Polo Road Trip
by Justin Powers, USPA Polo Development, LLC
The marquee event for our team in the fall is the annual Instructors Forum held in Houston, TX. A great event drawing instructors and managers from across the country this year the Instructors Forum was my mid-way point of a club development trip across the country. Over 5,000 miles later, many chukkars umpired, and local cuisine ranging from catfish to fish tacos I had the opportunity to work with New Orleans, Houston, Poway, San Diego, and Temecula Valley Polo Clubs.
Polo on the Bayou
At the end of October with Halloween right around the corner I had the opportunity to do a club development trip to New Orleans Polo Club in Folsom, Louisiana. The New Orleans Polo Club is located an hour north of the city of New Orleans across Lake Pontchartrain. A great club with continual growth and development, I had the pleasure of spending three days with club manager Doug Parsons. Doug runs an extremely organized club and during my visit we focused on two areas of club development: Expanding into a greater metropolitan area: we discuss how the club can attract more players, spectators, and sponsors from the city of New Orleans by having a polo event/ polo school presence in the city. Developing New Orleans’s own “Step Up Program” Model: Doug has attended multiple Instructors Forums so he is very in tune with Houston Regional Polo Center’s “Step Up Program” Model to developing new players by graduating them from Polo School to Margarita League to 2 Goal to full members of the club; Doug and I reviewed that model and discussed how New Orleans Polo Club could enhance their grassroots player development.
While at the club I volunteered to umpire 16 chukkars of polo on a Saturday leading up to the club’s annual Harvest Cup Charity Match on the following day. The Harvest Cup is held in conjunction with the Junior League of Covington, LA. Sadly, I was unable to help out at the Harvest Cup as I had to travel to Houston for Instructors Forum prep and set up, but before I left I was able to pick Doug’s brain about an interesting trophy at the club. The New Orleans Polo Club currently holds the Challenge Cup between their club and Point Clear Polo Club. The Challenge cup goes back and forth between the clubs depending on the winner and is one take away from my visit that we will surely pass along to other clubs across the country.
After the Instructors Forum was finished I boarded a plane for San Diego, California. The crux of my trip to Southern California was the 3rd annual Inter-Service Military Tournament hosted by Poway Valley Riders Association and USPA Governor at Large Russ Sheldon. For those that have never been to Poway. The club there epitomizes player development at the grassroots level. Russ is truly dedicated to growing the sport which is evident by routinely having 8-12 chukkars of polo three nights a week. Poway’s members range in age, but a highlight of the club is the 15 kids in their junior program. Poway supports multiple I/I teams and was represented by Austin Finch at the National Youth Tournament Series National Finals this summer at Virginia International Polo Club.
In addition to working with Poway, I had the opportunity to work with San Diego Polo Club’s Bob Puetz. Bob and I discussed the keys to growing the sport in the Southern California area as well as across the country. Bob attended last year’s Instructors Forum and we reviewed the “Step-Up Model” and how it can be tailored to grow membership in the San Diego region. Finally I traveled to Temecula Valley Polo Club to meet with club president Geraldine Strunsky. Geraldine founded the club in 2012 and it had just wrapped its first full season with exciting polo events bringing new players and spectators to the sport in the Temecula Valley. Temecula’s head polo instructor, Alvaro Tadeo spent 3 days with our team at the Instructors Forum honing his skills as an instructor and club manager.