While intercollegiate teams and ponies take a break from playing in the summer, the Intercollegiate/Interscholastic (I/I) program is hard at work planning and developing the coming season. Each summer, the I/I program runs the Summer Development Series (formally known as Summer Review), which include weekly meetings held throughout the summer to discuss topics and rule changes for the I/I program. The Summer Development Series has over 30 members and is comprised of I/I staff, committee members, coaches, managers and umpires. Topics are compiled from suggestions of staff, managers and umpires who are on site at events, as well as feedback from coaches, parents and players throughout the season.
This summer topics ranged from Best Playing Ponies to Shootouts. One topic that was on the agenda was very specific to the National Intercollegiate Championships (NIC); identifying an alternative format to play the NIC in as fair a way as possible, while continuing to keep as much game time available to the players, and ensure the welfare of the horses, in that they can keep up with the demand of the quality of play. Since the topic was so specific, the USPA invited the 2018 NIC coaches to the first ever “Collegiate Coaches Think Tank,” held in Wellington, Florida, in late June. A round table discussion was held with coaches: Tom Goodspeed (Southern Methodist University), Mike McCleary (Texas A&M University), Lou Lopez (University of Virginia), Scott Weir (University of Western Ontario) and David Eldredge (Cornell University). I/I Chairman David Wenning, USPA CEO Bob Puetz, USPA Executive Director of Services Carlucho Arellano, USPA Polo Development, LLC Chairman Stevie Orthwein, Polo Training Foundation Executive Director and I/I Umpire Danny Scheraga, and USPA staff Bradley Biddle, Amy Fraser and Emily Dewey were in attendance.
The discussion included keeping the format as is: currently the national intercollegiate championships are played on a split string, with shortened chukkers and mandatory walk breaks each chukker. A second option was presented to run NIC on the Federation of International Polo (FIP) model, in which all the horses are pooled and each horse plays one chukker per game. A third option involved maintaining the split string, moving the game to six chukkers, and cutting back each chukker to five minutes. The appeal of the third option, allows for continued use of the split string which is historically an I/I icon, limits the total playing time for each horse to 10 minutes, split up over two chukkers with an extended break in between each chukker, and brings the total playing time back to the equivalent of four, seven-and-a-half minute chukkers.
The National Host Tournament Committee (NHTC) has moved to adopt this format for the 2019 National Intercollegiate Championship, with the option to utilize the new format in NIC qualifying matches. The NTHC will be assisting with the upcoming Arena Umpire clinics to test this format in real game scenarios. Thank you to the coaches and volunteers who made themselves available to travel to Florida to be a part of the process. Witness the new format live from Virginia Polo Inc. in Charlottesville, Virginia, during the 2019 National Intercollegiate Championships in April!
UVA Coach Lou Lopez at the National Intercollegiate Finals