Urban Velo

The Documentarian of Bike Polo: An Interview With Mr. Do

Who are you, and what is Mr. Do Video?

My actual name is not Mr. Do. It is Dustin Bouma; Mr. Do has been my handle ever since I first joined the LOBP, in 2008. I began making polo videos in my spare time in 2009. I’d usually put my polo name at the end of the video, and by the time I felt like I needed a proper logo, the name Mr. Do Video had stuck.

How did Mr. Do Video come about? Why did you start it? 

Dut Polo 07.22.2012

Photo Credit: Krissy Jackson

My video-making began after I came home from my first tournament, in Madison, WI. I had some great footage from an old Sony Handicam that I owned. I was blown away by the skill of some players, and by the potential that I saw in the sport. I immediately searched the internet for bike polo videos, thinking it had to be full of crashes, goals and sweet passes. I was surprised I didn’t find much, so I decided to make myself a video that I could watch before pickup games, to get myself pumped up to play. I had already been teaching myself to use editing software in order to make better quality home movies of my family/friends. I had all the equipment, so I began making something more exciting; polo videos. At first, it was just for me and my friends to enjoy.

What were some of the early challenges you faced? 

From poor internet connectivity to sheltering gear from the rain, I’ve faced quite a few challenges, not just early on, but continually. And I should say ‘we’, as there have been a number of us who have put forth the effort and time to produce the livestreams, which are improving with each tournament we attend. John Gordon of Minneapolis has been instrumental in making some of our bigger events, like North Americans, include multiple cameras. Zach Woodward airs every livestreamed bike polo tournament, on his website, bikepolo.tv. Steve ‘Machine’ Wilson and Andrew ‘Dr. Chan’ McRae, loan us their talents at larger events, providing play-by-play commentary of the action. Jenn Gallup operates and continuously monitors the feed on a laptop; all of these folks are invaluable to the livestream. As a polo community, we make these livestreams happen as a group; and the biggest challenge, often, is getting people to dedicate so many hours into making them great. It takes a lot of work, and I am thankful for each and every volunteer.

Who watches Mr. Do Livestreams and videos? 

The biggest polo fan is Vanessa Willey; she watches every livestream from beginning to end and is one of our biggest supporters. Otherwise, it’s mostly polo players and their friends or family; folks who can’t be at an event, but want to see people they know playing the sport they love. Many players like to watch themselves and/or opponents, in order to talk strategy and tactics and improve their own game-play. Mrdovideo.com provides an organized way to watch the games from bike polo tournaments that we’ve filmed. Games are categorized by tournament, and are also searchable by team name, or even player name.

How do you think you’ve impacted bike polo? Do you think what you do benefits people outside of the sport or inside of it? 

I’ve only just recently thought about the impact of Mr. Do on the sport of hardcourt. There is definitely a benefit to archiving bike polo games; not only does it preserve some history of the sport, it enables players to level the playing field through film study. Players from around the world can watch games featuring the best players and teams in all of bike polo. Teams and players watch and review past games of themselves and their opponents to help develop strategy, plays, and improve their skills, which I believe improves the sport and makes it even more exciting to watch.

I also hope that outsiders see my videos and are drawn to hardcourt bike polo, because it really is an amazing sport to play and to watch.

Where do you see Mr.Do Video in a few years? Where would you like to expand? 

I would love to be able to step away from the camera and into more of a production role, where I can take more direct control of the entire livestream. Filming polo is difficult, and after nearly 5 years of it, I have a high standard. If we can maintain that standard, while I move into a head producer role, I think that we can create professional-style broadcasts; ones that feature solid and consistent coverage of the entire tournament, while remaining family-friendly and exciting to the general public. I would also like to employ an elevated center court camera, as well as feature other pro sports-like coverage.

How do you pay for all of this? What support are you getting? 

When we began traveling to tournaments strictly for the sake of livestreaming and not to compete in them, we decided we needed help to cover some of our costs. From travel to equipment to internet fees, the cost of producing a livestream is quite large and we are, after all, doing this as a hobby. We held a moderately successful internet fundraiser and we received some support from several polo companies, as well as dozens of donations from polo players, clubs, friends, and family members. Companies like Fixcraft, DZR Shoes, Modifide, and Northern Standard have chipped in; the polo community has done a lot to help make it possible for us to pay the costs of producing tournament livestreams. Ultimately, the donations serve to cover just part of the cost; along with travel and equipment, the hours and hours of dedicated work by the Stream Team are what really make it happen.

Do you find yourself becoming really great at understanding bike polo since you’re basically watching it all the time? 

Dut Polo3 07.22.2012

Photo Credit: Krissy Jackson

Ha! Not as much as you’d think!

When I am filming bike polo, I am concentrating on framing the shot; I can barely see the ball in the viewfinder. It’s not until later, when I am editing, that I can watch and really enjoy the game, and know what happened beyond the scores. But by that time, I have a mountain of footage that I need to go through. So I stop enjoying the games and get back to work!

But seriously, I am awesome at polo.

How can people find you online/watch your videos/find out about upcoming livestreams? 

You can find bike polo games and highlights at mrdovideo.com, and you can find us on Facebook and Twitter. We will make announcements there, regarding upcoming livestreams. But rest assured, the 2014 North American Championships will be the best bike polo livestream, ever.

Your Polo Update: Calm Before the Storm Edition

As much as it pains me to write it, the end of the 2013 bike polo season is within sight. Disappearing are the days of the 8:30 sunset, the three-gallons-of-water-why-is-it-so-hot playing, and the joys of a full, unknowable tourney schedule. Yes, friends, it seems as though we must soon brace ourselves for the cold, lightless days of winter.

Unless of course you’re heading to Florida in a few weeks.

That’s right: with the end of the “regular season” comes some of the most fun tourneys this side of the sun: Worlds and Turducken.

First, let’s talk a little bit about the biggest of the three and why it’s so very important in the world of bike polo:

WHBPCThe World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship is unlike any other tourney you’re likely to go to during the whole season. For one thing, it’s a great chance to experience what the entire world of bike polo is coming up with: the unique skillsets of players from different continents, the amazing equipment that companies are creating, and the general 100% saturation of bike polo for day upon glorious day. Do you remember the scene from Harry Potter (shut up, you watched it) where ol’ Harry goes to the Quidditch world cup? Well, it’s almost like that (minus the thousands and thousands of spectators, flying brooms, and butter-beer). But that’s not to say there isn’t magic to be had while at a Worlds tourney.

Point in fact, the World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship is a great way to size up the health and growth of our sport—both in how many players come in from different areas of the world, and in how much the word’s bike polo players have grown in skill.

Last year the World Championship was held in Geneva, Switzerland, making it rather hard for this humble, poor writer to attend. However, this year it’s held in Weston, Florida. This means that, through the help of Urban Velo and a few kind souls here in Lancaster (my wife), I’m able to travel to the sunshine state to witness the thrilling best-of-the-best competition.

Why is it important? Well, dear reader, add this to the points I’ve already listed: it’s a competition formed by nothing more than the will of polo players. It is one of the purest forms of competition, in that the players who come are doing so for the sake of being hailed as the very best in the world—not for the joy of having a few beers with friends or for the chance to win some polo equipment. This tourney, unlike most any other during the year, is one of champions who are trying to meddle out how far they can push themselves and their teams. If that doesn’t get you pumped up for the sport, I don’t know what will.

Happening in October (16th-20th), this tourney is not one to miss. If you even have the tiniest interest in seeing it, just do yourself the favor and find a way to get to Weston, Florida.

Turducken FlyerSo it’d be safe to say that Worlds is the end of the bike polo season, more or less. Well, if you said that I’d laugh at you once you were far enough away to not hear me laugh. For on November 9th and 10th is the classic…no no…legendary Turducken tournament. This was one of the first tourneys I went to, and it is simply one of the best if you like both extremely challenging games and a Thanksgiving feast at the end of your tourneys.

The thing about Turducken is that it’s a dynasty sort of tournament. You can be guaranteed that the biggest names in bike polo (at least on this half of the country) will be there, and they’ll be bringing their A games. However, that’s not to say that you should feel pressured into not coming out—It’s a blast to go to, a great way to meet folks, and an awesome way to improve your understanding of our sport. It’s also the best way I’ve found to say so-long to the bike polo season, and that delicious food shores you up for the cold lonelies of winter.

So if you’re heading to Worlds, I’ll see you there—and if you’re heading to Turducken, I’ll see you there, too.

Your Polo Update: NA Edition

nahbpc_final small fileWell, friends, the time is upon us once again. Across the entirety of the United States (except for Lancaster, PA, as we are too hipster to go to your mainstream bike polo tourney) bike polo players are checking their spokes, buying a few extra tires, and sharpening their mallet heads for the climax of the 2013 bike polo season: North American Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship (NAHBPC).

Starting at the end of this week—August 16th to the 18th—the very best players that North America has to offer will join together in Minneapolis, Minnesota to vie for the podium. This is truly where bike polo moves from a fun time to an art form, and if you can make your way out to Minneapolis, I strongly suggest you do so.

No, I won’t be, because I used up all my vacation time on dental appointments and other bike polo tourneys. I’m a bad planner, okay?

Now, if you can’t manage to make your way out to the event, fear not. Everything will be streamed live and free on www.bikepolo.tv , where you can witness amazing bike polo from the comfort of your own living room. Honestly, I’d get your bike polo friends together and make an event of it. If I had friends, I’d be doing that. As it is, I’ll be watching the event from the polo aviary of my third floor, alone save for a bottle of whiskey, as is my tradition.

Naturally, I’ll be rooting for the Eastside teams, though I have found that I don’t have, necessarily, a favorite team to root for. Looking over the list of people who are going, I’m pretty sure I’ll just disintegrate into me squealing at every game I watch and accidentally swinging my polo mallet into a window or something.

Outside of the North Americans, We’ve got the Salt in Your Veins tourney over in the Bonneville Salt Flats of Wendover, UT. To be fair, there isn’t a graphic for this tourney, nor is there any set rules, plans, housing, sign ups, nor confirmed teams. I’m going to say that the boys over in Salt Lake City figured out nobody was doing anything the same weekend as North Americans other than watching North Americans.

 

megaman copy copyHow-ev-er, the weekend after (August 24th) is the POLO BATTLE in Winston Salem, where folks are invited to come out for a grand pickup day, no prizes or anything like that, but a more traditional come-out-and-play bike polo event. Really, it’s a great way to cool down from NAs or just find a place to hang out with a bunch of folks who are having a good time.

 

 

polo22-01That very same weekend is the two day Thunder Bay Bike Polo Invitational. Now in its third year, the invitational seems light on information on the event page, but that’s not to say it isn’t a good time (I mean, would it be in its third year if it weren’t fun?).

 

 

Moving from tourneys, I want to discuss the push for better reffing in the NAH. It’s no surprise to those of you who know me that I really herald the importance of good refs in our sport (and the expansion of our refs, in particular). Well it seems like the NAH has finally listened to me…sheesh….guys…and created a website called ref.nahardcourt.com where you will eventually be able to achieve certification and education. Currently there is a place to take a “rules test” and create a login.

I have no doubt as this initiative progresses, that we’ll start getting some very interested, very dedicate people who are willing to take up the call and become professional refs. I for one am excited by the prospect myself, as I recognize that I’ll probably never make it to Nationals or Worlds on my bike polo skill, but I can certainly make it there based on my ability to recognize illegal play and coach-trot out on the court to place a ball.

I coach-trot like a champion.

Anyway, I wish the best of luck to everyone going to Nationals (both players and organizers alike), and I hope you’ll join me, dear reader, in watching the fun online at www.bikepolo.tv

Your Polo Update: Tin Man Edition

Yes, I have been more or less sidelined due to my ticker. No, that doesn’t mean I’m giving up polo. No, it doesn’t mean you can have my equipment. NO IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN HAVE MY EQUIPMENT STOP ASKING.

While on a hopefully temporary sabbatical, I have the chance to sit down and fill you in on just a few of the happenings within the North American Bike Polo world. Let’s start our round up with upcoming tourneys:

 

GentlemensFirst, let’s talk about Davis’s 3rd Annual Gentlemen’s Polo Deathmatch out of Davis, California. The tourney is held in the “blue cage of death,” and is free (donations are accepted, of course). Both days are listed as a “friendly 3×3 polo tournament,” so let’s just assume it’ll be Saturday placement and Sunday tourney. Hey, the price is right, and the blue cage of death sounds like a lot of fun for a weekend. Just remember to have a safe word.

 

DecaturThe Decatur Illinois Bike Polo Gathering is going on July 27th and 28th, featuring one court with 2 foot walls, this shuffle tourney (you don’t go with a team, friend. You get one when you show up) features camping and food included. You also have a chance to win a Joust via raffle, and that’s kinda swell, isn’t it? At twenty bucks a head, why not, right? Seems like a fun time, and there is still plenty of space left to register.

 

 

ApoloclypseFinally, we have The Last Stand IV, Apocalypse Later, which has such a reputation for being a great tourney that I really don’t even need to mention much more than this: it’s probably, really, actually going to be the last time this tourney is being put on. 75 bucks a team, includes food and dollar beers. It’s a tiny tourney of 16 teams only, so there’s a good chance that it’ll be all filled up by the time you read this, but you should give it the old college try anyway. The format is your typical swiss round Saturday to double elim Sunday, with boozing and partying peppered in-between. If you can make it, make it.

 

Now, normally I’d share something that caught my eye in the League of Bike Polo (ALL HAIL) forum at this point. I’d bring up the subject and discuss my thoughts on the matter. Well, the one I found was a discussion about what makes for top shelf shots (shots that leave the ground and fly in the air/into the goal). When I dove into the topic, however, I was met with the following:

Thinking of the moment immediately prior to impact. Is the face of the mallet moving at a constant rotational velocity, or is it still accelerating? Higher elastic deformation if accelerating, and I think adding wrist on gives just that much more at impact and follow-through. –Alias of DC Bike Polo, Robot.

I mean, I think I understand what Robot Alias was getting across, but come on. It’s polo. Let’s not think about it that much. Sheeeesh.

Anyway, I guess people are excited about figuring out the 1s and 0s of how to make a little ball fly in the air once being struck by a piece of plastic on a glorified ski pole. Keep on keeping on, polokins.

 

Arc 4Moving over to new products, I can honestly say there isn’t very much popping up on the old Crusher-radar 2000. One thing that did come up just today is a very interesting little picture from Modifide of smaller Arc head (dubbed the Arc 4). It looks as though it’s taking into account an earlier drawing made that the Modifide group put together (I seem to remember the picture looking more like a cube), but still maintaining the hourglass figure. Note, however, that this will be a limited run, so as soon as these go live, snatch them up if you’re interested.

fixcraft goldFixcraft Friday is coming down the line, and with it will come—I can assume—at least one new color option for the Cleat mounting system. But it’s rare that the new color will be the only exciting deal happening this Friday, so put some coffee on and keep refreshing the page to see what else pops up at a great price.

 

 

As far as Northern Standard, Milwaukee, MILK, or Magic are concerned (yes, I know there are more companies than that), no news. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t check out what they’ve already got, of course, but there are no new products as of my typing. Get off my case, man.

So that’s your update, dear poloistas. I hope your summer tourneys are going swimmingly, and remember to drink plenty of water while you’re out there.

The Importance of Bike Polo Fair Play

I recently watched an episode of (I think) Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel just before heading off to polo. One of the topics discussed was the increasing amount of attacks on officiators by athletes, their parents, and spectators in general. There was really some faith-in-humanity destroying segments, including interviews with a family of a ref who was recently killed due to a head injury sustained by an angry athlete in Utah.

And I guess this is the way it is now: refs arriving early to games they are officiating in order to find escape routes , contacting the head of security for events and asking who they should run for if things go wrong—it’s the nature of sports in our country.

So how does this apply to you and I, polo players extraordinaire? To put it as simply as possible: our sport is young enough that we can avoid that trend.

When bike polo was first invented in Ireland, sportsmanship was very different than it is today. You played hard, but players were also expected to be knowledgeable about rules and recognize when they’d done something particularly against them. Officiators were respected and obeyed (and, to the defense of your great grandfather, there was still plenty of arguing and cursing, but the call on the field was obeyed as law—that’s why the officiator was there).

ESPIs-Seven-2012-96-1024x680The reason for this is really pretty easy to grasp, too: you’re playing a game, and games have rules. If you break those rules, you’re ruining the entire basis of the game, and that’s just as lame as you can get. Take the call and move on.

Lots of sports are now so entirely focused on amazing achievement and not on sportsmanship – look at American football as your paradigm of the player becoming more important than the sport—and this has caused a fundamental shift in respecting officials and in listening to their enforcement of the rules.

One thing that is constantly called for in our sport is a more organized, widely available set of refs to officiate every NAH event—and I don’t disagree. However, I think we as the players of that sport also must make sportsmanship as integrated as possible in the game itself. We don’t have to look at rules as limiting, but rather enabling for great plays to be achieved and for the playing field to be more equal between teams. You might be a heartless brawler, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should win everything simply because the other team is scared you’re using a spraypainted-yellow-iron mallet.

NAH-RulesetOur rule set – as flexible and changing as it is – started as one single rule: don’t be a [jerk] (I honestly don’t know if I can swear on Urban Velo, but you know what that rule actually says). Within that simple little rule is the entire foundation for sportsmanship. It wasn’t a specific binding law, it was an understanding through polo that there were situations where a player could manipulate the game in such a way that made them dangerous to other players (while benefitting themselves). Before the larger rule set, players themselves made on-the-court decisions if a particular event was fair or violated that first rule of polo. It worked because we agreed to have it work.

I’m not suggesting that sportsmanship can be instilled by just removing all of the other rules we have now and going back to one, but I am suggesting it’s important to keep that ground rule in your mind—to instill it in new players and remind veteran players to keep the first rule as a basis for actions in heated tourneys. We’re fortunate that we don’t need to deal with players who attack refs (there’s always the possibility that it will happen, and that will be a fun day of shouting at my computer screen as I write incomplete sentences about the end of our sport). I think it’s important that we continue to keep a level head about sportsmanship and accept calls as they come – learn what the rules are – and keep ourselves vigilant against making ourselves more important than the game we are playing.

Your Polo Update: Get Tourney In Ya Teeth

It’s from the polo war room that I write to you, and with the season in full swing, I’m more than happy to be here amongst my many leather bound mallets and polo related beverages. This is probably my second favorite time of the polo season, actually, as anything is still possible in relation to Nationals and Worlds, there are so many tourneys to go to, and people are still working out exactly what they’re going to blame the NAH for the most.

My money is on the 17 year Cicadas, btw. Totes the NAH’s fault.

So, let’s see what’s going on by way of the tourneys:

SoloPoloIIFinalLowResFirst, we have the Solo Polo Santa Fe II out of Santa Fe. A pickup tourney were you go, free of charge, and just play. Despite my natural desire to hate them for spelling “immediately” as “IMMEADITLY” on the flyer, it does seem like a pretty rock solid good time if you’re able to make it there. Breakfast and lunch provided, fun to be had by all, and lots of room for polo rookies.

 

 

NORTHSIDES2013_horizontal2Next, I want to highlight the Northside Regional Qualifier which is taking place June 15th and 16th . It’s the Northside Regional folks, I shouldn’t really have to explain this one too terribly much. How-ev-er I will tell you what makes it great: one court for dedicated pickup the whole tourney, and the courts are lit until 1AM – so don’t you worry your pretty little heads if someone is a few minutes late to get into their game. Lots of beer to be had at the registration party (at a pub) and a brewery crawl for people who understand that Michigan has some of the finest beers about.

 

eleanorAnd ON THAT VERY SAME WEEKEND OH MY GOD is the SouthEastern Regional Qualifier which has been dubbed by organizers as “Ya’ll about to drink so much moonshine you’ll think you’re Hellen Keller.” If that doesn’t set up your expectations, I don’t quite know what will. This tourney will only see five teams qualify for Nationals, so competition is expected (by me) to be fierce and bloody. At least I’m hoping so. If you are planning to attend this one—as in already have registered and are all set—make sure you get your housing sorted. Looks like it’s going to be tight quarters unless you’re prepared.

As a side note: if you look at the thread for this tourney on League of Bike Polo (ALL HAIL!) you’ll see that, once again, someone thinks that Horse is the person running Lancasterpolo.com and not me. I guess nobody can believe that a short hobbit-y fellow could talk so much about polo. Let’s leave the tourneys before I start crying.

Next, let’s talk about some of the hoopla in the forums.

One topic that caught my fancy was a conversation about joint pain. Outside of VFW bingo nights, conversations about joint pain often come up on the LoBP forums and are often met with the same series of comments: “man up,” “here’s a wrap you can try,” and “yeah, me too.” The best advice I’ve come across as far as what people say has worked is twofold: take a break and exercise the joint. I understand why that can sound like bullish advice, but it makes sense: you’re using a specialized set of muscles to play the sport, and those muscles, probably, don’t see much workout during your regular day. Making them stronger can help in making them more resistant to the strains our sport puts on them. Give your wrists a break for a while and after they feel better, figure out a way to work them out for strength.

(Insert joke here. Laugh to yourself. Moving on…)

Honestly, though, I think it’s important to not act like a buffoon if you’re experiencing nagging pain in polo. Nothing could be worse than doing real harm to yourself because you chose to ignore the pain. Taking a few weeks off is much better than taking a few years, right?

Now, let’s talk about bike polo equipment:

MKE smallmouthFirst, Milwaukee has released this new head you should be excited to catch. See what I did there? Okay, seriously though, the Small Mouth Monohead from MKE has been out for quite a while, but I’ve never caught up to talk about it: at five inches and about 83 grams, the never-recycled UHMW head is as clean as it is dependable. Pre-drilled so you have a harder time messing up your mounting, the head has a 2.5 inch outside diameter and a single capped end. Currently at $21.99, it’s well within the price range of high quality heads and really is just a no-nonsense, I-want-to-buy-a-good-mallet-head purchase.

malletsNext I was excited to see that Portland Bike Polo’s “Electric Salmon” head is back and up for sale. (I’ll spare you all the fish jokes I had lined up for this one given that I used a bunch for the MKE above.) Anyway, the Electric Salmon is UHMWPE milled  to have an open side and a capped side. Weighing in at about 78 grams, the head is softer than what you’ll find with a UHMW head but lighter for it. What I appreciate most about the head (outside of how good it feels, as I had one for a little while before giving it to our resident mallet expert Kyle), is how honest the product page is: “If your spirit animal is Thor riding the Incredible Hulk, you will break this mallet. If you smash the mallet into the ball instead of into the ground, the mallet will last for months.”      Coming in at 25 dollars a head, it’s high in cost compared to some other non UHMW heads – but take heart: multiple orders get discounts in initial price, depending on how many more than 2 you buy.

fixcraft cleatFinally, Fixcraft is planning to release its new mounting system on the 7th of June (during their Fixcraft Friday event). There has been a lot of hub-bub about this new mounting system and I can echo the excitement. I wrote an initial review here, if you want to read particulars, but I think I can safely say that the world of polo is pretty excited to see what Fixcraft has come up with this time. Price is unknown at this point, so we’ll have to see how it falls in line with other mallet assembly options. They’ve also redesigned their mallet heads, and shafts, thought it doesn’t seem like you need to use either, necessarily, to use the cleat mounting system. I don’t have a link to point you to, so I’ll point you to the Merch Table and let you gander around there for a while.

And that’s your polo update! Before I leave you, I want to invite you to comment and make suggestions as to what you want to see here. More strategy? More about tourneys? Something else? Feel free to drop a line and let me know what you’re wishing for. I’m like the godmother of polo, minus the wings.

Your Polo Update: Bust Out The Hot Balls

Looking into the crystal ball that is League of Bike Polo (ALL HAIL!) I see a few very exciting tournaments coming up in May:

287981_10150351426118013_1170049_oFirst, the Boot Camp Training Weekend for Ladies Army 5 is happening May 4th-5th. This is interesting because of the swingers nature of team selection: everyone puts something familiar into a bowl—three items are drawn out and that’s your team for the first day! The second day is a pull-out bench format: coolers full of beer. Pull out a beer, and everyone who has that brand of delicious PBR is on your team. I gotta say, this sounds like something I could get into.

 

fmbp2Next up is Bear Polo 4 out of Fort Meyers that same weekend (May 4th and 5th). This one is a bit more traditional with Swiss rounds the first day and double elim the second. There are literally no comments on the thread for this tournament so far, so I’m guessing the field is still wide open?

 

 

LA5PosterwebresAnd then, on May 10th-12th, is Ladies Army 5. I’m excited by this one for a few reasons: 1, they have done so much promotion for it that I literally feel like it’s the super-FIFA-Olympics, and 2 because I will get to watch polo that weekend from the comfort of the polo war room. This is happening in Burnaby, Canada if you don’t know, and if you don’t know, now you know. Ya know?

knoxvilleThe last one I want to talk about is the Knoxville Marble City Open, happening May 11th and 12th. This is the first tourney these folks have put on, and they are equal parts overly-emphatic about explaining rules on the tourney page as they are willing to take suggestions to make it better. There is something magical about going to a first-ever city tourney, and I really think if you’re in the area you should give it a go.

Check out these (and other exciting tourneys) over on the LoBP(ALL HAIL) tournament page.

LoBPNext, let’s peek on over at the boards and see what’s what in the world of grown men getting huffy at each other—actually, it’s very far from that in the one posting that I want to talk about over on LoBP. It seems the topic of player licensing came up again and the NAH (specifically, Eric from DC) made it a point to address the complaints and observations in a courteous, careful manner. I have to say that it’s one of the most productive and respectful conversations I’ve seen on the boards in a long time, and I’m excited as to what that says about possible outcomes and resolutions. Check it out here and add into the conversation as long as you a. keep it on topic and b. resist the swelling urge to be a complete jerk. You can be a little bit of a jerk, but don’t go full jerk. Not in public, anyway.

Yes, it’s time to talk about new equipment popping up around the polo-sphere!

modifide shaftHere we have Modifide’s shaft, which, according to Modifide’s Facebook page, was designed with the help of Northern Standard for lightness and the mounting system. I haven’t tried these shafts out so I can’t speak to them in any way, but there you go—I told you. It doesn’t look like they are up for sale yet (as of writing this), but by the looks of things they should be up soon.

lifelineNext, Fixcraft’s lifeline dual break pull (which seems to be off the site at the moment, but they still have a post on Facebook about it). This is a way of making many single brake levers into a dual lever. Right now they have a short pull available but will soon have a long pull as well. Seems like a cheap way to customize your polo rig on the fly.

And that’s really all I’ve seen around the interwebs this week—but I think they are enough for now, don’t you?

No, I don’t either. I want more. All the polo equipments.

Finally, I want to discuss what play has been like now that I’ve been using a shaped head (specifically, the Modifide ARC Mallet head). I can bring it all down to three things:

  • Ball handling: seems better
  • Shooting: not really different
  • Hooking: more dangerous to me

Ball Handling: The ARC head’s shape allows me to cup the ball a little bit (without removing the chance for a defender to get it from me) which thereby allows me to look up more during play. I know that the ball is rolling to the center of my mallet because that’s the only place it has to go, and that allows me more predictability in play. That’s kind of great, and I enjoy it very much for that reason alone.

Shooting: I don’t know how the shape could help me shoot, so I don’t really want to bring that up as the reason, but I’m far more accurate with this mallet than I have been with others. It might be the larger flat surface of the shooting end. Regardless, I find myself able to make long-range shots more accurately, scoop more accurately to team-mates, and all around feel better about myself as a person.

Hooking: Gene made this very apparent to me yesterday during pickup: when someone hooks you, you’re hooked for good. The man pretty much hooked my mallet and then rode around me until he decided to let me go. The shape acts as a wedge to another person’s mallet, and that means you’ve really got to work to get free (good if you are trying to stop a play, bad if you’re trying to make one). I suspect this will change as I get used to people trying to hook my mallet, but yesterday it scared me. Scared me real good.

And that’s your update for now. Thanks for reading, and keep the rubber side down.

Tourneys, Forums, and Products (Oh My!)

Let’s start this column with a look at some of the upcoming tourneys in April, shall we?

Survivor2.3On the West Coast and out of San Francisco comes the SF Survivor Bench Weekend (April 6th and 7th) . Featuring everything you’d expect out of San Fran (Friday pickup, a poker party, potluck BBQ, knife fights) along with prizes and otherwise interesting hilarity. If you’re in the area it’s a good way to get into the groove of the season, no doubt.

 

bpsbNext on the ol’ agenda, we have Bike Polo Spring Break (BPSB) out of Lexington, KY (Also April 6th and 7th). If the poster is any indication of what to expect, people can expect rainbows and pixilated mohawked gentlemen trying to pick up pixilated women at the beach, and dolphins riding jetskis. However, if you know anything about Lexington Bike Polo, you’ll know that they put on one heck of a shindig and it’s definitely worth your time and effort to be there.

 

poster_1_currentsponsorsAnother hot number comes the April 13th weekend: Battle For The Midwest 2, which features (now get this) a $40 dollar fee per player, which includes beer all weekend, 3 meals Saturday, and at least 2 meals on Sunday. That’s what I’m talking about, Midwest! As of me writing this, there is space for 1 more team, and I’d suggest pulling at least 7 of your buddies together to go to this one – if nothing else just to see if you can make your money back in beer alone. I know you can, Baby Cake. This is another bench format tourney as well. Lots of sponsors, probably lot of awesome.

 

bikepoloposterlogosAnd that VERY SAME WEEKEND (April 13th) we have the Eastside Regional Qualifier out of Boston. The Eastside Regional Qualifier holds a special place in my heart, and while I haven’t been able to form up a team for it (I only write about bike polo well enough, I don’t play it so well enough), I might just make an appearance up there to document the happenings. The fee is sixty bucks registration plus 10 bucks to the NAH for their contingency fund (which you can read about here). So that’s a seventy spot for your team to head up to Hockey Town and get your game on. Boston brings the heat when it comes to an event like this (God knows the weather typically doesn’t, am I right?), so you’ll be in good hands.

 

And that’s my upcoming tourney wrap up (yes Southwest Regional Qualifier, I see you there – next time).

So now that you know what tourneys are upcoming and have a reason to start packing for all points, let’s talk about what bike polo as a whole has been discussing, and from a quick glance at the LoBP (ALL HAIL) forum, it looks like the most recent conversation is on mallet hooking the goalie to force a footdown or a roll-out. As most people in the forum thread accurately point out, this is a perfectly legal move and a very effective one at that. However, the gem of this thread comes from a very important clarification that many bike polo players fail to grasp: the difference between a hack (or slash) and a hook.

A hack or slash is when there is a forceful movement of your mallet against your opponents in (generally) a downward or sideways motion. A hook is when you make contact with the opponents mallet first, and then lift or push away. This is obviously a simplified explanation, but it’s an effective one, I find. If you roll up to another player and swordfight with them, you’re doing it wrong.

One of the most discussed forums I’ve seen is one dealing with moving picks and interference rules. I’ll leave you to get the little details, but it comes down to this: how should moving picks be handled in bike polo of the future, and should there be penalties for offensive and defensive interference.

I was having a hard time understanding most of what was said (surprising, no?), until Kev of Toronto posted this video  and noted that around 16:55 there is a great example of “off-ball body checking” that should be made illegal for fairer play (or at least for less violent play). I watched the video and saw how and argument could be made for offensive picks being not so great. But from that point on the conversation spins into somewhat veiled personal attacks, quotes to simply dissect semantics, and other adventures in saying the same thing over and over again.

You know, typical board stuff.

Let’s finish off with something near and dear to all polo player’s hearts: new stuff round up.

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picture from Arena Bike Polo

Arena Bike Polo has come out with some shiny new bike polo shafts and mallet heads, and I must say that I’m a fan of both. The shaft just looks great and feels light in the hand while still maintaining strength, and the Alchemy head is basically the economy (don’t take that as slight in any way) version of the M.I.L.K. head out of Geneva. It’s peppy, well-constructed, and currently one of my go-to mallets. I haven’t done a full review of it on Lancaster Polo yet, but I will very soon. You can check out their fine products right here.

 

 

Picture from Modifide

Picture from Modifide

Next we have a newer entry into the bike polo equipment game, this being Modifide. The piece of equipment in particular is the ARC mallet head, made of Canadian UHMW and built with the curves previously unseen in the sport. I played with one for a day so far, and I am impressed with how the shape controls the ball. The price is high here in the states (40 bucks or so with shipping included), but I guess that’s the price you pay for engineering and…stuff… Check out their Facebook page for more on the ARC. I have a full “first day” review of this mallet head on lancasterpolo.com right now, if you’re so inclined.

 

picture from Northern Standard

picture from Northern Standard

Finally we have Northern Standard coming out with a suspiciously similar-to-the-ARC mallet head and a new shaft to go along with it (which has the same basic shape as their honeycomb mallet a little while back).  I can’t speak much to either the shaft or the head as I haven’t tried them out, but if past performance is any indication of future projects, I think we’ll have some fine additions to put your wallet toward. Most notably is the end of the mallet shaft:  Four-toothed for your mallet head’s pleasure, though that doesn’t seem to be on the site quite yet. The price is $28 Canadian dollars, which is something close to $28 American dollars as of this writing. Add $10 dollars shipping to that and you’re looking at about the same price point as the Modifide. Here is the NS website for you to gander wares.

So that’s the polo update from your humble columnist.  I hope the beginning of your season is going well, and I look forward to seeing you crazy polokins at the tourneys!

Crush Polo — The Rise of the Ref

ref featuredFor those of us who do not actively engage in reviewing the boards on League of Bike Polo (ALL HAIL!), there was recently a topic and interesting conversation about creating more legitimacy around refs (if you like, you can read through it right here).

Forum posts and conversations about getting refs into a better position for bike polo officiating isn’t uncommon. In fact, I’m willing to say that this conversation is one that comes up right alongside the best mounting system for mallet heads, mocking people who are still playing on fixed gear bikes, and whether scoop shots should be legal. But unlike all of those other conversations, I think this one is actually, well, important.

Ok, ok. I really enjoy people who get worked up about the legality of scoop shots. People act like a dog with rabies on that one, and it’s high-larious.

At the core of the conversation on LoBP (ALL HAIL!) is the recognition that refs don’t have enough clout to demand respect, are under-appreciated by the NAH, and need to be given special privilege in order to really help officiate the sport and move it in a way that is less focused on group consensus and much more so on cut and dry, good officiating. There are a few ways to go about determining how much of that argument is true, and how to go about making those things happen if they are indeed the path forward.

First, let’s talk about clout. I think it’s a fair thing to say that nobody wants to listen to someone who has no idea what they are doing (look at congress (har har har topical humor)). The problem with how refs are chosen currently at a bike polo tournament is that they aren’t necessarily qualified in any way. The conversation goes like this:

 

Panicked organizer: Hey you there – you ever read the NAH ruleset?

Drunk, only-playing-for-2-weeks-guy: The one that says something about clubs?

Panicked organizer: Perfect! Go to court three – here’s a whistle!

 

This works just fine if you see the ref as someone who just kinda keeps time and initiates the game, but it’s not good for much else. The problem we’re bumping into today is that players are used to that mode of recruiting refs, and because of it they aren’t willing to listen to the ref no matter how well they blow their whistle.

 NOTE: not always, and I want to stop here to note that there are some awesome, dedicated people who are willing to and have been refs for tourneys. But this isn’t the standard. There. Now I feel like I’ll cut down on some haterade you’ve been brewing up for me. At least a little.

So the first step, as I see it, is making sure that the refs who are overseeing games are qualified to do so. This qualification can be anything from a little ol’ test given them before they are permitted to ref to a full blown certification. Either way, there has to be a level of expectation that the ref knows a standard amount of rules, and that no-matter who the ref is, they will be able to recall and implement that standard set of rules.

Next, let’s talk about the NAH/ref relationship. Speaking in generalities—as I am known to red-carddo—the ref and the NAH should be thick as thieves. However, the NAH has been kinda quiet on the front of getting refs the stuff they need to be true refs of the sport. It would be great to see a training program, some monetary support (so we could have refs that travel to event to ref, not to play and also ref), or even just some sort of recognition for being a ref. This is probably the most ambiguous requirement I have, but I think it’s a big one: the NAH is recognized as a governing body of the sport, and transferring some of that recognition to the refs (who are the governing body within a tourney itself) is pretty damned important, in my book.

Finally, special privilege. Refs really don’t get anything for being a ref right now, and that makes it hard to recruit people into being a ref over, let’s say, just playing in the tourneys they go to. I don’t have a super clear answer on how to address this, but I have a few ideas. For one thing—and I’ve mentioned it before—refs should be paid. Either with cash money or with travel compensation/free stay/free meals. It’s not easy to ref.

It’s not easy to ref.

It’s not easy to ref.

You play grab ass, you get a night in the box.

You play grab ass, you get a night in the box.

Got it? It’s hard. It takes a lot of energy. Thankless energy, I should add. So compensation should be addressed if you want to get refs who are both up for and excited to be the single point of enforced rules in a tourney. Furthermore, refs must be given full control over the game they are overseeing, and that control should be paramount to the control of the hosting group. What I mean is this: if a player blatantly commits a foul, argues with the ref, and then becomes vengeful (basically a danger on the court), the ref should have the right, with the blessing of the organizers, to throw that player out of the tourney. This helps assure that the ref has some legitimate power in the games they are reffing, they are recognized as an official, and players don’t try to argue or ignore what they have to say. This will only work, however, if the ref is as professional as we can make them. It takes something respectable to give respect.

If I use my imagination, I can see a time not so far from now where refs are brought in to officiate tourneys solely. They aren’t players who don’t have a game to play and they aren’t newbs from the hosting club who don’t have a team to play on. They are people who are vetted and certified from an organizing body, who know the rules and the grey areas that they need to make judgment calls in – they are able to deal with angry players and confusing calls, and able to handle that responsibility all day alongside other “professional” refs who are capable of conferring with them on calls and plays.

So why shouldn’t we aim for that?

Crush Polo – It’s So Easy To Fall In Love: Being Objective with Polo Equipment

3mallets-e1298092691133-768x1024 The very first mallet I ever got was a crooked, over-taped, worn down gas pipe/ski pole combo. It was the greatest mallet I ever owned.

The next one was a brand new ski pole with a brand new gas pipe mallet head, and it was the greatest mallet I ever owned.

The next one was a Fixcraft LT with a St. Cago head and baseball bat grip – it was the best mallet I ever owned.

And so on, and so on.

What I found is this (and, perhaps, not surprisingly so): people fall in love with their bike polo equipment. This makes sense in a very “this is my rifle this is my gun” sort of way, and it’s only natural that the equipment you use in the sport you love is likewise loved.

But while all this love is in the air, it’s easy to ignore the little frustrations. So your polo bike has a few spokes that are tied around other ones – the nipples in the rim are more like an announcement of your presence than an annoyance, right? So what if your mallet shaft looks like a macaroni noodle and the mallet head has been worn down to a nub? They’ve never let you down before!

But maybe they are letting you down. Little by little, they’re starting to underperform. Being able to recognize the natural wear and tear of your equipment is perhaps the most underdeveloped and important element of doing well in our sport. Lemme explain:
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