Tag Archive for World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship 2013

5 Things I Learned at Worlds

Welcome

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:

Dillman1. 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.

Call Me Daddy2. 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.

Huggles3. 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.

MILK Mallet shafts4. 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.

reftalk5. 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.

Reflections on Worlds, A Reporter’s Dairy

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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:
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355 Pictures of the World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship 2013

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Just navigate your sweet self over here to see all the (decent) pictures I took of the event. Make sure to stop on back in a little bit to read my first post about all of the excitement, too. (Please?!)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/106208436@N07/sets/72157636817264553/