Ya gotta score goals to win. To excel, you need to be able to win in one-on-one situations. Think of what it was like when you started playing bike polo. Even for the players that are “naturals,” the breakaway specialty develops. With time, they get better at it.
If you play consistently and push yourself to improve, chances are you once reached a point where you can push the ball into an opening, find more space and get to the net. Then you hit an obstacle: a goalie. Worse yet, you have to beat a defender and the goalie. If you push yourself to win breakaways, beating two opponents on a breakaway is quite doable.
We want you to up your game with some knowledge and we wanted to hear from some of the best. So we asked these slayers, “What is your strategy to beat a defender and/or goalie on a breakaway?”
Dustin Riggs (Seattle): If it’s on a defender out of net, I try to fool them. If it’s on a defender in net, I shoot on their weak side.
Luca Semeraro (Cambridge): When I am one-on-one I favor the smart shot. Push the ball in one direction then quickly shoot it another direction. The faster the better. Experimenting with this is good (e.g. push ball forward, quickly pull it back, then tap it through five hole). If not, I always look for the front wheel shots!
Mckenzie Hart (Seattle): Try to not be predictable. It’s an obvious answer, but it’s way easier said than done. Many people do the same thing every time (e.g. go up the left, or make a forehand shot).
Emmet Ward (London/Seattle): For me it is all about predicting a pass and then intercepting it. Everyone else is stuck facing the wrong way.
Nick Kruse (Columbia, Mo.): When facing a defender on a breakaway, there are several things you can do to end up with a goal most of the time.
1) Go faster. Speed is the reason you got the breakaway opportunity, so don’t give up that advantage. Keep pedaling.
2) Make up your mind as early as possible. At this point the defender is probably facing their own goal, so they don’t get beat right away. Interpret what the defender is going to do. Is he going to try to rush into the goal before you get there or is he going to wait for you to meet him out in open space? If he tries to make it in the goal, shoot the ball quickly! Wait just a moment for a good look and have one.
If he tries to wait for you in space, come in behind him and bait him with a swerve. Go one way, go the other way, but stay behind him. Make your move one way really convincing, see if he bites, then flip it the other way and hammer on the cranks! Beat him to the outside for an open goal.
3) Hit it hard. People are getting really good at polo. Little tapper shots are a rarity in a successful team’s game anymore. If you want to score a goal with someone in net, hit the ball with conviction whether you’re five feet away or 30. Not to say a misdirect backhander is worthless, but the game is trending to bigger shots for good reason — goalies are tighter and the goals don’t come as easy. If the goals aren’t happening with the little misdirect, don’t be afraid to put some heat on it!
Photo courtesy of SPIRALONE