In-CREASE-ing Polo’s Entertainment Value

February 11, 2014

DSC_0219If you look closely you can see the Wingman II’s use of a crease.

I know it’s a major goal of the NAH, Mr. Do, and several of us as individuals to help the sport develop into a mainstream sport. While hardcourt bike polo may never sit next to the Big Five (Basketball, Soccer, Football, Baseball, and Hockey), we would love for it to gain a following to the likes professional skateboarding or roller derby. Just today I saw an advertisement for an upcoming Roller Derby match here in Portland on the back of a bus. If hardcourt bike polo wants this recognition we obviously need to do more to develop rules, reffing, and tournament structure alike (which are all definitely taking place under the current NAH lineup, and it gives me great hope). And as our sport develops I must beg the question, is it appropriate to create rules for the simple fact of making our sport more interesting for spectators? When creating new rules, the NAH’s number one concern would/should be player safety, so I’m not saying that we should consider allowing fighting on the court to draw fans, like in the case of Ice Hockey, but what does comes to mind is the idea of a crease to prevent boring triple goalie strategy and what roll the NAH should play in making the sport more entertaining.

When the NAH conducted their 2014 Rule Modifications survey back in November, they asked the simple question “Should we define a crease?” For this question the most votes (186 in total) went to the answer “No crease should exist”, followed by “A larger crease should exist to prevent physical contact with the defender who is ‘goaltending’ AND eliminate ‘double goalies’ by requiring movement/prohibiting stationary players” with 152 votes. “A smaller crease should exist to prevent physical contact with the defender who is ‘goaltending’, until the point the ball enters the crease. This would not eliminate ‘double goalies’” and “A crease should exist that prohibits stationary players but does not prevent any type of physical play on the ‘goaltender’ or any other player” brought up the rear with 101 and 69 votes, respectively.

It doesn’t take a mathematician to understand that while “No Crease” had the most individual votes; more people thought it would be beneficial to include a crease in the 2014 ruleset than those who didn’t.  The NAH is ran by very competent people who understand basic deductive reasoning as well as basic addition, so it came as a surprise to many that no crease was introduced in the 2014 ruleset. In talking to NAH’s Head of Rules Committee, Nick Kruse, as well as NAH’s Head of Reffing, Joe Rstom, the overarching reason for leaving out a crease was the introduction of the interference rule.  As mentioned above, the NAH’s main concern is player safety, so they felt that the interference rule would protect the goalie enough that a crease would not be necessary. Rstom recently posted on League of Bike Polo that “We (NAH) had a crease rule written, and it was very long and complex. We (NAH) opted to leave it out this time around, in favor of a slightly less long and complex interference rule (as that would protect the goalie).”

While the NAH did develop rules to protect the goalie thusly allowing them to omit a potentially complicated crease, they neglected to address the other half the number one reason people wanted a crease: preventing the double goalie. The new interference rule not only protects the goalie, it also prevents a team’s enforcer from riding in, breaking up the extra coverage, and allowing their attacker to get in close for a shot. To put this in terms created by Christian Losciale in the amazing article for Lancaster Polo entitled What’s Your Polo Style? The Turtle a.k.a Triple Goalie style will be even more effective now that enforcers on teams who use the Three-Cog strategy are no longer allowed to clear the way for their goal scoring attacker. By allowing the Turtle strategy to become more effective on the court, we will undoubtedly see it used more this season, thusly making a step backwards in the spectator entertainment value of hardcourt bike polo.

The NAH rules survey was released shortly after I had arrived home from Worlds, and my mind was still clouded with the boring images of Turtle style of play so I voted for a large crease to protect the goalie and prevent double goalies.  Thinking about it now, this is the only proposed rule that limits a specific style of play purely for entertainment reasons, but if NAH wants the sport to gain spectators it’s important for them to implement it. In his article, Losciale argues that the Tic-Tac style of play is the most entertaining strategy because “the team functions as a unit to try to score. The whole court gets used, quite creatively when pro Tic-Tackers are on it. Also, it’s risky. One misplaced pass can cater itself to an opponent’s breakaway. For some reason, audiences — of movies, rodeos, WWE Pay-Per-Views, etc. — love the thrill of a risk.” and I couldn’t agree more with this idea. So if the NAH wants to promote a more entertaining sport for spectators, with the hopes of gaining a bigger public following, they need to encourage Tic-Tac style strategies and prevent Turtle style from becoming the prominent force on the court. I appreciate the interference rule and the way it protects the goalie (I think it was a much needed rule), but if we really want the entertainment value of the sport to flourish NAH must mandate a crease.


Hardcourt Soundtracks

January 29, 2014

The very nature of sports yield a need for a soundtrack. Sadly, when you go to sports stadiums you seem to hear the AC/DC and Rolling Stones songs over and over. Thanks to Tommy Boy Records releasing five amazing editions of Jock Jams, the 1990s saw a few more great songs inter arenas. Hell, I could just find you links to those albums and they would make amazing hardcourt soundtracks, but instead of having you listen to the same 69 Boys, 2 Unlimited, Quad City DJ’s, and C+C Music Factory songs that you’ve heard many times, I figured it would be better to find dedicated soundtracks for hardcourt bike polo play. Wither you’re hitting the ball around by yourself, playing picking, having a good time with friends at a fun tournament, or getting your head in the game for something a little more serious, music plays an important role in putting our minds in the appropriate place, so I had to make my decisions carefully. Give these albums a listen and fall in love with your new hardcourt bike polo soundtrack.

Pick Up – These are the albums that have enough energy to get you moving on the court, while at the same time make you want to sit around with your friends and pop the tops off of some sodas. These albums are not too intense so that you are able to enjoy friendly games without anyone getting aggro. They create an environment that welcomes anyone to check out this silly sport that we all love.
1. Ceremony – Zoo:

2. Daylight – Jar:

Alone on the Court - When you’re alone on the court, you’re in a completely different mindset than when you are in game. These tunes allow you focus your mind so that you are able to find your inner chi. They allow all of your concentration to flow to your bike and ball handling without distraction. I’m not saying Koyo listens to these albums, but if you’re looking to be like him, these albums will help.
1. Prurient – Bermuda Drain:

2. Wintersun – Wintersun:

Fun Tournaments – These are the albums that make you feel like never going back to work and forever hanging out with your friends is a real option. They are lively, upbeat, and energetic in a way that creates a fun environment both on and off the court. They are tunes that can carry over from the daytime to the after party. If you’re looking for sunshine, fun times, and friends these are the albums for you.
1. Algernon Cadwallader – Some Kind of Cadwallader:

2. Andrew W.K. – I Get Wet:

Real Deal Tournaments – They are great albums to put on repeat from the moment you wake until you find yourself in the tournament final. They will get your blood flowing fast so that you can give nothing less than 110% on the court. They will allow you to ride faster than you’ve ever ridden and smash balls with the accuracy of a Clint Eastwood shooting a handgun.
1. Converge – Axe to Fall:

2. Outkast – Stankonia:

Player Profile

Girl Crush Vol. 2

January 23, 2014

Back by popular demand!  This round we are crushing all over the awesome Germaustralian (officially claiming that one) ANJA!!!!!!!  After much praise of her baddassery from a mutual friend.  I got to meet her, and keep the giddy girl inside me at bay, March of last year at the Australiasian Nationals in Timaru.  Let the girl crush begin!


Huggable Factor: 20/20

Hell yeah girl, come give me dat huggggg!!!  One of the sweetest most posie polo players I’ve had the pleasure of meeting!  She’s also plays hella clean, like if Mr. Clean had a lovely ginger counterpart who played polo, that would be Anja.  Which is both a blessing and a curse when you play against her, but more on that later.  Let’s all give Anja hugs!!!!

Intimidation Factor: 18/20

You should probably be shaking in your boots, and if you aren’t wearing boots stop reading now and go put on a pair.  I’ll give you a minute……

Now that you’re back, be afraid, be very afraid.  Of the two female players who made it into the double elimination tournament at Worlds this year, Anja was one of them.  Her team, Melbourne Anchor, has been one of the top Australian teams for the two years Anja has lived in Australia.  Needless to say:  H-E-L-L F-U-C-K-I-N-G Y-E-S.  Her baddassery sneaks up on you much like her playing style of being all over an opponent like a dirty shirt.

Scoring Factor: 17/20

While defense seems to be her strong suit, Anja has a certain way of making you do a facepalm in goal.  I mean you see her coming, you know she’s going to take a shot and then you just end up looking like this:
3She’s kinda like a silent killer as she gracefully makes her way around the court and then….KABLOOEY you’re scored on again. What makes her scoring factor so good is her smart plays and killer passes.  She has definitely honed the art of being a team player, which let’s admit it, we all struggle with right?  No just me…please say it’s not just me.

Defense Factor: 19/20

Dude…for reals, mad defensive skills.  Crap I can usually get away with in games being a jerkoff lefty, I can’t get away with playing against Anja.  She’s got my number and she probably has your too.  She is the dream player we all wish we could be; she’s conscience of which of her teammates is hanging back and is more than willing to put herself in the goal if need be (even though we both know she can score, out play and in general outsmart many of her opposing players).  You may have heard a few of us chanting “Release Anja” toward Damon (her teammate) during Australasians or Worlds because, for reals, you’re wasting her talent keeping that fine lady in goal.

Should I be Worried?: 19/20

If you aren’t worried by now, then you may have Van Damme like nerves of steel..
tumblr_mw9vdntekI1s02vreo1_400The rest of us should remember that she did better than most of us at Worlds this year on a borrowed bike that she didn’t even play on until she got to Florida.  She may not be the most vocal, heaviest checker, or even highest scorer but Anja should certainly be on your list of top female players to be intimidated by.  She plays smart, putting herself in great position on the court, and plays some of the best defense I have ever seen.  Just when you think you’ve shaken her BAM she’s right on top of you messing up your petty idea of a play.

Crushable Score: 93/100

Well Hot Damn do we here at 3-2-1 Polo! have a crazy girl crush on Anja!  From playing on the all ladies team Poloholica (see the image below) in Munich, Germany to playing on one of the top teams in Australia.  Anja is lovely to have a beer or two with and mainly just rules at life in general.  Congrats Anja!  You have just girl crushed your way into our hearts.


NOTE: If you have a special female player in your life that you’d like to see crushed, email me at Salama514@gmail.com with your chosen player and how they fit into the characteristics above.  Holla at ya Sam

Interview, Tournaments

A Conversation with NAH’s John Hayes

January 22, 2014

I’ve been trying to set up an interview with John Hayes since the day the NAH announced that he was taking over for Chandel as Tournament Director. With Christmas, New Years and work conflicts, it took us over a month to finally sit down and talk, and in the end I’m thankful that the stars finally aligned for us.

To prepare for our Facebook Messenger interview I got comfortable on my couch and turned on An Idiot Abroad on Netflix so that I could get in the right frame of mind for an interview with an Englishman. I believe John had the same idea, as he wanted to wait until the American Football match between the Seahawks and 49ers had ended. This is what came from it…


321Polo: Even though you’ve been here for a few months now, welcome to North America John and most importantly, Welcome to the NAH!
John Hayes: Thank you!

321Polo: For those that may not know who you are and are thinking “why should this guy organize tournaments for the NAH?” can you tell us about the work you did for bike polo in England and Europe?
John Hayes: Ok, sure…
So, I’ve been playing bike polo since 2009, I started around the time of the first Euros in London. London was at the forefront of taking polo to a more organized level, there was already the LHBPA in existence, when I started. Apart from playing, I quickly got into attending LHBPA meetings, and from 2011, organizing local tournaments in London. I then moved on to organize national qualifiers, and helped out at big international tournaments in 2011. In 2012, I scheduled the worlds in Geneva, and the London Open, the biggest 2 tournaments in Europe that year, and the same for Euros 2013, London Open 2013, and Worlds 2013. So moving to North America, I come with a long experience of organizing tournaments. That’s why when Chandel wanted to step down from her role, she had a chance to work directly with me, and being local, it was an easy handover.

I understand many North Americans won’t know me  if they’ve not been to the Worlds or haven’t been at a tournament that I’ve organized or scheduled, but I’m hoping they won’t just think “who’s that guy from Europe” and will extend the trust Ben and Chandel have shown in me in this role. I attended a lot of tournaments in NA last year, NAs, Eastside qualifiers and a few regional tournaments (Puerto Rico, Midwest Open), so I have an understanding of the NA scene, and the unique features it has.

Oh, and another thing to mention, I come from a maths/computer science background, so I have a good understanding of the concepts and software involved in formatting. Add that to the fact I’m a massive sports nerd, so I get what works for other sports.

321Polo: Did you approach Ben Schultz and let him know that you were interested in taking over for Chandel? Was it something that came about just knowing Chandel? How did you and the NAH higher ups get connected for you to take over?
John Hayes:  I didn’t directly approach anyone about the role, ultimately it was Chandel who suggested it, and then Ben confirmed it. I’d offered my help to the NAH, if they needed it, great, but they’d also done fine without me, so if not, it would have been ok. Obviously it helped that I had meet both of them many times before.

321Polo: Knowing that you moved to Toronto from the UK for a job, I assume that you have a pretty serious full-time job. So, looking at how much time Nick Kruse puts into the rules and how much Joe Rstom puts into the Ref Organization, do you have any worries about giving your full attention to your NAH duties?
John Hayes: Yes, for sure, it’s a factor. As you say I have a full-time job, which takes up a lot of my time, but this is something I’m really motivated for, and I try to fit it in when I can. I think if it’s well planned, it doesn’t take too much work. The winter is taken up with planning, and if that’s done well, the summer should be pretty easy. We’ve already done most of the planning for this year, the main outstanding issues are finalizing the last few qualifiers, registration, and then making sure the qualifiers go smoothly.

321Polo: For people who may not be sure what the Tournament Director for the NAH does, can you describe your duties for us?
John Hayes: So the main focus is the NAH tour, that’s the qualifiers and the NAHBPC. Apart from that there is some crossover into rules, where they are related to elements of tournament format and then general structure; for example, Joe Rstom and I did a lot of work at the end of last year to restructure the regions. We were also working on new ideas and tournaments for this year, and future years.
321Polo: What else have you and Joe Rstom been working on?
John Hayes: One thing we really want to improve in tournaments this season is making sure the schedule isn’t rushed. A few things at the Worlds were frankly embarrassing, and down to bad planning, or being too ambitious, so the last few weeks I’ve been running the numbers on lots of different formats, looking at what number of teams, and formats work in which scenarios. I’ve just finished writing that up, and that will shortly be released as part of an Appendix to the rules. It will apply to NAH tournaments, but hopefully be a good guide to anyone who wants to run tournaments. We want to make the best use of all our qualifiers, but we recognize each region has different setups and challenges, so we want to make sure the qualification system is as consistent as possible, and all eventualities are covered.

Also, Joe and I have been looking at alternate formats as Swiss and Double Elim are flawed in various ways (though they are the best we have right now). For Swiss, there really is no better alternative as long we stick to the same number of teams, but we are looking at alternate elimination formats. One we have been working on is a best-of format, similar to the playoffs in the NHL/NBA.
321Polo: Can you explain this a little more for us?
John Hayes: It allows us to keep game times constant across the whole tournament, but instead in the elimination you have to win 2 games (or 3 in the later stages) to progress. Now, I’m not sure when you will see this format, at the moment it’s still in the planning stages. We hope it will be a good balance between making sure everyone has a good chance to go through, and not get knocked out due to freak results, but also that we aren’t playing a lot of games that don’t really achieve very much towards the final results.
321Polo: Would this system see fewer teams going on to the final day?
John Hayes: No not really, the timing is roughly the same as for Double Elim. I should mention that we will, as a whole, be slightly reducing the number of teams in the Elim, based on the feedback from last year. We had too many Sundays finishing too late.

321Polo: Along the lines of big changes in NAH tournaments, I know, from personal conversations, that you are a proponent of the NAH switching from regional qualifiers to a points based system. Can you lay out the John Hayes 100% ideal NAH tournament season? Not to say this will happen in the NAH, I’m just curious of your thoughts.
John Hayes: One of the ideas we have been bouncing around is a ranking system, which amongst other things would be used to decide teams for North Americans, rather than basing it purely on regional qualifiers. Players would earn points over a 12 month period, with the main tournaments, and regionals (equivalent of qualifiers) earning the most points, and other tournaments earning less. Now, in such a system, we would have to be careful not to reward travel above quality, so our idea was 3 majors (West Coast, East Coast and central), along with maybe 10 regionals, spread around the continent. Finishing high in any of those tournaments would effectively guarantee a spot, and the rest would get filled up from overall results. This is not to undermine the new system we’ve just put into place, which will be around for a while, even if idea becomes reality.
321Polo: What do you mean by that?
John Hayes: Well, I wouldn’t want people to think we don’t believe in our own work on the new regions. We think it is a big improvement on the old system and it may be such a success that we don’t even need to make any changes.

That’s not to say a points/ranking system couldn’t be used for other things. We are working on an exciting new tournament, which we hope to announce in the next few months. All I’m going to say now that if it happens, everyone will be playing this summer for their clubs, as well as their own team.
321Polo: I know you are new to the NAH, but I assume you still used to follow the North American Championship online, on top of playing in them this past season, so do you feel that there are teams in attendance that shouldn’t be there, or maybe there are teams that should be there that aren’t? It seems to me, that in the current regional system, that the tops teams are still there and the teams qualifying for Worlds are doing so justly.
John Hayes: I wouldn’t say there are teams in attendance that shouldn’t be there, but it’s also fair to say many of them aren’t realistically competing for the top spots. As long as we make sure every competitive team in NA has the best chance to attend, then I’ll be happy. Now I’ve not suggesting there is a new Beavers Boys hidden somewhere in Manitoba right now, but maybe in a few years there will be, and making sure they have the same chance to attend, as teams in the big scenes, is important.

321Polo: Switching it up a bit, were you surprised by the lack of backlash against your new region set up, or was there any behind the scene backlash? I’m only talking from the point of view of someone watching League of Bike Polo.
John Hayes: I was actually really pleasantly surprised by the lack of backlash; the vast majority of people were very positive about it, especially in the areas affected. I think most people appreciated we made the changes we did to help the majority of players in North America. Sure, some regions lost a spot they would have had under the current system, but instead, plenty of areas, who had little motivation to get involved in the qualification process will now be able to go, and hopefully build up those scenes. I’m personally very happy with the fact that Mexico is now officially part of the NAH; it should help provide more competitive teams to the NAH, based on their World’s performance. I’m also hoping it will provide more crossover between the US and Mexico, in terms of attending tournaments.
321Polo: I was very excited to see Mexico added back into the NAH, and I think giving them their own region was a great idea. How is the communication with that region? Are they active in setting up representatives?
John Hayes: Our main contact there is Ignacio Pelayo, who came recommended by many other players. He is the rep for Mexico, and very easy to work with; he’s already been working with all the clubs, and between them they have scheduled their qualifier in Guadalajara. He can be reached at mexico@nahardcourt.com.
321Polo: That’s great! How about the other new regions, do they seem to be coming together as easily?
John Hayes: Well, UMW (Great Lakes), and LMW (Heartland?) has been very easy, as we are still working with the same people. For Prairie/Great Plains, it’s been a bit harder, as they didn’t have the infrastructure, and shared communication in place (especially north and south of the border), but we have a new rep there, Dave Meaghan, and Saskatoon locked in for the qualifier.

321Polo: John this has been so amazing and insightful, I can’t thank you enough for sitting down with me tonight. In parting, are there any final words that you’d like to share with the Poloverse?
John Hayes: I guess I just hope that everyone has a fun and competitive season, and if they have any questions, comments or (constructive) criticism, to contact me on tournaments@nahardcourt.com.

Oh, by the way, we have 8 of the 10 qualifiers locked in, so expect announcements on that in the next few weeks, once the other 2 are sorted.


Heckling Hardcourt – Vol. 2

January 21, 2014

Are you there Mr. Do? It’s me, Sam

Despite what you may have seen in the recent Mr. Do video, women actually do play polo.  If that’s a shocking statement to you, feel free to skip to the end of this article and never come out to pick up again.  As far as I am aware, bruises don’t have a gender preference and neither does bike polo.  Hell, there is no discrimination to injuries,  you can even bestow them upon your own teammates, but I digress.

In case you have forgotten dear readers, Hardcourt Bicycle Polo is a co-ed sport and this should not be excluded from videos explicitly made to get sponsorship.  I mean shouldn’t we glorifying the fact that our sport is co-ed and have women playing at a competitive level with our male counterparts?  Or do women in this sport have to keep fighting to be taken seriously? In the inglorious words of Machine “FahKin Ell”.  If this video is being used to get sponsors for our sport, we should make a conscience effort to not only show the cool shit, but also show how diverse of a community we are; this is what a lot of companies are looking for when it comes to sponsorship.  Let’s be real, if they wanted to just see tricks they would watch Road Bike Party or Danny McAskill’s Imaginate.

Now some of may point out that if you look hard enough you can see women playing polo in the video (examples can be seen at 0:36, 0:55 , 1:09, 1:35, 2:09).  Here’s the thing, you really gotta look for those ladies and on top of that, some of the shots are so quick that it’s unfair to call them a shot of a woman.  I get that in general women make up a small population of the players in bike polo (there were, I believe, only five female slayers playing in the 2013 NAHBPC), but that does not warrant a lack of representation.

What would be hella awesome is some video footage of the Co-Ed before last years Ladies Army because, hot damn, those were some amazing games.  The Wildcard and Worlds this year had many a great co-ed teams as well, and I would love to see some of the footage from those games as well.   Cough Cough Ahem

Don’t get me wrong, we here at 321polo.net know very well how much time must have gone into this video, and hopefully in the future a bit more thought can as well (sorry Mr. Do).  I have spent many a time pretending I’m working when really just watching Mr. Do videos or live streaming tournaments and we all appreciate the work the stream team does.  I think a video to send to potential sponsors is great (and we thank you for doing it), but can we get some for reals representation of our sport? 


Editor’s Note: This morning the NAH released this statement regrading the video:

Regarding the NAH promo video: This is a stellar video with a glaring and regrettable omission. It is not an accurate visual representation of what constitutes the polo community. This was in no way intentional, but that’s beside the point. We have a responsibility to represent the community in its entirety. 

For this error, we offer a sincere apology. 

We’ve read every thread and blog post on this issue. It’s encouraging to read posts from people in our community that, even as they level a justified and necessary critique, remain even-handed and optimistic. They assume that inclusiveness remains a given; that this issue was the exception, not the rule. They expect a collective rebound and to emerge stronger for it.

That being the case, thanks to all who worked on the video and thanks to all who have spoken up. Collectively, we’ve resolved this issue and can now expect to see a video revision soon.