Team USPA welcomed Molly Agee, Lucas Arellano, Lauren Biddle, Mia Bray, Tony Calle, Justin Daniels, Grant Ganzi, Jake Klentner, and Sloan Stefanakis to the program after the final stage of selections took place in Aiken, South Carolina, May 18-20. The nine players spent three days immersed in polo and related activities on Langdon Road, home to New Haven Farm owned by Adam Snow and Isinya Farm owned by Owen Rinehart. “It was fun to see the kids interacting in this more rural environment. Whether it was running around the farm (in their training session with Alex [Alejandro Moraes], cooling-off in the pond after polo, or touring Isinya’s active breeding operation,” said Adam Snow. “I am hopeful that life on Langdon Road served to enhance their connections to each other, as well as to the sport. They experienced first-hand how Aiken’s sandy soil usually allows us to play polo safely, even with lots of rain. Fortunately, the skies cleared long enough to allow for two good, fast practices with coaching provided by Owen Rinehart, Carlucho Arellano, Julian Daniels, and myself. USPA CEO Bob Puetz was in attendance and welcomed the incoming class of nine Team USPA members,” Snow continued.
“We were grateful to host this year’s Team USPA tryouts at Adam and Owen’s facilities in Aiken,” said USPA CEO Bob Puetz. “It was wonderful to have the group stay in Adam’s pond house and watch them bond together as a team over the weekend. To have three strong and talented women in the program gives me confidence that women’s participation in our sport is growing and is valued. This was an assembly of experienced participants who have played at all levels of polo ranging from intercollegiate to high-goal, and each player had different needs and interests. This gathering, and the education and mentoring it provided, gave the USPA an opportunity to determine how to best help each individual with their own personal goals both on and off the field. I am pleased to welcome the newest players to the Team USPA program, and look forward to watching these young Americans grow and develop within the sport.”
Snow, co-chair of Team USPA, facilitated two fast practices with the new members and mentors Owen Rinehart, Julian Daniels and USPA Director of Services, Carlucho Arellano. Snow and Rinehart instituted a “three-touch” rule, forcing the players to think about their next play before arriving to the ball, thus quickening the pace of the game. “I’ve learned a lot about positioning, not to change my swing, but to position myself before I hit the ball,” said Grant Ganzi. “A lot of what Adam and Owen were going over with me were backshots, which have been tough for me. I had worked with Mike Azzaro on my backshots earlier this year and that had helped too. It is interesting to hear different takes from different polo legends. There is no better advice I could get than from the top Americans who have ever played the game.” In addition to two practices, the nine players worked with Snow and Rinehart on the USPA Polo Development, LLC riding pattern designed to test all aspects of riding used in a match. Each player’s swing was also filmed and reviewed.
“Team USPA tryouts taught me a lot about myself, and my passions and about what I want to pursue. Hearing about all of the breeding and training techniques has made me realize that it is something that I want to pursue. Training my own horses is something I am very interested in and I learned a lot about it this weekend.” – Molly Agee
In addition to time in the saddle, the new members toured the Isinya Farm’s breeding operation with Beth Skolnik to see several famous polo stallions, mares and babies scattered throughout meticulously kept green pastures. Dr. Shelley Onderdonk discussed the importance of equine nutrition and maintenance for polo horses. She compared several theories on best practices and took time to answer individual questions posed by the players. “Team USPA tryouts taught me a lot about myself, and my passions and about what I want to pursue,” said Agee. “Hearing about all of the breeding and training techniques has made me realize that it is something that I want to pursue. Training my own horses is something I am very interested in and I learned a lot about it this weekend.”
With the popularity of Instagram, Facebook and social media platforms prevalent in today’s society, the USPA Communications team worked with the group to discuss personal branding, messaging and tips for live interviews. As an exercise, each player was filmed giving a cold interview then was able to review the footage with the group to see what areas needed improvement. Professional trainer, Alejandro Moraes, rounded out the weekend with two polo specific workouts, a pre-game stretch routine and a discussion on nutrition.
The mission of the Team USPA Committee is to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and resultant giveback to the sport of polo.