By JACQUELINE FERNANDEZ
ECHO PARK — If Melody Brocious invites you to play polo, expect to ride a bike, not a horse.
The 30-year-old Echo Park resident is a bike polo player. After moving to Los Angeles, Brocious, an avid cyclist, sought out other bicyclists to ride with. One of the riders she met was a bike polo player who invited her to check out a match.
“General cycling can be a very solitary activity,” Brocious said. “Bike polo is a team sport so you get chances to work together as a team, think about strategy and be competitive,” Brocious said. “It’s also very social. I’ve met some truly amazing women that inspired me and encouraged me to keep playing.”
She hasn’t stopped since she first tried it in 2013. She’s participated in many tournaments, plays with the The Los Angeles Bike Polo team, and plans to travel to Guadalajara, Mexico in June for an all female tournament.
Her bike, an Australian-made Lightfoot, is made with playing polo in mind. It’s a single-speed bike with a small gear ratio and a front disc brake.
Like most players, Brocious has a day job. She works as costume supervisor for a health care educational theater. When she’s not playing, she enjoys sewing and baking.
Bike polo has a DIY quality to it, with no sponsors stepping up to defray any of the costs. Players usually make their own mallets out of an old ski pole or golf club because wooden ones break when hit against the concrete.
The co-ed sport isn’t as easy as riding a bike, however. Beginners have to learn a lot of coordination. You have to drive your bike with one hand, constantly watch the ball, control your mallet and avoid crashing.
“Mental and physical development are involved in playing polo well,” she said. “The game is surprisingly emotional. You’re confronting your own failure at all times. I’ve been able to travel quite a bit and experience different cities by bicycle; I would not have the sort of opportunity without polo.”
Bike polo dates back to the 1800s, but the birth of hardcore bike polo happened 17 years ago in Seattle by a group of bike messengers, according to North American Hardcourt, a bike polo group.
Most “pickup” games start with players throwing in their mallet in the center of the court and 3 person teams are decided by a random toss, according a Welcome to Bike Polo video.The players line up on the sides (or wall) and the ball is put in the center of the court. The main rule is: you can’t put your foot on the floor. The team to score five goals wins.
“There are some that would say ‘Bike polo isn’t for everyone,’ but there I think there is something for every at polo. This includes teamwork, exercise and socializing and even if you don’t ride a bike, we are always looking for good hecklers.”
The Los Angeles Bike Polo team meets Sunday and Tuesday nights at the Montecito Heights Recreation Area. They usually have newbie nights every third Thursday of the month, but this month it was on Wednesday. You can check their Facebook page for updates.
Jacqueline Fernandez is a Los Angeles-based reporter who’s written for various media outlets such as Los Angeles Wave, The Miami Herald and WLRN-Miami Herald News.