T his article originally appeared on pegasusnews.com
Take a little bit of bike dork, mix it in with a pinch of jock, and what do you get? A “hardcourt” Bicycle Polo player.
Dallas is home to more than 100 of them. Hardcourt Bicycle Polo has reached a new level of popularity in recent years, says Dylan Holt, a veteran of the sport and a founder of the Dallas Bicycle Polo club.
“It’s not just a fringe thing anymore. Social networking has a lot to do with it,” he said. “Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, the explosion of the game over the past 5 or 6 years has proven to make it a lot more popular.”
Hardcourt Bicycle Polo is played either on a street-hockey or tennis court. The rules vary by city; here in Dallas, it’s played 3 on 3.
Players ride on bicycles and use mallets made out of ski polls and plastic tubing. Like horse Polo, players try to hit a ball through the opposing team’s goal; in the hardcourt game a hockey ball is used. At the beginning of a game, one player from each team charges the middle of the court—called “the joust”—to battle for possession of the ball. The first team to score five points wins.
The origins of Bicycle Polo date back further than most may expect: The game was invented in 1891 by a retired Irish cyclist named Richard Mecredy, except it was played on a grass surface, not a hard one. Grass court Bicycle Polo was a demonstration sport at the 1908 London Olympics. Today the grass game is no longer played, replaced instead by the surge of hardcourt’s popularity.
Holt and the rest of the Dallas Bike Polo club use a Facebook group called “Dallas Bike Polo” to organize their pick-up games and up-coming tournament schedules.
The Facebook group is “good for organizing,” said Joseph Standley, another Bicycle Polo player. “It’s good to see if people are up to play. It’s a quick way to check that kinda thing.”
Interest in the hardcourt game increased dramatically in 2007, leading to the creation of North American Hardcourt in 2010, which Holt describes as “the sanctioning body” for Bicycle Polo throughout North America.
North American Hardcourt is an organization that’s main goal is to address the concerns of the rapidly growing Bicycle Polo community, according to its website.
“They set the rules, schedules for qualifiers,” Holt said.
There are currently 163 registered hardcourt Bicycle Polo clubs throughout the United States, according to leagueofbikepolo.com, a community website that players from across the globe use to communicate.
Today, hardcourt Bicycle Polo is most popular in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, New Zealand, Poland and the United Kingdom, according to the website. There are many other places, including China, Romania, Malaysia and Mexico, where the sport hasn’t made as much of an impact yet.
In Texas, there are clubs in Austin, San Antonio and Houston.
Holt said that it all “sounds professional,” but that “it’s pretty laid back.”
Injuries aren’t too common in the world of Bicycle Polo.
“Serious ones are pretty rare,” Holt said.
Players have to wear the proper gear, though.
“You get your shins cut up a lot if you don’t have guards,” said Jackson Armstrong, a Dallas native who has been playing Bicycle Polo now for a little over a year. “Gloves help.”
“People’s first reaction to it is that it looks dangerous,” Holt said. “It just looks a lot more dangerous to the untrained eye [compared] to what it is in reality.”
Members of the Dallas Bike Polo club can be found playing throughout the week at Norbuck Park in West Dallas, just off Northwest Highway.
No gear? Holt says there is always extra equipment he and the other players bring out for newcomers wanting to test out their skills.
You “really just need a good attitude,” Standley said. “And maybe some mosquito repellent.”
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