Hooooo boy. Well, I've had a few days to recover from a pretty grueling weekend up in Little Rock and, except for a lingering cold, I think I'm doing a little bit better. I'm not gonna lie, I was pretty disappointed with my performance. It was kinda funny, I went in hoping to make top eight, with just a very very small corner of my head wanting to win the whole thing. Then, I just wanted to finish middle of the pack. Then, just to qualify; then, just to make it to day two and finally, just to leave.
(Ignore my smile, I assure you I'm crying on the inside.)
It's not that the tournament wasn't well put together, it was just the combination of quite a few things that left me reeling by the end of the weekend. I'm not gonna go play-by-play and make excuses or anything, because the majority of people there were genuinely better than us. However, I DO think we were dealt some bad luck and had to play some teams that we had no chance against. Furthermore, it was pretty disheartening to see the two teams we DID beat, end up with a better ranking than us.
Even with not making the cut for day two, I don't think I would have taken it so bitterly if the weather hadn't been TERRIBLE. I mean, while you were playing, it was fine (aside from an extremely slippery surface), but I realized something that perhaps I should have known going in: Tournaments are a lotta waiting around and just a little bit of actually playing polo. I was literally shaking from a combination of the cold, wet, and nerves. Yes, I am bitching a bit about something I shoulda just sucked up, but screw it, the fact is, I felt MISERABLE.
But all that's behind me now. For a sec, I was thinking about pulling out of the South East Championship, but after a few days of kvetching and moaning, that old polo fervor returned, and I'm rarin' again. However, I did learn a few things.
First off, I HAVE to get an easier ratio. 33x19 is not cutting it, which amazes me. Or rather, it doesn't cut it on a larger court, which is, I think, the next thing that needs to change.
We're used to playing on a relatively small court with pretty short walls. Acceleration (or rather lack there-of), while still important, won't lose the game for you - but it seemed like most of the people we played were perfectly at home on a larger court. You may ask, what's the difference? It's all about space to maneuver. On our court, we get so packed in there, it's more like a chess game, with one move made at a time. Plus, with the permanent, non-moving, tall side-boards, you don't have to worry quite as much about hitting the side. On our court, that stops the game altogether because the court is constantly falling apart. In Little Rock, it was constant movement because there was plenty of room to get around someone, if you knew how.
Know-how, of course, is another weakness. It's not that I don't think I'm competent, especially on defense, but I'm not as fluid. I need to be able to maintain a pretty high speed and still have control. I also need to work on controlling the side opposite my mallet. You HAVE to be able to pick up those balls on your weak side, there's just no two ways about it.
Lastly, and most importantly perhaps, is scoring. I didn't score a single goal in Little Rock. I think picking up my speed will help this to an extent, but beyond that, I just need to shoot harder, faster, more frequently, and from varied angles. It's just as easy to recover a blocked/missed shot on offense as it is on defense, if not EASIER. After all, you have some idea where it's going. As long as you have someone back, it behooves you to shoot - once you get fast & hard enough, being goalie is almost reduced to luck. I literally couldn't see some of the shots people took in LR because they were moving so fast.
These are the things that I feel are the absolute minimum to be competitive at the next tournament I enter. So to that end, I REEEEEALLY wanna find a new spot for polo. So far, I feel like the only viable option is Glenview Park - it's just a matter of whether or not the city feels like helping us out with some lights. More to come, for now, it's time to fix a spoke and play more polo...