Team sports need coaches. Period. All the sports you love probably have a coach position. Hell, individual sports have coach-figures, too. But that’s a digression.
I was asked to do a little write up on how to get sponsors for your club/team. I assume this is due to my perceived super powers in attracting big names like Pabst, Great Lakes Distillery, Panaracer, Nomad World Pub, Griessmeyer Law, and Milwaukee Bicycle Co. See what I did there…
Lesson 1: Always mention your sponsors whenever you can. That’s what they pay for (either through product or cash) so don’t be shy about saying their name.
Lesson 2: You are too late already. If you are reading this in March 2014 it is too late for most sponsors to help you out this year. Most companies set their advertising/sponsor budgets in September-November for the upcoming year. That being said, a sponsor still might be willing or able to come on mid seasons, so be welcoming to smaller donations. Don’t turn away anyone who wants to help you (see also Lesson 9).
Lesson 3: Start with folks you know. You think I just sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and they said “Sure, we will give you money and product”? Umm nope! I knew the rep in our city and I asked him nicely. He has since left and we have been passed on to each new rep to work with because we built a good relationship with the company through the years. So if you are a socially awkward introvert, maybe someone else in your club should do the schmoozing.
Lesson 4: Know your ask ahead of time. Did you read the GQ article on the Beavers? The Sram guy asked Dillman what he wanted and he wasn’t ready with an answer. Now I love Bri Bri and he probably didn’t expect Sram to ask that question so straight forward, but that leads to the next lesson…
Lesson 5: Be ready to strike a deal at any time. You never know who you’ll run into or who is interested in sponsoring you, so be ready all the time. Which again leads into next lesson…
Lesson 6: Make the ask appropriate for who you’re asking. Don’t ask your local bar for a $5000 sponsorship right off the bat; they will think you’re crazy, or worse…dumb. Now, they may be willing to go big for you, but let them offer to do that. In direct opposition to what I just said “if they don’t say ‘No’ you aren’t asking for enough.”
Lesson 7: Start Local. I know we travel around the globe playing this game, but only a few companies are going to be interested in reaching the person in Japan who follows your club on Facebook. Most clubs have the biggest impact and exposure locally. So go after those local bars, bike companies and shops, or law firms that are in your town before calling up Chris King.
Lesson 8: Keep in touch and send them a Year in Review letter. This should include what events you attended and how you placed, how many hits your webpage got, and maybe a short funny or cool story or two. This will help in making the ask for them to stay with you for another year of support as well. Don’t just do it at the end of the year; keep in touch throughout the year by sending them pics of your club and others with their product. Be sure to show them how you used their money in the shot.
Lesson 9: Be creative in your partnerships. Don’t be mad when they won’t give you cash, maybe they can offer other services. This Is called “in-kind” donations. Maybe they can give you tons of beer, get your jerseys printed for cheap, or offer up a free rental space to host a fundraiser. Be open and willing to work out deals for things other than cash.
Lesson 10: Don’t have competing sponsors. You know how you hear “Rogain; the official men’s hair regrowth product of Major League Baseball” etc. For instance, we had approached New Belgium Brewing about some partnerships but they were concerned about our partnership with Pabst. Although Pabst and I saw it as not really being in competition since they’re different types of beer, New Belgium felt that beer was beer. This is not to say you can’t approach competitors or mention you might be talking to one of their competitors, that’s just business, but be wary so you don’t lose both opportunities because you got greedy.
Lesson 11: None of what I said will help you. Each city, club, potential sponsor is different. These are just some things I have learned over the years.
I hope this helps your club and the sport grow. Good luck!
– Captain Jake
Milwaukee Bike Polo
One year before six messengers decided to hit a ball around in a parking lot for fun, a film was released that went on to be called the greatest sports movie of all time (by me). Written and Directed by the spoof comedy legend David Zucker (Airplane!, Naked Gun, Scary MoVie fame), BASEketball not only made viewers ROFL, it showed that the country was bored of mainstream sports and ready for something fresh. While the movie didn’t cause (I assume) the bike messengers to grab croquette mallets and hit balls around, we can thank it for opening the doors to a new sporting mindset. Even today, 15 years later, we can look back at this 1998 smash hit and see its relevance to 2013 main stream sports. On top of that, we can look back at BASEketball and learn a thing or two on advancing our underground sport as a whole, as well as, helping our everyday play. Here are seven things that BASEketball can teach Hardcourt Bike Polo:
1. The world is ready for a mixed sport!
“It’s kind of like hockey but on bikes.” “It’s like horse polo but our ponies are made of steel.” Every time someone unfamiliar with the sport asks us about it, we compare it to the sports that we steal aspects from. If Hardcourt Bike polo were a tree, it’s roots would be horse polo, its trunk would be a bicycle, and the branches would be hockey. With horse polo as the frame work, and using hockey rules as a guideline to help develop the sport, we are a mismatch of sports; just like how BASEketball is an obvious combination of Baseball and Basketball. In the movie, the combination works! Sports fans were ready for something new, and a mix of familiar sports was just what they were waiting for!
2. We don’t need longer games!
In the rules survey that NAH recently released this question was asked, “Tournament games should follow which format?” Luckily, the winning vote was for “Swiss Rounds – 10min, or first to 5. / Double Elim – 12min, or first to 5. / Bracket Finals – 15min, or first to 5. / Final – 20min, or first to 5”. This is plenty! Our tournaments are long and people don’t want to watch a ten minute game where one team racks up 20 points on the other. Lets get games over with so winning teams can rest and our fans don’t get bored. You can see this effect in everyday life as well. This is why stupid Buzzfeed style lists work; people want to be entertained by short videos and a few sentences.
3. We don’t need to over complicate our qualifying season!
There has been a lot of discussion over on the League of Bike Polo about the pros and cons of our current qualifying structure. Some feel that the current way of doing things (regional qualifiers going into a North American Championship going into a World Championship) is perfect for our sport. Some feel that the only thing that needs to change is the lay out of the regions in which the qualifiers take place. And then there are others who feel we need to completely abandon our current structure and go to a points based system. This system would call for teams/players to earn points at several different tournaments around the country. The better you do at each tournament, the more points you get. The more points you obtain, the higher ranking you/your team get. An X amount of the top ranked teams would then go on to the North American Championship. This system was hard enough for me to put into words, let alone put into actual use. We don’t need to over complicate our qualifying system! Fix the regions if need be, but don’t abandon a system that works for one that is confusing and complicated.
4. Teams of three work!
The Beers team was made up of six players: Joe ‘Coop’ Cooper, Doug Remer, Squeak Scolari, and three other guys who never got any playing time. Much like the sport of BASEketball, all you need are three all-star players to form a world championship team in Hardcourt! But unlike BASEketball, Hardcourt doesn’t need a bench with extraneous players. I’m all for changes that better the sport for players and viewers alike, but somethings don’t need to change. We don’t need to change the backbone of the sport just so we can move toward major sports playoff style championships. If tournament style championships work for sports like tennis, then why can’t it work for Hardcourt? Tennis has been around a lot longer than the NFL/NBA/NHL etc, so we should shoot for a system that is long lasting. The pro team-sports model rely on million dollar backers and corporations to stay afloat. Take away their money and the sports fall apart. Without this financial backing, Hardcourt would have the same problem. For Bench Format to become the next NHL, the teams would need to travel all around the country, similar to other pro sports, in order to gain viewers and a national broadcast. Instead, lets follow the tennis tournament structure, take a page from BASEketball and just allow three all-stars to come together and become the best in the world.
5. Alcohol prevents us from preforming at our best!
Drinking and Hardcourt Bike Polo seem to go hand-in-hand. Getting together with your friends drinking beers and playing a fun sport is one of the main reasons many players continue to come to pick up week after week. But it’s important to remember that there is a difference between pick up and tournament play. At the regional qualifiers, the North American Championship, and the WHBPC it is better to grab one or two less drinks. I’ve seen great teams fall apart because one player decided partying was more important than playing to the best of their potential. Jordan never got shit faced the night before his championship games, Gretzky never tried to make a wizard staff while fighting for the Stanley Cup, Tiger Woods doesn’t pop bottles between important matches of the PGA Tour; I think you get the point. Save the drinking for pick up and celebrating your tournament success.
6. Psych Out’s totally work!
From getting defenders to turn their head the wrong why to completely getting them out of the play, psych outs have their place in Hardcourt Bike Polo too. The two players who we can teach us a thing or two about psych outs are Pete Abram or Chris Roberts. Love him or hate him, Abram is the best at getting defenders to turn their head the opposite way that he is going. One thing you can easily learn from Abram is talking to your teammates. Tell them what you are about to do and then do the opposite. If you tell your teammate that your about to pass the ball to them and then pause for a split second, this will cause the defender to second guess what you’re doing and it gives you the ability to get around them. Add in a believable fake pass arm motion, and you gain an even bigger gap between you and the defender. Roberts, on the other hand, using the psych out to get players completely out of the play. One of my favorite moments from the 2013 WHBPC was when a player checked Roberts off of his bike; coincidentally the player took himself out too. Clean hit or not, Roberts started talking to the player about the reasons why the check was dirty. He wasn’t yelling at the player, he was just politely standing there with his bike having a conversation. While Roberts was talking to the player, The Means were in total control of the ball and scored on the other team. It was a hilarious strategy.
7. Most importantly, don’t let the sport get to your head!
For me, Hardcourt Bike Polo is the punk rock of sports. It is a place where losers and rejects can come together and play a competitive sport that isn’t overrun with jocks and meat-heads. The worst thing this sport can do is forget where it all started. As the tournaments get more serious and the equipment gets more specialized, we can’t forget the punk and DIY ethics that helped ignite this sport. This is a sport that welcomes all races, genders and sexual orientations, and it needs to stay that way! As the sport grows, we can’t forget who we are and why we all started playing.
EDITORS NOTE: Sam Bell has been nothing but amazing since joining the 321Polo team. When she came to me with the idea of starting a series where she heckles different aspects of bike polo, I couldn’t wait to read the first segment! I’m sure everyone will enjoy her heckling as much as I do!
If I’m going to be a sub-par polo player, I might as well be a top notch heckler. As I really only like participating in sports that involve heckling, I feel like I have a decent amount of experience to a my own heckling segment here on 321 Polo. Even despite what Dillman may have said on the first Mornings With Machine, which ironically happened at night.
For my first installment of Heckling Hardcourt I’m going to heckle the voters of the NAH survey.
Seriously, I have a bone to pick with whomever is voting for keeping the format ten minutes or first to five. Lets totally keep a tournament format that is impossible to organize properly because games on finishing on an inconsistent basis. Seems like a good idea right? Obviously people who are voting have never run a tournament, but I am sure they will be the first to complain and say how poorly a tournament is run. Bravo voters!
Shall we move on? Ball jointing is like amateur hour, you don’t really see much of it in tournament play and it’s even pretty rare in pick up as well. However during the worlds, I saw a bunch of calls for ball jointing in the offensive half when a player was going to scoop the ball. Lamesville. Maybe our definition of ball jointing is just a crappy as ball jointing itself, but if that’s how we are going to call ball jointing, then why the heck are we only allowing it on the defensive side?
Finally, I think we should discuss the crease. Dear voter, how often do we struggle with spectators and trying to get more people interested in watching our sport? The answer is heaps (or a lot if you’re Merican). Double goalie is the most boring tactic EVER! It may kinda work for some of the top teams, but it is a snoozer when it comes to watching. Implementing a crease totally gets rid of that for us! I mean COME ON VOTERS!!!
It’s no real mystery that us ladies need to step up our game. Of the 48 teams in the double elimination tournament at Worlds, there were only two teams with women on them (badass women at that), but I think we can do way better. Here are some things that ladies and dudes need to do to help more women get tournament ready.
Stop Treating Us Like Girls
One of the the things I noticed is that dudes don’t tend to do very much checking to the ladies. I’m not saying to be a total dickbag and start checking the shit out of all the ladies in your Club, but you need to start treating the tournament bound ladies like you would male players. This includes being rough, because a lot of us need to harden the fuck up. One of my favorite compliments (that could go as either a compliment or an insult really), was being told by one of our super bangin’ SF players that he doesn’t take it easy on me and checks me as hard as he checks the dudes. As much as it makes me want to roll my eyes into the back of my head, I took the compliment as being a player who can take some shit.
But I’m a Girl
The one thing that rubs me worse than any other, is when female players expect to be treated different. NO YOU SHOULDN’T. Plain and simple, if you want to be a competitive player in a co-ed sport, there should be no false expectation that you should be treated differently because of your gender. The NAH rules have been created and revised a thousand times in order to ensure that players remain as safe as possible. If this isn’t enough to ease your mind about being checked into the boards, then I suggest a Machine style pad job where you are wearing such a plentiful amount of padding that the sheer size of your shoulders causes your opponents to tremble.
Pick Ladies for Your Teams
In one of the pre-Ladies Army V interviews, I read that even though a woman may be as good as a male player, the male player will almost always get picked over the female player because it is assumed he is better. Listen dudes, compatibility should not be gender specific, so quit ignoring the ladies in your Club and ask them to join your team in a tournament!
The Goalie Comfort Zone
It sucks feeling like you are no good up front, but sitting in goal isn’t going to help. This is essentially the topic of the recent Lancaster article. From a tournament perspective, its essential to be decent in goal. Not only does this give you a break when you push it offensively, but it allows your team to switch up offensive plays making it harder for the other team to defend you. (YAY!) It took me a while in pick up to break myself of just sitting in goal or hanging back while my teammates played forward. The look of that empty goal just scared me a little, but then I realized it was just pick up and I had two other teammates who were equally to blame for the open goal. The more you play up the better you get at it, just the facts ladies, so get on out there! What has bummed me out the most this year, was participating in a tournament where one of the female players got yelled at for coming out of goal. She made a great play by coming out of goal at the perfect time and went to take the ball to our end of the court. She didn’t make the shot, and her teammate told her to get back to goal.
I often feel that it’s a continual struggle to prove I’m not complete crap when it comes to polo, and I know other ladies feel the same way. It’s important to be vocal about wanting to get better in your Club and ask questions about being tournament ready, this took me a while to figure out. Not to say that all of the above is going to make ladies more dominant in tournament play, but I do think it will help up even the playing field.
Author: Sam Bell
Photos courtesy of Liam Gilson