Polo Club at Virginia Tech bringing classic sport to the masses

Some call it the world’s oldest team sport, while others call it a sport reserved for the rich and famous. Just four years into its lifespan, the Polo Club at Virginia Tech wants to change both those mindsets.

Thousands of people flock to Virginia Tech each year to watch the Hokies compete in popular sports like Football and Basketball, but there’s a new sport on campus looking for a reputation of its own.

The Polo Club at Virginia Tech is only four years old. It’s the sport with the horses and the one that many people think is just for the rich and famous. The club is a growing one, and wants you to know the sport is for everyone.

Polo is a sport you most likely won’t catch on that four letter cable sports network. But if you don’t ask about it, how are you ever supposed to learn?

That forum for question asking is what the club dubbed the Mercedes Cup — an exhibition match on campus. This year the Hokies faced off against the University of Virginia.

The sport is about mental and physical toughness, and competitiveness runs at an all time high. But teams work together for the sake of the sport too. In this case, the University of Virginia loaned Virginia Tech some horses for the match.

“The Mercedes Cup is to gain awareness about Polo,” Polo Club at Virginia Tech President and Co-Founder Jenny Schwartz said. “We want Virginia Tech to know that the Polo Club is here.”

Here and thriving. In just four years the club has grown to about 30 members, and Sunday’s match featuring a University approved wine tasting, acapella performances and plenty of polo drew more than 100 people out.

“You need hot blood and a cool head,” Polo Club Co-Captain Joe McDonald said. “It’s a very fast paced game so you have to be thinking quickly, you have to be aggressive, but at the same time you’re on a 1,200 pound animal.”

The University of Virginia traveled to Blacksburg for the match, a team Schwartz called one of the more established programs and names in collegiate polo. Players started the match with a demonstration of skills and during the match an announcer shared expertise with color commentary.

Collegiate polo is a small circuit. Tech only has six horses and pretty much funds itself, but that doesn’t stop the team of about 30 from traveling up and down the east coast, or growing new players from scratch.

The sport is typically associated with royalty or a wealthy upbringing — a mindset the club wants to change.

“I’d rather you learn the sport and be able to play, than pay a high price tag just to be on the club,” Schwartz said.

Proving one chukker (that’s what they call quarters in Polo) at a time that the little known sport is truly for everybody.

“It’s the best thing you can do on a horse,” McDonald said “We’re doing it in Alphin-Stuart Livestock Arena, you know it’s a little more blue collar, none of us here are billionaires but we’re still playing polo, and we’re still playing the sport we love.”

Schwartz said the club relies heavily upon generous donations of money and gear to keep the club going, a mindset that all members can bond over.

“It takes a special individual to be a polo player and it’s cool to have all that in common with everyone,” Schwartz said.

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