For a person to be a success when announcing a sports game, particularly one that has several stop-and-go periods such as polo, it requires more than just a clear voice and great pronunciation skills. It takes in part, the ability to entertain without necessarily being seen, paired with immense knowledge of the game and a drive to share their passion with others.
The International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida, has built a reputation as the premier destination for American polo, a result of hosting the top USPA high-goal tournaments for the past several years. The club’s resident announcer and USPA President Tony Coppola has been affectionately nicknamed “The Voice of Polo” due to his recognizable flair and history of announcing many U.S. Open Polo Championship® Finals. Commentating alongside Coppola this year is Lindsay Heatley, a familiar voice in West Coast polo.
Similar to many other positions in the industry, announcing has predominately and historically been a position filled by men. Heatley has taken the opportunity on American polo’s mainstage to represent women in this sector of the sport by offering insightful, well-worded commentary, that complements Coppola’s well-known style.
Heatley began announcing at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria, California, and has been honing her craft for about three years. “I started announcing in Santa Barbara one summer when my dad was managing and they needed a substitute,” explained Heatley. “It is as much fun as playing sometimes, and is a great way to interact with the game. I come from a polo playing family, and my sister and I are fourth generation polo players. We were those polo kids that you see running around the club. I have played my whole life, just like most polo kids. So announcing is a great way for me to stay involved and take part in the game. I have known Tony my whole life, and now I get to announce with him, so it has been a really fun opportunity.”
Eight horses and players, along with two umpires mounted on the field at all times, can be challenging to follow. Heatley prepares prior to each game, so that the play is easy for her to watch and share with others. “Before announcing a game I look at the rosters as well as research some background on the players, so that I can help people get to know them. I look at the rosters right before the game to make sure that I have the right line ups. A big asset for announcers is knowing what each player’s helmet looks like, it makes them easier to pick out on the field.”
Announcing with a well-established commentator such as Coppola has helped Heatley to develop her style and given her some insight on how to get the audience excited for the game. “Now that I have announced a bit with Tony, I feel like I have adapted to his style. I like to talk continuously and follow the play in real time. I try to give interesting background information on the players to those who may not have been to polo before and are not familiar with the game. Tony is really great about getting the audience involved. He will tell the crowd to cheer for the players and he makes sure that he explains things well. I think he is just really great at interacting with the audience and keeps them involved in the game so, I have learned a lot from him already and hope to carry that forward.”
Although announcing is a rewarding endeavor for Heatley, she has big plans for the future in film production. “When I am not announcing, I work in film. I am based out of New Mexico, but I spend a lot of time in Santa Barbara in the summer and will be there again next year. I majored in composing for film music in college, and from there I started directing and started writing. I am currently working as a production assistant, and would love to become a director in the future.”
Having quickly climbed the ranks to the top in terms of announcing, Heatley hopes to continue sharing her love for the game with spectators and fans. “I want to keep learning and improving, and hope to take everything I can from here and move forward with it to Santa Barbara next summer. Thank you to Tony, the International Polo Club, Hayley [Bryan] and Jimmy [Newman] for giving me this opportunity to learn so much!”