Tag Archive for Hardcourt Polo

2014 Eastside Thaw: A Reporter’s Diary, Day 2

2014-03-09 10.39.06

When I wake up, it’s to the gentle sounds of my phone’s impression of wildlife. From the point I lift my hand up to switch it off, my body is screaming in pain.

My fingers are swollen, my wrists won’t bend, my elbows feel like they’ve been shattered and my shoulders aren’t even pretending to be functional.

My neck is strained, by back aches, and my spine is a’screaming.

My legs are pretty alright, though.

So it’s in this state that I wake up the rest of those staying in the room: Kyle by shaking his shoulder, Horse by Kyle’s exclamations, and Yeager’s already up just by virtue of the noise everyone else makes. Then it’s a round robin of people trying to stretch and realizing their bodies aren’t quite into it, and then staring blankly at the wall or phones or anything and wondering if maybe not playing for 2 months makes the first tourney a bit hard to get through.

The answer, dear reader, is yes.

squidbagBut we trudge to breakfast where I begin to gather the extent of the uselessness of my hands. I can’t quite manipulate the fork or knife, and sitting up straight is difficult. Still, I eat the mysterious yellow sponges and meat circles and head back upstairs to dress for the day.

The 1 minute bike ride from the back of the hotel to my car hurts in ways that I will never be able to express.

The second day is a bench tourney, wherein about 9 players are joined by a captain who chose them. While I had my doubts as to how Alexis perceived my performance the day before, it seems I did well enough to get picked up into his team.

“I think you and I have a good feel for each other now,” he says to me, “so we’ll have a little advantage in there.”

I think about telling him my ailments, but Ben Z. is within earshot and I don’t want him to give me his judgement face.  Read more

Lefty Brilliance: Learning to Work With Wrongsiders

lefty

The Wrongsiders

Wrong-handed, sinister, southpaw. The lefty players of the world (your humble editor included) are subjected to a slew of pejorative terms from the larger right-handed masses. And while we struggle to use scissors or to avoid ink marks on our pinkies, we have our secret benefits as well.

For instance, did you know left-handers typically die earlier than right handers do?

Wait.

Okay. Wait.

A recent thread on LoBP (ALL HAIL) asked what the future of left handers was in bike polo. The last time I looked, the general consensus was that there should be a lefty army tournament, which would be really fun.

But the sentiment is clear: left handers are a misunderstood bunch, with their plays often accompanied by a growled “lefty bullshit” from a goalie or shouted by some right handed plebeian on the sidelines.

Furthermore there are players out there who simply don’t know how to play with a left handed player (or are rusty when the opportunity comes up). Fear not! I will give you a few helpful hints. Read more

Scoring Goals as a Form of Social Proof

moustache

I received another mysterious missive from writer HandlebarMustache420, this time discussing his/her view of what it’s like to be new in the sport and what he/she believes is the way to get into the culture. While I don’t exactly agree with the conclusions drawn, I do appreciate different voices and views, so why not share it with the whole polo world (all 12 of you that read the site): 

newDo you remember your first tournament? I do. It was a nightmare. I didn’t know anyone, obviously, and I walked around the pre-tourney party like a lost kid in a supermarket, eagerly looking for someone to hold my hand and glom onto in conversation. I didn’t know what to talk about. “Where are you from?” sounded trite and unnecessary in my head. I had only been playing polo for six months and I was intimidated. I felt uncomfortable and out of place. More than that, I was playing with some random kids out of necessity, and that, combined with my lack of skill and experience, guaranteed us to fall into a dead fucking last position in the bracket. It was enough to make me want to quit polo entirely.

utra playerNow let’s fast forward two years to my most recent polo tournament experience. I remember walking into the party and feeling like the long skinny Tetris piece— because it seemed like everybody was waiting for me to show up and wow this is such a terrible analogy, it makes me feel physically ill. What changed? Sure, I’m marginally better at bike polo, but I have still never won a tournament. I don’t drink excessively or do a lot of drugs or party too hard like some cool polo kids I know. What is it then that makes people desirable as acquaintances? Read more

Your Snowed-In Survival Kit

survival kit

Looking out my window, I can tell this snow storm is a survival situation. If you’re anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic to New England, chances are you’re in the same frozen boat that I am in : the snow is building up, the car is disappearing under it, and your supply of whiskey is concerningly low not that you’re looking at it so early in the morning, right? 

But if my stint in the Boy Scouts and half-hearted prepper-of-a-boss have taught me anything, it’s the indomitable spirit of survival-ism. So I’m here to make sure all of us locked in at home/at work make it through this beauty of a snowstorm by using the

LANCASTERPOLO.COM HARDCOURT SURVIVAL KIT

VHS

Item 1: Videos

When you open your kit, you’ll first find some tried and true cures for being stuck inside: The following Mr. Do Videos, which will more than likely take some of the strain off:

World Class Polo: http://mrdovideo.com/2013/10/world-class-polo/ 

Ladies Army 3 Final Game: http://mrdovideo.com/2013/10/ladies-army-3-final-game/

North Americans 2013, Beavers Vs. Guardians: http://mrdovideo.com/2013/10/the-final-showdown-beavers-vs-guardians/ 

MREItem 2: Articles To Chew On

So the videos didn’t keep you as warm as you were expecting, huh? Well, looks like it’s time to go a little deeper into the survival kit. Why not spend some time reading about the sport.

Heck, if you can’t play it but can’t stop thinking about it, why not make yourself a little more heady about the subject and impress all your friends by being able to cite a blog about the sport? They’ll love that in June when you manage to get yourself shoveled out. These articles, like the finest of MREs, are a mix of sugary sweet, heavy energy, and little bottles of hot sauce that take FOR-EV-ER to open and really don’t have quite enough in them, do they?

The Sugar

I Made Bike Polo Memes

More Meme Mashup

The Bike Polo Dictionary

16 Signs You’re Turning Into A Bike Polo Player

The Protein

Get Better At Fast Shots And Bad Passes

Stop Thinking About Goals

Bike Polo Pregame Warm-ups

Tips to Become a Bike Packing Guru

The Unidentifiable Package Inside the MRE You’re Going to Eat Anyway  All Kinds of Polo

50 Shades of Ruben, Vol 10

 A Message From MalletHeadz

crumbsThe Bottom Of The Pack

What? It’s still snowing? Well, I didn’t want to break this out, but I will if you’re down to the last thread of survival: the LOBP forums.

May God Have Mercy On Your Soullllssssss

No, but really. If you need to take up the rest of your life time, hopping into the forums and just disagreeing with some people is a great way to take up six hours or so. That should see you through: https://leagueofbikepolo.com/forum/active

I Don’t Have a Club

clubhouse

I remember, maybe two weeks after joining this club (known as Lancaster City Bike Polo at the time), I felt like I was part of an organization. Loose, perhaps, but there was still a sense of order and responsibility. Polo elders had their say, Horse and Kyle seemed like the leaders of the group, and when something needed doing, it got done.

It was that feeling that first drew me into the sport, because I certainly didn’t have any sort of skill on a bike and I couldn’t hit a ball to save my life–yes, yes, I still can’t. shut up. But that sense of being part of something larger than myself drew me in, and it made me feel as though playing great polo was secondary, perhaps, to being part of it.

Within the first few months of playing, we had a few club meetings at bars just to make sure our club was healthy and heading the right way. We talked about where we could play other than the middle school tennis courts. We talked about getting sweatshirts made and I brought up starting a little blog to get ourselves known in the larger polo world.

And behold: we had sweatshirts made with our club’s logo, we found Fairview (where we still play), and Lancasterpolo.com has grown up to be what it is now. Accomplishment. Achievement.

Fathers Day Bike Polo (72) (Copy)But that was almost three years ago now, and somewhere between then and now, my club stopped feeling like a club at all. It seems like we’re just a bunch of people who gather at appointed times to drink, shit-talk each other, and play polo.

And that sounds like a great way to spend time, does it not?

But let’s look at the trouble in this ongoing scenario, and it’s one that’s been bothering me for some time now.

With the majority of Lancaster United seeming rather disinterested in growing to a regional level of play (i.e. going to tourneys with the expectation of competing), and with not a single team existing within the club itself that manages to go to tourneys (the closest being team Scrimmage, Ted, Troy and me, all of us playing at ESPIs in Frederick once), every pickup day is more or less just that. There is no drive in the club, and that lack of direction makes for “meh” pickup days, at least for me.

I have heard of other clubs imploding, of course. The common thread in those stories is typically that the people in the club stopped caring about polo and instead cared about just having a fun, drinky time with friends. They used polo as a vehicle to see buddies and shoot the shit.

Again, I can hear you polokins out there screaming that’s the point, you dummy. You’re taking it too seriously!

I hear you, my dear readers, I do. But let’s say I want to compete on a bigger level than just a pickup game. Read more

A Little Strategy: The Hand Drill

Hand drills

Let me let you in on a little secret about bike polo: there are only three people out there who want you to miss your goals–out of six people! Assuming that your own team mates (or yourself) aren’t hoping that you’ll massively flub the next shot, you’ve really only got to worry about those other 3 players and what they plan to do.

In my limited amount of time in this sport, I’ve found that the best way to get rid of those 3 is to cut them out of the play. One possible way is a little maneuver I call the hand drill.

The basics are simple: keep your polokins spread out in such a way that the opposing team finds itself either a. stretching itself out to cover or b. turtling into the goal, giving your team free range of the court.

I don’t have my Tagami-grams on me, but to illustrate:

 

2013-11-12 07.58.44-1

Basic Hand drill positions: assume one X has the ball

This is one potential way that the positioning could happen, if the other players are indeed playing man-on-man defense.  You’ll see that there are multiple opportunities to shoot the ball, and the path of ball/player movement can be readily shifted:

2013-11-12 08.00.21

Ball movement

Player movement

Player movement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But let’s say that the other team does indeed turtle up. Well, then what you

2013-11-12 07.59.06

have, dear friends, is a shooting gallery. You just use as much court as you want, attempt to trip up the goalies, and make sure to keep someone who either has good legs or is far enough back to stop any potential turn-overs.

There is often a problem with players bunching up on the ball or ball carrier, and by keeping this little strategy in mind, you can, potentially, have a situation where all of the other team’s players are too close to one of your own, allowing the other two (if spread out as such) to get the ball and make an easy goal.

 

Top Players Don’t Do Tricks

dogtrick

Why The Basics are Still Best

If there was one thing I was expecting to see at Worlds, it was some amazing trickery with the ball. I mean, these are the top players in the world competing against each other. Maybe there’d be a moment where one of them would actually make the ball disappear, only to re-appear moments later a foot from the goal where a team-mate would be waiting to zap it into the goal with laser-eyes.

Laser eyes, everybody.

Instead, I saw quite a lot of the same stuff I see on the Lancaster United courts: just performed without flaw and consistently. I saw rudimentary bike polo.

The very best players/teams established themselves as the best by working on the basics of bike polo (mallet control, keeping the ball protected, and intelligent shooting) over and over. They train on the same thing that new players are learning, and that’s what makes them outstanding players.

Consider the moment that you get the basics down. I realize this is kind of a rhetorical question, as I don’t think many of us have the date written down of when we stopped falling over every three seconds and were able to actually engage in a play, but let’s use generalities. Once you managed to become an “okay” player, you probably started working on the more exotic things in bike polo: scoop passes, nose pivots, etc., etc. While these are all certainly valuable in the sport, they are far removed from the more basic (and arguably more valuable) skills of passing, shooting, and ball control.

The Beavers are a great example of this simple truth: they are fully capable of doing amazing, flashy things–but they oftentimes will stick to the basics, and that’s what leads them to, oh I don’t know, winning world championships. They don’t depend on fancy tricks to get them goals, they keep those tricks in their back pocket and instead rely on the ability to always cycle through the standards of the sport.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t learn how to do wheelie turns (Horse, stop crying. I’m not saying that), but you shouldn’t think that being able to do a wheelie turn is going to get you to the podium. What will get you there is dogged practice of the most fundamental elements of bike polo. You need to be able to keep the ball on the end of your mallet without thinking. You need to be able to use your team-mates as buffers and passing opportunities. You need to work on shooting from close, mid, and far ranges, not just micro-shots and not just huge, court-long ones.

A mastery of the basics, dear readers, are what make for champions.

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:
Read more

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!

Read more

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