Led by South Hamilton locals and Team USPA Players Nick Snow and CB Scherer, with the help of USPA Player Development Coordinator Liz Holson and Myopia Polo Club Manager Kim Maguire, Myopia Polo Club in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, put on an outstanding Young Player Outreach (YPO) Clinic for some of their advanced youth and young adult players on June 18-19. The clinic quickly grew to include players from 14 to 50+, with twelve players signing-up for the clinic.
The clinic kicked off on Saturday morning at Bird’s Field where Nick and CB began with horsemanship, taking a ground up approach (a.k.a. how to check your tack and equipment if you are not tacking for yourself) including checking fit and safety from a player’s prospective. They also included a brief commentary on different bits, such as Pelham v. Gag, before moving on and mounting up.
Once mounted, Nick and CB led everyone through some simple exercises they use, having learned through their experiences with Team USPA, to warm themselves and their horses up. Both Nick and CB included good tips for the young players, such as “figure out when to ride for the horse and when to ride for yourself” and how to use your base and aids effectively. After the group warm-up the participants split into three smaller groups to rotate through three stations that included riding and hitting drills with Nick and CB, and 60-yard penalty shot filming with Liz. Nick and CB took a progressive approach to the drills, continuing to expand off the previous drill each time they moved on, building the base the young players had to work with. Halfway through, the players switched horses and continued the rotation, finishing with advanced hitting that incorporated the lessons from previous drills.
After lunch, Nick and CB led the participants through several unmounted foot mallet drills and exercises. The foot mallet drills emphasized using an appropriate grip, the mechanics of the swing, and gave everyone helpful exercises to do whenever the opportunity arose. Nick’s approach to using foot mallets was simple “You only have a certain number of hours you can spend in the saddle, but you can continue to work on your hand-eye coordination and mallet skills off the horse.” CB agreed with Nick, “It was rare that you would find me on the sidelines, without a foot mallet. I would practice in between chukkers, before games, after games, whenever I had a minute.”
Continuing with unmounted exercises, everyone relocated to the Myopia Pony Barn for a chalk-talk, “Open Team Play” video from Charles Smith (which can be found on PoloSkilz.com), and a video review session. Many players inquired about positioning on set plays such as knock-ins and penalty shots and listened intently to Nick and CB explain their top plays and things to look for when executing on both offense and defense. Charles’s “Open Team Play” video gave the players four key components to consider and practice: man first, back the ball and quickly release the ball, and place the ball. Then watched game footage to show additional examples of players executing those components and identified plays where players should have incorporated those components. Nick and CB also gave the players tips for how to watch polo as a student of the game, rather than as a spectator.
Players regrouped on Sunday morning under the pavilion at Myopia’s Winthrop Field. Players were walked through the Polo Performance Analytics- Swing Essentials Foundations and then had the opportunity to view their own swing, in slow-motion, and receive 2-3 takeaways from Nick, CB, and Liz. Video analysis is being continued to share a thorough analysis with each participant, to view at his or her leisure.
Nick and CB then mounted up for coaching chukkers with the players forming two groups to fit everyone in. Nick created rules specifically for the coaching chukkers including:
Three touches maximum (unless dribbling to escape pressure)
Calling for every backshot, failing to do so results in losing possession
Using the takeaways from the Open Team Play video and the messages they had been instilling all weekend they came up with key concepts they were trying to emphasize:
Hit every shot as a pass
Play well, but don’t play her- they are coaching chukkers
Play with your horse and their movements
Assess the play before you get to the ball
By the end of the coaching chukkers Nick and CB were thrilled with the outcome, ecstatic that the players took so much away from their time at the YPO Clinic. Both players agreed that regularly playing these types of coaching chukkers would improve their polo tremendously and would undoubtedly do the same for these younger players. Overall, it was an outstanding weekend and much thanks to Nick and CB for sharing their knowledge with the next generation of players!