The USPA Board of Governors, Committees, Subsidiaries and staff met in Oak Brook, Illinois, September 19-22, for the USPA Board of Governors and Annual Member Meeting. The week began with the Chairman’s Cocktail Reception hosted at Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse and was followed by two days of committee meetings and presentations at the Hyatt Lodge at the McDonald’s Campus. On Thursday evening the Board, members and guests were treated to the premiere of the new U.S. Polo documentary film. Friday night, the Polo Training Foundation hosted the Intercollegiate/Interscholastic Awards Reception at Ditka’s Restaurant. The USPA Board of Governors Meeting took place Saturday morning followed by a Board of Governors polo game at Oak Brook Polo Club. The week culminated in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® Alumni Match graciously hosted by Oak Brook Polo Club. Please see below for a recap of the week’s events:
Following a Circuit Governor Election over the summer, 13 candidates were elected by the Delegates of their circuit to represent the membership in USPA circuits across the nation. The electees were officially instated during the USPA Board Meeting. The Association would like to congratulate the following Circuit Governors to serve a new three-year term:
Border – Tony Yahyai
Central – Robert McMurtry
Eastern – Joe Muldoon
Florida – Stephen Orthwein Jr.
Great Plains – David Ragland
Hawaii – Bill Kirton
Midstates – Trey Schott
Northeastern – Leighton Jordan
Pacific Coast – Dan Walker
Pacific Northwest – Sheryl Sick
Rocky Mountain – Erica Gandomcar-Sachs
Southeastern – Billy Rabb
Southwestern – Paul Jornayvaz
Additionally, the Association would like to sincerely thank the outgoing Circuit Governors for their diligent service to the USPA and their circuits during their respective terms: Melissa Ganzi (Florida), Mark Sedacca (Midstates) and Jake Flournoy (Southeastern).
The Board unanimously voted to approve the 2019 budget with minor modifications to be made. The overall budget will remain within the $11 million budget subsidy cap approved by the Board at the 2018 Spring meeting. The budget includes a new program for tournament prize money. Clubs hosting USPA National or Circuit Tournaments can apply for up to $25,000 in matching funds. Applications will be forthcoming.
The Committee met to review a presentation by Global Licensing regarding the new name for the High-Goal Tournament Series. The Committee also approved the Constitution Committees recommended changes to the proposed Broadcast Rights and Title Sponsorship Policy.
There is money remaining in the Arena Committee budget and there are a list of tournaments that can still receive funding (Click here for list of tournaments and reimbursements). The Committee discussed seeking a new location for the 2019 U.S. Open Arena Polo Championship®, the 2018 National Arena Delegates Cup was scheduled to be played at Las Canchas Polo Club in Guatemala, but they will be unable to host. Four fall clinics are scheduled: Fall Fandango (Texas), Mustang Madness (California), Bill Field Invitational (New York) and University of Virginia Fall Tournament (Virginia).
Armed Forces Committee
The Armed Forces Committee is proud to announce that at least 21 percent of USPA membership has military family ties. This percentage is likely low as a significant number of the membership’s military ties are not accurately reflected in the USPA membership database. If a member has personally served in the military of any country or a member of his or her immediate family has served, he or she meets the military family criteria. If your profile does not reflect your military family tie, please contact Membership and Handicap Manager Lindsay Dolan at firstname.lastname@example.org to amend it.
The USPA Armed Forces Committee supports four circuit and two national USPA events. Two outdoor circuit military tournaments, (1) General George S. Patton Jr. (0-4 goal) and (2) General George S. Brown (4-8 goal); and two circuit arena tournaments, (1) Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (0-3 goal) and (2) General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller (3-6 goal). As of 2018 there are also two USPA national events, the Outdoor and Arena National Commander-in-Chief Cup, both at the 0- to 12-goal level. All six tournaments have only one special tournament condition—one person on each team must have a military family tie.
Clubs interested in hosting a circuit military event may submit an application to their Circuit Governor. Clubs interested in hosting the Outdoor USPA National Commander-in-Chief Cup must submit an application to the USPA Tournament Committee immediately for approval for the 2019 year. Two circuit national events a year qualify for a $1,250 marketing reimbursement and the National Outdoor qualifies for a $2,500 marketing reimbursement. Clubs interested in hosting a circuit or national event can search for qualifying team members in the USPA membership database by circuit and/or club with the three listed military categories (Armed Forces Affiliation, Armed Forces Service and Branch in Armed Forces).
Gene Burk will be terming out from the Audit Committee in April; therefore, the Nominating Committee will be consulting with the members of the Audit Committee for a replacement.
Board and Staff Development Committee
The Committee reviewed and discussed completed, ongoing and upcoming tasks. If requested the Committee will create a job design for any new position. Diversity was the main topic of discussion, with Human Resources Attorney Rob Hudson in attendance. The Committee has been tasked with creating an equal opportunity employment policy, which will be submitted to the Executive Committee when it is completed.
Club and Membership Administration Committee
The Committee’s “Club Information Update Policy” was approved by the Board. The policy puts into writing the way a club can update basic information, along with procedures for changes to the club name and delegate.
Provisional Member Clubs to become Fully Active for 2019
Arizona Polo Club (Scottsdale, Arizona)
El Caso Ranch Polo & Equestrian Center (Quemado, New Mexico)
Oxford Polo Club (Lady Lake, Florida)
South Padre Island Polo Club (South Padre Island, Texas)
Club Circuit Changes
Springfield Polo Club–CA (W Saint Paul, Manitoba, Canada) will move from the Pacific Northwest Circuit to the Central Circuit
Charles Smith was approved by the Board to serve as Co-Chair for the Constitution Committee alongside Paul Jornayvaz.
As recommended by the Constitution Committee, the Proposed Amended and Restated Constitution was approved by the Members (Delegates), in an effort to run the Association more efficiently and for the benefit of all members. Also, as recommended by the Constitution Committee, the Restated and Amended By-laws, Code of Conduct, Disciplinary and the Broadcast Rights and Title Sponsorship Policies were approved by the Board. The changes are intended to (1) streamline the USPA’s governing documents, thereby making them easier to read and easier to comply with, (2) eliminate inconsistencies and ambiguities within the existing documents, and (3) incorporate certain substantive changes that were discussed and approved by both the Constitution Committee and Board of Governors. Please follow this link for the newly approved Amended and Restated Constitution, By-laws and Policies.
Equine Welfare Committee
Immediately following the spring meetings, the Equine Welfare Committee discovered the lab that had been selected for equine testing was suspending its animal testing program; therefore, the Committee contracted a new lab, Industrial Laboratories. The USPA resumed testing in August 2018 at the Pacific Coast Open Semifinals at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (Carpinteria, California) and the results were received quickly, and all were negative. The USPA plans to continue to gradually increase the testing throughout the remainder of 2018.
The Equine Welfare Committee will be launching a trial anonymous Tip Line to report abuse cases. The number will be available in the coming weeks and disseminated in the weekly member email and on uspolo.org. This is in addition to the anonymous reporting form for abuse and neglect cases. The Committee will work with the Polo Development team to ensure that Certified Polo Instructor candidates do not have any previous or existing issues with equine welfare abuse.
The Committee has discussed microchipping on numerous occasions and would like to promote it. The Committee plans to continue to educate and encourage the membership to microchip their horses. The Committee is also formulating a way to recognize rehomed racehorses being used as polo ponies.
The High-Goal Committee election is approaching in December to add members to the board.
Horse Registry Committee
The Committee has been approved and at this time the Board is seeking candidates to Chair the newly formed committee.
The Committee would like to see international events receive more funding and come up with a permanent funding source to support select international competitions such as the Federation of International Polo (FIP) World Cup, Westchester Cup, Cup of the Americas and Camacho Cup. The idea put forward by USPA Chairman Chip Campbell is to use the dividend money received from Global Licensing to fund an account for international events for the future. The fund could also work with the American International Polo Foundation (AIPF) to match funds so the AIPF is still able to take donations. The International Committee is working with the Finance Committee to develop a plan which will be presented at a Special Board Meeting to be held in the near future. International competition is integral to increase awareness of the U.S. Polo Assn. brand which provides a substantial sum to the Association from Global Licensing. The Westchester Cup will be held in the United States in 2019, multiple locations were discussed such as Sheridan, Wyoming, however it was decided to hold it in Florida after the winter high-goal season. December 10 is the deadline to confirm with FIP whether the USPA will host the 2020 FIP World Cup. Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, has graciously offered to host the event at their facility near Palm Springs, California. The max budget request will be $2 million (primarily for horse rentals). The presented motion for a one-time expense of $2 million outside the budget was tabled pending a report by the Finance Committee on how to handle the dividends in order to create a fund.
National Handicap Committee
The National Handicap Committee met on Wednesday, September 19, and plan to release handicap changes October 1, with a two-week review period. As a component to the newly restated and amended governing documents, the Board Approved an Updated Handicap Policy, which can be seen here. It was also announced that Stephen Orthwein Jr. will step down as Chair of the Committee and Chris Stratemann will take over the position. Tom Goodspeed will be named as the Arena Handicap Committee Chair and Maureen Brennan as the Women’s Outdoor and Arena Handicap Committee Chair.
Pursuant to the Restated and Amended Constitution, the Board elected the new seven-member Nominating Committee (Paul Jornayvaz, Denny Geiler, Erica Gandomcar-Sachs, Bill Kirton, Bob McMurtry, David Wenning, Liz Brayboy). The next obligation of the Nominating Committee is to propose Officers and Governors at Large by May of 2019. The Audit Committee will select a member of their committee as the non-voting Chair of the new Nominating Committee.
As recommended by the Rules Committee, the USPA Board of Governors approved various changes to the USPA Outdoor and Arena Rules and Tournament Conditions for 2019. A summary of the changes is provided here.
The Safety Committee is commissioning Dr. Stephen Duma to analyze current equestrian helmet standards including NOCSAE to ensure the Association is utilizing the best standard available. The Committee also plans to work with both the Hurlingham Polo Association and the Argentine Polo Association to move towards requiring the same standard universally. USPA Chairman Chip Campbell has tasked the Committee to reach out to other organizations such as the United States Equestrian Federation, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Professional Bull Riders to analyze their helmet requirements and enforceability. This will be presented to the Board at the April Meeting. The Committee has created a statement encouraging players to wear helmets whenever mounted and will work with legal to finalize. It was suggested that the Committee look into the cost and benefit of clubs having defibrillators on the field and the possibility of the USPA providing this equipment to clubs.
Strategic Planning Committee
The Board approved the Strategic Planning Committee Goals, meant to improve the sport and the Association. The four goals include (1) apply fiscal management at all levels while creating and preserving an endowment to ensure financial stability for the long term, (2) improve polo through better administration of rules, tournaments and handicaps, (3) utilize the network of clubs to produce better tournaments, in collaboration with Global Licensing, to increase spectator interest in the sport while attracting potential new playing members and new customers for the brand, and (4) provide programs that will facilitate entry into the sport for uninitiated, enhance the skills of young professionals and ultimately produce the best high-goal professional polo players in the world.
The Tournament Committee is working to create a template to help evaluate the National Tournaments and use this as a tool on awarding tournaments to clubs. The Committee discussed awarding national tournaments for two to three years which would give clubs the continuity to market the events.
Women’s Polo Committee
The Women’s Committee reported that the number of women’s tournaments have increased already for the year. Nearly 40 percent of the total USPA membership is female, with women representing the majority of the student member category. The 2018 National Youth Tournament Series Championship held the first all-female division called the “Girls All-Star Challenge.” The inaugural East Coast Women’s Open was held at Westchester Polo Club (Newport, Rhode Island) and Myopia Polo Club (South Hamilton, Massachusetts) over the summer. Subsequently the Pacific Coast Circuit has proposed a Pacific Coast Women’s Open, with the same format, to be hosted in the summer of 2019. The 2018 U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship® will take place at the Houston Polo Club (Houston, Texas) in November and then will be moved to the International Polo Club Palm Beach (Wellington, Florida) for 2019. Nominations for the 2019 Women of the Year will be opening soon.
USPA Communications Department
In its second year, The USPA Polo Network has livestreamed 124 games and will finish out 2018 with approximately 140 total games. Total unique viewership is at 803,289 across four platforms: uspolo.org, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The average number of unique viewers per game is 6,478 and the network reached a peak live viewership of 21,136 for the U.S. Open Polo Championship ® Final. It was a historic day for the network on Sunday, September 2, with five games livestreamed from three different states in three different time zones. Polo fans were able to watch the East Coast open (Greenwich, Connecticut), NYTS Championship (Columbine, Colorado), and Pacific Coast Open Final (Carpinteria, California). ChukkerTV and USPA Communications team have worked diligently over the past two years to elevate the fan experience on the USPA Polo Network through improved graphics, statistics, interviews, horse information, tournament and club history, and much more.
The USPA has produced several club commercials in 2018 and have a couple more slated for the end of the year. There is a benefit program for clubs and the USPA will match up to $6,000 to produce a one minute and three-minute club video. In addition to club videos, the USPA has produced two “Learn to Play” commercials, a short film on the National Intercollegiate Championships to highlight the intercollegiate program and a Polo 101 video to be released in October.
The Communications Department saw room for improvement in the club map which helps members and fans of the sport find active member clubs. The former map was limited, and the improved map offers three search options: all member clubs, interscholastic clubs and intercollegiate clubs.
In order to leverage thousands of daily website visitors to learn more about USPA Member Clubs, the Communications Department created individual club profiles. Club Profiles provide an equal opportunity for clubs to showcase what they have to offer, while at the same time branding clubs with best practices in mind. Users can easily navigate from the “Learn to Play” page, tournament calendar and club landing page on uspolo.org.
Similarly, the Communications Department is always searching for new and innovative ways to connect with untapped demographics. Social media influencers, primarily on Instagram, are increasingly more prevalent in online marketing as a large-scale version of peer recommendations and a more organic way to reach a new following. The USPA partnered with Jennifer Sims (@StyledEquestrian), an equestrian fashion blogger and hunter-jumper now learning to play polo, for the Pacific Coast Open at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. A truly authentic relationship, with over 45,000 followers she has a strong voice, she is a mother, a wife and a former model for 10 years. The feedback and influence she received has been exponential. The combined Instagram reach between Jennifer and the USPA was over 65,000, plus one of her giveaway winners was an eventer that also had a following of 30,000, which pushed the total audience to 95,000. The goal is to form a lasting relationship with Jennifer and continue to promote her polo journey. The Communications Department is in the process of finding more influencers surrounding national tournaments to further promote the events and encourage new fans to “Learn to Play.”
The documentary “The Perfect Match” is finished, and was screened on Thursday, September 20. The response from the audience of board members, members, staff and committees was very positive and exciting for the future of the documentary. The Marketing LLC and USPA Global Licensing are exploring different options for sale and distribution of the film, which should be determined in the next 30 days.
USPA Polo Development, LLC
Team USPA members have had a successful year on and off the field. Highlighted by Jared Zenni winning the U.S. Open Polo Championship® and three Team USPA members winning the Pacific Coast Open with Klentner Ranch. In May, 11 new members were added to the program. Currently, the program is going through strategic planning discussions including: lowering the age requirements for application in order to allow younger players to join and establishing more training opportunities in Argentina. Team USPA members Jesse Bray, Remy Muller, Geronimo Obregon and Julia Smith will spend two months in Argentina this fall to play and train with Alfonso Pieres and his sons. Each will have a string of eight horses and play three times a week, the horses will be available if the members play in tournaments as well.
The Board approved the revised USPA National Youth Tournament Series (NYTS) Conditions under “Specific Tournament Conditions” outlined by the Junior Polo NYTS Subcommittee. The conditions allow a four-team tournament to take place in one day, provide the option of a round robin, require overgirths in all I/I polo, and allows the Selection Committee to place a wild card on a zone team if a certain zone does not have enough participants. NYTS Championship Weekend was held over Labor Day Weekend at Columbine Polo & Equestrian Center, LLC (Littleton, Colorado). Highlights from the championship was a first ever win for the Central Zone, and the launch of the all-female division called “Girls All-Star Challenge.”
Club and Membership Development Committee
The Polo Development Initiative (PDI) awarded $662,000 to polo clubs and schools in 2018 and the Board approved the same funding amount for 2019. December 31 is the deadline to apply for 2019 funding. A strategic planning committee has been formed that will investigate a number of items including: tracking horse ownership as an evaluation metric, allowing for long-term capital improvements/multi-year awards, and increasing the maximum amount awarded to above the current $10,000.
The I/I Program awarded 10 new USPA Intercollegiate Scholarship Awards for the 2018-2019 academic year. These 10 join the existing award recipients from previous years, for a total of 23 student athletes that will be awarded a USPA Scholarship for the upcoming school year, totaling $92,000 going directly to the student’s tuition. The USPA Middle School league kicked off this past weekend with the first tournament hosted at Lakeside Polo Club (Lakeside, California). A total of 14 tournaments have been scheduled across the country and Canada for this fall season. The 2019 Intercollegiate/Interscholastic (I/I) Tournament Conditions we presented for approval which included changes to best playing pony awards, adopting an inclement weather policy and changing the format of the National Intercollegiate Championship to a six, five-minute chukker format. Looking forward to the upcoming I/I season, there are many new Interscholastic and Intercollegiate teams including seven new college programs that have joined, or rejoined the USPA including George Washington University (Washington D.C.), Georgetown University (Washington D.C.), the University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada), Point Loma University (San Diego, California), the University of North Texas (Denton, Texas), the University of South Carolina – Aiken (Aiken, South Carolina) and the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, Arkansas).
USPA Umpires, LLC
To date the Umpires LLC has 25 Professional Umpires. Collectively there are 208 certified outdoor umpires and 111 arena umpires, and the LLC is on track to umpire over 2500 games by the end of the year. So far in 2018, Umpires LLC sent professional umpires to 97 USPA clubs and to 11 foreign or private clubs. This fall, 10 clubs have contracted with Umpires LLC to have one or more umpires at their club. There have been a total of nine Umpire Clinics held this year – seven clinics in the U.S. and two clinics in Canada.
Clubs hosting a USPA circuit or national event, 8 goals and under, can get a professional umpire for their tournament for a $500 fee. Umpires LLC will pay for the umpire’s salary, hotel, airfare and car rental. Clubs can request an umpire for up to three events per year. The Umpire Reimbursement Program also known as UMP was budgeted $78,000 for 2018. Funds are divided among the 13 circuits based on membership. Clubs can request partial reimbursement if they have hired a USPA certified umpire at their club. The deadline for applying for reimbursement is November 30.
In August, through the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) Program Umpire Manager Maggie Mitchell brought a family to a polo game at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. The family had lost their son in Iraq in 2005. After the game the three professional umpires spent time with the family, which thoroughly enhanced their polo experience that day.
This spring Britt Baker, the Chairman of the USPA Umpires, LLC was presented the Thomas Hughes Umpire Award for his contribution to the umpire program. During the Aiken spring season Robert Lyn Kee Chow was awarded the 2017 Polo Training Foundation Umpire of the year. Each year staff travels to attend the National Association of Sports Officials Summit. This year it was held in New Orleans, Louisiana – Steve Lane was asked to present a polo play in their version of “You Make the Call.” He was up on stage with representatives from the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), and the Major League Basketball (MLB), and was asked to come back next year. Umpires LLC is growing at a very steady rate – the need to increase the number of professional and Intercollegiate/Interscholastic umpires is crucial. The number of umpire clinics and Boot Camps is projected to increase in 2019.
USPA Global Licensing, LLC
USPA Global Licensing LLC President & CEO Michael Prince reported that the U.S. Polo Assn. brand reached $1.6 billion in global retail sales in 2017 and has delivered approximately 20 percent growth in 2018. The brand now has a presence in 166 countries and has opened 1,031 monobrand retail stores globally resulting in U.S. Polo Assn. having one of the largest store fleets of any international apparel brand in the world. U.S. Polo Assn. was also recognized as #42 of the top #150 global licensors in License Global magazine, passing other iconic brands such as Coca-Cola, PGA Tour and the National Hockey League. Finally, the Westchester Cup received a record 2.3 million viewers and the U.S. Open reached another record 2.3 million viewers exceeding the prior year broadcasts by 100% as the company targets 7 million broadcast viewers in 2018 and over four million social media followers globally.
Deferred Business A Governor at Large vacancy was created when Stephen Orthwein Jr. accepted his election to Florida Circuit Governor. The vacancy may be filled in the future in accordance with the approved Restated and Amended Constitution.
New Business The spring USPA Board of Governors Meeting will take place in Wellington, Florida, on April 20, 2019.
On Saturday, September 22, members of the USPA Board, Committees and Club Delegates met at Oak Brook Polo Club following the USPA Board of Governors meeting for a fun polo match in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Following the game, a field side asado was held to celebrate the sport and comraderie among players. Teal, comprised of Erica Gandomcar-Sachs (in the first half), Chuck Stanislawski, Jake Flournoy, Sheryl Sick and Tony Yahyai dominated the first period of play with five unanswered goals. Grey/Orange consisting of Bob McMurtry, Megan Judge, Sam Ramirez, Scott Walker, and Gandomcar-Sachs (in the second half) held their opponents scoreless in the second, but were unable to capitalize on any goal opportunities themselves. The third picked up as Grey/Orange beat Teal 2-1 to narrow the gap. The final chukker saw two more goals from Grey/Orange, but the early onslaught from Teal could not be overcome. Teal rode away with the win 6-4. The USPA would like to thank Oak Brook Polo Club for the generous hospitality that contributed to a wonderful day of polo. Most Valuable Player was awarded to Gandomcar-Sachs, playing on both teams and exuding outstanding sportsmanship, she scored a total of five goals on the day.