams, NAH will make exceptions to this requirement case-by-case.

As you can see, refs are

  • Not competing in the tourney (in theory, but not stated outright in the paragraphs I chose above)
  • Paid
  • Certified
  • Doubled up on the final games (a complaint I heard time and time again at Worlds and other tournaments, that reffing requires more than 1 ref)

Compare this to the requirements last year, and you’ll see a near herculean change in expectations. Refs are acting as the foot soldiers of the NAH, exactly as they should be. 

The certification itself is a series of quizzes based around each of the sections of the rule set, as well as a final section that includes video viewing and written analysis of what penalties should be called, why, and how that differs from last year (all of which is submitted and graded by Joe Rstom at the very least).

The quizzes are challenging at times, and purposefully so. I found myself cross referencing the rule set during some section’s quizzes. The video section is remarkably difficult, which is both revealing in how hard it is to ref “live action” play and how valuable it is to practice having your eyes on the game while looking for infractions.

The Value of Conversation

critical thinkingOne of the keenest points that the new certification program provides is conversational explanations of each section. Reading the rule set is perfectly fine if you’re a robot, but if you’re a human (no offense to robots) you’ll need a bit more to really understand how rules work in the bike polo world. Take for example this outstanding explanation of technical penalties:

The delay of game penalty prevents players from impeding the progress of the game to gain an unfair competitive advantage. Players are not allowed to intentionally remove the ball from play to stop the clock, and alternatively, pin the ball to run the clock down. They cannot move the goal to prevent a shot from going in or abuse the rules of restarting play for. This rule ensures continuity and fairness.

The unsportsmanlike conduct is intentionally left open-ended. This rule allows the referee to issue penalties to players that are disrespectful and distruptive. Players are expected to control their tempers and opinions in such a way that respects other players, referees, officials, and the spirit of the game. Of course, civil discussion is allowed to a point, but excessive verbal abuse will not be tolerated.

How is this different? Instead of just reading the two or three lines of rule in the rule set, we’re sitting down with an experienced hand courtside and having them explain what the rule means when applied. We are getting the story behind how to enforce  the penalty, when not to and how to tell the difference. It’s having a teacher rather than having only a book.

Bigger Than You Think

The ability to train and prepare a generation of refs is enormous. It allows for players to better understand the dynamics of the game while also making the playing field more even. It gives the NAH and players a chance to really understand what rules are working and what rules are not, as they should be evenly enforced.

The new NAH Ref certification program is a powerful tool not only for the NAH to further cement its role in the bike polo world, but also one for players to define their relationship to the sport. Knowing the rules to play by gives players the chance to work on skills and techniques that compliment those rules (instead of ones that are strictly against the existing laws of the game).

Furthermore, the expansion of the certification program demonstrates the ever growing presence of bike polo as a solidified, cohesive organization. That’s something most of us can recognize as a positive for a sport that suffers from a severe identity crisis nearly every year.

 

5 Ways to Destroy Your Bike Polo Club

destroy

Bike Polo clubs are a lot like a family. They are full of people who we really didn’t necessarily choose to be associated with (bike polo brings out all sorts of people), they involve yelling at each other at times, and sometimes you’d just like to step away from the whole lot for a week or so.

But, most times, you feel pretty lucky to be part of your club, and you might even go so far as to say you love the people who are part of it.

But like any good (most likely dysfunctional) family, it takes work to keep that trust and happiness up.

I’m not going to talk about those things, necessarily–well, I am, but in a backwards sort of way.

I want to talk about how to completely destroy your club. From the inside. Covert like. You’re a ninja of club destruction now.

not talkingThe first step in destroying your club is to stop communicating. It’s the single best way to make your club loose that mushy, lovey-dovey feeling of an actual community. Don’t talk about your concerns, don’t talk about club-wide initiatives, and certainly don’t talk about how to make your club stronger.

What are you doing in my developer, you goofy lady?!

What are you doing in my developer, you goofy lady?!

Next, hold a grudge. It can be against a person or several people (even the whole club if you’ve got that much rage to call on. It can be about a situation that occurred sometime while playing that nobody apologized for. Hell, it could be about nothing in particular, just so long as people in your club know that you’re angry. Holding a grudge is a great way to make people feel uncomfortable at all times, and that’s what you’re after. With every pickup day, let the grudge build until it becomes a big ol’ wet blanket that covers and hides any sort of fun bike polo used to be.

holeAnother outstanding way to destroy your club? Inter-club dating and noodling. Now we ourselves have a famous Lancaster bike-polo-playing couple, and they seem to make it work rather well, actually, so I can’t speak from direct experience here, but I have noticed time and time again that clubs get pretty weird when you mix sex into them. The problem isn’t when the folks are dating, of course, but afterwards. At most you’ll have a somewhat present tension when the two are together at pickup, at worst you’ll lose a player (or several players as sides are drawn and “girls/guys only!” tree houses are put up courtside). 

So basically, if you’re going to date someone from your club, you need to get married forever. Problem solved. Life partnering.

passive resistA more subtle way of destroying a club involves a little trick Dr. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi taught me a while ago, and that’s passive resistance. Refuse to help your club in any way. Stop the urge to be useful, and instead only complain when something goes wrong, but don’t give praise when something goes right. Ignore the calls for help, let Timmy drown in the well.

Refusing to help is a good way of spreading apathy across the club, and soon it will be impossible for anyone to even get the court swept before playing. And you’ll be laughing (LAUGHING!) as you watch the pillars crumble. Or playing the violin, if I want to tie in some classic tropes.

mrrudeFinally–and this is probably the most satisfying–be as rude as possible to new players. Make them feel guilty for being as bad as they surely are at the start of their bike polo adventure. Yell at them on court, and talk down about them on the sidelines. Hell, make sure they know that you don’t really want to play with them, and throw A games EVERY SINGLE TIME you pick up the mallets. If they want to succeed, they’ll get better. Otherwise they clearly don’t care enough, and who has time for that.

With these simple efforts, you’ll have no club in no time!

5 Ways to Sneak Polo Into Your Workday

five

I never felt the need to say it outright, but just in case you cats haven’t figured it out yet, I kinda think about polo more than most other things in my life. In fact,  I make it a point to pat my polo bike whenever I walk past it, and I carry my mallets in my car so I can hold onto one when I’m driving to work.

I don’t think this is irrational. Stop looking at me like that, non-believer.

Actually, let me just make a graph of what I spend time thinking about, scientifically constructed of course:

Crusher Thoughts

 

With so much time spent thinking about polo, I often find myself unsatisfactorily distracted with other things interrupting my happy-time daydreaming. I figure I’m not the only one dealing with this, so I thought I’d share a few ways that I get around the burning horror that is the workday and provide yourself with some respite with polo-ey thoughts.

Visualize Playing a Match

thinkingI don’t know where I heard this story, so it might not at all be true (but that doesn’t change it from being a good story): an American POW in Vietnam found himself locked in a container that only had enough room for him to sleep in the fetal position and stand with his back and knees bent. It’s pretty horrible, but he realizes he needs to entertain himself or else he’ll go insane. So what does he do? He imagines himself golfing. Everyday, he stands up to a hunch and imagines he’s on the green, swinging at a ball and putting and everything else.

Well, he gets out of Vietnam, eventually, and goes to play golf: and his game is significantly better than what it was before he got locked up in a little cell. Reason being that he visualized playing so much that he fundamentally understood the game better.

And while I certainly don’t draw a direct line of comparison between a cubicle and a POW cell, the mindset can certainly be the same: escape the thing you’re doing by using your brain and imagination.

Sneak in Polo Videos

They are all over the place, and it won’t take much to have a little screen of it going while you’re doing other work. Sure, you’d be a dummy to ONLY have that up on your screen, but even just listening to the sounds of a match is a great way to escape the tedium of the workday.

Get Other People Into It

I’m known as the polo guy at work. It makes people stop me in the hallway to ask about upcoming “matches” with “other teams.” It gives me a chance to talk about polo with the people outside of my own head, and is a great little breather between writing articles about Legacy Support and drinking much too much diet soda.

Plus, I have in the past recruited people to come play! Sure, one quit playing and the other only came out once, but still!

Visit Forums/Websites

LoBPThere are lots of places on the web to get insight on the sport. Between blogs, forums, and club-specific sites, you can almost certainly delve into something you’ve never thought about before on a weekly basis. And really, who doesn’t like getting unreasonably upset at another person for a very tiny reason from time to time (looking at almost any forum on LoBP (ALL HAIL).

WRITE AN ARTICLE FOR A WEBSITE!

Okay, so maybe this is just me, but I think there are lots of very smart people in bike polo, and there are lots of websites that are looking for smart people to give their opinions. The open word document is universally accepted as work in the western world, so why not subvert the system and write up a polo blog post? Send it out to 321, GOALHOLE, Boston bike polo or any of the other great polo sites out there. Chances are high that the folks there will read and publish your work (if it’s worth a damn), which will give more voices to the sport and give you some time to really think about polo.

I MEAN I NEVER DO THAT, RIGHT? I’M WRITING THIS FROM MY HOUSE YESTERDAY EVENING.

First Look: FBM Ballista

FBM Ballista (11)

Last year, custom polo bikes were all about the sudden and urgent shift to 26” wheels.   Polo specific frames were popping up left and right aimed at the smaller, slightly more agile wheel size, while the 700c crowd was left with a choice between the MKE Bruiser….and……the MKE Bruiser.

It (finally) feels like the steam from the 26” revolution has slightly cooled, and we’re finally starting to see support for those preferring the speed and familiarity of the larger wheel.   FBM stepped up to the plate early with their FGFS Sword frame, which was fairly well received as a workable polo frame, and then really got people excited with the release of their all new Ballista frame, a prototype of which was seen under the asses of Koyo Maeda and Evan George of Assassins fame.

A production pre-order happened, monies were exchanged ($750 to be exact), and quite a few people (our own Jon Kokus included) waited not so patiently by the door for the big brown van to arrive bearing gifts.

Well, for some east coasters, Yesterday was that day!

Here is your first look at the 2014 FBM Ballista polo frameset.