Early in 2016, Ben approached me about taking over the leadership of the NAH. We had talked on many occasions about what mission the organization was best to address. He was ready to step down, and I had some drive in me to make 2017 a year of polo revival and celebration.
But, let’s get this out of the way first…
A little about me for those who I’ve yet to meet on or off the court. My name is Alias (pronounced “Ah-LIE-as”) Tagami. I live in Washington, DC. I started playing polo over five years ago when I randomly saw a NYC Bike Polo video on YouTube, and then went to watch people play at The Pit. When I came back to DC, I was ready to find my local club and start playing. Few players in my club with the exception of the Bruce Legend, are still playing in our current club’s roster. Living in a city with a very transient population of players, we pride ourselves as a club that starts players and helps them grow. As DC Bike Polo’s President, I’ve personally organized 8 tournaments, and provided support to several more in addition to helping our club establish the Dames of the Roundtable series. With my experience in developing players and doing outreach as well as my close familiarity with the work involved in planning and executing tournaments, I knew I could help the NAH and the polo community with the next stage of our story. But you won’t really meet me until you meet me, so if we’re at an event together, come say hi! Show me your best trick on your bike. The more useless the trick, the better.
Enough about me–this is about us.
Why are we doing this? Bike polo won’t bring you fame or wealth. I think the reason we gather is two part. On one hand we enjoy the nature of the sport. It’s a reason to challenge ourselves, to feel struggle, a chance to grow, and gain confidence. It’s also a chance to practice trust. Both on and off the court. That’s the spirit of the community, and it’s the sports ethic I’ve always wanted to be a part of. But I’m not here to passively be a part of a community—I’m here to help us create it. And I’ve got some work to do. Bike polo is meant to be a sport that celebrates inclusivity and collaboration.
Here’s the plan:
It’s North America’s turn to host the WHBPC. It is a big responsibility, and one that the NAH team is takes seriously. Combined with the NAHBPC, we will be accepting bids through the Bike Polo Calendar in the next couple of months. Now is the time to be talking with your club about hosting either. The goal is to have a date and location announced in February of 2017. We anticipate that WHBPC will be in early September, and NAs will be in July. So what about regional qualifiers? We will continue the same policy as 2016. Regions are free determine their own means for sending qualified teams to NAs. However, this year we have a new system for how spots are allocated has been developed. Mark Aseltine, the new NAH tournament director will provide details in a separate post. So be ready for that!
The NA qualifier series, NAs, and Worlds only make up a very small part of bike polo. The NAH’s mission is to promote the sport, and we know that means growth in our community beyond a few tournaments. Bike polo lives and dies at the club level, and it is here that I strive to see the greatest changes in 2017. Growth can’t and won’t come from the top, it has to come from the clubs. So I want to issue a challenge to every club in NA. I want you to host a local tournament on your pick-up court. I believe the future of our sport isn’t big tournaments that are infrequent, but smaller high-frequency events. This creates more entry points for new players, and provides economic accessibility to the sport for people who have a harder time with other life obligations be them family or work. It also means sharing the burden of the real labor that many clubs carry year after year. Not every club has access to two courts, but we don’t need two courts to come together. And coming together is something that we need more now than ever. Really.
I’ll leave things here, and just say that I excited for the new year. Old polo might have been defined as “don’t be a dick,” but the absence of being a jerk isn’t enough. New polo has to be constructive in its ethos–so take care of each other. Make it your personal polo resolution for the new year to make it special for someone else, and I will to. See you on the court.
If you want to chat, drop me an email at: