Tag Archive for North American Hardcourt

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


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 


NAH Shut-Down



Amid late night negotiations and bitter disputes, the NAH has shut down due to an inability to reach agreement on a stop-gap measure to keep the doors open on the North American Bike Polo association. Namely, extremists in the far right of the NAH governing committee refused to pass any resolution without a repeal of the scoop-shot ban, while President Shultz drew a line in the sand with his statement on the Scoop Shot Ban Act:

“The Scoop Shot Party cannot simply hold the NAH hostage because they aren’t willing to play by the rules,” El Presidente said in a press conference yesterday.

As a result of the NAH shutdown, over a dozen NAH non-essential staff will be furloughed to their actual paying jobs until the stop-gap measure is passed.

Recent polls show that this maneuver is not favorable for the Scoop Shot Party, with 45 percent of polo players unaware that such a party exists, 15 percent aware and supportive, and 40 percent of those surveys not aware of what NAH stands for.


I kinda, sorta, maybe disagree with the NAH:


You know me, dear readers, and you know that I–nine times out of ten–support the initiatives and efforts of the North American Hardcourt Bike Polo Association. They have the players in mind and are trying to do quite a lot with very little in the way of resources.

Point in fact, I’ve come out and supported them on this blog quite often, so you could say that I’m kinda an ally of the NAH, if you wanted to.

So imagine my surprise when I came to disagree with this facebook post:

NAH post

Here’s the thing: I don’t disagree that polo players should go to the LoBP (ALL HAIL!) forums to weigh in on the posts that Nick Kruse has graciously put together. I think it’s great that bike polo is able to create a forum for actual changes to the rules. We’re a young sport, and community involvement is very important. My disagreement is purely a philosophical one.


representatitiveI voted on representatives, and in that vote I said, essentially, “I trust this person (these people) to represent me in the meetings and decisions of the NAH.” They are my voice in that organization, and I expect them to act as such.

In turn, I expect one of them to reach out to my region to ask about what I believe changes should be to the rulesets, and for them to echo that back to the NAH rules committee.  Read more

The NAH Ruleset V3.3: A Review

NAH featured

I finally had a chance to sit down and read over the newest incarnation of the NAH bike polo rule set, and just to be clear—I want you to imagine me doing so while wearing a fine smoking jacket and with a snifter of brandy in my hand. Let it happen…just let it happen my babies.

Speaking in generalities, I can say that this ruleset didn’t have many surprises in it. We still play on bikes, we still wear helmets, etc. What I did notice, however, was an emphasis on the importance of referees. There is some language that could be deemed ambiguous in the new rule set, but you’ll find—almost always—a passage immediately after indicating that it comes down to the court referee to decide what the rule is and the action to be taken. I enjoyed this, as it gives the refs a bit more importance in the sport and also makes for a more organic game. A document can’t tell what the situation was when making a call, but a person can, and it seems like the V3.3 ruleset takes that into account.

There are a few points I want to touch on and discuss:

Still language about carbon fiber shafts: who is using carbon fiber shafts? I’m serious – get in contact with me. I’ve never seen it.

Mallet Head must be plastic: I didn’t notice this language before, but I’m noticing it now. Not a big deal as everyone is using some sort of plastic head, but I thought it interesting that it was spelled out in this version of the rules (again, maybe it was before, but I don’t remember seeing it).

Majority handedness does the joust. If there is an equal number, coin is flipped to see whether lefties or righties joust: This is bullshit. Listen: if there is an equal number of left handed and right handed players playing, just give it to the lefties. For God’s sake we don’t have that opportunity often! Read more

Interview with Charlie Sprinkles, Eastside Outreach Rep.

Sprinks 1

Recently Sprinks and I touched base to talk about his new role as one of three Eastside reps, his specific tasks a being part of the “outreach” committee, and what would happen if I gave him a bagillion dollars.

Where is your home base, what do you ride currently, and how did you get involved in bike polo?

Home base is currently in Charlottesville, VA. I play in a little club there that loves to travel. My home away from home is Richmond, one hour away. I make the commute most every Sunday to play. DC is also another popular week night/ weekend destination.

I’m currently riding a Milwaukee bruiser with all the fixings. Squarebuilt bars, polo guard, white ind. freewheel, NoBS front (laced crow’s foot by Daniel Sebring here in Charlottesville), time pedals.

I got started with bike polo riding fixed gear in college. That led to me traveling to Richmond for the Handmade Bike Show and seeing the bike polo tournament being ran alongside the trick jam. I went back to Blacksburg and helped revive Blacksburg’s old bike polo club. I ended up finishing the school year with them and traveled with them to NAs (back when NAs was whoever showed up) and played my first tournament in Madison, WI with them. I don’t think any of them really play anymore, but I always encourage them to get back into it.

When you first got involved in the sport, did you forsee yourself taking a leadership position like becoming a rep?

Jess Stuart picture of Sprinks 2

Photo by Jess Stuart

When I first got involved, I really had no way of knowing where I’d be today. Maybe some inkling of being involved, as I’m just that type of person who wants to get their hands dirty, but no clue as to this extent. Since then I’ve been in 3 different clubs as a regular. I’ve been the head of a club and acted as the liaison to the parks and rec dept to try and rebuild a court they tore down (hey, we were using that!). I’ve thrown my first tournament with the help of that club. I organized a pickup day or two (and got the scars to remember that one by). Hell, I’ve been listed as a sponsor with the etched glasswork i do on the side. Now i’m one of the voices of a region and tossing in new ideas to revitalize the region. It’s kind of wild.

How did you come to that decision (to be a rep)?

I decided to be a rep sometime last fall, when i realized I was the person pushing others to travel, keeping up with forum talk, arranging travel between clubs. It seemed like a natural continuation to be that person networking within our community. It just happened to follow up shortly thereafter that the previous reps were looking to step down.

What is your specific role, and how do you hope to complete those responsibilities?  Read more

Show Me the Money: Interview with the NAH about our payments to them


So here’s the full skinny:

A little while back Ben Schultz approached me and asked a very simple question: Is there anything you want to know about the NAH? It took me just a few seconds before I typed back “yeah, what are you doing with my money?”

And that’s how this interview and information was born. I wanted to like and say that I had to go through a dark, spider infested cave and fight off some old wombat or something, but basically Ben put me in touch with Eric from DC, I had a few meetings, and now I’m informed. So let me share that information with you, too.

Below you’ll find my interview questions for Eric, the secretary of the NAH (if you wanna contact him, email secretary@NAHardcourt.com). However, before we get into all that, I want to provide you with some documents that he provided me:

  • This is the current organizational chart of the NAH – your reps, board, and NAH Committees: NAH_OrgChart_v2
  • This is a draft of this year’s1023Financials, which shows the money collected over the course of the NAH’s lifetime. This is going to be available on the NAH site sometime in the very near future, the Secretary told me.

So look those over, and then come back to me to see a few answers to questions I think all of us have had about our NAH fees:

What is your Role in the NAH? 

I am currently the NAH Secretary.  Previously, I’ve also been the NAH Treasurer, an NAH Eastside Rep, and the NAH Eastside Board Member.

I want to ask you questions about where you put my money. So, give me a play by play: I go to a tourney, and there is a 10 dollar NAH fee. Tell me of the adventure, step-by-step, for my 10 dollars?

It’s really simple. The tournament organizer is supposed to build an extra $10/team into the tournament fee for each NAH qualifier, and then after the tournament the organizer sends that money to NAH using the treasurer@nahardcourt.com paypal account.  This has worked smoothly for most tournaments over the past few years. After the fees hit the paypal account, some of the money is shifted on into a checking account and some stays in the paypal, essentially waiting for an NAH expense to be approved or a tournament-related disaster to occur.

Who is in charge of the collected money? Who has access to it (who can request those funds) both inside and outside of the NAH? 

NAH has a paypal account at treasurer@nahardcourt.com and a separate business checking account.  The NAH Treasurer and NAH Secretary have access to the accounts, but can’t approve payments.  The board and the president can approve payments, but don’t have access to the accounts. So basically, it always takes at least two people signing off to make a payment.  In practice, the whole NAH board has considered NAH’s transactions.

NAH Reps and/or tournament directors can make requests for emergency tournament funds. Anyone with an idea for NAH is also free to pitch it, just email one of your local reps!

Why do you think people are so confused about how that fund is used? 

I think the main issue is that NAH collects $3.33 per player at seven tournaments per year — there simply aren’t a lot of high visibility projects that you can undertake, or that players should expect, with that level of funding.  The money that NAH raises through sponsorships and fees has been enough to purchase some tournament equipment (scoreboards, whistles, stopwatches, ref shirts), contribute to the development of Podium, keep the NAH lights on (required corporate filings), and maintain an emergency fund that is basically the minimum it might take to bail out a major tournament.

I think this is also a good opportunity to point out that no sports organization, even a non-profit amateur organization, can grow given this level of funding.  Other alternative sports leagues, like regional Cyclocross, or USA Ultimate (Ultimate Frisbee) or Roller Derby, require a license or membership fee which goes entirely to the organizational needs of the league, and separate event fees which are themselves larger than the tournament fees that NAH players are used to paying. And that doesn’t come close to the amounts that most roller derby leagues cost their players monthly, and they have a paying audience!

Right now, NAH players are basically paying the price of a premium mallet shaft for a 2-day major, including the NAH fees – it’s not enough to get us to the next level. For those who are interested in moving forward, I think USA Ultimate is currently the best model.  USA Ultimate is also set up as by-players/for -players 501c3 amateur sports organization, and they’ve been around for 30 years.  They are big enough that they file full financial statements and so you can go on their website and get an idea of how they run. http://www.usaultimate.org/about/usaultimate/governance/default.aspx

If you look at the most recent financials from 2011, you can see pretty clearly that even an organization with 25,000 competitive members doesn’t support its activities in tournament fees and sponsorship – it’s really all about the membership fees. In fact, you can see that their championship series cost more to run than they brought in with the series’ fees and all of their sponsorship combined!

I think the USA Ultimate model shows us that to reach the next level of bike polo, competitive players are going to have to keep paying a mallet shaft per tournament in tournament fees, but they’re probably also going to have to pay a decent mallet head per year for an NAH license.  That’s what it will take if we’re going to get where most competitive players want to go – with trained, compensated, independent refs; more consistent facilities; and more (and more-open) tournament series options.

What are some ways, (your opinion) on how to make that fund and all funds collected by the NAH more visible to Polo players?  Read more

The New NAH Tourney Structure: Thoughts and Insights

With the Proposed 2013-14 structure from the NAH for the bike polo season comes a new development in our sport. Let’s not mince words here: I think this is a big step in the direction towards a more recognizable legitimacy. The new structure (for those of you who refuse to use the other polo channels to find this information out) basically comes down to these points:

  • Closed Regions for Regional Qualifiers
  • Weighted allotment of slots (three guaranteed for National championship, other slots determined by the year previous NAHBPC performance of region)
  • Shorter window for qualifiers
  • Players can only play in 1 regional qualifier
  • Regional tourneys to be held mid-April to mid-June, NAHBPC and Worlds in early Autumn or Sept/Oct.

You can read the specifics here on the NAH site, I won’t waste your time repeating them, other than this endorsement:

I think the recommended changes are great, and you should too, polokin.

I am excited by the decision making of the NAH in this, and I can tell by looking over the document that lots of consideration was paid to what would work best for the polo community as a whole – making sure to include regions and people based on merit as well as on fairness.

This is something that can really go south on a sport, and addressing that concern early is a solid way to avoid some big trouble down the line. I recognize of course that this isn’t set in stone (it’s only the proposed structure for the next 2 years after all), but it’s a good starting point for getting where we need to go as a growing, vibrant community.

I did, however, have a few questions about specifics in the document, so I got in touch with Ben Schultz (Regional Board Member, Midwest) and Eric Ransom (Regional Board Member, Eastside) to get some specifics: Read more