The idea of keeping stats in polocrosse might be a foreign concept outside of the US. Here we are fortunate to have an extremely intelligent retired detective named Paul Johnson that travels to tournaments and takes statistics. He’s a living legend here and we are grateful for him.
The one stat that can define the talent of a team is their section conversion percentage. Simply put, how many times does a team score out of the number of their ball possessions determines this number. Just like basketball, in polocrosse both teams should roughly get the same number of possessions, so getting the most ball doesn’t necessarily translate to dominance. The South African elite players have somehow broken this “same number of possession” rule of thumb by winning a disproportionately high number of line up ball. They are the exception to my rule!
Knowing how important this statistic is should urge you to think a certain way about how you play polocrosse if you’re going to be a winner. What happens between the line up and the pass into the one across that thirty yard line is the key! What can you do to protect that ball and treat it like gold? Firstly, don’t show your racquet to your opponent unless you have to. Don’t encourage two players to double team you. Here’s the key, so listen closely… don’t unnecessarily pass the ball unless you are doing it at a high percent completion rate. Are you throwing it to your level or are you launching it and hoping it goes where you’d like?
In the US, we have African overarm playing style fever! We are trying to change our long held Aussie notions and switching to the concept of “if you can’t beat the Champs, join them” and trying to play like them. We changed our rulebook in 2016 to allow the overarm throw. Let me be clear, both styles of polocrosse, the African overarm and the Aussie underarm are tremendous and awesome to watch, but we must recognize that they are different. The African game focuses more on the racquet and the Aussie game focuses more on horsemanship. For example, it doesn’t require as much horsemanship to throw a goal in the overarm style or get rid of the ball with defensive pressure if you can just cross your horses center line.
The result I’ve feared is that our US game has gotten markedly sloppier. We are launching the ball HOPING it gets there. HOPE is not a good strategy. My advice is to practice this “outlet pass” in practice and not at tournaments. The outlet pass is a pass that typically helps advance the ball towards your goal to an open player which flashes ahead of you. Start getting good at the timing of a 5 yard outlet pass and work your way into the 30 yard passes the Africans have trademarked. The idea is that you’re passing it direcly from racquet to racquet, not your racquet to a bounce pass for your teammate.
Bottom Line: no matter which style you play, protect the ball! It’s gold and each time you forget that is a notch for your opponent!
I wish we had international statistics, but there’s only one Paul Johnson. Maybe someone will setup a Fun Me page to allow him to travel the world as a statistician. For the players he kept stats on in 2017, Robby Shuttles is the king that sits on top of the throne in this section conversion percentage category. His sections this year had a total of 266 possessions and their conversion percentages averaged out to 63%. Robby personally protects the ball because he’s had 191 total possessions this year and has retained possession 80% of the time without turning it over. This says a lot about Robby and his teammates. Their horses are phenomenal by the way (hint hint)!
Our highest rated players are 15 here in the US. In 2017, the four of them average 58.5% for section conversion. Our six 12 rated players (Paul kept stats on) averaged 46.7% and our eight 11 rated players averaged 42.8%. That says a lot. Even our best turn it over almost half of the time between the line up and the goal.
For some basic strategies on how to play polocrosse smartly, buy my eBook Polocrosse Made Simple!
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