Bike Polo In Toronto 2016
About 20 years ago my brother Greg introduced me to a sport, Ultimate, that was one of the neatest I had seen or played in a long time.
I know the Summer and Winter X-Games feature all sorts of great new sports but Ultimate [or Frisbee football] has a simple infrastructure [all you need is a frisbee and open field plus 8-12 players] plus an elegance and flow that is most appealing. Well in 2014 on Janes Walk in Toronto I got introduced to another elegant sport with the same dynamics: simple rules, easy to play, and based on what every kid knows how to do – ride a bike. So it should be no surprise that Bike Polo is catching on in cities across Canada.
Actually I had seen Bike Polo in Vancouver about 5-6 years ago when I was at a meeting on the UBC campus but by the time I got out of the meeting and had a chance to investigate the players had long vanished from a hockey rink/tennis court. So it was at a Janes Walk in early May within Trinity Bellwoods Park which inadvertently re- introduced me to Bike Polo.
This game was being played on the otherwise near empty tennis courts in the park. There are 3 players to a side, their mounts are bikes, and they play with a mallet which has a hollow plastic head. The teams here were playing games of “first to 5” and that is just about the extent of the rules that I could puzzle out and pick up in a quick 15 minute watching of the game.
Mallets used in Bike Polo.
The real skill in Bike Polo is maintaining balance on the bike in the constant stop and go that is part of the game. For example, at first the game looked like PeeWee Soccer where the kids gather like bumble bees all around the soccer ball. There seemed to be little positional play. But after awhile I got used to the rugby-like scrum and the ability of crafty players to break away from the scrum and rush “down field” for a break away pass.
However, the trick is not just the making but also the receiving or braking of the pass that is a key skill. Because if a
player even slightly bobbles a pass the opposition is on it and can either create their own return break away, or at the least, get in position to defend their goal. Very quickly one could see that a wide range of skills including mallet dribbling and passing, wheel blocking, and vision of play are each important in the game. If I had not agreed to meet a friend for another Janes Walk this same day, becoming steeped in the subtleties of bike polo could have become a whole afternoon’s delight. Like one bike polo player noted, “what is bike polo to me? No doubt – like a second woman”.
Find out more about Bike Polo in Canada:
Facebook Bike Polo Page – full events and pictures
Calgary has great coverage of Bike Polo action
The Halifax story with video
Montreal Bike Polo action
WUPass = Winnipeg Bike Polo
Vancouver’s Vibrant Bike Polo scene