I heard that Paris Bike Polo is doing a first flinta beginners day on sunday! So happy that more clubs are doing those! I am convinced that it is really important if we want to make the sport more welcoming and diverse to create this safe and empowering spaces for Flinta*.
Here in Bordeaux when we first came up with the idea, we faced some reluctance from within the clubs, including from one flinta player. But we also got a lot of support, some people lending their bikes every time, etc. Now we are doing Flinta beginner nights 3-4 times a year, and it became normal. We are not enough flinta* players to make regular flinta* trainings, so the question never really came up.
I started polo by coming for a regular training, with another flinta friend. It was all guys, there were no other beginners that night, and even if they were nice, we both loved the sport but it was soooo scary. It wasn’t easy to fit in, both as a beginner and as a flinta player, as there was only one flinta active in the club at that time, and very few beginners. We didn’t come back for another year.
We originally came with the idea of doing a flinta beginners night, because i am part of a local feminist bike gang. So we organized a first flinta beginners night with that bike gang and it was amazing, lots of people showed up, and that’s how I got hooked up with Bike polo! Now we generally have a lot of people coming to try out during those flinta beginner nights, but it is always a bit difficult to convert those into regular players.
It is a good first step to make a safe space to try the sport but it is not enough to make the club more mixed. The whole club has to be involved in making the space nice for everyone, being careful/play slower when beginners are on the court, helping/explaining/coaching, making passes instead of shooting, etc… Having loaner bikes and helmets that are well maintained, and small enough for everyone for example. Sound stupid but we always struggle to have enough equipment (bike, helmets) for people under 1m70, as most of the loaner equipment is ‘old’ equipment from the local current players or ex-players that are mostly guys, and taller than that.
I believe we really have to put in the efforts if we want to be as inclusive as we pretend, not only mixed in gender, but also welcoming for people of colors, fat people, … Organizing flinta nights, and mixed tournament is a good start, but there are lots of other things we can do, maintaining proper loaner equipment, in all sizes, so that you don’t need to buy a lot of pricey equipment when you start, coming up with scholarship or ‘pay what you can’ system to ease the access to tournaments for lower income etc.