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…

john

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.

Editorial

Heckling Hardcourt – Vol. 2

January 21, 2014

HecklingHardcourt
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. 

Video

2013 Highlight Footage

January 20, 2014

guardians
Congratulations for either 1) spending your weekend doing more important things than being on the internet, or 2) crawling out from under the rock you’ve been living under. I can only assume that you fall into one of these categories because if you haven’t seen these two videos by now, then they must be true. These videos have been blowing up my Facebook news feed all weekend. Share after share after share of two great 2013 highlight videos featuring some of the most amazing talent in hardcourt today.

First, we have the legendary Mr. Do using footage from the 2013 NAHBPC to create a bike polo promotional video. Presumably, this film will be used to seek sponsors for all of the NAH qualifying tournaments, but I think it’ll be great to use by any tournament organizer looking to get financial backing. I also want to note that I make four appearances in this video (that’s only two away from Mr. Do’s man crush, Koyo). Enjoy this great video and be sure to utilize it this season!

**NOTE: For some reason this video is Private on Vimeo, so I can’t post it on the site, so here is the LINK!

The other video that you missed out on this weekend came from Blunt Films, the brain child of former Dead Rappers member Brendan McNamee. This video, entitled 5TIX, turns bike polo footage into a feature. The amazing production draws you in and then the special effects leave you craving more. While Blunt Films isn’t as much of a polo-household name as Mr. Do (mostly because it’s not purely a bike polo video company, it’s Brendan’s day job), we have seen Brendan post some amazing polo related videos in the past (Chunk Clothing, Hell’s Belles, Luca Semeraro) and this video lives up to and exceeds our expectations. Enjoy this amazing film!

Product, Reviews

Review: DZR Link Lime

January 17, 2014

Last year was hard for me and shoes, which I’m blaming on just getting too rad. In March, I came back from New Zealand with my DZR Link Charcoal looking like this:
Link1

After only 8 months or so, I needed to use tape to make sure my foot did not blow out the front. The vegan glue of the Link Charcoal didn’t hold the sole onto the shoe body, just like Aaron’s vegan DZR Mamba X. Then in the Spring another tragedy struck when my Chrome Midway Pro shoes broke on me during a training ride:
Link2

Bummer after bummer in the rad looking shoes department lead me to the DZR Link Lime shoes. I was a bit skeptical after the glue on my Charcoals turned my shoe into a foot puppet but I was ready to give the Link Lime a go since they didn’t have the vegan glue. Here’s a fresh pick when I got them in early April:
Link3

Recently DZR released the Marco, which unfortunately does not come in female friendly sizes (although a champ on the inside assures me that we can expect smaller sizes this spring). In the mean time, the DZR shoe that can be considered their bike polo shoe for women, is their Link Lime (LL). After over 9 months of playing on the LLs, they are looking and feeling way better than the Charcoals, and the following is a quick review of things that I find important in a polo shoe:

Durability:
Unlike the Charcoal, the LLs glue has hung in there pretty fantastically, particularly where the sole meets the material of the shoe around the toe. I have actually had no glue issues with this shoe aside from the area around cleat, which as of yet has had no affect on my riding or playing. So far it has been pretty durable as a shoe; I’m not worried about it coming apart under my feet while I’m playing polo. The only real issue I’ve had is with the material on top of the shoe where the grey leather has started breaking off, which only really affects the aesthetic look of the shoe and not the shoe performance.

Handle the Elements:
After one rain, my Charcoals started deteriorating in a bad way particularly around the air vent holes on the top of the shoe, which was due to the synthetic vegan material they used for that shoe. The LLs are leather with suede lining, which has held up better in the elements, but I also live in the Bay Area where it seldom rains so maybe I’m not an expert with this.  

Polo Friendly:
What I’m looking for in a polo is a high quality shoe that can handle my  plentiful falls and general getting rad when necessary. These shoes have been great for this so far. The extra padding on the sides helps to protect my ankles for the most part, but we all know that there is no real protection against shots from Jake Langdon now is there?

As most cycling shoes aren’t super comfortable to stand around in, I am usually looking for shoes that are comfortably off the court as well, and the LLs certainly are. At first, they were a bit snug but with after a couple wears, the LLs fit perfectly. They stay tight around your foot while giving you plenty of room for your toesies.

Link4

Here are what some other polo ladies are saying about the Link Limes:

Oleha Riden – “The Links were on my wishlist for awhile. Even though I purchased some snazy leather DZR Kowloons to bomb around the city in style, I was still longing for something more durable that I could use for polo. Thanks to Shelley not fitting in size 37, I got to capitalize on her mis-fortune and snag a pair early on last season. Overall the shoes were a win for me! The ankle support, Velcro strap to cinch laces in place, and thicker sole contributed to comfortable performance on my bike, especially when I was still learning how to function “clipped in”. My only quality critic would be the laces; they sort of disintegrated within a few months, and as much as I liked to think I have crazy arm muscle strength, I think it was more poor quality of the laces. My easy fix was just to swap a pair of laces from some Nike skate shoes that I had lying around.”

Jillian Browy’s review can be found here: http://dogsoccerenthusiast.com/reviews.html

To try out a pair for yourself, head over to DZR’s Link Lime page!

Party On Wayne.
Sam

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!