BY CAROLINE CRONIN
Club Polo at Harvard grows.
This past weekend marked the annual alumni celebration and polo tournament for the Harvard Polo Club. If you need clarification, I am talking about polo on horses with mallets and helmets, and not the rather pedestrian diversion in which boys and girls flail about in water wearing silly caps. It was the event of the season, and I am truly sorry for those of you who were unable to attend. Balls flying, horses galloping, young men and women strutting about in those tight, oh-so-flattering, impeccably white pants — indubitably a most jovial jaunt, I must say!
I imagine that images of Ralph Lauren and Tom Buchanan are running through your head right now. Even though most of the Harvard ponies are donated by Harvard grad and polo enthusiast Tommy Lee Jones (you may have heard of him), polo is not as stereotypically pristine as it seems. As the head coach of the Harvard team, Crocker Snow, reminds all the players, polo is a heck of a lot more than just looking pretty atop one’s steed.
In all seriousness, most students at Harvard do not know much about the sport of polo, least of all that we have a club team. Polo can be played indoors or outdoors with 3 or 4 players and their mounts per team, playing on the field in seven and a half minute periods called “chukkers.” The players attempt to drive a ball through the opponents’ goal posts, hitting and passing it down the field while also defending their own goal. It is a fast-paced, rough and exciting sport to play, with immense rewards, the greatest of which being the companionship of truly marvelous creatures that are the polo ponies.
The Harvard Polo Club is actually the oldest collegiate polo program in the U.S. (of course it is, you say), but it was defunct for several years and then reestablished in 2006. The team plays college polo teams in America like Yale (who stink, coincidentally) and Cornell, among others. But perhaps most exciting is the international traveling the team does to play against teams in Europe and Asia. The summer of 2013 was an especially notable one for the Harvard Polo Club as the team traveled to Mongolia to play the Genghis Kahn Polo and Riding Club. This past weekend, Harvard hosted members of the Mongolian team at the newly acquired Harvard Polo and Equestrian Center, located in Hamilton, MA (I know, worlds away for those of us strictly Harvard Square bound).
Official games are played at the Myopia Hunt Club, right next door to the Harvard farm. Current players, new members, alumni, parents, and sponsors were all present for the Saturday alumni game events and Sunday’s Harvard versus Mongolia game. The games, dinner, and open house were meant to celebrate the work of head coach Crocker Snow, assistant coach Ashley Mackenzie, the support of Friends of Harvard Polo and, of course, to honor the Mongolian coach and team. Women’s captain Aemilia Phillips ’16 says, “I think the purpose of this weekend was to celebrate everyone who has worked incredibly hard to make Harvard polo what it is.”
However, as Phillips so aptly put it, “One thing I’ve learned from Harvard Polo is to always expect the unexpected.” It was not easy for the team to put together this weekend’s events but it was certainly worth the work. Players and new members came out multiple days this week to practice and to prepare. There was cleaning, weeding, polishing, and grooming to be done, but by the end, the horses gleamed, the tack shone, and the barn never looked better. Harvard owns all the ponies and the stables. The club takes great pride in both the work and play. This also gives the team a new reason to be excited about this year’s season. Phillips says, “Now that we officially have our own farm, I think the Harvard Polo program can only grow. We had an unprecedented number of people tryout this year, and have a really great group to work with. I’m excited to see all the new players become obsessed with the sport (which they always do!), as well as work with my incredible teammates in what will be a busy fall season!”
So maybe, if the spirit moves you, come out to a game this fall and check out what the hullabaloo is about. Who knows, you may leave and find yourself saying things like “I don’t like the look of his backshot!” or at least a new appreciation for white jeans.
Caroline Cronin ’18 (ccronin01@college) is looking forward to spending more time with polo as a new member.