Dawn Jones is one of the most active women in American polo, both on and off the field. Some may know her as the wife of actor Tommy Lee Jones. However, she has grown into a well-known power within American and women’s polo in her own right, both on and off the field. After a very intense year as both player and member of the Federation of International Polo (FIP) Marketing and women’s polo committees, she is preparing for the biggest challenge of the year, playing the Women’s Argentine Open. “I will be playing with Emma Tomlinson, Tamara Fox and Sarah Wiseman. It is an international team,” she told CLICKPOLOUSA.
“Our objective is to win! And to continue to gain experience, give our best on and off the field, have fun, be safe and demonstrate that women’s polo can set a tone of professionalism and level of athleticism the next generation can take even further,” said Dawn Jones.
Beyond her personal career, it has been a huge year for American polo. “Polo in the U.S. continues to steadily grow on a variety of levels in pro-am, collegiate and interscholastic. The United States Polo Association [USPA] and U.S. Polo Assn. support tournaments on all of these levels, with an added twist in the 22-goal where prize money is offered in the Gauntlet of Polo™, a three-tournament series. It was exciting to see team Pilot win all three tournaments and all the prize winnings. It is definitely an incentive to bring your best game to the field. It was also great to see the World Polo League’s [WPL] inaugural season showcase higher goal polo at 26 goals. The WPL is committed for the long term to maintain a 26-goal competition at Valiente and Grand Champions Polo Club. I especially appreciated their decision to create a mixed-doubles match, which they plan to expand in 2020.”
How do you see women’s polo this year?
“This last year of women’s polo was a great success in terms of specific goals being met. These goals were to encourage clubs to create women’s tournaments, garner support from the polo community via the Associations, The Federation of International Polo, male and female polo patrons, corporate sponsorship and philanthropic partnerships.”
“The U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship™ proved to be very successful with a record eight teams participating, some of which were supported with corporate sponsorship and partnered with Susan G. Komen Florida for breast cancer awareness. Florida hosted its first ever six women’s tournament circuit series complemented by the Grand Champions Women’s League. Their league inspired a second women’s league in Indio, California. Also, the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club, hosted its first 20-goal Women’s Pacific Coast Open.”
“Several clubs have reached out to the Women’s International Polo Network seeking advice on when to best host a tournament in their region of the world. Answering the question is becoming more challenging as most months and weekends are filling with tournaments nearly year-round in places like Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, China, Switzerland, Kenya and South Africa. There will undoubtedly be an overlap, but the goal has always been to create a world calendar that allows players to play year-round.”
“The more thoroughly organized the clubs are with their women’s tournaments like the Houston Polo Club, or Cirencester Park Polo Club, in the United Kingdom, the more likely a woman player can organize teams in advance and allow polo professionals an opportunity to organize their year for family and work. The global availability of these professionals has proven to help elevate women’s polo around the world. Their participation has also helped further develop and fine tune the women’s handicap. We need more benchmark players from every handicap level that we can compare at clubs around the globe. I think the USPA Women’s Handicap Committee, the Hurlingham Polo Association [HPA] and the AAP handicap committees are working diligently to determine fair and balanced women’s handicaps.”
Has women’s polo grown this year?
“According to data from the United States Polo Association, there are now more female student registered members than male student registered members. The Federation of International Polo has pushed for a Women’s Cup of the Nations between Argentina, England and the United States to be hosted at Palermo in Argentina in April of 2020. They are organizing a Women’s World Cup to be hosted in Palermo for 2021.”
What should be done to keep it growing?
“To keep women’s polo growing, we need to maintain the current momentum of our initial goals stated earlier. I would like to see the world calendar be further established as a predictable annual schedule. I would like to see more corporate sponsorships organized for women’s teams and professionals. Why not see women’s polo supported by corporate sponsorship with brands outside of the box of the usual suspects in coed polo like NetJet, Audi and Veuve Clicquot, even though I do appreciate their support of the sport. I think women are the largest group of consumers in the world, especially for their families. Why not have sponsorships from clothing, cosmetics or beverages not yet tapped into this. The cost of supporting women’s polo is rising with rising pro fees needed to cover their own costs of maintaining their talents that contribute greatly to the sport and rentals of higher quality horses just to compete. Any amount of help to offset costs from a corporate brand interested in aligning itself with a visually dynamic sport like women’s polo is welcomed. Thankfully, this year Polo Gear is sponsoring women’s polo and has offered their support for women’s polo in a more meaningful way beyond having contributed women’s specific polo jerseys and other apparel years ago. Without hesitation, they partnered with the Women’s International Polo Network [WIPN] to provide and market merchandise and promote it on their website.”
“Part of the proceeds go directly to the non-profit WIPN to help with website managing costs. It is no secret that polo is expensive, but I am hopeful women’s polo will develop sensible and patient money management, from the entire community, from club tournament, entry fees to pro fees. I have had conversations with many of my women colleagues regarding my concern about women’s polo costs rising too quick too soon as we rapidly grow. It is a delicate balance given the earning power of most women patrons and pros are significantly different than their male counterparts. No one is complaining, but it is certainly uncharted territory we are trying to carefully navigate. I also believe women need to continue to network with each other through platforms like the Women’s International Polo Network where one can make a player profile to share with others. It brings us closer together and builds friendships essential for healthy competitive play. I think women want to learn about another woman’s journey in polo, her family life, education, where she comes from and her professional life. Whether one is a sponsor, pro, horse trainer, polo teacher, groom or certified umpire, these profiles of individual players are of great interest. Even for women who don’t even play the game. It’s inspiring.”
Dawn Jones experienced a very active and successful 2019, as she summarized to CLICKPOLOUSA. With the recently established women’s tournaments across the United States and Argentina, Dawn says she has found the past year personally gratifying and looks forward to the future of women’s polo.
All photos courtesy of ©Chantal Hasse.