Boston Bike Polo Player to Compete in World Championships in France
By day, Javier Garcia-Albea is a stay-at-home dad to two young boys. But at night, the 33-year-old plays bike polo—and he plays it well. So well, in fact, that Garcia-Albea, who competes through Boston Bike Polo, will travel to the World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships in France later this month.
“I moved to Boston in 2006 and I didn’t really know anybody, but I rode bikes,” Garcia-Albea says. “So I was riding bikes and a couple people I was riding with were starting a bike polo club. I had heard about bike polo before but I had never played, I had never really seen it.”
It wasn’t long before Garcia-Albea was hooked on the sport, which is played in teams of three and works more like hockey on bikes than traditional polo. Soon after that, he competed in the 2009 and 2011 world championships, placing in the top 20 both times.
This year, due to scheduling conflicts with his usual teammates from Boston, he’ll compete with two players from New York. “We decided to play in the wild card tournament. We wanted to play that just to warm up together as a team because we’ve never actually played together as a team before,” he says. “We’re pretty confident that we can do well and make it to the main event. If not, we’re going to look silly.”
Bike polo may still be an underground sport, but Garcia-Albea is far from the only player in Boston. After discovering the sport while a student at the University of Vermont, Addison Minott, an environmental engineer, is now president of Boston Bike Polo, which has been operating out of Allston since 2007.
Minott says that the club has about two dozen active players in addition to the beginners’ night it holds every Wednesday, which is a group made up of cyclists. “In general, it [attracts] someone who enjoys biking and has a past maybe in high school sports or something like that, someone who jives with that team mentality but also enjoys riding bikes,” he says.
That was true for Garcia-Albea, a former college tennis player and high school athlete, who missed playing competitive sports after graduating college. “I get off on athletic stuff, and bike polo is just a great outlet for your physicality, your aggression, and getting energy out,” he says. “This is probably going to be my last competitive season because now there’s a lot of 22-year-olds and younger that are just so good and they’re so fast, but us old guys can still hang in there.”
Although the sport sounds intimidating — players ride with one hand on their bike and with the other on their mallet, without being able to put their feet down at any point — Minott says bike polo attracts players of all ages and backgrounds, and notes that the Boston league is “actively working on” attracting more women to the sport. “Anyone who rides a bike will enjoy it,” he says. “There’s a little bit of a learning curve, which is why we do the beginners’ night. All you really need to get started is a bike, helmet, and we say maybe a little patience.”
Boston Bike Polo plays year-round at the Smith Playground in Allston. New players can try the sport on beginners’ night, held every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.