When Charlie Muldoon first joined the USPA as Executive Director of Umpires LLC in 2011, the department was far less developed than it is today. With only five umpires officiating 300 games annually, Muldoon recognized a need for change and spearheaded the initiative to professionalize umpiring in the sport of polo. His efforts ultimately revolutionized umpiring and catalyzed one of the largest and most sophisticated umpiring programs in polo.
On May 24, 2022, Muldoon concluded his lengthy service as Executive Director of USPA Umpires, LLC. Hailing from a polo family, Muldoon began his career as a polo professional at the young age of 18. He played in several prestigious high-goal tournaments such as the U.S. Open Polo Championship, the East Coast Open and the FIP World Polo Championship. For over 20 years, Muldoon also taught polo lessons and played competitively at his home club in Poolesville, Maryland.
Dedicating 11 years to the position, Muldoon’s tireless work and passion for strengthening umpiring helped change the culture of polo and his efforts demonstrated the role of the professional umpire in creating a better overall experience in the sport. Clubs and players now respect and understand the importance of pro-umpiring in offering the most enjoyable polo experience.
USPA Umpires, LLC Committee Chair Michael Carney applauded Muldoon’s ability to build a positive culture shift in umpiring, noting, “Charlie is naturally a hands-on administrator and has the knowledge and instinct dealing with players which worked to his advantage in running the umpire program through its greatest growth period.”
Florida Circuit Governor Stevie Orthwein and Charlie Muldoon. ©David Lominska
As Executive Director for USPA Umpires, LLC, Muldoon helped lead several significant USPA initiatives to enhance the Association and the sport. Listed below are just a few of the countless accomplishments achieved during Muldoon’s tenure.
- Program Growth – The umpire program grew exponentially from just five umpires officiating 300 games annually to 30 umpires officiating 3,000 games annually, a remarkable achievement and designation of progress for polo in America.
- Team Development – Umpires LLC’s current leadership trio (new Executive Director Fergus Gould, Umpires LLC Manager Maggie Mitchell and Umpires LLC Arena Umpire Director Bradley Biddle) was organized and situated for success during Muldoon’s tenure. The division of duties among these three outstanding members of the Umpires LLC team has allowed the department to bring more umpires into the mix, tackle more issues, find more solutions and ultimately extend their efforts as a department. Under their leadership, the Umpires LLC has undergone numerous improvements and truly prospered.
- Career Opportunities – USPA Umpires, LLC created a true career path for individuals to become full-time professional umpires through more comprehensive education and training opportunities. Gould shared, “Charlie really overhauled the system as a whole and took something that was very much niche into selling that as a viable career path for people that want to stay involved in the sport once their playing days are over. In some cases now, we’re seeing players get into it at a much younger age because it is a viable career path. It’s another path to take in the sport and it allows players to give back to the game.”
- Technological Upgrades – Umpires LLC integrated many new technologies to advance both umpires’ capabilities and players’ safety, such as drones, instant replays, GoPros and the use of programs such as Dartfish for video replays and PoloSK for scorekeeping. Now having access to thousands of video clips of plays and fouls dating back to early 2014, umpires are privy to foul reports and trends over tournaments and seasons from year to year, ultimately providing them with better educational resources as well as data.
- Cross Collaboration – Since joining the National Association of Sporting Officials (NASO), Umpires LLC has made special efforts to work with and learn from other professional sports organizations such as the NBA, NFL and NHL. Umpires LLC is now also benefiting from collaborating regularly with the Argentine Polo Association (AAP) and the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA) to determine how to enforce rules for players.
- Protocol and Ratings Systems – Umpires LLC created a specialized training protocol to better equip umpires with valuable knowledge of the sport and instituted a pro-rating system to ensure that games of varying levels are being officiated by qualified umpires.
- Increased Training Measures – USPA Umpires, LLC created the Pro Umpires Boot Camp to offer better educational opportunities for umpires and to ensure excellence in the profession. At the training camp, Umpires LLC recruited Rachelle Strawther, an emotional intelligence counselor from Gonzaga University, to help teach empathy and mental fortitude. Umpires LLC plans to work more with sport psychologists in the future.
- Game Advancements – Working with the USPA Rules Committee, Umpires LLC initiated the use of the red/yellow card system as well as the penalty box to ensure the appropriate application of sanctions for serious or repeated rule violations.
- Program Creation – Umpires LLC worked closely with other USPA divisions to create multiple programs to promote polo, such as the Tournament Stimulus Package (TSP) and Bridge to High Goal (B2HG).
Muldoon’s legacy will live on at USPA Umpires, LLC through the successful organization that he leaves behind. With interest and growth in the umpire program still on the rise, Umpires LLC will continue to prosper thanks to Muldoon’s years of work. And while he will be moving on from Umpires LLC, Muldoon will remain immersed in the world of polo as a player, horse trainer, instructor, volunteer and fan of the sport. Carney admiringly shared, “Charlie, like many of us, loves everything about the sport. The people, players, grooms, horses and the game. A lot of programs expanded quickly during his tenure. He was successful because of his ground up knowledge and passion.” Tom Gose, former Committee Chair of Umpires LLC, added, “All of the Umpires LLC’s growth has come under Charlie’s watch. That was always his vision: to give all the clubs at every level a taste of what it was like to have professional umpires.” The USPA is immensely grateful for Muldoon’s many years of service and commitment to the Association and the sport of polo and wishes him well in all his future endeavors.