There is hope on the horizon for polo in America, as the United States Polo Association has begun to take an active role in growing and cultivating talented young American players. The USPA established the Team USPA program in 2009 to grow and sustain the sport of polo by identifying talented young American players and providing opportunities to enhance their abilities. Step brothers Will Tankard, son of Cissie Snow, and Nick Snow, son of Crocker, were both selected to the program last year and have strong connections here at Myopia.
Tankard, originally from Tennessee, is rated at three goals and will be playing in July and August with the Colloredo-Mansfeld family on their Black Oak team. Nick, a four-goal player, is no stranger here at Myopia, having honed his polo skills on Winthrop and Gibney field and returning often to play during the summers. Both players were selected to play for their country for the World Championship Federation of International Polo tournament to be held in San Luis, Argentina.
In the first two years of the program, more than 150 applications were submitted from American polo players aged 18 to 25. After an extensive selection process, the USPA announced the first 24 players chosen for Team USPA and introduced them to the program at a four-day clinic in Wellington, Florida. In February 2011, 12 new members were welcomed to the program in the same initiation clinic in Wellington.
The introductory clinic in Florida focuses on familiarizing all of the kids with each other and also gives them a chance to show their skills on the field. An important aspect of polo is camaraderie, and clinic facilitators believe that the relationships between these young players will help them grow and last a lifetime. The players are also introduced to high-goal professionals, sponsors, and team managers, which can lead to numerous job and mentor opportunities, as it has done for past participants. Over the course of the four-day clinic, the new Team USPA members attend lectures by top industry professionals on topics ranging from polo 101 to sports psychology to mallet craftsmanship. In addition, the players participate in coached practices and games, where their talent is scouted from the sidelines by team managers and pros.
This past season in Florida, six Team USPA players trained to compete on the USA National Team in the Federation of International Polo (FIP) Championship Tournament. Team USPA members Nick Snow, Mason Wroe, Calixto Garcia-Velez, Chris Collins, Steve Krueger, and Carlitos Galindo practiced weekly with their coach, Charlie Muldoon, and team captain John Gobin in Boca Raton, Florida. Should the team prevail in the Zone A Playoffs held in the Dominican Republic, they will compete in San Luis, Argentina, this fall for the world-championship event.
In the summer months, the program heads to Sheridan, Wyoming, where the focus is on working with green (untrained) horses and playing better polo. Professional American players like Owen Rinehart, Tommy Wayman, Julio Arellano, Jeff Blake, Red Armour, and Tiger Kneece work one-on-one with the participating Team USPA members to help improve their polo skills. They are given the opportunity to play with some of the best American players of all time while they learn about training horses and the art of choosing the proper bit. They also complete their USPA Umpire Certification with Head Umpire Steve Lane.
As the program grew, Team USPA Director Kris Bowman and Team USPA Chairman Charles Smith decided the next step was to set up a place where these young American pros could “hang up their hats.” With former 10-goal players Adam Snow and Owen Rinehart committed to helping Team USPA reach their maximum potential, they concluded that the best place for the Team USPA stables would be right down the road from their farms in Aiken, South Carolina. During the spring and fall seasons, Team USPA members are invited to keep their horses at this facility and to practice with Snow and Rinehart twice a week. Each player is matched up with a mentor for additional one-on-one training, during which they are exposed to the daily routines of their mentors and the care of their horses.
Team USPA has provided these exceptional young athletes opportunities that every amateur polo player dreams of. After all, the best way to improve is to learn from the successes of one’s predecessors. To date, 25 of the 33 members of Team USPA have been mentored by a top professional since they’ve been in the program. In addition to all the efforts made to support Team USPA members, the United States Polo Association has launched the Young American Outreach Program in an effort to help all interested young polo players. The program has helped these individuals find jobs and mentorships in the sport, offered free umpire certification clinics, and facilitated participation in Team USPA clinics and events.
The goal of Team USPA is simple: to elevate the level of polo being played in the United States. Every member of Team USPA has improved since being accepted into the program. When these participants travel to clubs around the country to play polo, they’re now offering more to the game than ever before, thanks to their experience with Team USPA.