By Rebecca Hedrick
The sport of hardcourt bicycle polo can be a daunting world from an outsider’s view. A typical game with seasoned players can be fast paced and intense displaying seemingly impossible bike maneuvers, ball handling, and incredible coordination, all while managing to not end in disastrous wrecks between players though admittedly not always successful at the latter.
Trying to enter such a competitive and oftentimes dangerous sport can be very intimidating and routinely scares some of the toughest potential players away, not to mention those who lack bike experience, coordination, or general athleticism. But, if the initial intimidation can be overcome, those interested in trying out the sport will find a welcoming community more than willing to assist new players and just as any technique, the skills required to play bike polo can be learned with practice and encouragement even for the least athletically inclined people.
Beehive Bike Polo has been working hard to expand the club by recruiting and encouraging new members to the club. Each week on Thursday nights, they host “rookie night” a night of polo practice devoted to introducing new players to the ins and outs of bicycle polo in a nonthreatening environment, as well as working on skills and training for returning rookies. Three of their regular rookies, Becky, Oscar, and Andrew have just returned from Davis, California where they took second place in Davis’ first all rookie tournament. The tournament, arranged by Jennifer and Able Kutzleb of the Davis Bike Polo club, was a way to introduce new players to the competitive side of the sport in a less intimidating manner, i.e. a tournament exclusive to newer players rather than seasoned pro’s.
Oscar Arce and Becky Hedrick of the SLC rookie team speak about their newfound passion for bike polo:
Oscar: “I had a lot of fun at the rookie tournament. It was amazing to meet new players from so many places and to play outside of Salt Lake City for the first time. It was really well organized and I played against very challenging competitors.
I started playing polo in July 2015 while visiting one of the bike polo pick up nights occurring weekly in the Beehive Bike Polo Club. The speed and maneuvers people could do on their bikes was attractive to me and I finally opted to give it a try. After my first game I knew I had tasted the fruits of bike polo and found them sweet. Since then I decided to practice with the club and learn from the more experienced players. I enjoy bike polo because of the competitive spirit it brings out from everyone. I see the more experienced players put time and effort into learning new skills and do well in tournaments.”
Becky: “The Davis rookie tournament was my fourth tournament, though I have only been playing for about eight months or so. It was a great experience playing against other newbies to see where my skills have developed in regards to my status as a rookie. The team that took the title, Los Beaners from Fresno, California, were very skilled and challenging to play against a good example of how far a rookie can go with a lot of practice and dedication. It was really a privilege to play in the finals against such a strong team and it felt good to know how apprehensive they were to play against us as well.
I started playing polo last September after my best childhood friend, Tina Greene (who’s been playing for 78 years) moved to SLC and brought me to my first pickup game. At the time we didn’t have a rookie night, so I was thrown into the fire right away with the seasoned players like Les Beehive Boys ’ Gabe, Jimmy, and David. Rather than being intimidated though, I was immediately hooked. I wanted to be able to play like them!
Though competitive by nature, the bike polo community is really an all-inclusive group of friends all over the world. It’s like having family in all corners that is always willing to help, encourage, and cheer for you, even when you’re playing against them. This is what I really like about bike polo the camaraderie.”
Apart from the weekly rookie nights and regular pickup on Sunday’s and Tuesday’s, Beehive Bike Polo is working with the Bicycle Collective to develop other programs, such as the Youth Polo Program (part of the Collective’s Youth Initiative Programs) aimed at giving youth a safe environment to get involved in the cycling world and providing a healthy outlet for troubled youth. Developing the Youth Polo Program is an ongoing process because the BBP club still lacks an official and sufficiently safe court to play on regularly, an issue which they are working with the City of Salt Lake to rectify.
Utah Bike Polo Information:
Beehive Bike Polo Club — Salt Lake City, UT, Weekly hardcourt and grass bike polo. Tuesdays at 8pm, Saturday afternoons. Check out the Beehive Bike Polo Club on Facebook for location, Chuck Heaton, 801-688-7268, firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/groups/189631497724953/, beehivebikepolo.wordpress.com