Few athletes do nothing before a competitive game. Even professional athletes have their share of odd, pregame rituals. Wade Boggs used to eat a whole chicken before each game. Alexander Ovechkin apparently likes to get laid before and after he takes the ice, although who knows if he or Maria can handle it. Some bike polo players probably like to enjoy a little grass before they play, but not in the same way Les Miles does before and during games.
We all have some pregame preparation, goofy or not. Ball handling, stretching, mallet waving, rocking out to Taylor Swift or whatever, we do loosen up. So we decided to ask a couple of seasoned, talented guys this question: What do you do to warm up before hitting the court?
Jason Stevenson (Portland): Usually the three of us — Arlyn, Eric and I — go for a ride away from the courts for about a half hour of low intensity riding. We talk about the upcoming match and our approach. We then do some jumps out of the saddle maxing out about 10 times, then cool down on the way back to the venue and stretch out.
Nick McLean (Lexington): You know that first pickup game of the day where you feel like you’ve never played polo before? You want to avoid that feeling in a tournament game where seeding or elimination is at stake. Warming up before a game is a simple way to prepare yourself for the intense situations you find yourself in during a competitive polo game, and something I believe is largely undervalued. Before a game there are a few things I try to work on to get ready.
1. Passing: Find a patch of unoccupied pavement (preferrably the same surface you are about to play on) and hit the ball back and forth with a teammate. Start off a few feet apart and slowly increase the distance. You don’t need to be on your bike to do this. You basically just want to warm up the wrist/arm and get used to handling the ball at that temperature. If scooping/wristy stuff is part of your game, get some of that in as well.
2. Bike and ball handling: Grab your bike, mallet, a ball and spend a minute or two dribbling the ball around. Think about the typical moves you make in a game and work the kinks out prior to game time. If you are into endo or wheelie turns or skid a lot, now would be a good time to warm those up and familiarize your bike with the court surface.
3. Shooting: Often there isn’t a great place near the courts to practice shooting. Be ready to go on the court as soon as your team is on and you might have time to take a few. Warm up the shots that you generally take in a game. Start off going for accuracy rather than power, but take a few rippers as well.
4. Body: Stretch, stay hydrated and make sure you get something to eat through the day. Dial in your buzz! Seriously. You are at a polo tournament. If you are partaking, learning to ride that line between nervousness and recklessness can save you some skin and maybe a goal or two. Figure out what works for you, and if it’s bourbon, come find me.
Alright, now tell us: How do you warm up?Photos courtesy Sheffield Tiger and salvolg