Thursday, November 29, 2012

NAH Season Structure Proposal Quickish Thoughts

The NAH has announced a proposal for the 2013 season over on their site, and it basically breaks down to this:
  • Regional tournaments are closed to out of region teams - two thirds majority rule still in effect.
  • You can only play in one regional tournament.
  • Regional tournaments must be held mid-April to mid-June, NAs August/September, Worlds Sept/Oct.
  • Slots for NAs are to be weighted based on regional strength/performance in previous NAs.
All in all, a bit of a mixed bag for Memphis and the Southeast in general. Closing the tournaments to out-of-region teams ensures that the tournaments are truly regional championships, yes, but for Memphis, whose regional tournament has traditionally been one of the furthest to get to (12-16ish hours), it kind of takes away the option to play in a closer tournament. Yes, we could go to say, South Central instead of Southeast, but we'd have to find in-region teammates to do so, not to mention forfeit the chance to play in our own region.

Personally, I liked 2012's system, even if it was a bit more complicated. Give in-region players the chance to sign up first (a really nice, long chance) and possibly fill up the tournament before allowing other teams. Of course, this ends up having out-of-regioners qualify more than once, but you could just say that only in-regioners could qualify instead of closing the tournaments.

Still, think it's probably the RIGHT move, even if I don't like it as much. I really liked playing in South Central and Eastsides and just don't want to give it up. I know I can just travel to non-NAH tournaments in other regions, I just have way more of an incentive to do so when it's a qualifying tournament since vacation days are pretty precious, not to mention the expense of traveling in general.

On the other hand, the weighted slots is undeniably bad for the Southeast, even if it's good for North American polo in general. No matter how you slice it, we're at a bit of a disadvantage. Those regions rich with slots to start with have a greater chance of getting more/keeping the ones they have. Yes, I will admit the Southeast is not the strongest region out there, but it's a long climb to acquire any more spots. Last year, the Southeast only sent four players to the NA's. And it's not like we couldn't have had more - we could have fielded the allotted eight, but the will just wasn't there. Since I didn't have a chance to go myself, I can only speculate, but I suppose the SE qualifiers either didn't have the means to get there or simply thought they'd be beaten too badly and thus it wasn't worth it. Even if they were right, though, we didn't even give ourselves the chance to get beaten - perhaps more teams would have gone if they'd have known that future spots in the NA's were on the line.

All that said, I get it. This system definitely allows the NA's to fill with the most talented teams possible, it just doesn't do much for the Southeast. I see it kind of the same way I see Swiss Rounds. Yes, it accurately separates the top of the field from everyone else, it just does so by throwing the less experienced players under the bus. It's what we have right now, and it'll work, and it makes sense. Some day I dream of city league games leading to state, region, etc, or even some kind of point based system. Just kind of a bummer that my official polo "season" is pretty much limited to as little as four games.

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