Tag Archive for NAH

From the President of the NAH: 4 Questions Answered.

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I’m fortunate in that Ben Schultz doesn’t hate me. Besides being a stand-up guy all around, he’s also the president of the NAH and as such it’s beneficial to me to have his ear and his willingness to answer questions when I’ve got them. It’s exactly this that brings us to the article your excited little eyes are now reading.

After Worlds and concurrent with my “The NAH Killed Bike Polo” article, Ben and I were in discussion about where the sport is and where it’s going. He was kind enough to answer some of the questions I had concerning the mistakes and lessons he and the NAH have gained over the past year (and, indeed, past years):

Why is experimentation and failure important to the future of the sport?

Ben: So many old chestnuts come flooding in……Both are essential to learning about what you’re doing, and progressing from there. Experimentation should be fun but failure is a part of that process, which means frustration can also be a part of that process. So I try to keep in mind that one, every failure is a step closer to getting it right, and two, what are the stakes? This is polo we’re talking about, so my patience for the process is pretty high at this point.

How do you & the rest of the NAH consider rules and what to change?

Ben:Those surveys helped a lot, hahaha. Observation and vision. And it’s important to understand – this isn’t a process limited to NAH staff, never has been. We all play and we all watch the game being played. Similar situations unravel on the court, but we all interpret them differently. So even though the NAH staff has to do the actual work, we always consult other players, on the phone, in email, on LOBP, on social media, or on the spot. We pool these experiences and varying ideas of what the game should be and then we do the best we can.

What is the power split, in your mind, between what the NAH decides and what regions themselves decide, how do you think that’s going to change in the future?

Read more

If You Can’t Ref, Don’t.

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There’s plenty to be proud of about Worlds this year. Great courts, lots of people got to play, and the majority of us got to watch it from the comfort of our own bike polo aviary homes.

But there was one instance I saw where there wasn’t anything to enjoy, and that was when Ratking had a match go south on them because a ref wasn’t able to make accurate calls.

At a World Championship.

In 2014.

It’s something that’s bothered me from then until now, so let’s talk it out.

The thing about reffing is, frankly, I’m no good at it. I can see infractions and I kinda sometimes know what the call is, but none of that happens instantaneously. It happens about five or so seconds late, and that makes me, you guessed it, a crummy ref.

The thing that makes me so comfortable with being a bad ref is that I know I’m a bad ref, and so I avoid the position as much as possible. When Joe asked me to ref at North Americans (half-jokingly, I’m sure), I gave him a clear, definitive no. Not because I don’t believe in giving back to the sport and not because I’m lazy (I did goal judge a whole lot, point in fact), but because I knew I wasn’t up to the challenge, and that I wouldn’t be doing the best for the players.

And having that knowledge, friends is [a G.I. Joe joke].

But it’s strange to me that I, lowly as I am in the sport, would recognize that whereas at Worlds, that thought didn’t apparently cross the minds of the organizers. Having someone holding the whistle doesn’t make a ref. Hell, passing the NAH ref test doesn’t make a ref.  It’s something else–it’s knowledge and application. I understand the drive to help, and even the pressure to do so, but the fact is that unless you’re very confident and very able to apply the rules and regulations in a match, you shouldn’t be using a real, qualifying/NAH tourney to learn how to.

And I realize that this goes against some of the other things I’ve said on this blog (one of which I’ll include below just to show you how hypocritical I am).

Now I’m not exactly blaming the organizers of Worlds, and I’m certainly not blaming the poor guy who Ratking made walk off in search of a more qualified ref. I’m blaming the oddity of polo where we demand good refs but refuse to make them or try to create strong avenues to practice. Something I liked about the Eastside Thaw last year (that worked with some success, though players still yelled at refs like it ever makes a difference), was introduce the idea that it was a place for players to learn to ref and for players to learn to play. I think there should be a push for that–a live clinic of reffing. Doing it on the web is a great first step, but like many things, sometimes doing it for realsies is the best way of learning.

I’m going to say: if you don’t know how to ref, don’t ref. Don’t put yourself in a position to make yourself feel bad nor to destroy a team’s chances to advance because of your mistake. Furthermore, you should determine early on if you’re any good at reffing to begin with (which is something different than knowing the rules), and if you’re not good, don’t force yourself into it.

I have no doubt at all that the next round of great refs is out there–but we shouldn’t be so desperate to put a whistle in someone’s hand as to take anyone at all. It reduces the trust in refs overall and makes a mockery of enforcing rules.

 

The NAH Killed Bike Polo

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And The NAH (Along With Our Help) Will Bring It Back, If We Let It.

There was one sentiment shared often during and after Worlds this year (outside of the typical, and well deserved, congratulatory huggery): bike polo is dead. Or is dumb–or is going the wrong way. Whatever language you want to use, there was a collective groan from the bike polo community (granted, perhaps a small contingent, but an important one) that something had gone wrong in the process of getting to the biggest of the big-tournaments of the year.

And that’s exactly where I think we should be with the sport, though it might not feel very much like it (or feel like anything but un-enjoyable to be a part of).

The way I see it–and the way you should all, by now, understand I see it–bike polo isn’t at all set in stone as to how it’s played. We have folks who think it should have no rules but the first rule of bike polo; we have folks who want to have a 200 page rulebook that leaves no question unanswered. Mostly, we have folks in between: they know we need some rules, but they don’t know what those rules should be, or which ones are the most beneficial.

[NOTE: a whole other subject–and one I’m brewing up on right now, is the reffing that happened for some of Worlds. Don’t think I’m ignoring that–it’s just a big subject on its own that I want to tackle in a different post]

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The voice of a whole wing of bike polo, I’m quite sure.

And that’s where I think most of us are, the NAH and the bike polo community (of which the handful of bike polo players on the NAH are a part of) don’t quite know what right looks like just yet, only that bike polo needs to remain a fun and dynamic game to play. Read more

Why You Don’t Get The Blue Shell.

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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.

 

Why do we even have rules? My case for (and against) the NAH Rule Set

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One of the near-constant statements that I hear from my club, at tournaments, and as an off-hand murmur is how the rules are destroying the essence of bike polo. Whether it’s folks who go to tournaments (and have gone to tournaments since forever ago) or it’s folks who just play pickup, there is a distinct and lasting distrust whenever the NAH dictates a new rule based solely off of a tournament or Nick Kruse’s hope that bike polo will some day become hockey.

And while I’m not on that side of the conversation, I can certainly understand it. The same way someone can understand why certain people don’t like ice cream, I suppose. I mean, they are wrong, naturally, but that just leaves more for me.

The biggest complaint is how rules fundamentally change the spirit of the game (the spirit apparently being a balding punk rocker who refuses to recognize that he’s actually a middle aged clerk at the local bodega). Bike polo was started with just a handful of rules, and those rules saw the sport through for quite a while, really. But there is a mental exercise we should take part in before we say that the NAH is power hungry and trying to make bike polo into an over-controlled bore-fest.

1. How has bike polo changed since its inception?

2. Do the new rules follow a few simple requirements?

As far as the first question goes, I think you can see what I’m getting at: bike polo could have just a few rules when it first started because we weren’t hosting large, organized tourneys, we weren’t playing at the speed and caliber we are now, and folks weren’t thinking about how they could game the system more than they were thinking about how they could have fun. The game itself evolved past the point of having just a handful of rules–and now we’re exploring just what rules need to be in place to support the monster we’ve created.

(And I hear you: we shouldn’t have allowed bike polo to change so much that the original game requires more rules. But if we’re talking about having a qualifying series at all, we must agree that we need to have a bit more than don’t be a dick on the books.

The second question’s requirements, as far as I see them, ask us to run any rule through two criteria:

  • Does the rule make the game more fun to play for everyone?
  • Does the rule make the game more safe to play for everyone?

If the answer is yes to both, you should have that rule. The rule to not allow for headbutting someone on court satisfies both requirements (for most people), so it’s a clear winner. The rigidity of the high sticking rule certainly makes the game safer to play, but may not making more fun to play (I know I’ve rolled my eyes when this is called after a player far away from any other player gets called for it).

By running rules through these two filters–at least as an outsider to the creation of rules for the sport–I can figure out whether the rule is beneficial or arbitrary/detrimental. These filters also recognize that it’s possible for a rule to not be beneficial to an individual player, but be beneficial to a majority of players, by comparison. Some folks do really well with checking people from behind–but that does’t mean it’s safe or makes the game more fun for everyone.

The Lesser of Two Evils: Why You Should Ref at the NAHBPC

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North American Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship is running into the same problem as every other NAH event since forever: finding dedicated (or even semi-dedicated) refs to officiate the tournament. While this isn’t particularly surprising, it is disheartening. If there should ever be a time when finding refs isn’t impossible, it should be the damned tournament of tournaments in the land.

refBut I get it…I really do. Being a ref is stressful, generally not fun, and altogether demanding. You need to think on your feet–you need to ignore the amazing amount of name calling and under-the-breath insults from players and fans alike. You must shore yourself up to making that bad call and sticking by your guns (because there is nothing worse than a ref who waffles between calls). When I reffed I found that I was more concerned about making the wrong call than making any call at all, so I froze up. It was unfair to the players and very stressful for me (my heart raced more when reffing than when playing, if that’s an indicator for you).

And you have to do all of this when you could just be heckling with your friends or taking a nap, or whatever else.

The scale is heavily in favor of not being a ref. It’s true.

But just because something is easy to do doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

Between the “evil” of inconveniencing yourself, and the “evil” of doing nothing, someone who cares about the enjoyment of the sport for all should choose inconvenience. Furthermore, I suggest (and God, this will be hard for some of us) that players and spectators alike recognize that being a ref is damned hard work, and try not to back-talk the ref or scream out what the call should be. They’re dealing with enough as it is, and they don’t need someone else–someone who isn’t willing to be a ref–telling them how to ref.

I’m pleading with you–you who have taken the ref test and indeed are certified now–to consider reffing this weekend. If enough certified refs sign up, the tourney could have a pretty healthy rotation of refs coming in and out, meaning that any one ref won’t have to do more than a few games at a time.

MeatloafAt the Eastside Regional Qualifier we had to stop running games on one court for a few minutes because nobody would step up (myself included–though I was manning the control tent so whatever, whatever). I know that it’s not the greatest job in the world, but it’s a necessary one and I’m really confused as to how we have this growing body of players who want to do everything they can for each other, but who are unwilling to do this. It’s like a damn Meatloaf song.

Sign up: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1zKgrBhxP8X4P2jqc2ZGSc0I9JkdoKQaosAC4p-8tP6I/viewform 

 

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

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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

3 Ways You Can Shape Bike Polo’s Future.

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If you have big hopes of changing the way that American Football is played, you might as well go after changing the course of planets. It’s a remarkably cemented sport full of people who are more important than you making big-time decisions (read: trying not to change much of anything) for their own profit and gain.

Same goes for most sports, probably.

But hardcourt bike polo is so young, so flexible and willing to listen that you (yes, you!) have a chance to make a big impact even now. There are a few reasons for this, but if I had to cut it down to a little list, I’d say the impact of the individual is stronger in bike polo because:

  • The administration (NAH) is tiny
  • There isn’t any money in bike polo
  • Most people know each other

These three actualities give your average, involved bike polo player the opportunity to speak her mind and have those words travel all the way up and down the polo community.

But it’s not just a simple matter of making a forum post on LoBP (ALL HAIL!) or by making suggestions on your club’s Facebook page–though both of those are a good start. It take a bit more involvement and patience, I think, to shape the future of the sport we all want to succeed (but seemingly don’t believe will).

1. Volunteer to take a role with the NAH: The NAH is currently four people. Four! We have Nick Kruse writing rules, Joe Rstom helping write those rules and creating training for refs, John Hayes helping with tourneys and Ben Schultz working alongside those three while also trying to push the sport forward with sponsorships/structure/every other damn thing. There are club reps and regional reps, sure, but they aren’t necessarily “THE” NAH. They are ambassadors between the NAH and the clubs/regions.

Because of this, they (the NAH) are desperate for more help. I bet you dollars to cronuts that if you were to contact anyone in the NAH , they would be excited to have you help out. It doesn’t take much to get your foot in the door. Volunteer to help with rules or to start up community outreach or ANYTHING. I’m sure they have a whole bunch of things that simply haven’t taken off due to personnel constraints.

2. Don’t rage quit: If helping out the NAH isn’t your idea of a good time (or you aren’t willing to join that group in order to fix the problems you see them creating), then don’t get in their way, either.

I’ve seen some posts here and there from people expressing “fuck the NAH”–which is fine, of course. Saying that is how I start every morning.  But that kind of sentiment really isn’t helping anything. Honestly, if you were able to get just 10 of your friends to join the NAH at an organizational level, you could easily take it over from the inside.

But if, instead, you decide that the whole mess is just too much stress to deal with, the logical option would be for you to step out of the argument. Participate constructively or don’t participate at all, but turning over tables and saying that anyone is trying to destroy the game is as foolish as it is goofy.

3. Make a stronger club/local scene: Charity starts at home, and in all honesty the majority of us play pickup more than anything else. This might come as a surprise, but you can do whatever you want in your own polo club.

This also means that you can make your club a model for bike polo as a whole. If you think that the way your club handles rules, local tourneys, and the game in general better than others, try to help your other local clubs work the same way you do. I don’t mean this in the “you should do it this way because we are better” sort of way, but more in the helpful, fostering sort of way.

Think of it as a big brother or big sister program for clubs that are just starting out. Not only does this help grow the sport, but it also makes local tourneys more fun and bigger, creates a better relationship in-region, and gives you some of that good ol’ “one voice” power that comes from a unified group of people. This helps you (and your club (and your region))) do more than just suggest a good idea that is lost in the sea of other ideas.

 

The truth is, we’re a very young sport with some very dedicated people playing it. We’re also experimenting and messing up here and there. If you want to see the sport go one way or the other (or the tournament series, or the style of play we embrace, etc), it’s still possible for you to make an impact by voicing your ideas. This isn’t true with many sports, and I’d hate for intelligent folks to squander that sort of opportunity.

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.