Tag Archive for polo

Scoring Goals as a Form of Social Proof


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

When to Coach: During or After Play?

coaching 1

You’re not a newb anymore: you’ve been playing for a couple of years, have been to tourneys and can be recognized by polo players outside of your club. Sure, you’re no A+ player, but you can hold your own against even the toughest players (note: in the case of playing Portland United or the Beaver Boys, “holding your own” means you don’t cry uncontrollably).

So you’ve already made it past the question “should I even tell this guy what he’s doing wrong?” The question that you should be asking yourself now is this: when is the best time to bring up something another player could work on.

First, let’s set a ground rule, here: if the other player knows that they are doing something silly (scooping the ball out of the court), there really isn’t much need in coaching them out of that behavior. They know it’s stupid, you know it’s stupid, and that’s that. What I’m talking about are the mistakes the players make and are unaware of: the little errors that add up to missed opportunities. The things that you can easily see as a flaw in their play but they, perhaps, cannot.

But when is it best to bring up these mistakes? Should you (after the play itself has stopped and you’ve moved back to your own net) bring it up with the player? Should you do it as soon as possible? Or maybe wait until the game is over to pull them away from the group and explain how they can improve?

It comes down to a few things, I find:

  • Level of emotion
  • Relationship with player
  • Severity of mistake/error

Level of Emotion: Did the player make a mistake that was clearly a result of their own frustration, did they make a mistake and then throw their mallet? In these cases, it’s best to lay the hell off of them until they cool down. They won’t listen to anything you say, and at worst you can make the situation much worse by seeming condescending (even if you truly are not trying to be).  In this case, wait it out until after the game and then bring it up in a gentle, “hey buddy” sort of manner.  Read more

You are so dumb. You are Really dumb.


Bike polo (as my dear friend Ted has aptly explained) is a thinking man’s sport. It requires a certain level of foresight, strategerie, and learning in order to reach the potential available in every player.

But if you’re rolling around with big dumb rocks in your head, you’re not going to get anywhere, are you?

Do you find yourself:

  • Getting a stare-down from team-mates after a botched play?
  • Doing the same thing over-and-over without getting the expected results?
  • realizing you’re the only person facing the way you’re facing?

Well, it might be that you are dumb. So very, very dumb. 

But take heart: you can rise above your inherent dummy-ness and make something of yourself in pretty short order. Let me show you the way.  Read more

Cold Sweat, Busted MILKS, Chilly Knees

20130206_215339_resized (1)

Polo last night was exactly what I needed. Fast, intense games with lots of laughing and tequila. There were some one-sided sweeps like when Hylon, Yeager and I completely destroyed Lumberjack, Horse, and Karl (history isn’t written by the winners, guys. It’s written by the guy with a website, ftw). Overall, though, it was just a great night of very competitive games that somehow didn’t come off as overly serious or “tourney practice.”

We did have some frustrations though. For one thing, Lumberjack somehow left one of his mallets – yes, dear reader, the very mallet which had the MILK head I gave him out of the kindness of my heart - at the court last time he played. Well, some crooked bastards found it and decided “how can I make sure that everyone who finds this mallet despairs for the human species” and proceeded to slam it on the ground/run over it/dry hump it into oblivion: 


I mean – come on, man. Come on.

20130206_173820_resizedSurprisingly (or unsurprisingly if you really like MILK heads), Lumberjack was able to use the mallet for the entire night. Even all jacked up like this. Sure, it probably affected his game a little, but I was impressed that, after being assaulted by a deranged walrus, it still managed to work as a decent mallet.


Monday Morning Bike Polo Strategy: J Block

J block (6)

Bike polo strategy is often maligned by those who think the two are oxymorons. You go out, you hit the ball around until you get it in the goal, or you curse a lot and get drunk.

And we all know how fun that particular strategy is.

But let’s–just for the sake of Monday fun–say that you want to work on some strategerie for your next pickup day or tourney. Well, why not try this mediocre-ly named strategy I’ve often seen a few of our top level players pull off in pickup (often on me, and often resulting in my hopping off my bike and chasing someone down like an anamorphic toad):

I say, give me back that ball, ye douche!

I say, give me back that ball, ye douche!

The setup is simple: the opposing team has possession and you want to get that ball away from them. While this is generally the aim of most games (getting the ball away from the opposing team), this little maneuver can help you do so quickly while at the same time eliminating a potential threat to the scoring teammate.

Just a note: this whole move is really a matter of seconds – don’t let the slowness of showing how it’s done make you think it takes half of the game. Also note that I’ll be using Tagamigrams™. Read more

Middle Of The Road Isn’t Good Enough, Chum.

middle road

If you peel back the thick make-up of your own self-deprecation and personal disgust, you can agree that you’re not a half bad player.

No, really. I mean it. You’re alright.

Dependable, sure footed on your bike and able to make some pretty spectacular plays every once and a while. Sure – you’re not fielding calls from Call Me Daddy or anything, but when you go to a tourney people don’t just say that they saw you play – they actually watch and shit talk you, which is always a good sign.

So you’re ok. A solid “decent” on the completely ambiguous scale of playing bike polo.

This article is for you, friend.

There is a huge gap between and alright player and a great player – much more of a gap, I believe, than the one between a novice player and an alright player. I bring this up because I don’t want you to think that knowing a few more tricks or skills will bump you from midrange to top tier—it won’t. At best, it will make you inch up just a little bit in your personal “ranking”, which is a tricky thing when you’re a middle-of-the-road bike polo player. Read more

I Can’t Quit You


I have not been playing much polo for the past 3 months. I made up a bunch of excuses as to why I was going to be taking a break. Excuses. Tell me the last time an excuse was the whole truth… Quite simply my life was getting out of balance, and setting polo aside for a season was one of the more easy steps toward restoring balance. I let life trump polo. You say life IS polo. I say it is not. Read more

What I learned, Frigid Cold Polo Edition

the wall

Polo last night was the coldest night for Lancaster United in the winter season. Coming in at a toasty 20 something degrees (which felt like 17, according to the weather witchpriests at WGAL 8), we had to bundle up and try to ignore cold toes until the frostbite set in.

The cold didn’t necessarily have an impact on play – we were just as wild and goofy as ever. I was expecting a little bit of slow-down simply because it should  be harder to pedal with 4 layers of underpants on, but apparently that really has no effect on ability – go figure. The never-nudes were on to something.

Outside of remembering that my beard can indeed form icicles, the night brought the regular treasure trove of lessons and insights that I gather from any good night of pickup (ok – even the bad nights teach me a thing or two).

For one thing, I did pretty well with staying on offense. How-ev-er, I also knew when it was important to go back on defense or play in goal. Having the resolution to stay up and make all of those horrible shots is all well and good, but being able to balance that with defense is an important skill, too. The rule of wrist I use is this: if we are up by 2, or down by 1 with 1 minute or so to play, I’ll play up without regard for the goal. If we are down by 2, or up by 1 with a minute or so left to play, I’ll try not to cross the mid-court.

Also recognize, dear reader, that this isn’t a hard and fast rule. It’s more of a guideline for myself, really. Read more

New Year, New Bike Polo

Well, the new year brings new things: the resolutions you drunkenly made your mind up on and can’t possibly achieve, the absolute disgust on looking back on your Facebook “Year in Review” and realizing you mostly stayed on couches and wore the same torn shirt to every tournament. But What kind of bike polo resolutions have you made for the New Year? I know you’re just bursting at the seams with them, but let me give you a few of mine:

Wear a Safari Hat to Every Tournament

Yes. It’s as simple as that. I was given a postal worker, plastic safari hat for Christmas and I’ll be damned if you won’t all see me in it. I’ll  be that guy.

Play Offense as Much as Defense

Playing goal is important – playing defense is just as if not more important. But offense is more fun and my weak point. Prepare for Crusher 2.0: more falling over and missing open goals.


For as much as I go on about the importance of playing bike polo outside of pickup (a la practice), I really don’t do enough of it. But recently I moved to a place that has a wide open parking lot, and I really have no reason to not bring the steed out of the stall and practice my off-side passing, shooting, and general mallet work. God forbid I actually start practicing what I preach.

Develop a “perfect for me” mallet, and make multitudes 

This is partially stolen from something Horse said, but it was a good idea: I want to figure out what mallet shaft/head/system works best for me and make a year’s worth of that setup. That way it’s predictable no matter which of my mallets I’m using and I don’t have to think about it. Naturally I’ll still get things to review and I’ll re-adjust based on new products available, but it’d be nice to have 3 perfect mallets that I can just grab and go with.

More Tourneys 

I’m not an “A” player–and that’s fine. But I do want to go to more tourneys for experience and also just for fun. If nothing else, I can do some Gonzo Poloism documenting, and that’s kind of my no-paycheck bread and butter.

Focus on New Players 

I’m a big proponent of getting fresh meat for the grinder, but I think 2013 will be as much a learning year for me as a mentoring year. I plan to help set up newbie days in the spring/summer at our other courts and work on getting newer players more comfortable with the game. It’s something that I think I would have benefited from when I started, and it’s my little contribution to the club and the sport in general.


6 Reasons why I hate you

(Hate is a strong word, but it’s a good headline.) There are some people that I just hate to play with. It’s a fact. We get along pretty well in the polo world, for the most part, but sometimes there is just a player who makes me want to mallet hack to the face each and every game.

At least get a few mallet heads through the spokes – something!

It’s clearly not just the person, it’s the way they play or the way they approach play that makes me go nuts. It’s the manner, I guess, that can just set me off and make me want to throw the game (or your bike) just to get out of the match.

These are the six reasons I hate “you”:

  • You don’t remember it’s a game: I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be competitive, but for the love of God if you get angry in a game because of a bad call or a bad play, don’t carry it off the court. Play the game and be done with it. Nobody – and I mean this – nobody cares if someone wheel dicked you on purpose 15 minutes after it’s happened. Just shut that flapper you call a mouth and play your next game. It’s annoying.
  • You give up: Other side of the spectrum here, but there is nothing quite so disheartening as watching someone commit to a play, fail at that play, and then roll around on the court like a silk swaddled flower girl looking for clovers. Stay in the play, damn you! I can’t understand what you think spinning in a large circle and shaking your head is going to do for anybody. Knucklehead.
  • You are mean: Yeah, I mean it. Call me what you will, but being an outright jerk while playing isn’t the point of bike polo. It’s not to see how many friends you can piss off nor is it to determine how long you can go without smiling. You can be a devastating player and still tap mallets with your opponents when something awesome happens in the game.
  • You don’t look after your bike: 15 minutes off the court can save an ENTIRE GAME OF WAITING FOR YOU TO FIX YOUR BRAKES. If your at a tourney at you have a mechanical that should/could have been taken care off before the game, you should be slapped in the face with an Alligator Gar.
  • You think you’re perfect: Everyone needs to grow in the sport – newer players (and even veteran ones) have skills that need worked on. This doesn’t make you superior nor does it make you their personal coach. Offer help, yes, but don’t assume that every player who doesn’t have your level of skill wants your advice. Some people learn by listening, some by doing. Know the difference.
  • You think you’re a failure: So you messed up the play/can’t get the ball off the wall/can’t defend goal/can’t figure out how to pedal – I don’t care. Well, I do care, but I don’t care that you messed up. Get back on your bike, go after the ball, and try the same thing again. You’re only a failure if you give up, and even then it’s only Polo, so what does it matter? Talking about how much you suck isn’t good for anyone. Keep that negative Nancy stuff to yourself unless you follow it up directly with “how can I improve this?”


Ok – that’s my list of things that players do/say that drive me up a wall. How many am I guilty of? At least 4.