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"High octane night" in your town? How do you organize it?

Does your club have a high octane night? i think East Van coined that term. A night for your A (and B?) players to play faster / more competitive / more tournament style polo.

I know it's caused drama in other places, and the one time we tried it in Toronto it failed for a few different reasons, and pissed some people off. We called it Fuck off Fridays, a nod to what Navid used to call Welcome Wednesdays, which became a weekly and pretty popular rookie night last year.

In the end it didn't really work, except for dissuading the rookies from showing up. So it was basically all the A and B and some C players, but no D players, the same as most other nights. We didn't have a good way to decide or communicate who the night was for. Someone recently mentioned the way some roller derby clubs do it--with skill and speed tests, basically.

We tried for a week or two, people got butt hurt. We made it team night instead. When it was going strong, before worlds mostly, we had 8ish teams. Newer players often didn't have teams, and it was plainly stated that there wasn't going to be any easy play. It turned out to be a way to be largely inclusive but still have High Octane play.

The only reason anyone does anything.
For the lulz.

In Winnipeg we ran a league night for a couple months. It worked in a similar way. Anyone of any skill level could put together a league team but it was made clear that the format was to encourage high paced tournament play. We had 5 teams play every Thursday with a very wide range of skills.

league night was the best for so many different reasons.

"team night" sounds like an easier approach; a team of rookie players could show up and have fun (and get beaten), but established A and B teams could still play each other without feeling bad about mucking up a pickup night.
I think this sounds like a good solution, especially for clubs with enough non-A players to maintain regular turnout at other (non-team) pickup nights.

It's also great for clubs who struggle to get 6 people in the same time/place. a league match forces a little bit of commitment out of whoever is playing that night to get out, and get out on time. The pickup matches before and after are fun for everybody. The games end up being a little bit more competitive just because you are going to keep score and actually remember the score the next day.

TITS Night... Taking It Too Seriously.

Depending on how close the next tournament is, 'Team Night' in Seattle ranges from alternating team games with pickup games to "don't show up without a team." The progression in that time is good though, because pickup people will experience what it means to play on team night, thus (hopefully) forming more teams. You don't necessarily need to *be* an 'A' Team, you just need to be *a* team. :P

If you aren't sinning, Jesus died for nothing.

*Done on my phone while on the train - no edits*

I've been involved with HON since it started in 2009. Originally it was an idea to have competitive games to prepare for tournaments while keeping pickup less serious and more inclusive.

After some time the entire club knew of its existence and became a bone of contention within the club. Last year we played HON maybe 5 times all year as a result.

So this year we have attempted to legitimize the process by having tryouts. One week night and one weekend day. Then we played regular pickup and I recorded wins/losses and +/-. The assumption being the best players are likely to win more and have a better +/-. There is a component of luck with teammates that could not removed. The results were then tabulated and shared with the entire club.

Anyone in the club could register to tryout. We had 30 register (a number of folks didn't register because they didn't want to play HON) If you registered you got to vote who you thought deserved should be in HON. The data from the tryout was only for information and one was not required to vote based on the data. People voted for 15 deserving players (15 is our current number in HON).

Now we play every Wednesday night if the weather cooperates. The tryouts will be twice a year.

We also have team nights.

I hope that makes sense.

Starting next week, DC is doing a six week run of a mini-league/team night. I think our club is pretty close, so no real hard feelings I've noticed so far. People seem enthusiastic, and eager to do more competitive meaningful play that more closely resembles tournament matches. We're also trying to put an emphasis on reffing, so it's about good habits.

Club culture might factor in many ways. We're also doing stuff with the club that keeps us from getting too serious (or too serious all the time).

Combination of choice: Smash + Bang

In SF, Ace organized a HO day (sunday). Initially it was invite only and organized by text, which pretty quickly turned into a shit show. Then an invitation went out to the whole club, with anyone welcome, but a strong emphasis on playing good polo and improving. The response has been excellent, and strikes a good balance - there is high level polo, less sitting around than normal pickup nights, and no one is butt hurt.

Also, it's also been a good forum for trying out potential game changes like allowing wrist shots or different proposed rating systems.


High octane or whatever you want to call it is doomed to failure in most places due to most players inability to accurately gauge their own skill level


If you aren't sinning, Jesus died for nothing.

This is the complete other end of the spectrum, but I don't think the question of how to facilitate a dedicated HO night is nearly as important as making sure your club has a functioning beginner/rookie night.


We're trying something a little different on Wednesdays.

We've made self-formed teams, broken up into an A and a B group (four teams each). Each round consists of 2x round robin within your group. After each round the top B group gets promoted to A and the bottom A group gets relegated to B. Rinse, repeat.

Top teams get to play each other, B teams get practice against good competition and groups are (eventually) determined based on record, not opinion. After X (in our case 3) rounds, teams can mix it up and groups get reset. At least, that's assuming the whole thing doesn't fall apart before then.

OK but how do you decide who's A and B at the outset? Do people just self-organize themselves into teams? If so, how do you decide which four teams are A and which are B?

Yes, people form their own teams, just like you would for a tournament. One of the goals of this thing is to encourage team chemistry for tournaments later on.

Initial rankings are at the organizers' discretion. But really it's pretty obvious, with the exception of a couple borderline teams.

Nobody's complaining because they're never more than one round away from the A's. Can't win the B group? You don't belong in the A. Not good enough for the A's? You'll be bumped down next week.

Edit: The idea was completely stolen from English and other European soccer ranking systems. If you play enough rounds, you should end up with appropriate groupings, no matter what the initial rankings were.

I echo what John said. Also, we were starting to have a lot of new players here in DC and that's why we were trying to get another night of polo a week. John took this opportunity to come up with this system which we will keep very flexible to accommodate everyone. Our regular pick up nights were getting so chaotic and frustrating that we were honestly starting loose more experienced players. This why I assume people were very welcoming to this new change of pace. So far people have been receptive and it will be interesting to see if we start a new one after 6 weeks.

polo o muetre

PierreD wrote:

I echo what John said. Also, we were starting to have a lot of new players here in DC and that's why we were trying to get another night of polo a week. John took this opportunity to come up with this system which we will keep very flexible to accommodate everyone. Our regular pick up nights were getting so chaotic and frustrating that we were honestly starting loose more experienced players. This why I assume people were very welcoming to this new change of pace. So far people have been receptive and it will be interesting to see if we start a new one after 6 weeks.

i wish we had problems of too many people showing up....


Are you doing this every Wednesday? Over a series of Wednesdays? I'd think you'd need two courts to run something like this: 8 teams, 16 games,rinse/repeat...

Scheduling is a challenge. It's not easy getting people committed to one session time. We haven't built up the organization enough to distribute league games over the 5-8 sessions where people get together to play polo. It's impossible for us to get everyone to commit to one night, and with one court and limited time it wouldn't make a ton of sense to even try it.

I think a good structure needs to be able to schedule league games a week ahead of time so people know when/who to play. That assumes you want more official polo time and less sideline chat/drink time.

We're alternating Wednesdays between A and B, so on average each team plays every other Wednesday. So 12 games (total) per week.

Scheduling and attendance are really what will make or break it. As mentioned, some of our pickup nights are going more than three games deep (in January) and people are getting tired of sitting in the cold for an hour and then playing a mismatched game. Hopefully the opportunity to play lots of well matched games will be the motivation they need to show up when they're scheduled. So far the response has been good, but we'll see how it goes in practice.

We just finished the second week of our second "season" of team night in DC. It's been a success so far but we've learned a few lessons as well.

Instead of replacing an existing pickup night we added a night to the schedule. Nobody wants to show up for pickup and be told "Sorry, you're not on the schedule."

The promotion/relegation system that I talked about earlier worked OK for the first season, but we decided to go with bye weeks for the second time around. I think for a big club with deep talent you still want some mobility between groups, but we had a natural break in talent at five teams.

Predictably, the B group had a lot of attendance problems. This lead to some unnecessary bad feelings and wasn't really working, so we're doing it differently. This time around you can bring a full team to B night if you have one, or just show up and play if you don't. No promotion this time around, but if a team plays consistently well together we'll figure out a way for them to get a chance at the A group next time.

Having refs has helped us understand the rules a lot better. It's also given us more practice reffing and making calls confidently. Nobody really wants refs at pickup so it's been good to have a separate thing.

We've also been lucky to have a team come up from RVA/Charlottesville for Wednesday night games. Having them around has definitely increased the level of play, which hopefully prepares us better for tournaments. It's also good to make sure that our interpretation of rules is consistent with other clubs.

We've had to be really flexible with scheduling, and for the A group we've had a lot of success having players or entire teams fill in when necessary. It's not something that happens on its own, someone has to take the responsibility of organizing, but it's also not a ton of work to make sure four teams show up.

We're doing short 6-8 week sessions and then reviewing and making changes in between. So far it's working out, we're playing good polo and hopefully we'll see some benefits in the long run.