As women across the polo-verse descended upon Toronto for Ladies Army 666, a few lucky gals traveled through Boston as part of their journeys to and from the tournament. First, Gitti (BER) and I reunited in Boston, almost exactly one year to the day since we last saw each another in Berlin. Next, Jessi (SEA) took an unexpected route to Toronto via Boston, and came by for a night of pickup before road-tripping to Toronto with Gitti, Alan, Chrissy and I. On the tail end of Ladies Army, #3babesandnoplacetogo Julia (LDN/VAN/PAR/everywhere) Eryn (VAN) and Ali (BRI), woke up on Tuesday morning after the tournament and thought “Where should we go today?” “Boston!” DUH. And came through the Hub as the first pit stop on their epic journey across the northeast of North America (fabulously documented on instagram). Gitti and I traveled back together as well, and Gitti got to play at our Allston court one more time.
While Gitti was in Boston she took some amazing photos of the city, her companions, and Boston Bike Polo. Her photos capture the epitome of the Allston Court at the height of its New England summer glory. You can check out more of her incredible pictures of Boston and Ladies Army here.
Thanks to all the ladies who visited and made Boston apart of the Ladies Army tour. Come visit us again soon! -CF
To allow the referee to communicate information about stoppages of play and penalties the NAH has implemented the use of hand signals. They are simple and effective – one look at the ref and you know he saw you lean into the innocent off-ball opponent. I’m not sure how much use they’ve seen in the qualifiers because they take a little more experience to master.
Peep this cheat-sheet so you don’t start chirpsing before you know what you got called on.
As you know, NAH announced that they will be hosting a NAH Club Bench Championship. Basically, the 12 top polo clubs in North America will be traveling to Lexington, KY this fall to find out who is the best. The catch: clubs will be invited based on their 2014 NAH Series Rankings. In each of the NAH qualifiers, and at the NAHBPC, players will earn points for their club.
For the ranking at the NAH qualifying series players will earn the following points: 1st : 10 Points; 2nd: 7 points; 3rd: 5 points; 4th: 4 points; 5th: 3 points; 7th: 2 points; <7th 1 point.
At the NAH Championships players will earn the following points: 1st: 50 points; 2nd: 35 points; 3rd: 23 points; 4th: 15 points; 5th: 10 points; 7th: 7 points; 9th: 5 points; 13th: 4 points; 17th: 3 points, <17th: 2 points.
It may not seem like it, but 12 clubs is a lot. Obviously, clubs with teams advancing to and performing well at Nationals have the advantage. However, clubs that roll deep but don’t necessarily have podium teams will squeeze smaller squads out.
The top spots will surely be taken by the historically top performing clubs, aka Cascadia: Seattle, East Van, Portland. San Fran will be a gimme because of The Beavers and that other handsome team from Cali. But the rest are up for grabs.
I was hecka curious to see what the spread looked like, especially with big dreams for Boston’s future in bench league. So I nerded out HELLA and tabulated up the stats from the 2103 qualifier. Heres what it looked like:
(Note that I accounted for a few small “changes” from the NAHBPC 2013 podium.com results: Seattle gets the commish, Chicago gets Lomax, San Francisco gets the Beavers(duh), Boston is fanged, Porch gets the rad caps 2x points bonus, Emmet doesn’t count and as well as few other low point transfers from folks’ relocation.)
EDIT 3-18-14 13:00: Greg Valentine has been moved from CHI to ATX. Woadie’s city points go to EVAN.
2013 NAH City Ranking
Rad! Get top 3 and secure your club an invite. For all other clubs, it is a toss up. You will be rewarded for bringing a whole bunch of players (Austin), for bringing only a few if they kill it (E.Van & PDX), or if you do both (Seattle). And don’t forget about the sleeper clubs that couldn’t make it to their qualifier last year. Either way, I’m stoked to see what the points totals will look like in 6 months from now.
If you’re interested, please help contribute so we can get a full season of stats by adding your regional qualifier using the attached spreadsheet. Just replace the proper existing cells with your results, and you can send it back to me [aminott(at)gmail.com]. I’ll keep the updated tallys attached to this post.
EDIT 3-18-14 13:00: CASCADIA Quals has been added. I will update cumulative totals once all qualifiers are tabulatedClick for excel spreadsheet
Here is a video of the final of the Eastside Thaw. Nick Kruse, James and Yeager beat Jav, Drew and Troy 6-5.
I recommend watching this on mute and pumping your own soundtrack (mostly because it’s embarrassing for me) but I will say that the Jav puns are pretty good – especially around the middle of the video.
When the location change of the 2014 Eastside Thaw was announced I knew I wanted to go. These two courts in Frederick Maryland are probably the nicest on the east coast. I was a little weary of the format. Mixed skill level, shuffled teams? Was I gonna get stuck with a couple duds and just get slaughtered all weekend. I got shit for trying to sandbag on Facebook, but not having played a tourney in almost a year and only a couple pickup sessions under my belt since my injury I really had no idea what level I was playing at and how my body would react to tourney speed polo.
But the courts are so sweet, and I figured at worst I’d get a good early season shellacking to keep me humble.
There were actually two tournaments this weekend. The first was a 3v3 with the twist being teams were drawn from three decks of cards. All the players were split into three groups based on skill level (A,B,C) and each team got one player from each level. For the most part this system worked out and the teams were fairly even. Perhaps instead of A/B/C some teams looked like B/B/C or A/C/C.
Mixing skill levels in this way made for some really interesting polo. Not only were most people playing with teammates they might not know or have ever played with before, they were then given a letter that was supposed to mark their skill level.
It took me two games (a loss and a tie) to realize I could not carry my team on my own. I spent the first two games ball hogging and ignoring my teammates. I was forcing the ball up the court by myself and not finding the back of the net. It was once I relaxed and approached it more like pickup, focusing on passing and good communication that the team turned around.
Luckily I had great teammates who didn’t get pissed off at me, and worked hard to get us to the final. Troy from Lancaster was calm and steady and took it upon himself to hang back in net. When he did come up it was with speed and purpose. He scored the goal to put us into overtime in the semifinal with only a few seconds left. Arguably the most important goal of the day for us. Drew from Philly worked the midfield, winning back possession frequently and disrupting the other team’s offense. It was super rewarding to build a team with these guys over the course of the day.
So while I was very skeptical of this format coming in, I really came around to appreciating it. Did it make for the highest level polo possible? No, but that wasn’t the point. It’s a great format for bringing together people and raising everyone’s level. This is the kind of event that will make our region stronger in the long term.
Sunday was a typical bench tourney. As a top goal scorer I was one of the captains and got to pick Nick Vaughan so we won. That guy is really fucking good. One of my favorite memories of the tourney was watching him play against his teammate Alexis. It really felt like watching two Kung fu masters battling it out with their different styles.
My only complaint about the bench tourney is that ten players on a team is way too many. I was really trying to get everyone in to play, but the clock was running too fast and a lot of times guys would only get in for quick minute long shifts. I almost blew the final when I put in our C line not realizing there were only a few minutes left.
The Scoops (wrist shots)
So they allowed scoop shots at this tourney as they had the year before. I hadn’t played in a tourney where they were allowed since the bench ESPI in NYC a couple years ago. I remembered being very frustrated in that tourney with BBP players constantly scooping balls over the net instead of just taking shots. Aside from that and Lomax and a few others making a couple nice looking ones, they didn’t seem to play a very big role.
That was not the case this past weekend. The scoop shot took over games and how people were playing defensively and offensively. I think this was because of a few factors.
– Improved mallet head designs make it easier to grab the ball
– it was a laid back tourney so people were more willing to experiment
– goals were full size 4×6 ft nets so it was pretty easy to find the big gap at the top of the net
I’ll let others discuss the aesthetic merits of the scoop shot. It’s a skill to master, and it’s no surprise that the people with the best scoop shot also tend to be really good players without them.
And no one really knows what would happen to the game five years down the road if we legalized them today.
For me, what’s most interesting is how they affect defenses. A good scooper within a couple meters from net can beat a double goalie fairly consistently. Also if you soft lob a scoop into a double goalie, you are less likely to have a hard rebound to defend. You have to keep strong pressure on the forecheck, which is something people say they want to see. Turtling up and letting a guy pick his corner out isn’t gonna work.
People say goalies would adjust and learn how to block them. I’m not so sure. If you need to keep your mallet down to block your five hole and bottom corners, can you really also use it to protect your top corners? Are goalies really gonna have to be popping wheelies and endoes to block shots? With a shot a goalie can predict trajectory based on the head angle on contact, with a scoop, the shooter can change trajectory during the release. I dunno I guess it could be done.
This tourney was a blast. I got out of the house, got to play polo all weekend with new homies and old buds. The drive there and back wasn’t so bad. I got to travel for the first time with members of BBP’s young guard, Zac, Nick, and Charlotte. They repped Boston so hard both on and off the court. There was an amazingly consistent waffle maker at the hotel which was a big hit. We took a sweet bike ride through the old town of Frederick and saw some sweet historic stuff and forgot to Instagram it. I got in on a couple bad jokes and made my throat sore heckling and shouting at my teammates. And now sitting here looking at all the pics and remembering the good times, it’s like McDonald’s.
Podium, the brainchild of Portland Bike Polo’s Vince Foley, is arguably the most useful technological advance in the history of the poloverse. The software has streamlined the organization 129 tournaments throughout it’s history, including the past 3 World Championships (975 games collectively) and the 2013 European Hardcourt Championship, which clocks in as the largest tournament EVER with 63 teams. The Podium interface allows tournament organizers to seamlessly queue up games while players can look on from their iPhones while fishbowling their tent on the other side of the venue in the shade.
Hardcourt Podium has started rolling out some new features for the upcoming season. Users now have the ability to register themselves to track their careers, a feature first debuted by the ill-fated www.Hardcourtbikepolo.org. Podium spit out a player’s tournament history, as well as statistics associated with his or her team. The user can easily see the statistics from their profile, which includes tournament and game totals, cumulative and average goal counts (for and against them), as well as their goal differential per game and per tournament.
It appears as if this new user based version of Podium will be the go-to source for the 2014 NAH Tournament Season. Registration and qualification processes will likely be built into the software, further easing the load on the tournament organization front.
Up until this week, the software has been free to use. But with the new ‘registration’ capabilities comes a small fee. Users can pay on a sliding scale, from $2 to $20, to take advantage of the new features. Quite frankly, given all the time Vince has put into Podium, this small fee is an absolute steal. Alas, there will be penny-pinchers.
It is only a matter of time before these doubters come around and realize that the price of a pint is simply worth a fluid and interactive experience at the next tournament you attend, especially when someone finally steps up their Podium display from a big screen TV to a big screen TOUCH TV.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving Alan, Mars and I began the drive down to Philly to meet up with Zac to represent Boston Bike Polo at the one day Philly A/B tournament. After casserole at Mars’ parents house, too many hours on the New Jersey Turnpike, and failed attempts at eating baklava while driving, we arrived Saturday afternoon just in time to participate in judging Lori and Tucker’s chilli cook-off at the court (Lori won- duh).
To my surprise, Philly is such a polo court blessed city that when we arrived at the predetermined location, and the lights never came on, Drew rode to another court across town to find us an alternative spot for Saturday night pick-up. And though that court was slick as fuck, it also had beautifully curved boards, was the perfect size, and located under a highway exchange. We played some awesome pick-up as folks trickled in from Richmond, DC, New York, and other East Coast towns, until we finally shut it down after someone may or may have not broken their nose faceplanting trying to pick up their mallet (but he played the rest of the game like a champ).
The cool thing about a one-day A/B tournament, is that everyone gets what they want: “A-class” slayers get a high intensity one-day gig playing good games, and “B” players get a chance to have more evenly matched (and arguably more fun) games all day. And after this awesome one-day single elim tournament, I may be a single elim convert. We got in 5 or 6 rounds of swiss rounds before we began the elimination bracket, meaning the seedings were pretty accurate, and just about every team got to play each other. Then the elim bracket went pretty fast, but each game was higher intensity because everyone knew it was sudden death. I often feel like teams don’t really begin to try hard until they’re in the losers bracket – and single elim eliminates that nonsense. But I’m just thinking out loud.
Mars, Alan and David (Lancaster) played awesome and came in second in the B bracket (fuck the A bracket, have no idea what went on there) losing to Puff Puff Pass from Lancaster in the finals. Zac, Jackie from NYC, and myself formed team Sparkle Motion and also lost to Puff Puff Pass in the semi’s. Let me just say that if I hadn’t BROKEN MY WRIST in the semi’s, and finished the game more or less stationary in goal on said broken wrist (in golden goal OT might I add!), we totes would have been in the final. JUST SAYIN’. I chipped the hamate bone in my wrist as a result of putting my mallet under my own front wheel going full speed, like a chump. I didn’t even realize my wrist hurt so goddamn much because I’d knocked the wind out of myself and was more concentrated on trying to reinflate my lungs (it’s actually the smallest, lamest injury ever in the history of bike polo). Point being, Puff Puff Pass – we’ll see you again, and next time we will not be denied victory!
The finals ended with only enough daylight left for Mars to get out the rest of his caffeinated energy in two pick-up games, before we packed up the car with an additional passenger – Graham from New Haven – and drove back to Boston. We avoided the New Jersey Turnpike mostly on principle, and because it was the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend and we’re not complete idiots. And even though the whole adventure took less than 41 hours, and I (kinda) broke my wrist, it was still worth it for the fun road trip, vegan coffee shops, and laid back tournament. -CF