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Editorial, Interview, Player Profile

Meet your World’s Refs: Bruce Wahl

October 29, 2013

This is the beginning of a mini-series where we will be introducing you to the top notch people that slayed from the ref stand at Worlds. We will be focusing on the four refs that took us through the finals as the tournament dwindled from four courts to two. On the Republic/Origin 8 court we had Zach Blackburn and Robin Cunningham, while on the Chunk court we had Joe Rstom and Bruce Wahl. The first ref we will be introducing you to is Bruce Wahl. Poloverse, meet Bruce Wahl.

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321Polo: What is your home club?
Wahl: My home club is the Mankato Blue Skunk Bike Polo Club.

321Polo: How long have you been playing bike polo?

Wahl: I’ve been playing for three years

321Polo: When was the first time you reffed at a tournament?
Wahl: The first time I officiated was at this year’s North American Championships in Minneapolis.

321Polo: What do you think of fans heckling you?
Wahl: Personally, fan heckling doesn’t bother me. It comes with the territory and my expectations are that I will be hassled in each and every match that I officiate. Just like in all sports, spectators have their bias towards a team so whether or not you make a right or wrong call, it will always and forever be scrutinized. As a referee you simply need to focus and be resolute on each and every call despite the persistent badgering from onlookers.

321Polo: Are there any major changes you hope to see in the reffing world next year?
Wahl: I believe there are many things we can do in bike polo to help facilitate a better environment for consistent officiating. One, I feel strongly that our sport needs multiple referees officiating a match. As a head referee it is extremely difficult to see everything that is going on off ball and extra sets of eyes would be paramount in catching important infractions that are potentially changing the outcome of games. A repetitive issue at Worlds was it was increasingly harder and harder to catch infractions near and around the net. With so many bicycles stacked within that area that I feel goal judges need to be trained referees with the capability to blow a play dead and make a call which would be hard or almost impossible for the head referee to see. So in a perfect world I think a match of bike polo needs a referee crew of at least 4 to 5 officials. There are also things within the rule set that I would like to see changed to make our jobs as referees easier but that’s another can of worms for another day. Ultimately, I would also like to see the referees get compensated for their time. I realize our sport isn’t gushing with money but if you want an individual to be dedicated to something that is demanding as officiating, you need to pay them. Personally, I enjoy officiating bike polo but I would much rather be enjoying a beverage and cheering on the teams when I travel to beautiful places such as Minneapolis or Florida. Make it worth my while to referee a game because I’m missing out on being a fan which I was first and foremost before I picked up the whistle. The final thing I would like to see in the referee world is more participation. More referees will lead to better play across the country at local tournaments and qualifiers, which in turn will create a better brand of clean, beautiful bike polo.

Interview, Media

Messman on Four Peaks

September 17, 2013
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Matt “Messman” Messenger was one of hardcourt bike polo’s original six. Him along with five other messengers came up with the sport while waiting for deliveries at their bike courier job. Messman helped push this hobby of theirs into a sport, and because of his influence in the sport, he was in the spotlight on the show Four Peaks.

Four Peaks is a monthly show put together by the graduate Communications Department at the University of Washington. Hosted by Hanson Hosein, Four Peaks “taps into the Pacific Northwest’s rich endowment of idea generators, influential activists, business visionaries and inspired storytellers.” Hardcourt bike polo’s roots are in Seattle, Washington, while it’s branches have now reached countries all over the world; this lead Hosein and Four Peaks to reach out to Messman for an interview on the sport.

Check out the interview here:

Interview

Cosmic Mat Interviews DZR

May 8, 2013

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Mat from Cosmic Bike Polo has been traveling the Poloverse for the past 5 months or so. I actually had the pleasure of running into him while we were both making our way through Portland a few weeks ago. During his travels he has been posting updates via the Cosmic Bike Polo blog. One of the stops along his journey was in San Francisco, where he met up with Brian Dillman of DZR and Beaver Boys fame. While at the DZR headquarters, Mat decided to conduct an interview with Dillman about the past, present and future of DZR. Check out that interview HERE!

While there, be sure to check out the rest of the Cosmic Bike Polo blog. It is one of the few bike polo blogs that’s not only updated frequently but updated with interesting content!

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Editorial, Interview

Transparency in NAH

April 5, 2013
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On our April Fool’s Day post, Kev from League of Bike Polo and Max from Northern Standard both said their clue to it being a fake post was us stating that NAH held a press conference. Well joke is on those two, because last Sunday Ben Schultz and I cuddled in the corner of Panera Bread and did a Google+ Hangout with NAH Secretary Eric Ransom and Matt Kabik, the Editor in Chief of Lancaster Bike Polo. We all joked around about it being the first NAH press conference, but all jokes aside, that’s essentially what it was.

Eric and Ben wanted to bring Matt and I together to discuss NAH’s plans for becoming more transparent, and they wanted to start this off by releasing their financial info in a way that wouldn’t get lost in hundreds of comments. Since this was me and Matt’s first time attending a press conference, we decided to work together and split the information into two completely different posts: he would report on the finances and I would report on transparency. (If you missed his post on NAH’s finances, check it out HERE)

Eric Ransom said he is afraid that everyone views NAH as a Mothership hovering above bike polo, just shooting down orders and commands. He fears that people think what they have to say has no effect on NAH’s decisions on rules, tournaments, etc. He wants to destroy this stigma and show that NAH is nothing more than roughly 30 hard working volunteers who want to better this sport that we all love. As posted in Lancaster’s post on finances, NAH released an Organizational Chart that allows bike polo players to see who makes up the NAH body. The chart also helps players understand the appropriate channels of communication to voice concerns/comments to help the sport progress.

Ben Schultz says that as much as he loves having a great phone conversation with anyone that calls him with NAH problems/suggestions, he wants people to get in the habit of using these communication channels. Most channels start with talking to regional representatives. The regional representatives are then expected to share the information given to them with the appropriate NAH committees. As started in the finances article, people are always welcome to contact the committees themselves as well. The NAH board will then check up on how the reps and committees are doing in monthly progress reports. These progress reports will be made public so that all players can see the growth of the sport due to the NAH.

This information will become available to the public in a couple different ways. First, NAH plans to run their website like a blog, with frequent updates on new information and the progress of the organization. They plan to release financial information this way every year as well, so that no one is in the dark on the state of NAH money any longer. Secondly, they plan to use the base management software Trello to organize their plans for the future and show what they are currently working on. They plan to set up a public overview board where people can look up specific dates of released information. For example, say NAH plans to have the 2013 Rule Set released on April 11th; this information will be on a chart that everyone will be able to see, and if they miss this date then they can expect ridicule from the public. Ben hopes that by making these release dates public, NAH can stay on top of their duties.

NAH members put in a lot of time and effort to help better the sport, but before now it has all been done behind a curtain, leaving polo players to speculate on what it is they really do. With the help of Trello, the NAH website, and monthly progress reports, we are hoping that NAH will become more transparent to us all; and if not, thanks to the organizational chart, we will know exactly who to point our finger at. Here’s to hoping for progress!

Editorial, Interview

NAH Financial Report

April 2, 2013

This is the beginning of a great relationship between 321Polo and Lancaster Bike Polo. Here is their informative interview with Eric Ransom about NAH Finances.

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So here’s the full skinny:

A little while back Ben Schultz approached me and asked a very simple question: Is there anything you want to know about the NAH? It took me just a few seconds before I typed back “yeah, what are you doing with my money?”

And that’s how this interview and information was born. I wanted to like and say that I had to go through a dark, spider infested cave and fight off some old wombat or something, but basically Ben put me in touch with Eric from DC, I had a few meetings, and now I’m informed. So let me share that information with you, too.

Below you’ll find my interview questions for Eric, the secretary of the NAH (if you wanna contact him, email secretary@NAHardcourt.com). However, before we get into all that, I want to provide you with some documents that he provided me:

  • This is the current organizational chart of the NAH – your reps, board, and NAH Committees: NAH Chart
  • This is a draft of this year’s 1023Financials, which shows the money collected over the course of the NAH’s lifetime. This is going to be available on the NAH site sometime in the very near future, the Secretary told me.

So look those over, and then come back to me to see a few answers to questions I think all of us have had about our NAH fees:

What is your Role in the NAH?

I am currently the NAH Secretary. Previously, I’ve also been the NAH Treasurer, an NAH Eastside Rep, and the NAH Eastside Board Member.

I want to ask you questions about where you put my money. So, give me a play by play: I go to a tourney, and there is a 10 dollar NAH fee. Tell me of the adventure, step-by-step, for my 10 dollars?

It’s really simple. The tournament organizer is supposed to build an extra $10/team into the tournament fee for each NAH qualifier, and then after the tournament the organizer sends that money to NAH using the treasurer@nahardcourt.com paypal account. This has worked smoothly for most tournaments over the past few years. After the fees hit the paypal account, some of the money is shifted on into a checking account and some stays in the paypal, essentially waiting for an NAH expense to be approved or a tournament-related disaster to occur.

Who is in charge of the collected money? Who has access to it (who can request those funds) both inside and outside of the NAH?

NAH has a paypal account at treasurer@nahardcourt.com and a separate business checking account. The NAH Treasurer and NAH Secretary have access to the accounts, but can’t approve payments. The board and the president can approve payments, but don’t have access to the accounts. So basically, it always takes at least two people signing off to make a payment. In practice, the whole NAH board has considered NAH’s transactions.

NAH Reps and/or tournament directors can make requests for emergency tournament funds. Anyone with an idea for NAH is also free to pitch it, just email one of your local reps!

Why do you think people are so confused about how that fund is used?

I think the main issue is that NAH collects $3.33 per player at seven tournaments per year — there simply aren’t a lot of high visibility projects that you can undertake, or that players should expect, with that level of funding. The money that NAH raises through sponsorships and fees has been enough to purchase some tournament equipment (scoreboards, whistles, stopwatches, ref shirts), contribute to the development of Podium, keep the NAH lights on (required corporate filings), and maintain an emergency fund that is basically the minimum it might take to bail out a major tournament.

I think this is also a good opportunity to point out that no sports organization, even a non-profit amateur organization, can grow given this level of funding. Other alternative sports leagues, like regional Cyclocross, or USA Ultimate (Ultimate Frisbee) or Roller Derby, require a license or membership fee which goes entirely to the organizational needs of the league, and separate event fees which are themselves larger than the tournament fees that NAH players are used to paying. And that doesn’t come close to the amounts that most roller derby leagues cost their players monthly, and they have a paying audience!

Right now, NAH players are basically paying the price of a premium mallet shaft for a 2-day major, including the NAH fees – it’s not enough to get us to the next level. For those who are interested in moving forward, I think USA Ultimate is currently the best model. USA Ultimate is also set up as by-players/for -players 501c3 amateur sports organization, and they’ve been around for 30 years. They are big enough that they file full financial statements and so you can go on their website and get an idea of how they run. http://www.usaultimate.org/about/usaultimate/governance/default.aspx

If you look at the most recent financials from 2011, you can see pretty clearly that even an organization with 25,000 competitive members doesn’t support its activities in tournament fees and sponsorship – it’s really all about the membership fees. In fact, you can see that their championship series cost more to run than they brought in with the series’ fees and all of their sponsorship combined!

I think the USA Ultimate model shows us that to reach the next level of bike polo, competitive players are going to have to keep paying a mallet shaft per tournament in tournament fees, but they’re probably also going to have to pay a decent mallet head per year for an NAH license. That’s what it will take if we’re going to get where most competitive players want to go – with trained, compensated, independent refs; more consistent facilities; and more (and more-open) tournament series options.

What are some ways, (your opinion) on how to make that fund and all funds collected by the NAH more visible to Polo players?

NAH is going to be releasing financial data from the draft of our IRS-1023 form, which is a request for the IRS to recognize NAH’s non-profit status as the official organizational body of North American Hardcourt Bike Polo. This info should be up on the website within the week. In the future, NAH will release financial data at the time of our yearly tax filings. This will be separate from the filing itself because NAH files a 990-N, which doesn’t include any really useful financial data. NAH’s FY2011 990-N is public and we’ll release that as well with the acknowledgement that there are a couple typos – not our fault! We filed on the phone for 2011 and I guess the IRS guys couldn’t distinguish the Ms from the Ns.

What are some ways players can learn more about the NAH and what it’s doing to utilize collected funds for the betterment of bike polo in North America?

NAH is also putting out an organizational chart that will hopefully help people to get in touch. NAH is not some impenetrable monolithic bureaucracy — it’s the volunteer efforts of a bunch of people that players know from their clubs and from tournaments. Over the past three years I’ve been involved for the Eastside, anyone who has emailed me to ask about NAH business has gotten an answer. But to make it easier, we’re rolling out @nahardcourt email addresses for every region, every officer, and every committee of NAH. Have a general question? Reach your reps through Cascadia@nahardcourt, Northside@nahardcourt.com, etc. Have a question about the tour? Tournaments@nahardcourt.com. Question about reffing? Ref@nahardcourt.com. New rules? Rules@nahardcourt.com. It’s that easy.

I want to thank Eric and Ben for the time, conversations, and answers – but I want to warn my readership: if you feel inclined to discuss what was talked about in this post, that’s perfectly supergreat – but for the love of Gub don’t ask me questions! Use that string of email addresses above to ask the NAH directly (and let me know if anything interesting comes out of it). I will be as useless as an oyster at a spelling bee if you have those sorts of inquiries. Yes, I just came up with that, and no I don’t think it works, either.

Anyway, I hope this is helpful to ya.