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Editorial, Tournaments

A Guide to Throwing Your First Tournament

January 15, 2014

DSC_0228Thanks to Zachary Woodward for the photo.

The above picture is from COMOPOLO’s first Wingman 4v4 tournament back in 2012. This was the first tournament that Chirstian Losciale, Johnathon McDowell, and I organized and ran as hardcourt polo players. I remember being nervous about everything surrounding the tournament from the moment I announced it on League of Bike Polo up until we handed the last prize on Sunday evening. We were young newbie players back then but we still wanted to throw a tournament that players from all over the Midwest would talk about and look forward to attending the next year. While this isn’t entirely a 100% realistic goal, it’s something good to strive towards. Lucky for the three of us, we started playing polo in a city with a thick hardcourt history, so it wasn’t as hard to fill all of the team spots. For all of you new and young-blood clubs around the world, it might not be as easy to fill the roster of your first tournament, but with the help of this guide, it might make things go a little more smoothly.

The most important thing you can do before hosting your first tournament is to travel to other tournaments. See how they are ran; pinpoint all of the things that the hosts are doing that are making it enjoyable for you. Also, find out what annoys you about the tournament (no food, no water, not enough partying, etc) so that you can provide these amenities at your tournament. Chances are if there is something that you don’t like, then many other participants aren’t enjoying it as well. The first Wingman tournament came out of the frustration of the 2012 Midwest Regional Qualifier. Madison charged through the roof for the tournament and only provided minimal amounts of water and a few snacks. We wanted to show how it is possible to stretch every dollar that you have, so we turned a $10 entry fee per person into a free t-shirt for them, as well as breakfast and lunch at the courts, and a keg on Saturday night.

While at the tournament, make sure you’re interacting with members from other clubs. An important way to guaranty a full tournament is making friends. Talk to members from other clubs, buy them drinks, cheer for them to win, kick their butt on the court and then give them a hug afterwards. We are all losers looking to make friends, it just takes someone to make the initiation. Don’t be afraid to talk to your polo idols; they won’t think less of you because you’re just a newb. That being said, it’s unrealistic (but not unheard of) to expect the Beavers or Call Me Daddy to show up to your tournament. Don’t get upset if you don’t see all those big name players you see all over Mr. Do signing up for your tournament. Honestly, it may even be better that way. You don’t want a team coming in and walking all over the competition. It’s more fun to have equally matched teams playing against each other.

Now that you have all your new polo friends signing up for the tournament, use the above mentioned lists of dos and don’ts to make the tournament enjoyable for all of the participants. To cross off of the dos (food, swag, etc), it helps to pull all of your club’s resources. At the time of the Wingman, I worked as a Pizza Delivery Driver for a local shop. I talked to my boss about trading two days worth of pizza (~15 pies a day) for having the players drink the place dry at our registration party (which they did). Johnathon worked as a screen printer for a local company so he was able to print event shirts for dirt cheap. Another club member worked at a bike shop and was able to get his shop to donate spare tubes, cables, and even a Brooks saddle for a prize. While you’re club may not have members who work in these industries, you can pull benefits from where you do work. That is, unless you all have boring desk jobs, which in that case it could be harder to do so. For that scenario, don’t be afraid to talk to local businesses (especially establishments that serve alcohol) about trading registration/after-parties for food/money/cheap drinks. If there is one thing you can guaranty about a polo tournament, all of the players are going to be looking for a place to drink.

After getting players signed up and using your local resources to get amenities for the player, it’s important to make sure that the tournament, itself, runs smoothly. Again use your list of dos and don’ts to make sure that the tournament is up to par with other well known tournaments. One thing that all of these tournaments have in common is punctuality. As much as I hate it, we all know that tournaments run on polo time. Even with this in mind, it’s important to keep them on schedule to the best of your ability. There is nothing more annoying than organizers who slack off and let tournaments self destruct. It was an embarrassment at World’s this year when the lights shut off before all the games had finished. While you’re tournament isn’t as big as Worlds, people will not want to come back if you mismanage your time and are unable to complete the tournament.

It’s not hard to successfully throw  your first tournament, you just have to put in the time and energy before hand. Go to other tournament, see first hand what should and shouldn’t be done as an organizer of a tournament. While you’re there be sure to make friends with other clubs! Then pull your resources to make sure that the participants are well taken care of while visiting your town. And finally, stay on top of running your tournament and keep it on schedule! It’s a simple formula, but when done correctly you will see buzz form about your city’s tournament hosting abilities and you can guaranty more players interested in your tournament the next time around.

Best of luck in your tournament hosting endeavors and remember, in the end, polo players are just looking to have a good time!

Editorial

Analyzing the 2014 Ruleset Proposal

January 7, 2014
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Before getting into this, I want to say that I appreciate everything that the NAH does. I’m sure it’s very grueling putting in your free time with no compensation (at least I know it can be for us Association of Bike Polo Journalist members). With that said, I have to say that the NAH really let the bike polo community down in 2013 season in regards to rules. The first official ruleset released for the season was missing so much that they had to rush in a revised copy. Sadly, the Eastside Qualification tournament was held before this sad excuse of a ruleset was revised. The NAH was able to get back to us with an improved version before any other qualifying tournament took place and that ruleset lasted through the 2013 WHBPC. This is the ruleset that we all remember from last year, but here it is (Ruleset V3.3) in case you can’t remember. That being sad (and as much as I hate to inflate Nick Kruse’s ego), Nick Kruse killed it this year with his V4.0 of the NAH ruleset. Pure. Fucking. Gold.

There are a few new items added to this ruleset that really sparked my interest in the Ruleset V4.0 Proposal:

  • First was the addition of uniform hand signals for the referee. While there are only a few penalties that have these dedicated hand signals, we will definitely be seeing some referee dance moves happening when there are Extension, Charging, Interference, Steering Arm, and Flagrance penalties called.
  • While the 2013 rulesets tried to streamline the rules for easier understanding, they left out a lot of important assets, one being Timeouts. I’m really excited to see Timeouts making their way back into the ruleset.
  • I never understood why players were not allowed to ball joint in their offensive zone, so I’m excited to see the new lax rules on ball jointing. Potentially, players will be allowed to ball joint anyway on the court as long as they don’t do it for longer than two seconds.
  • 2014, the year we FINALLY see mallet dropping addressed in the ruleset. Not only is it addressed, the rule couldn’t be more perfect. Allowing each player to only have “one mallet in play” is the exactly how such a rule should read. And I’m glad to see that players can ride around without a mallet as long as the mallet isn’t in the way. Sometimes it’s better to help defend without a mallet than spending  time trying to pick it up, essentially taking yourself out of the play.
  • NO MORE SHAFT GOALS, WOOHOO! Good Riddance! Although let’s be honest, there is a nice little video from the 2013 Midwest Qualifier that will show us why Nick Kruse wanted to get rid of this rule.
  • One of the hardest rules to referee was the 90 degree arm allowance. From most angles on the referee stand, it was hard to tell if the player had their arms extended at 62 degrees, 87 degrees, 113 degrees, etc. While Fixcraft may have to lose their Buffer t-shirt, I’m glad that we lost the 90 degree rule. A tucked arm is all you really need to protect yourself.
  • And finally, GOODBYE SUDDEN DEATH! Well sort of. In the proposed V4.0 Ruleset we see a brand new way to do overtime. If the score is tied at the end of regulation time in games that can’t end in ties, there will now be a five minute overtime period. In this five minute overtime period, play will continue until one team reaches five points. If the score is still tied at the end of this period, the game will then go to Sudden Death with no stop in the play. This is a great way to settle a tied game, and I’m excited to see it play out in a tournament!

Nick Kruse was a great addition to the NAH lineup because of his dedication to making this hobby of ours into a legitimate sport, and  as head of the Rules Committee, he is sending us one giant leap closer to that goal. After thoroughly studying the National Hockey League’s ruleset (as well as other rulesets I’m sure), he has put together the most elaborate and well thought out ruleset that hardcourt bike polo has ever seen. I encourage you all to read over this ruleset and see for yourself just how game changing (bad pun) this ruleset is. After reading it over, I further encourage you all to contact your regional representatives and share with them your love for the ruleset so that it can pass the official vote in two weeks. On top of this, if you see anything that Nick Kruse and the rest of the Rules Committee may have missed, be sure to contact the Rules Committee with your suggestions.

Here’s to constant progress for Hardcourt Bike Polo!

Editorial

Frontier Airlines Falls Through

December 30, 2013

frontier-tails

Over the past three years Frontier Airlines has become my favorite airline to use when traveling with a bike. When I first started using the airline they offered the cheapest flights, gave out free cookies and soda, and only charged you $25 each way to check your bicycle. While the prices are still among the cheapest, they stopped giving out free cookies about two years ago, and in early 2013 they decided to stop giving out free drinks. I understand cutting corners a bit to keep their fares low, but how can you not give out free drinks and peanuts? That’s a staple of every airline, ever. Maybe they should spend a little less on giant vinyl animals for their tail wings and instead make it more comfortable for their customers. Anyway, I digress.

On top of saving a few bucks by cutting back the free refreshments, Frontier is looking to make more skrilla off of us traveling cyclists. We’re sad to inform you that the airline is upping their checked bike fee in the coming year. All travelers flying on June 14th, 2014, or later, will have to pay $75 each way. That’s an ass-reaming $50 hike up each way in price! While this is still cheaper than most airlines ($150 on American Airlines, $200 on US Airlines, etc), the price increase is enough to force me to start looking for a new favorite airline to use when traveling with my bike. Looking closely at Frontier’s baggage fee page, you can pay as little as $50 each way if you break the bike down into two small boxes (a frame box and a wheel box) and pay for your checked bags online, but at that point you might as well book a flight on Southwest Airlines so that you can get two free checked bags on top of your free peanuts and soda pop!

Come on Frontier, theirs no need to make it harder for us poor bike polo kids to fly around the world with our bikes!

Editorial

Chandel’s Adios to the NAH

December 20, 2013

Before reading this please hit play on this YouTube video.

Some very upsetting news came from the higher ups at NAH yesterday. It was announced that Chandel Bodner will be stepping down as NAH’s Tournament Coordinator. Hoping to focus more of her time on RYB Denim and slaying on the court, Chandel felt that passing the torch on to someone new would be the best way to accomplish this. Here are Chandel’s farewell words:

“It’s not goodbye, it’s really hello!

Thank you to the entire community of bike polo for enduring me as the Tournament Committee Chairperson for the NAH these last 3 or so years. As of this past November, I am no longer representing you in an official capacity. I say this with a very even balance of joy and sadness. It has always meant a lot to me to be giving back to the bike polo family, a group of very unique individuals that always remind me about passion, endurance, and love. The experiences, the people, the stress, the fun, the time, the everything that is a result of my role with NAH is far too much to mention right now, but I will say it all enhanced my life and helped me be a better person. There are also too many of you to list individually. The changing groups of reps, board members, old and new players, and volunteers have all been incredible to work with, thank you! A specific shout out, thank you Ben Schultz for continually believing in, supporting, and understanding me. There aren’t words that describe how amazing you are for polo and how grateful I am to have worked so closely with you.

To the current crew, you’ve all been really progressive and positive, I’m very excited for where bike polo will go now, and happy to watch from the sidelines, and even more excited to go and play in a tournament, not work at it! ;]
I leave you all in the very capable hands of John Hayes, a new local transplant to Toronto, thanks for taking over John!

Thanks everyone! I’ll be focusing my efforts on RYB Denim and playing my heart out!
xx. Chandel”

The NAH has appointed John Hayes to attempt to fill her shoes. We will attempt to grab an interview with him in the next week or two so we can all see what changes we can expect from our new Tournament Coordinator. Seeing the great things he’s done in Europe, I expect we will see him cracking the whip as hard as Chandel. Best of luck to both of their future endeavors!

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Editorial, Tournaments

Analyzing The 2014 WHBPC Bids

December 10, 2013

100_2901Kiwi and a Baguette, that’s not offensive, right?

At this moment there are two clubs battling to host the 2014 World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship; Montpellier, France and Timaru, New Zealand. Before any one decides to jump on one boat of the other, we thought it would be important to analyze the two bids using League of Bike Polo’s “What’s most important at a flagship tournament?” census. Looking at the census you’ll see that the four characteristics that are most important at major tournaments are Court Surface (20%), Court Boards (16%), Ease of Travel (12%), and Court Size (12%). Using these player picked top characteristics, we will analyze the two nominations.

Court Surface

In the Montpellier bid, they tell us that the courts that they are offering would be built on “perfect asphalt” that is only two years old. From this we can assume that there will be no cracks to worry about, which is the most important thing when worrying about court surface. And if the asphalt is as perfect as they say it is, then we can bet that the most important characteristic on the census can be checked off by the Montpellier folks.

Looking at the Timaru bid we see pretty much the same lingo. On the website for the bid, Timaru Bike Polo tells us that the surface of the courts is the “perfect asphalt for Polo – fast and smooth.” Since they hosted the Australasian Championship on these courts back in March, we can look at footage to see just how “perfect” these courts are. And after carefully studying the video, you can see that it’s as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

Based on this alone, it would be impossible to tell which would be the best spot for the 2014 WHBPC.

Court Boards

Montpellier hosted the hard hitting 2013 French Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship. Watching the footage of the tournament found at the bottom of the bid, you can see that checks were flying all over the place. With the countless shoulders and bikes hitting the walls, you can’t see an ounce of damage to the boards, so it’s no surprise that this club will know what they are doing if the bid falls their way. On top of this, they plan to use the same boards from the FHBPC, so we know they will be using quality lumber.

Just like Montpellier, Timaru is no stranger to quality courts. While looking at the court surface in the video linked above, you can also see that the boards at the 2013 Australasian Championship look just as primo as the surface. Solid 1.2m boards line strong and sturdy pallets. While you don’t see as many checks in the 2013 Australasian Championship video as you do the 2013 FHBPC, you can tell that the structural design is that of which would hold up to the hardest of Nick Kruse shoulder checks.

Again, we see no difference in the two bids based on the top two player picked major tournament characteristics.

Ease of Travel

Montpellier does not have an international airport, but the city is only a three hour train ride from two major cities (Paris and Barcelona) with such amenities. Montpellier does, however, have a small airport in case you are looking to do any traveling before or after the tournament. On top of this, the Airport of Montpellier is only a 30 minute bike ride from the courts!

Timaru also lacks an international airport but they are also close to two international airports: Queenstown, NZ  and Christchurch, NZ. While Queenstown is only a four hour drive from Timaru, the Christchurch International Airport is located only two hours away. Timaru Bike Polo promises to organize transportation from the Christchurch Airport to Timaru for all travelers not interested in renting a car.

Basing “Ease of Travel” simply on proximity to an international airport yields no difference in the two bids, so we will also look at plane tickets from two major airports in the USA (since the USA is on a continent not competing for the bid). We will look up flights from LA’s LAX and NYC’s JFK to Paris and Barcelona in early August and to Christchurch and Queenstown in late November, as these are the approximate times for the tournaments.

  • LA – Paris, August 4 to August 11 = $1074
  • NYC – Paris, August 4 to August 11 = $1011
  • LA – Barcelona, August 4 to August 11 = $1171
  • NYC – Barcelona, August 4 to August 11 = $1104
  • LA – Christchurch, November 17 to November 24 = $1548
  • NYC – Christchurch, November 17 to November 24 = $1948
  • LA – Queenstown, November 17 to November 24 = $1616
  • NYC – Queenstown, November 17 to November 24 = $2966

Before you instantly write off Timaru’s bid, note that these flights are just less than a year away so many airlines have not released flight information this far in advance; as the dates draw closer the prices will go down. Suffice it to say that this is also true for flights to Europe if Montpellier hosts Worlds.

If “Ease of Travel” means ease on your wallet, then Montpellier takes the lead in the bid wars.

Court Size

Montpellier is offering fours courts at 40m x 20x (~ 131′ x 66′), while Timaru is offering three to four courts at 36m x 18m (~ 118′ by 59). Looking at the arguments on LoBP’s “WHBPC 2014 Bids” thread, most North American and European players seem too agree that 40m x 20m is the bare minimum for a major tournament (with many North American players arguing that 40m x 20x is even too small, and would like to see something closer to 44m x 22m (144′ x 72′) like in Weston). Either way, a majority of the poloverse feels that 36m x 18m just wont cut it for a world class tournament.

For the second time in a row, Montpellier’s bid tips the scale.

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If we kept going down the census list, Cheap or Free Housing would be next on the list, but with a lack of solid information about accommodation from either bid, we can’t analyze this characteristic. Following that is Shelter from the Elements, which neither have covered courts but Timaru does have trees to hide under. Rounding out the end is Food, Access/Visibility to the Public, Destination City, and Parties. Both locations are close to many food options and are within popular public areas. The final two, without a doubt, go to Timaru. No one parties like Australia parties, so if they are part of the organization then we know that it will be a good time. And I dare you to watch any Lord of the Rings movie and not fall in love with the New Zealand landscape. I’ve seen Europe, now we want to see New Zealand firsthand!

Looking at a complete rundown, we see that both bids tip the scale in their favor for two characteristics, except Montpellier’s bids offer more of what we expect to find in a major tournament; Ease of Travel and Court Size. So using this analysis alone, we can be expecting to be heading back to Europe in 2014. I would love to see an Australasian bid for 2015 that offers a cheap travel (or maybe they can work out  free housing to offset the plane ticket price) and courts that are several meters larger.