Before today the only things I knew about Polo was that I have a few well worn shirts in my closet with a little polo guy on it. I have seen still photos of Prince Charles waving a polo stick. It is a game I assume for the wealthy by the price originally paid for those well worn shirts.
I spent 5 years at UConn (undergraduate and graduate) and had no idea that a polo team even existed. The women were even national champions three years in a row in the 1990's. They were also national champions from 2005 through 2008. The best kept secret in Connecticut!
My kids love horses. My kids love sports. My kids love trips to the UConn Dairy Bar. What a perfect combination!
We took the hour plus ride to the Horsebarn Hill Arena. Located on a quiet backroad in the picturesque hills of eastern Connecticut surrounded by acres of horse and dairy farm, it is the perfect location for almost anything. I surely did not appreciate this fifteen years ago.
What an event! Not knowing the first rule of polo, we needed to bide our time to see if we could figure it out. The announcers to the fifty or so spectators helped us novices by explaining the details quite clearly.
I still had a few unanswered questions a few minutes in, and was helped out by a longtime follower of the team. A man I'm sure who has never worked a day indoors in his life. He knew all of the players and horses by name. He told me there were four periods and they were called "chukkers".
If I was to summarize what a polo match is like, just take a soccer match and pick up the speed about twenty times, add in the contact, stick handling and strategy of hockey, combined with the sheer excitement of a final possession in college basketball. The only difference is that polo keeps you on the edge of the cold bleacher for the entire thirty minutes (four 7 minute and 30 second chukkers) and not only for the final 2-minute drill of an NFL football game. My kids did not want to leave for a minute. Not even for the world renowned UConn Dairy Bar ice cream! That is a testament to this wonderful sport.
Now how is it that you can learn so much from a simple afternoon in the semi-outdoors with an arena full of horses and people you have never met? Paying close attention, asking questions, doing a bit of research afterward and building connections (aren't these the skills we teach in school?) led my family to learn about a sport we never had acknowledged to exist before today. We took my son's love of horses and my daughter's love of sport and competition combined it with the love of our alma mater and turned it into a day of fun, excitement and new learning. My kids learned about how the score was kept. They monitored the board throughout the match. They cheered for both teams. They showed concern for "George" when he fell off his horse. They asked questions about why the scorekeeper needed to climb the wall and stand in a cage and why the lines were drawn on the ground. They even were able to congratulate the winning Cornell Big Red team afterwards. What a day for a four year old. George was even a bedtime topic of conversation.
We spent the day with great friends and turned the cold November winds into a lasting memory that we will never forget.
The day was topped off with a trip to Willington Pizza. The best pizza in northeastern Connecticut. A must if you are in the UConn vicinity.
UConn vs. Yale Friday, November 12th. Yale armory. Just in case you are interested. We are.