Starting a WTF Night in your city

Original blog publication can be found here  on 321 Bike Polo.


East Van Bike Polo Women and Gender Queer Night

Since April 2015, East Van has been running a monthly Women and Gender Queer bike polo night with the top priority of introducing new players to the sport and making sure that they have fun and come back next month. This means that we don’t put pressure on them to join regular pick-up, and we don’t focus much on rules or strategy.

That said, after holding this event for three months, East Van has added seven players who now regularly take part in co-ed pickup. So far, it has been even more successful at recruiting new players than our co-ed weekly newbie day.

Preparing for the event:

We advertise through Facebook using the following event description. Feel free to reuse parts of it:

We’re always looking for new people to try bike polo and maybe, just maybe, fall in love with it like we did and join us more regularly, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, here…

We’re excited to launch a monthly Women and Gender Queer Night, to provide a positive space for any new players who are women (trans and cis) and/or gender queer-identified (non-binary individuals who identify with women’s community).

If you are even the least bit curious about bike polo, this is the night to try it and meet some great people. Women and gender-queer folks also welcome to come watch. (We are kindly asking male supporters who are interested in watching polo to stop by the court on another day.)

Bring your bike gloves, helmet, and beverages. If you can ride your bike with one hand, you’re good to go! Feel free to use your own bike (straight bars are best, good brakes help!), or borrow one at the court. Mallets also provided.

No cost but let us know if you need a bike so we can accommodate. (And we’ll do our best to get some smaller bikes to loan)

If you don’t self-identify as female and/or gender queer, feel free to invite one of your friends who does! We would love a great turnout so we can share the love we feel for this silly fun bike sport.

Love,

the Women and Queerfolk of East Van Bike Polo

In the time leading up to the event, we try to spread the word to our friend circles, to community bike shops, and to women’s cycling/sports organizations. We also organize extra equipment (mallets, smaller framed bikes, platform pedals) from other club members who are willing to loan their gear. We discourage male polo players from attending based on feedback from our attendees – many of them expressed interest in maintaining a non-male space and avoiding the weird power dynamic that comes with a bunch of new female or queer polo players being watched by men.

Running the event:

We don’t have a strict schedule, but we use the following general structure:

  • At least one veteran player shows up as early as possible to greet new attendees. Others may assist in getting loaner equipment to the courts, or men may drop their bikes off early on in the night and then head out.
  • As new folks start arriving, welcome them, ask if they want to play, and start fitting them to loaner bikes if they need them. If they are keen to get out and hit the ball around, let them do that while waiting for more people to show up. Since our events are open to trans and butch/masculine-presenting women and gender queer people, we try to ask anyone who shows up if they are interested in participating in women’s night, regardless of gender presentation.
  • At some point, usually around an hour into the event when we have enough players to start a game, we do an introduction round. This includes name and pronouns (for example, she and hers; them and theirs; xi and zirs; or no pronoun – name only). Be aware of these pitfalls:http://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/pronoun-round-etiquette/. This is also a chance for people to talk about their experience with polo, and whether they are there to watch, to get on a bike and see how it feels, or to take part in a game.
  • At this point, we go over a few basic rules and tips; we usually try not to spend more than a few minutes on this. How to joust, how to balance using a mallet, how to avoid jamming wheels or t-boning other players, etc.
  • We try to give all of the new players a bit of time to get used to their bikes, while veterans chat with spectators or greet any latecomers.
  • Once the group is ready, we start playing games. We try not to have more than two veteran players in each game. Veteran players focus on feeding passes and giving encouragement; try not to take over a game or play hard defense against newer opponents. (And no ’brick wall’ perma goalies!)
  • We allow shuffle goals for new players and often let brand new players ignore the tap-in rule.
  • Positive heckling only!
  • Any new player who expresses interest in playing more frequently is given details about our co-ed new player day, and regular pick-up.
  • That’s pretty much it! Have fun, be nice to each other, and have a plan for getting dudes’ equipment back to them when the night is done.

Other things to consider:

  • If you expect that you might have fewer than 6 players, come up with a contingency plan – working on individual skills or passing plays; playing 2v2, etc.
  • Similar events in other cities have welcomed different groups of people. For example, a ‘WTF’ (women, trans, and femme) event would welcome transmen and male femmes in addition to genderqueers and cis and trans women.
  • Some of us drink at polo, but it’s worth considering that putting a lot of emphasis on alcohol use may discourage attendees who aren’t interested in it
  • It may be important to gain support from male members of the club to get exclusive access to a court and/or loaner equipment. We used some of the following arguments to convince skeptics:
    • Other polo clubs (Vancouver, New York, DC, Brisbane, Davis, etc) have had success in recruiting new players via women’s night.
    • Many of these new players expressed hesitance at having their first experience of polo take place when most of the other players on the court were veterans.
    • Others expressed that they hadn’t previously felt welcome at polo because they didn’t feel that they fit in as women or queers; a non-male space that is endorsed by the club can help demonstrate that the community is supportive of these people.
    • Many groups in the cycling community (community bike shops, for example) have women and queer nights for the same reasons.
    • The event can be hosted on a trial basis, at a time when the court is not often in use for regular pick-up. If turnout is low, other options could be explored.
    • Having a night that is specifically geared towards women and queers can open up opportunities for grant funding and community partnerships for the club

This formula has worked well for us so far. We feel that there are two keys to success: to create a low-barrier environment where skill and competitiveness is de-emphasized; and to appeal to a sense of positive community between queers and women. Good luck!


We hope you enjoyed this #repost blog from 321 Bike Polo


Featured Photo Credit: Brandon Catubig

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