Never Underestimate Your Opponent: Life Lessons From the Polo Field

October 25, 2013 at 9:59 pm (Excellence in Business, Freedom, Letting go, Polo, Relationships) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Yes you have heard it before but, are you sure you know their weakness and it is your strength. Is it? Maybe thinking you have sized it all up is your weak link?

I have stated before I’m no Nacho Figueras but I am constantly improving my skills through riding outside of polo, learning more about the ten zillion rules we have in the United States Polo Association (USPA) and watching  playbacks from our Go Pro to analyze what I need to work on. What I notice is that as my riding improves I am still not in a rush to join the dusty cloud of ponies with riders all vying for the ball like a pack of dogs with a tennis ball. I am content to play defense and watch it all go down at a safe distance analyzing how each player is handling their opportunities and ready for one of my team mates to back shot the ball back towards our goal or at least away from the fray!

Often even my trusty team mates are so focused on ball ball ball that they are missing the bigger picture of changing the line and getting the ball to the side even…anywhere but in the fray. It is assumed you will shoot towards your goal and when you take it to the sides and out of the middle it takes a second for it to register with the ball followers. Our motto in polo is Man/line/ball although arguably it may be more accurate to say line/man/ball. The point here is ball is not the first priority. Mind the man (staying on your opponent to point of shadowing) and you he will lead you to the ball as you try to ride him off or keep him from said ball. Line means PAY ATTENTION to the actual invisible line the ball makes as it travels across the field or arena. There are very specific rules regarding rights of way and traffic patterns Follow the line and you lower the risk of fouling your way along as well as it will lead you to the ball and in good position to take advantage of making a play on it.

Because I play defense and don’t ride full throttle after every hit some assume (wrongly) that I’m just poking along in the background. I’m not, but I am a-okay with my opponents thinking that!  I am playing smart being in a position to assume control of the ball when it gets shot back out of the crowd. I am often alone back nearer our goal because of being overlooked. Once I am on the line and ball it is unlikely I will let you have it back. I will counter hook, dribble, back shot and nearside shot to keep control all while your team mates are still half way across the field galloping ever nearer.

1383605_10202021229272274_130187807_n So next time in business or life you think you have the sure advantage as you play offense remember somebody out there is playing defense and watching your plays waiting to make their move on your play.

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Life Lessons From the Polo Field. Polo is Played for a Short Season and Therefore Every Match is Precious.

October 2, 2013 at 4:01 am (Freedom, Health, Letting go, LoVe, Polo, Relationships) (, , , , , , )

When I went on the San Diego Polo club website back in March to check on opening day I saw something I had never noticed before…Polo School.  Immediately my blood started rushing through my veins, my heart beat faster and I could hear the hooves pounding the grass beneath the ponies. What was this sensation I felt? I called and reached no one so I drove by the clubhouse one day and inquired as to when the school opened. I was told by a very nice lady that it would be soon and to call the number on the card she gave me for updates. I did check back…weekly.

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Finally opening day for Polo school. and I was out of town! I came the second week ready to play (well sort of ready anyhow). I played foot and ball and took my first lesson and it was love at first chukker. I had a great first game and signed up for more lessons that same day happily tossing my American Express card to Gillian the school goddess and coordinator.

Week two and I realized already this game was changing me at a very basic level. I was whistling during the week, happily getting my dailies accomplished and thankful I had the opportunity each week to be an athlete while riding a four legged athlete.

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Many of the people I learned to play polo with dropped out at some point and new people came to see what polo was all about. Schedules and other factors constantly changed the teams and opponents from class to class.
photo (16)Sami shown here was an early horse I rode after Chester and, often as not Sox (of unscheduled dismount during the Red Baron bash fame) and so I got a little better each week as the summer warmed up and the weeks passed. I also took riding lessons during the week near my home to strengthen my muscles and balance my seat.

There is something about understanding that this life is seasonal and the players and ponies change in time that reminds me that this is the same in my life. I must be fully present in the match in front of me. It will never be repeated. This is the game, the only one that exists in space and time…the one I am in right now on the horse I am on and with these players. Even the dirt in the arena changes as hooves stomp it down and divot holes as well as marks from hitting the ball or the dirt as happens also changes the earth upon which we ride.

The thing about polo is everybody wins. Just showing up and playing is winning. We only lose when we fail to show up and keep learning and playing and more importantly learning from our mistakes. Polo is a complex game with a zillion rules and possibilities since it is a high action contact sport. It has been referred to as “a bone crushing sport” . When we are playing even at a trot we feel the wind in our hair and picture ourselves galloping across the grass at top speed making the goal all while looking perfectly coiffed in the saddle. The more reality based version would involve massive amounts of sweat coming from deep within our cells pouring down our backs and fronts as well as near misses and unscheduled dismounts (read thumping the ground).

When I am not playing and sweating and loving every minute there is the beautiful thing called a pro match held on Sundays at clubs around the world in various seasons. Ours ended on Sunday but we went out with a bang! Eight chukkers sudden death with a tied match 11-11. The crowd was on the edge of their seats for every minute of this match as it was played full throttle as it was for the USPA Spreckles Cup. It ended as it started full energy and everything that makes polo the great and enduring sport it is.

Charity stomps the divots

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