Story By The Maltese Cat
Why am I writing this? Simply, to share some thoughts with you about polo. If you are satisfied with your game and how you hit, skip this article and go out on the field and enjoy yourself. However, if after all your hours of lessons and the accompanying bills, you are still not satisfied with how you play, you might want to continue reading and perhaps glean some information and ideas you have not yet encountered.
I am not writing this to represent myself as an experienced professional player. I am presenting these articles more in the hope some of you might want to try some of these tips for the sake of your game.
I have heard many polo tips from many polo pros on three continents. Most all of those tips have proven to be useless for me in learning how to play this game. Only after I had understood a particular stroke or exercise did I understand what the pro was trying to say. It has occurred to me that most pros mimic back platitudes and cliches, never really examining the game themselves. They lack the ability to convey their message, if they themselves understand it at all. Tennis pro Cliff Drysdale once said that most tennis instructors just chant, “Racket back, bend your knees, that will be $40, please.” Similarly, polo pros seem to parrot, “Hand up high, watch the ball, you can pay me back at the stall.” At $100 – $150 a lesson, that’s pretty expensive therapy. Yet the patient is still not cured. Conversely, I am impressed by the methodology that golf pros use. Seen on television in such shows as the Golf Channel, it would appear that these pros give a lot of creative thought to their teaching. I don’t even play golf, but I have found tips from golf pros that have added to my polo game. Have I piqued your interest? Let’s move on to some useful ideas.
BEFORE GETTING STARTED
Have you ever taken a polo lesson? I have my own criteria for judging a polo instructor. Before you ever pay an instructor or even sign up for a lesson, you should ask yourself three questions. They are:
1.) Can the instructor hit a ball? This sounds like common sense, but it is amazing how many so-called instructors are poor hitters! If they themselves cannot hit a ball, how can you expect to learn from them?
2.) Does the instructor use a style that you like? This is also a major consideration. Does the instructor use a style that YOU would like to use? Can you visualise yourself using this style, or does it just not look right to you, even if the ball travels well.
3.) Is this a style that you can USE? There are many ways to hit a polo ball successfully. However, this must take into consideration many kinds of physical types. For an example, if your instructor is a big, burly type that powers hard into his hits, and you are a delicate female with a slight build and a lithe nature, you will never be able to use that style. You would be wasting your time
AFTER your first lesson, you should ask the fourth question:
4.) Did my instructor COMMUNICATE the ideas to me so that I could use them? If the answer to any one of these questions, before or after the first lesson, is NO, you would probably be better off searching for a more appropriate instructor. You certainly will save money and time. You may not always be in the position to choose from more than one or two instructors. In some regions, it is rare enough just to find a polo club. Still, you should always keep these four questions in mind before, during and after a lesson. Don’t keep plowing away for years, wasting your money, and not getting the results you want or need. If you are not getting those results, search further for better instruction.
Note: I have come to the realization that the hitting style we USE is an extension of our personality. This is not the style we CHOOSE. If your personality is not congruent with your style, you will always revert back to YOUR style, especially in a heated contest. The two basic personality styles are HARD and SOFT, much like Chinese Kung Fu. If you are a hard-charging type, who likes to ride hard and whack that ball, you are a HARD style player. The rough rider enjoys more contact on the field and is a more physical player, who thinks less and tends to react to the situation as it presents itself. Conversely, if you tend to think more and rely more on technique, you are more of a SOFT style player. Both styles work well and proponents of each have attained success in polo. Remember though, it will be very difficult to play a soft style if you have a hard style personality and vice versa, and you will hinder your progress if you insist on doing so.
This is some advice from the legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus and what he observed about personality influencing one’s style of play. Thank you to one of my readers, polo player Kaiser Tirmizi of Pakistan, for forwarding this and noticing the similarities.
The hard style is easier to learn and is the style most players use. It involves more physical strength and gives good elevation to a hit ball, without you having to think much about what the body is doing. Using this style properly, you will have the enjoyment of hearing and sensing the ball hit with a resounding “thwack” which, in itself, can give you the feeling of success. A soft stylist will sense that the ball leaps or springs from the mallethead with little power. Oddly enough, this method will result in the ball traveling just as far, and this satisfies a soft stylist.