Date: Friday, March 12, 2021
Polo has historically been regarded as the domain of royalty, celebrities, jetsetters and fashion houses. It's not among the team sports that most Americans are exposed to in school, but you may be surprised to learn that there are 41 college & university polo teams from coast to coast, and 73 interscholastic polo teams in 28 states nationwide for high school age players to compete against regional rivals, with a concentration in New England (Newport Polo hosts both collegiate and interscholastic teams). Polo is a growing sport, with more than 200 active clubs and thousands of domestic players registered with the United States Polo Association (USPA). So how does someone take up what can be best described as hockey on horseback?
First, you don't need to have a peerage or be a Rockefeller to play polo. Polo isn't a budget sport, but training programs make it easy to get started with little investment. Polo clubs and the USPA have made the sport more accessible than ever, with Clubs offering adult and teen lesson programs that allow players to get their start. Weekly lessons, intro clinics, and co-ed beginner leagues, all offer the novice player opportunities to learn in a group setting with peers at comparable skill levels. Polo is a team sport, after all, and is best learned with other players, even under adapted measures to maintain safety in the current conditions. Trained polo horses, professional grade equipment, Certified Polo Instructors and regulation training facilties are all provided in Newport Polo's polo school, with over 30 years experience in introducing new players to learn the basics of the game.
Second, you don't have to know how to ride a horse. While most would think it a basic requirement, the first polo lesson is also the first time on a horse for a significant number of players. Just ask our friends from NBC-10 who took a lesson last January (watch the video). Polo ponies, as they are known, are incredibly versatile, and instructors are careful to pair each player with a horse that can handle their skill level. The best polo ponies intuitively know the game and will even help new players get in the right position to hit the ball. You can meet Newport Polo's equine athletes here. A typical polo lesson includes riding instruction for all participants, whether they are learning the basics of riding or adapting their riding technique to a new discipline, before turning to polo mechanics, rules, and strategy. Each lesson builds up players' skills to reach proficiency. Hand-eye coordination, balance & fitness, and athletic skills from other sporting pursuits are ideal prerequisites for new candidates, as it is, after all, a challenging, physically demanding sport.
So who actually plays polo? Polo is enjoyed in over 80 countries as a life-long pursuit from preteen to middle age, from all different backgrounds. Newport Polo's students and polo club members run the same gamut. Most are professionals in careers in every field conceivable from medicine, to tech, pharma and finance, to law, government, real estate, and beyond, that come together for a common passion. Polo is also a family sport, one of the few sports that are co-ed, and routinely combines players of different ages and abilities on the field at the same time. Nearly one-quarter of Newport Polo's participants are families, with the parents, children, and siblings all sharing the camaraderie of the sport. The enduring fascination of polo can last a lifetime, filling a desire for the competitive team sport!
Coming in April, we answer, what is the trajectory of a polo player?