I’ve been meaning to write a post about my experiences of Ladies’ Polo for a good while now and it seems quite fitting to do so today. My love affair with bike polo has been intermittent over the last few years – I knew most of our polo players through the fixed gear scene in Birmingham but it wasn’t until I went to chat to the all-female team Los Conos when they were playing in London that I gained the confidence to give it a go myself. Even then it wasn’t until my work commitments lessened and I played in my first tournament (London Open 2011 with iLL Pigs) that I was completely hooked and I’ve now been playing every week since September! I spent the majority of that first tournament sat in goal, absolutely terrified of ballsing up but the rush of competitive play was addictive and the camaraderie between players brilliant. Needless to say, Andy and Matt played so well that we made it into the winner’s bracket by way of beating our very own Drill Collins (Chris, Fin and Neil) on the first day. Sadly, we were knocked out the next day when I conceded a golden goal to Peinture French but c’est la vie (merde!)…
I’d began playing with members of the London Ladies Hardcourt Bike Polo Club a little more as I wanted to meet other girls who played and found out they were planning a tournament called Hell’s Belles – the UK’s first ladies majority bike polo tournament. The LLHBPC, in valuing the ‘mixed feel’ of throw-ins and broader tournaments, were seeking to encourage the continued rapid growth of women in bike polo. Vol. 1 took place in October and was a raging success. Players came from all over the UK, Europe and America and twenty teams battled it out to be crowned champions of the polo court. I joined a team with Ludo, an Italian bella and the lovely Eileen from Milwaukee and like a Brummie thorn between two roses I was determined to gain some better tournament experience. Sadly, Eileen fell ill the week of the tournament and Brendan from Dead Rappers gallantly stepped in with the promise of being our perma-goalie.
Our first game was a nightmare, I’d never played with B or Ludo before and hadn’t twigged that I was playing with a leftie either so I was constantly in the wrong place at the wrong time. Shotgun Sisters (Anna, Joanna and Elena) whooped us 5 – 1 in the blink of an eye but kindly came up to us post-game to point out where we were going wrong. Thank you Elena for your advice about blocking, I’ve never forgotten it! We comfortably won our next game against Victorious Secret (Bristol) 5 – 2 and starting thinking more tactically. However, Tornadoes took the wind out of our sails with a 5 – 1 defeat in the next game… I couldn’t think of a better team to lose to though and I thoroughly enjoyed playing them. We won our next game against Comfortable Shoes (London) 5 -3, although I do concede that B got impatient with our awful long passes and scored at least one of those goals. Game five, against Faster Pussy Cat Polo Polo was one of the weirdest I’ve ever played in; both our teams tried defensive tactics (in part due to earlier advice) and failed to score a goal. The game went to ‘golden goal’ after ten minutes at 0 – 0 and they finally put one past us but I was too tired to care! Our last game of the day was against The Polo Bears, a hybrid of Manchester ladies and French polo stalwart Jo Pompon (Call Me Daddy) and we managed to win this 4 -1 with Ludo and I rubbing our hands in glee at putting several goals past Jo who’d mercilessly ribbed us the night before at dinner. It was an amazing day of polo and having the rest of iLL Pigs/Fin there giving much needed advice was reassuring.
The second day of the tournament went by in a flash, I was feeling really ill and we were knocked out after two games. I ended up having to go home to bed and am still gutted to this day that I missed the final and the prize giving after! Fish and Chippies were worthy winners (Seabass, Valley and Leslie) and Penis Flytrap (Agata, Sabrina and Todd) runners up. Shotgun Sisters were the highest placed all-female team and Elena won Most Valued Player which I could not agree with more. Erin, Nik, Adrienne and the rest of the London Ladies did a fantastic job putting on the tournament and it was encouraging to see so many skillful female players on the court, as well as the support from the rest of the polo community. B and Ludo, thank you for being brilliant team-mates!
If you’ve made it this far through my endless ramblings than congratulations, your prize is this lovely video of Hell’s Belles made by our very own EMM:
So now Lexington’s ‘Ladies Army IV’ looms in April and the UK and Europe will be representing. Despite it being the week after my birthday, I don’t think I can afford the trip and will have to follow it from home but I wish all our teams the best of luck! The standard of polo now being playing by our girls is really high and I hope we can make waves across the pond. If you want to help send a team to Ladies Army then you can donate/help to raise money through this thread here.
Bike Polo is a co-ed sport and hopefully always will be but sometimes, like many other sports, ladies need the encouragement to find out for themselves that it’s not all testosterone fueled! The polo community is tight knit and I’m sure it will continue to support all of it’s players, regardless of sex. As for the future of Ladies’ Polo in Birmingham, well that remains to be seen. We’ve had girls come and go, then for a long time I was the only female player and most recently we’ve welcomed Mya into the BBP fold. With both of us improving weekly, we could possibly have a Birmingham female majority team at Hell’s Belles Vol. 2 (rumoured to be August). We have players from all walks of life; yes some of us are cycle messengers and bike mechanics but we also have within our scene; students, architects, office workers, illustrators, shopping centre managers(!) and people who haven’t cycled for years and then thought polo looked fun. What would be especially lovely though is if we could recruit even more girls to play with us – I cannot stress enough how fun, friendly and inclusive bike polo really is.
Happy International Women’s Day ladies of bike polo – you’re the best!