Worlds was an eye opener for me. I have seen in my travels some high levels of play, but none so amazing as what I saw on the final day of the championship. It was humbling to say the least, and I want to share with you, dear readership, just a few of the lessons and tips I learned from the biggest event on the polo calendar.
These are just a few of the observations I made, and honestly, in just those three days I came up with more post ideas than what I’ve had in months (not all about Worlds, but about polo in general). At any rate, these are the five that spring to my mind right at this very moment:
1. The Beavers, Call Me Daddy, Assassins, and Edisons: make anything I do look like goofing off. Seriously. If what they do is bike polo, what I do (and most of us do) is playing dress up and pretending to be polo players. Holy mother mallet, it was just inspiring to watch these teams kick up their play to top gear and keep at it for the championship. I just can’t fathom being at that level, and I wonder what it’s like for anyone on those teams (and others) to wake up and know they are better than most other players. Gotta be something.
2. You don’t gotta be fancy: Lomax actually brought this up the last night we were there, and it’s a great point that I wouldn’t have noticed: Most of the top teams don’t do anything fancy with the ball. Okay, you’ve got some pretty spectacular passes and avoidances, but you don’t have people scooping under their BB to catch the ball in the air, and then hit it with their head, and then into the goal (though that does sometimes happen).
What you do have are players who keep the ball conservatively, move it intelligently, and shoot the ball from a million miles away and still get a goal ohmyGodIjustcan’tgetoverit. But mostly to the point, great players aren’t doing ridiculous stuff with the ball–they are playing intelligent, basic polo. They’re just doing that basic stuff a million times better than us mortals.
3. The love is still there: Even with people coming from thousands of miles away, we all still got along (off the court) like we were from the same club. It’s good to see that we are maintaining that small-group feel although our sport and our clubs are growing past the point of knowing everyone.
Why is this important? Because it allows for our sport to keep growing. Being friendly means that we aren’t turning on each other, which helps create a positive atmosphere, which brings more people to the sport. I know it’s kind of convoluted, but it’s something I consider to be true, so to hell with you for doubting me.
4. The polo mallet is dead–all hail the polo mallet: I don’t think I saw a single player who was using anything but polo-specific shafts and mallet heads. I think it’s unreasonable to assume that everyone was using polo-specific equipment, but I didn’t see anyone rolling around with gas pipe or ski poles.
We can’t say that a Northern Standard Shaft or a Magic Head are going to make you a Worlds contender (I’m sure gas pipe in the hands of Call Me Daddy will be just as effective), but we can say that the highest level of bike polo has moved away from borrowed/re-purposed equipment and now depends on off-the-shelf solutions. It’s a good thing, really, because I think polo equipment companies are going to be what sustains the growth of the sport MORE ON THAT IN ANOTHER POST STOP ASKING QUESTIONS.
5. We need full-time, non-playing refs: There is simply no way around it. We need to have a reffing league who only has one purpose: to ref and enforce the rules set forth by the NAH and approved by the players. Simple as that. Having players who also ref is, by definition, a breech of ethical behavior, and while the refs for the final day did an awesome job, they really should have not come from the ranks of folks who initially came to play. They should have been brought in by the NAH, sanctioned by a reffing league, and knowledgeable in all areas of ruling the game. Again, more on this in another post.
I also learned that not packing your own food whilst in Weston, Florida is a bad, bad move.