As some of you know, I recently had the privilege of spending 12 days in Jaipur – riding, playing polo at partying with some of the finest players on this side of the planet. Overall, it was an awesome experience and I am confident that I am significantly less pathetic player than I was a few weeks ago. All thanks to the other players – at the 61st Cavalry and Rambagh – who took time out of their busy schedules to share their knowledge with me. Much advice was shared over the many hours spent together, but I have set out below the top tips I brought back with me to Bombay –
Polo is a thinking game – the most successful players are not just the ones that can hit the hardest or ride the fastest – they are the ones that can stay one step ahead of the game. It is not ‘just plain luck’ that they happen to be positioned where the ball goes next – its their ability to predict where the play is headed next that gets them to the top.
There are no shortcuts to practice – my dad’s teacher, Maharaj Prem Singh, famously said that learning polo was like learning to fly a plane – there is no alternative to putting in the required hours. Lokendra Singh, one of India’s top players, allegedly said that learning to play polo is like taking a piss – there is no alternative to doing it yourself. Good instruction is important, but ultimately meaningless unless you also play lots of chukkers.
Don’t try too hard – my shots became significantly better when I stopped putting force into my swing. The trick is the focus on the technique and hit the ball on the right spot – the sheer momentum of a galloping horse does the rest.
Top-class riding skills are not optional – Even if your swing is strong enough to score a goal from 5B, it is meaningless unless you can be the first to get your horse to the ball. Not investing enough time improving your riding is possibly the biggest mistake a new player can make.
Avoid the politics – Polo must be the most political sport in the world. I haven’t yet figured out why. Don’t get involved with that side of it. Work hard, play fair, and have fun – on and off the field.
This is not the real world – Polo is madly addictive – be careful that you don’t get sucked in too deep. There is a real world far from the lush polo fields of Jaipur – and unless you were born rich, only the brightest and most hardworking people earn the kind of money that it takes to play this game – if you don’t prioritize your career over your polo, you may soon find that you can no longer afford this sport.