Tag Archive for Hardcourt Polo

Reflections on Worlds, A Reporter’s Dairy

WHBPC2013 (116)

Editor’s Note: this post is going to be a bit different than what I normally do. Just bear with me and let me know if it was alright. Worlds is kinda huge, and I am going at talking about it a few ways. This is one of them.

Day 1:

The woman who drives the white van is named Joelle, and she is as full of laughs as she is spritey. She smiles whenever conversation comes up between the four of us (Machine, Lomax, herself, and me), which makes me feel like we aren’t inconveniencing her though I’m sure driving polo players back and forth across Weston isn’t anyone’s idea of fun.

This is the first time I’ve met Machine in person, and he’s exactly what I expect him to be: full of quick stories, turns of phrase and songs that are never without customization. Lomax, my room-mate and brother in second-breakfast arms, busts his chops the whole way to the court.

2013-10-17 14.48.00We get to the court sometime around 9am and the Sun (which deserves that capital S) is already making sure that we know just where we are. I can feel it digging past my clothing and taking root in my bones. I remember to put on sunscreen. I remember to take my heart pill. I remember how much I was looking forward to the colder weather of PA and how horribly far I am from that in Florida. My pith helmet, which was more or less a joke up to this point, begins to become a necessity. I am thankful it exists and that I have it.

The rounds begin in earnest a bit late, which is expected. Chandel seems stressed but who wouldn’t be? She has just enough time to shake my hand before bolting off to see about refs and judges, which will become a running theme throughout the first day of the tourney.

The games in the morning are about what one would expect to see, with all the little tells that each team gives: Call Me Daddy serving up smooth, clean passes and not so clean body on body contact; Nasty Boys tuning their game to match competitors, Wooly Bullies setting the pace of games as much as they can. It’s there if you can see it, if you’re actually looking for how teams are shaking off the dust of travel and remembering the muscles of their hands. It’s entertaining to watch the competitiveness spring back inside of them after the initial loss or win.

By noon I am completely shot, having not played a single game. The sun has drained out any sort of energy I had and instead fills me with the want of water and food, which I under satisfy with the watering stations the organizers have established and an occasionally offered cookie. I have not planned for eating while at the courts, and the forgetfulness makes me feel lonely and foolish.

I make it a point to interview players–I tuck myself away to begin writing the article for Urban Velo that I’ve been sent down here to complete. I try to get away from the heat and the tiredness it grows, but in the end I shamble back to Fixcraft’s tent to grab my camera, thanking Sean once again for the use of his under-table space.

I find that people here know me. They recognize the name and the dumb headware. They give me their hand and perhaps enough time to interview before they excuse themselves away. I don’t put up much of a fight, as I don’t know how it feels to play at Worlds, and I’m hesitant to have them believe I am so egotistical to take them away from meeting with team-mates.

Still, I do pull a few aside and get some words from them. Occasionally they come up to me with an idea or suggestion for an article, so I listen, because I’m not sure if the Florida sun is planning to bake away my intelligence or not. I smile and take notes and appreciate how excited they are to tell me what they’d like to write about. Truly I am. It’s less work for me, after all.

WHBPC2013 (164)The games over all feel like any other tournament I’ve been too, which is remarkably disappointing. Sure, there are more languages being spoken than English and Bad English, but overall there is the same lethargic camaraderie, the same we’ve-been-here-before-edness. Maybe that’s just how polo feels in general: some sort of class reunion where everyone is happy to see each other, but doesn’t want to admit to being too excited by it.

I meet Sweet Jenn (Mr. Do is a bit busy with figuring out set-up), and she hugs me like a longtime friend. She has a smile that makes me feel like there is nothing else in the world but what we are talking about, and I kind-of forget to be clever. Instead I just say “thanks” a bunch of times and then excuse myself to find a way back to the hotel.

Eventually I meet up with Evan, Neil and Brett, who not only make it a point to share everything they have with me, but also to act as old friends though I’ve only met them at Masters earlier in the year. Still, the kindness does a lot to quell the lingering feeling that I’m out of place, and the beer and tacos we share after we leave the courts (point in fact, after they take me back to the hotel in their truck) sets me on a good path to sleeping. When I get back to the room, it is still empty, and I do some more writing before Megan and Lomax arrive and we talk a bit before falling asleep fitfully.

Day 2:
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Pictures from Lancaster United Happy Funtime Tourney

Lancaster United Pick-up tourney (51)

This past weekend Lancaster United hosted a fun-time tourney: a regular three man/woman/horse tourney followed by a bench format, then followed by some more pickup. We had a great turnout and lots of fun to be had.

As is often the case, I brought along my little camera and snapped away some pictures. Notably this one of the WINNERS OF THE 3 man/woman/horse tourney:

Lancaster United Pick-up tourney (81)Rodney, Liz, and Brian who are:

  • The best polo players in
  • The best polo team
  • In the universe (is that close to what you told me to write, Liz?)

The winners of the Bench format game are altogether not important, as neither Liz nor I were on that team. Who says winner write histories?

Anyway, here are handfuls of pictures (after the jump) from the day. Enjoy!

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You ALWAYS Have Numbers For Polo

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Guest post by Alias Tagami of DC Bike Polo

Clubs have highs and lows for turn out on any given play day, and having big numbers means big club success, right?  Well, maybe.  Let’s try this another way, what defines failure?  To me, it is people wanting to play, and not getting to. So if you don’t have six players, is it worth your time to show up?  I believe yes, and here’s what I think you should do with your time.

 

 

You’ve got one player, yourself, go practice.

OneSure you might feel pathetic, but you blocked the time off, right?  This block of time was for polo, so use it for polo.  The temptation is to use your time for other things, but nothing says you must spend all of that polo time for polo.  Think of it as time gained and skills improved.  Moreover, it’s your own way of committing to your game and your club.
Okay, that was a hard sell…

 

You’ve got two players, it’s social, it’s knifefight time.
twoThere’s a long heritage of polo in non 3v3 form, and the skills you learn in these ancestral games are important.  You won’t be wasting your time. Setup two beer cans water bottles and have a little one-on-one polo samurai showdown to knock over your opponent’s can bottle.  I like this because it works on the small surgical ball-play that you might not get to work on in a full game.

 

You’ve got three players, no polo fun? False.  Play Bruceball or 5-Hole
3Bruceball might have other names with other clubs, but here in DC, it’s named for the living legend, and longtime bike courier, Bruce.  Put a bag or some Pomeranian sized object on the court in the center of any area that has some closed line around it.  The objective for the ball carrier is to hit the bag.  The game is 1v1v1, so the other two might work together to defend against you.  If there is a turnover, the ball must be taken outside of the enclosed lined area to reset it (much like playing half-court basketball and dribbling back to half-court before shooting after a turnover). Read more

What I Learned at Pickup: I Thought it Was September Edition

professor

Yesterday was Lancaster United’s pickup day, and despite the why-is-this-happening-to-meeeeee heat wave that rolled through the midstate, we managed to get six people (eventually) to come on out and play our funny little sport. It certainly wasn’t a day of magical plays and 100% tourney action, but it was fun and exactly what I needed for that mid-week stress relief. So, on to the lessons:

1. Our youngest player doesn’t need coddled: Our youngest guy is 13 years old (or so) and he’s really managed to make himself a great player. He started with us two years ago, but we hadn’t seen him much after we stopped playing in the city. Well, he started coming out to our regular polo grounds now, and it’s obvious he was practicing that whole time. The dude is a legit player, and I’m quite sure he’s going to be the name that people know from Lancaster United in short order.

2. Always let big swingers swing: Due to the nature of a big swinger (the folks who dramatically lift the mallet behind them all the way up to the sky and then sweep it down like they are taking out wheat or doing their best golf player impression), you should always allow them to try for the shot. Why? because you have a good amount of time to shift the ball away from them while they are mid-arc in drawing back or moving forward their mallet. Just the tiniest of taps and you’ve ruined their play. It feels so good to do, to.

3. Know how to swallow your ego: Dave is a guy who, and I don’t think he’d disagree with me hear, isn’t willing to put up with your shit talk. He really doesn’t dig it, is what I mean. Last night during play, he was doing all sorts of fun things that he normally doesn’t do (sharper turns, longer shot, ect.) and had a mix-up with another player.

Well, long story short, his front wheel got a little bent out of shape (though he didn’t), but we only had six folks at the time, so he got a quick fix-up and came back out. This lead to him taking a turn, his wheel wobbling, and him crashing splendorously in front of the goal.

When we asked him if anything was hurt, he laughed and said “just my pride.”

I appreciated that answer, because it did two things: it eliminated our natural inclination to attack (he already admitted the defeat), but it also showed that he was taking it in good spirits. It’s important to recognize when you’ve done something goofy–nobody likes a serious Sam all the time.

Thursday Quick Play

strategy

Horse and I have been trying this little move in practice (yes, you read that right) having seen it a few times during North Americans. In essence, the person who has the ball rolls up to goal and, at the last moment, pushes the ball to a team mate who has been trailing them.

The images you see are as we practice (me being a lefty and horse being a righty). First, I get the ball and roll up as if I’m going to take the shot on the back door of the goalie:

step 1At this point, the goalie is probably thinking “meh, it’s only Crusher,” but let’s pretend the person with the ball has an actual shot in hell of making a goal, okay?

I, as the ball carrier (the O closest to the goal, rolls in front of the goalie in the next step, provoking them to move a little bit with me as I “find my shot” (they want to keep their wheel in the way, naturally):

step 2As you can see, the’ve left their back door wide open, so when I drop the ball, Horse (the blue O at the top of that image) has a good chance of getting a goal.

Naturally this is all just a super-theoretic drawing–those other two X players are going to be getting in the way the whole time, so you may have your third player come up from the back and block one off or disrupt in some other way. At any rate, if you can make this play work, it’s devastating in it’s ability to make an easy shot come about.

 

 

What I learned at pickup on Sunday

thinking

Yesterday was a scraped together sort of pickup for Lancaster United. Our “A” players (or at least the people who call for “A” games and then just throw themselves) were all away at tourneys or field trips, leaving the rest of the club to fend for itself. This presented a sorta-rarified thing for me, wherein the people I was playing with were still learning the trade or weren’t nearly as competitive as other Lancaster players we’ve got.

1. Still just as competitive: in the absence of our A players, our other alphabet players stepped up their games. Maybe that’s not true: they were able to expand enough without the interference of more powerful players, let’s say.

It’s something I didn’t realize until after we stopped playing, but the skill level you’ve got is something that can be affected by not only your own abilities, but by the abilities of those around you. With all of us B players kicking around yesterday, we had the opportunity to be more daring and try more plays. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a strong pass game, nor did I ever see some of the people playing be as strong of players.

Now – I can hear the voice of an A player ringing in my ears right now: Crusher, you dummy, of course everyone was better – nobody puts any pressure on themmmmm!!!!!!!111!!!

Yeah, I hear you. But with days like we had yesterday, other-alphabet-players are able to spread their wings, as it were, and build the confidence needed to become stronger players (without some quicksilver player coming in and ruining their chance to learn what it feels like to complete the play).

2. Time to think: Much in the same way as above, I wasn’t just thinking about how can I keep up as much as I was thinking how can I make a stronger play. I was, by no means, the strongest player out there yesterday, but I found myself having more time to allow plays to set themselves up, and I feel like I’ll be able to use that in future games.

3. Someone cut my tire: I will find you, and I will do absolutely nothing because that’s just part of the game. But damn, that’s cold.

4. Don’t ignore a new guy’s mistakes. Embrace them: This wasn’t so much something I learned as much as it is something I forget to mention all of the time: When you have a new guy playing, don’t coddle him or ignore him when he falls (any more than you would ask someone else if they are alright). It not only makes them feel like a child, but it can make the fall seem like a much bigger thing. 

Essentially, if the newbie is equally OK with what’s going on, go ahead and give a little poke-of-fun at them when they crash. It helps show that you’re not very serious about the play they may or may not have fumbled, and removes the added pressure of silent judgement that they might think is present.

 

Polo Giffin.

Cute Otter - 2

I think we all miss the now defunct hardcourtpolo.tumblr.com. Let me give you some salve for a broken heart:

Pro Tip: if the gif doesn’t run automatically, click on the picture, and it’ll start up like magic.

Trying not to wake sleeping team mates

trying not to wake sleeping team mates

 

 

 

 

 

Your first tourney party

your first tourney after party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Challenging stronger players

challenging stronger players

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tourney team that plays together, stays together

tourney team plays and stays together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milwaukee’s first response to Worlds announcement

MKE's first response to Worlds announcement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Someone else brings food to pickup

someone else has food

 

 

 

 

 

Matching team shirts

matching team shirts

 

 

 

 

 

New gearing

new gearing

 

 

 

 

 

Newbie chasing ball

new player chasingball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When a goal shot hits your leg

when a goal shot hits your legs

 

 

 

 

 

Mocking the ref

team mate catches you

 

 

 

 

 

Second Day (morning)

Second day

 

 

 

 

Newb posting in front of goal

newb posting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing the court surface

testing court

 

 

 

 

 

 

When a tourney includes lunch for everyone

When someone brings lunch for everyone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When two players have an argument that nobody else cares about

when two players on opposite teams have an argument nobody else cares about

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrong gearing

wrong gearing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brakes don’t work

brakes dont work

 

 

 

 

 

 

This has nothing to do with polo, just look at that guys face

dont have anything just look at his face omg

 

You Totally Messed Up: Don’t Panic.

pull down

I’ll admit to you something that I’m not particularly ashamed to say: I like computer gaming. I mean, as a writer, it’s a great way to completely avoid writing while looking like I’m still busy on the computer. Furthermore, I was generally afraid of the sun in my youth.

I’ve moved pretty far away from the gaming life these days (what will all that polo and all), but I do remember a good lesson from it that I’ve been able to carry over into the rest of my life: don’t give up too early, cause it makes you annoying.

Here’s the thing: when I played certain games–mostly  war games, I’d say–there’d always be a few players who would give up as soon as 1 thing went wrong. They would lose a location point or some such, and then (in appropriate L33t sp3ak) indicate that there was no point to playing the game anymore, as everything was lost.

That drove me nuts. I mean, we’re playing a game for God’s sake: just have fun! But inevitably the players who were just too good to be bothered with playing left the game (and summarily left me and a few others to try to scrounge up a good match from the ashes).

And I get just as frustrated these days in bike polo, though I don’t get the opportunity as often to rage out like this fellow here: Read more

Quick Friday Tip: Imagine the Goal

Hbach thinkin

I don’t mean that in a hippy dippy sort of way, either. So you just go ahead and pack up your crystals and pick up what I’m throwing down, okay?

There are a lot of factors that play into why people miss a shot on goal. For one thing, you’re on a bike, and it’s just unnatural to not be looking at where you’re going. Furthermore, you’re likely getting pressure from players on the other team.

Plus you’re hitting a ball with a little piece of plastic on the end of a pole.

Plus you look goofy as hell.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t take some steps to help yourself do a little better than what you would if you just swung willy nilly at the goal. Here’s my quick tip to you: imagine where the goal is.

worst drawing ever

worst drawing ever

When you’re charging up court or trying to navigate around another player, you don’t always have the time to look up at the goal. What I try to do is look up when the pressure is off and then keep that mental image in my head as I move around. Basically, I imagine a tiny goal in front of my bike. When I pop a shot off, I’m aiming for that imaginary goal–not for the goal that is down court.

(You can reference the worst rendering of what I’m talking about to the left. I am so ashamed of whatever that thing is).

Does it always work? No, not always–but since I started doing that I get much, much closer than what I did when I tried looking up constantly or just took a guess.

Having a Three-Way Courtside.

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At the Masters tourney, I realized I had feelings for the other two Ms of 3 M.

Dude feelings-bro feelings. Bromance.

It happened right in the middle of the game against Lomax, Russo and Glatfelter: we had  every expectation of losing (and we should have), so we went in with the notion of just playing as best we could and taking the loss.

By Golly, we did play the very best we could, and at the five minute mark, both Horse and Lumberjack looked back at me in goal and had a smirk on their faces. I realized I did, too. We were all loving the game for the sake of loving the game. Then, suddenly: feelings.

It’s kind of a rare thing to really just experience the game of polo while playing it. Sure, you’re there–on the court pedaling around like a madman–but you’re so busy doing that you can’t observe the sport anymore. You’re too deep into it.

But that game in particular, I was just all up in and loving the game. It all felt perfect and natural and amaze-balls.

So then we won, somehow, and as dazed as you please we left the court and huddled up to talk about what happened. It went something like this:

Horse: Uhhh

Lumberjack: Uhhh

Me: Uhhhhhhh

Lumberjack: We just…

Horse: And we…

Me: So then….

All: Uhhhhh

And then we pretty much clapped eachother on the backs and laughed and got some water and laughed a bit more. We experienced top-notch polo in our little team, and it kinda rocked, speaking for myself.

And I guess that’s what you should look for when forming up your teams: do you have that natural cohesion and does the game just unfurl itself in front of you while playing alongside your other two team-mates? Do you struggle to communicate or does it just come naturally and smoothly? Are you able to go into games with the general understanding that you’ll just do your best?

Because that’s the other part of the equation here: once we got knocked out of the tourney, there was absolutely no malice between us. We knew that we played as best we could, and how can you fault someone for that? We just took the rest of the day to enjoy the games, drink some beer, and chit-chat with all the people we never met before.

And on the car-ride back we talked about how we’d be BFFs forever.

For-ev-er.