HYPERLOCAL NEWS HUB BY THE UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS DEPARTMENT OF JOURNALISM
Bike Polo finds a home in Cooper-Young
By: Michael G. Lander/MicroMemphis Reporter
October 29, 2012
Under the street lights of Cooper-Young, they come together with their bikes and their mallets to the Bluff City Sports parking lot. They start showing up there on Wednesday and Sunday evenings at around 8 p.m. to play a sport known as bike polo.
The game is relatively new to the Memphis area. The Southeast Region for the League of Bike Polo, located in Memphis, was founded in January 2008.
"We average about eight people each night, but when the weather is nice, more people come out," Adam Hite said. Hite has been playing bike polo for about 2 1/2 years.
"Because most of us are obsessed with the sport, we play it year-round," Hite said. "As long as it's not raining, we're out there," he said.
Hite described the version that he and the others play as "hardcourt bike polo." The difference, he said, is that they play on a hard surface as opposed to grass. It is similar to street hockey, Hite said, but the players are all on bikes instead of being on skates.
Bike polo is played, Brett Edmonds said, with two teams of three players, with each trying to shoot a ball into a goal with their mallet. Edmonds has been playing the game just a little longer than Hite, close to three years.
"At pick-up games, we usually just play the first one to five points, but in tournaments, traditionally, it has been the first to 5 points or when time runs out, between 10 to 15 minutes," Hite said.
The basic rules of the game are relatively simple when it comes to scoring points. "A goal can only be scored by hitting the ball with the end of the mallet. If you knock the ball into the goal with the middle of the mallet, it is considered a shuffle and it does not count," Hite said.
As for the players themselves, they "aren't allowed to touch the ground (known as dabbing) and if they do, they are required to ride to the middle of the court and tap out on the boards before they can re-enter play," Edmonds said.
Both Hite and Edmonds agree that no special equipment is needed to play except for a bike and a mallet, and they have extra mallets for those who forget to bring theirs or who do not yet have one. As for the mallets themselves, they are made of a ski pole and a gas pipe, Hite said.
When it comes to the bike, Hite thinks that most beginners can start out on pretty much any kind of bike, but the more someone plays the more they tend to customize their bikes to fit the sport. He recommends straight bikes, with a low gear ratio, good brakes, and a bike that you aren't worried about getting beat up.
Many players also often create wheel covers to protect their spokes and to deflect balls and mallets from causing damage to them.
As far as injuries are concerned, neither Hite nor Edmonds have seen any serious injury occur during the time that they have been involved with the sport. "Bike polo is a fast contact sport so injuries do happen, but.... on our normal pick-up nights, injuries are fairly uncommon because our goal is just to have fun," Hite said.
For Edmonds, the increased potential for injury often occurs in the highest levels of tournament play because people are going so much faster and playing so much harder.
Otherwise, "Bruises and scrapes are pretty normal, but stitches, sprains, and broken bones are pretty close to non-existent," he said.
When it comes to tournaments, "There are seven regional tournaments in which you have to qualify for the North American Championship. A select number of teams then qualify for the World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship," Hite said.
"A couple of weeks ago, we hosted a tournament at Tiger Lane, which, to my knowledge, was the first bike polo tournament ever in Tennessee," he said. They had two courts and 24 teams that showed up. Twelve states were also represented.
The origin of hardcourt bike polo began in Seattle in the early 2000s by a group of bike messengers, some of whom are still active in the sport, Hite said.
It eventually found its way to Memphis with a small group of people who worked at the Peddler Bike Shop. After it fizzled out among them, Hite said, it was picked back up by another group of friends, and it has grown from that point forward.
While the origins of bike polo are relatively new, the sport actually has roots that go back as far as 1891, Edmonds said. "It was even being played as an exhibition sport at the 1908 Olympics," he added.
For anyone interested in learning more about bike polo in Memphis, you can visit their website: http://memphisbikepolo.com/
Michael Lander covers Sports and Recreation for MicroMemphis.
You can send his story ideas here.
You can follow him on Twitter ( @memphiscyclist)
See more of his work at http://memphiscyclist.com/index.html