Banning a player from a tournament for being too young?

This is NOT a hypothetical issue.

About two years ago I started playing and training with my kids (now 9, 13 and 16 years old).

Last summer we started going to tournaments and since then they are highly motivated and having a lot of fun playing polo on pickup AND even more on tournaments.

So far it has been a great experience for them and me and we have only gotten encouraging and supportive feedback.

However very recently we registered for a tournament and got the feedback from the organizer asking us to withdraw the registration of our youngest because they would be concerned about her safety.

I am very bummed by this kind of announcement.

The argumentation went somehow that players in (certain?) tournaments want to play more competitive and do not want to be concerned about taking care too much of other players safety.

While this argument covers itself as “noble guarding of the weak” I have the feeling that this is just an unwillingness to get out of the privileged comfort zone of having to take care of weaker players AND presupposing other players don’t want to either.

My child definitely plays better and safer than some adult (older) players whom would never been excluded from a tournament for “being unsafe” on the court. So I am sure that the judgment derives from “looking more fragile” than the “average” poloplayer (whatever that could be).

Anyway, I want to know what the polo-world thinks about that and I also I want to know to what tournaments I am able to register in the future.

Should there be a minimum age to enter tournaments? (And if so how am I ever able to keep my child playing)

On what base can this be decided? I mean there is a lot of more “dangerous” sports out there and kids much younger attending in it.

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I think there shouldn’t be any age limit whatsoever. Bikepolo as I know it is an inclusive sport. That being said, tournament organisers make their own decisions, so let’s talk to them to make sure everyone gets on board!
Also: big props to you and your family for bringing on the next generation!

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Hahaha, I’m about one/one and a half head taller than your youngest. I don’t remember any player equally taller than me ever complaining about playing against me or any other equally small player for those reasons. (And yes, I get that the difference between 1,80 and 1,40 is a lot bigger than 1,80 and 1,60. But still, it should be manageable on court.)

So why complain when the person it affects is young? This is a very adultistic view, not at all inclusive.

I hope that the community in general welcomes players of all ages. LeftyPaul has a point though. Organisers can make their own decisions. But I hope their argumentation isn´t common ground for the community because it makes me very concerned for everyone’s safety (“The argumentation went somehow that players in (certain?) tournaments want to play more competitive and do not want to be concerned about taking care too much of other players safety.”)

If that argument was true (which I hope it’s not), everyone else seems to be a bigger threat to safety on court. I saw your kids play and there is no reason to believe the games are unsafe when they’re on court. They certainly know the rules of the game and have great bike handling, including your youngest. These things alone contribute a lot to safety on court. I’ve seen adult newbies make games a lot more unsafe on the court!

In the end we´re all responsible for the safety of the players around us. Being it by not drinking or consuming substances, by playing by the rules, by leaving people a bit of space if we see their bike-handling is not yet good enough.

P.S.: Speaking as an organiser, I can only emphasise to other organisers the importance of checking with the parents/legal guardians of a minor player. Minors should either be accompanied by their parents/legal guardians, who have to sign the waiver for them. If parents/legal guardians can´t tag along, they need to nominate a person in charge of their minor in writing and also leave their contact details with them.

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#FREETHEYOUNG

and let’s all take care of each other on court :slight_smile:

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Oh wow I never expected this could happen! It makes me sad and disappointed to see how the polo club I was part of for 8 years turned. Specially their were always highly interested to bring this sport to a younger generation. This sport is open for everyone and this is one big reason it makes so special! If the the club who decide to organize a tournament they should know before which format they wanna play, to come up with sth like that during the registration time is definitely too late and a shame for the whole club. There were already invitational tournaments happen in this community, so it’s just a question of communication. And to hide behind the argument and the community that it could be too dangerous for the young player, is in my view just a weakness not being able to say clear that the ones who decided are not willing to take care of each other. So please don’t talk for me!!!

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I also do think that one of the main reasons that i find polo so awesome is, that it is open for everyone regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, height, weight, etc.! and there should not be a minimum age to enter tournaments!
If players on the court are not caring about the safety of other players on the court, then I think this is the bigger problem to discuss. Why should competivity mean: I am playing super hard and rough and run everyone over - when it is in the rules explained what are legal checks, etc.? In general it is not possible for small people to have legal body contact to tall people?
Why does competivity not mean: I am adjusting to my team and my opponent team and play according to my and their strengths the best way possible. fair and safe for everyone. and this does not exclude playing hard/rough/etc.
and anyways i think it is still the legal guardians to say what is best for their kids - of course polo is a sport with accidents sometime, but accidents happen everywhere and to trying to protect others in terms of excluding them from a tournament - this is super patronizing and it sucks!

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That’s tough. As a fairly serious competitive player, I’d personally feel fine accommodating any player who could hold a mallet and pedal a bike.

I can imagine only one example where I might agree with the organiser. If there is an incredibly weak team that cannot put up a serious competitive effort against the vast majority of the teams then this might have the undesirable effect of encouraging a team who is equally matched with a number of other teams to come out gunning for goal difference at some point. If you combine this skill difference with the obvious physical difference and fragility of a child then you might have a recipe for disaster. Imagine coming to your last game on day two and realising that you are just outside of the top 12 and to go through to the last day you need a significant goal difference that you perceive as possible against the team with the young player given the evident skill disparity. I’m the kind of player who would never come out gunning for a goal difference of this kind if it meant a serious risk to the health and safety of another player. I think in this instance, we might think of this matchup as an unfair outcome. I’m imagining a non-round robin scenario where the team you are looking to beat with regard to goal difference has not faced the weak team with the young player. This seems like an unjust outcome as there is a significant moral requirement placed on the team in question that has not been placed on the team they are attempting to climb above to make day three.

Perhaps there are better ways to mete out such a situation without removing the team in question. I’m not sure. It comes down to how popular the tournament is and how competitive the field is going to be IMO. If it’s just a club tourney then I doubt this would be a problem but I also respect that different organisers have different tolerance for risk. Let’s not pile on just yet until we hear all the facts. Sorry to play devil’s avocado.

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Richie, I think excluding a player based on their age is BS.

At most tournaments there is a wide mix of skill levels, and I really doubt you would sign your kids up to a tournament that is going to be totally out of their league (eg. Epiphany). If anyone has an interest in keeping your kids safe, it is you.

To make the argument that your kid is excluded to protect them is paternalistic and rude. You are the parent, and you have decided it is safe, and that is your decision to make.

Also, your kids slay, especially your youngest. It is super weird to me that someone wouldn’t want to encourage them to play more, and to help them become better players by competing against them in tournaments.

I really hope the tournament organizers reconsider their decision.

#LetTheKidsPlay #TheKidsAreAlright

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In that scenario, if the skill difference is that high, there is no need to crush the “weak” player into the wall to steal the ball (in case they even have the ball). There is not need to go 1m in front of the goalie and pull your hardest shot (I doubt the kid would be put in goal here). You just play smart, it’s your best chance for most goals, or you are simply not as much more skilled than the kid as you thought, lol.

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Yeah, I agree. Perhaps the “recipe for disaster” was overstating it. I’m thinking of what might happen if the weak team with the young player decides to play hard defence at the edge of the crease. This seems rational given the likelihood that it will maximise their chance of scoring from a loose ball long shot if their opponents play three up. What seems unfair about this outcome for some team looking to increase goal difference is that there seems like a moral requirement to not rip zingers at the kid sitting in front of the crease. This moral requirement is inflicted only on the teams who play this weak team, assuming no round robin. Perhaps its a long bow to draw but it does qualify as a moral problem worthy of consideration IMO. Not least of all, because not everyone will choose the high road if the situation arises.

What really bothers me here even more, that this is happening in the kontext of a mxd tourney, which in my opinion are about inclusion in any way!
I mean in what position are this one or two male persons to declare f.'s condition and body and exclude her? What about newbies or extremely small or lightweight persons in general, arent they allowed to play either from now on? Newbies, who arent in that much bikecontrol yet, are also people that need to be taken care of in the game, so i dont really see the point? If they want only certain players, they need to change the format to “A- players only” or whatever, make a statement about it.
It makes me angry, that this keeps on happening to flintas (especially sad in bikepolo), being told they are not strong or good enough to participate in sports (this can also happen unintentionally), while really young male players were supported only, when the started to play polo!! I really don’t want this message being sent to f. from our bikepolo community! :cry:

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I have never seen a clearly physically small/weak/slow/tiny/unskilled player getting harmed by a more able player in over 100 tournaments. There is simply no need for it. A high difference in skill is a relaxed win, not a supertough game. What is more dangerous is perhaps another not very able player who wants to prove they can beat them and start playing hard and dangerous. It’s just a lame excuse if you ask me.

If you want to do an elite slayer tournament just say it before registration OR even better make it invitational, so no “unwanted” players come, if that is what you really want to do OR find a place where you can build 3 courts, write me a message and let’s talk European Championsips.

Otherwise, accept that our community is diverse!

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The average height and weight of an 8-year-old child (boy or girl) are 125cm and 25kg respectively. I don’t think it’s clear that this issue has anything to do with gender. If the child were on the low end of the distribution then they might be as low as 115cm and 21kg. We aren’t discussing stature that is in any way equivalent to a small adult.

People who organise bike polo tournaments should be given scope to decide the risks they are willing to take as there is no financial gain at stake and the organisers only stand to lose if something goes wrong. It’s incredibly silly to believe that there aren’t unique risks to involving children in a tournament at any level. Whether these risks are sufficient to require exclusion is entirely at the discretion of the organisers. I often warn people to keep an eye out for wayward balls if they want to watch from behind the goals. If a family with children stands behind goals I don’t “advise” them, I tell them that it’s not safe for children to stand behind goals and move them. I’ve stopped a game at least once for children behind the net at a local tournament.

If inclusion is important at any level of the sport then it should be the inclusion of tournament organisers as they are far rarer than players and the idea of player inclusion is limited by their existence. The readiness to criticise organisers in public for something they may have good reasons for is unwise IMO. If you want to include children then run a tournament. I don’t think we’ve had to deal with this problem before and it’s not as clear cut as is being suggested.

Limit of liability waivers in Australia are often challenged in court when the risk that led to a serious incapacitating injury was “foreseeable” and is therefore deemed to be “unreasonable”. It is incumbent on the defendant to show what evidence you had at the time of incident for believing the practice that ended in injury is safe and the consequences therefore unexpected. I know this because I help found one of Australia’s first kitesurfing schools. I wouldn’t want to test a judge if he had to rule on whether the traumatic brain injury sustained by a seven-year-old during a bike polo tournament was foreseeable and the risk therefore unreasonable and liability not therefore waived.

“But your honour, I’ve been to over 100 bike polo tournaments and this has never happened”.

“How many of those tournaments contained children that weighed 25kg?”

“None your honour”

“Do you know of any sports that are roughly equivalent and did you attempt to assess the prevalence of TBI within the children of that sport”

“No”

“On what did you base your risk analysis then?”

“Does the risk of deterring girls from playing sport count? How about the risk of getting pilloried online?”

I rest my case.

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As an organizer, I would am most worried about a kid who is a spectator and gets hit. You can remind people over and over again, a kid may still still climb up and get a stick in the face if timing is just bad. Their parents could sue, you could get in trouble (additional to the feeling of guilt because of that poor kid). Even an injured adult spectator could sue. It’s a quite possible scenario and a risk all organizers take.

A kid on the court is probably safer. If the parents are willing to take the risk who are respected, decade long veterans in the community and who are confident their kid is safe and knows how the game works, I am not so worried about. Polo community will play accordingly around that kid, because there is zero need for hard play. I have seen kids around 10 in tournaments. They only really take part in play if the opponents really let them, actively let them, actively play slow, actively lose the ball, actively not take the ball right back, etc. No different than when playing against a noobie adult.

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I have to say, that this got a bit heated, considering we don’t exactly know how that conversation went and what the intent of the organizer was. I would not accuse anyone of anything at this point. I consider this more a “what if” discussion and find a lot of the points raised quite interesting and worth considering in the future.

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I don’t agree with your statement that this is a theoretical question. In his initial post, Richie explicitly stated that the issue is NOT hypothetical, and I think by that he intended to get feedback from the community specifically as confirmation for the case of his child in this specific tournament. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) Which I think the community gave pretty clearly. Hope this helps!

There are still many ways this conversation could have gone and also the concern for safety could be honest, despite the way it was argued.

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I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be overly combative. It’s sometimes hard for me to detect the tone of what I’m typing because I’m hyper focused on the reasoning.

My general approach is just to point out the fallibility of the assumptions made and in this case, given the lack of specifics in the OP, we are making many assumptions. I tried to apply the principle of charity to the OP and assume that the vagueness of the story isn’t in order to obscure the facts. To consider my position in detail in a way that is not abstract I’d want to know the following details:

  • exactly how tall and heavy is the player in question?
  • what is their level?
  • is the organiser making their decision on direct knowledge of the aforementioned facts about the player or making assumptions based on age having never seen the child play polo?
  • did the organiser offer an explanation with the prohibition?
  • what was the nature of the tournament?

Without these facts I think that we must hypothesise in ways that are bound to be abstract. I can still imagine there being justifying reasons for exclusion based on the arguments I have made but I’d be more than willing to concede that these do not apply in this specific situation if my reasons fail given that the relevant facts rule them out as possible motivations.

Sorry if this sounds clinical and cold. I’m a philosophy geek so this is just how I address questions like this.

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Thanks for all your feedback so far and taking time to answer.

We have been talking to an organizer and have a statement from them. They also agreed on make it public.

I was hoping more of a general discussion about it, as this will continue to be an issue for me/us.

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To me it seems that the main reason for excluding the kids seemed to be a certain presupposition of what kind of sport polo ist /should be. It has been argued that polo would be a full-contact sport where accidants sometimes happen, and “things can get a little heated up”.

I strongly contest that view for a couple of reasons.

  1. Bike Polo is a limited-contact sport, if it is not moving in the direction of a non-contact sport. We are not in 2009 anymore.

  2. “Things can get a little heated-up”: This is - if anything - a bad excuse and a privilliged euphemism for people not playing by the rules. Aside from the fact that this usually happenes when aggressively playing teams have aready been fouling each other, and so on this is basically beahavior I don’t want to see on the court.
    I mean we are takling about how players have to be able to handle their bikes/mallets in order not to harm other players, so this should even more count for their emotions/mind.

  3. “Risk analysis”
    The most common injuries in Bikepolo are either injuries that equal injuries that are equivalent so those that happen in cycling in general plus face injuries that derive from ball or mallet handling. While the latter can be easily handled by making face guards mandatory for underaged players (especially as they are smaller and have their heads lower) the former is so general you might as well forbid kids cycling in general.
    Again the concern is for a much bigger player “running over” a way physical inferiour player? That is a big misconduct that has to lead in expelling the player form the game, if not the tournament. And this counts for adults equal as much as for kids.
    Some limited contact is allowed on the ball handler, but never is it okay to put force or momentum on the other player. correct me if I am wrong here.

  4. “Tournament organizers make their own decisions”
    Of course they do. But does that make them immune to criticism? If they exclude somebody it has to be a very good reason. Deeming it unfair for Poloplayers to have a permanent consideration for kids on the court is not one. At least not for what I know and love polo of. An inclusive sport.
    So yeah I don’t await reconsideration or anything but this is clearly not what I think Polo is/is about.
    I can run a tournament. As a matter of fact I will.

Sidenote: I am really sick of middle-aged guys high-fiveing themselves how inclusive and diverse bike polo is where it is that, not because, but inspite of them. It means to be willing to sacrifice something of your own comfort for the other person, not jus verbally celabrate yourself and being defensive as soonb as somebody brings up the issue.

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