INTERVIEW WITH KRIS BOWMAN OF THE UNITED STATES POLO ASSOCIATION
Kris Bowman is known as the travelling mentor. It's because she travels a great deal and when it comes to polo, she's willing to give advice and take under her wing anyone who has an interest for the sport she loves so much.
I can attest to her caring spirit for the people and the sport. Don't take my word for it. Google her name and you'll see all the programs she's mentored, and all the marvelous polo events to which she's a part. This woman has such passion and excitement, that I had to get an interview. I caught up with the National Club Development Director for the United States Polo Association, to get her take on Polo.
The Preppy Times: Hello Kris, can you tell the readers when the USPA began and what it does?
Kris Bowman: The United States Polo Association was established in 1890 to govern the sport in regulating rules and providing handicaps or "ratings" for players. It has now flourished to be the guiding light for setting standards in the sport world wide for player development, umpiring, health and welfare of the animals as well as handicaps and rules.
TPT: We're in the midst of the World Cup at the moment. Soccer seems to be gaining some popularity here in the states, perhaps due to David Beckham coming. In your opinion, why hasn't Polo caught on here?
KB: Since soccer is taught to every kid from grade school on, it is only natural that it has a wide following, it is something that everyone can identify with. Polo involves a living, breathing animal and since we are now several generations removed from the horse and carriage and the Calvary is no longer part of the Army, there is less exposure and people do not know that the sport is available to them.
TPT: Do you practice yourself?
KB: Polo is my passion.While I enjoy skiing,tennis, and a myriad of other sports, my idea of a perfect day is to play polo with my favorite horse,some friends and my niece!
TPT: Why is Polo enjoyable to you?
KB: It is one of the only team sports that men and women and children can all play together.The horse levels the playing field.
TPT: How does one get started in Polo?
KB: The USPA has five Regional Polo Centers located around the country which are set up for teaching polo either by the lesson, or multiple day clinics. Many other polo clubs in the U.S. also have polo schools that we like to recommend.
TPT: What if you've never had equestrian training?
KB: Previous riding experience is not a prerequisite. Learning to ride and play polo is common.People just have to expect that they will have to keep focusing on improving their riding skills in order to improve.
TPT: You know people have this idea that polo is so formal and basically stuffy, but I've
found just the opposite. The people who attend the matches seem very laid back.
Can you say a little something about that?
KB: Although I have never played rugby, there is a constant comparison to the sport in that you play a competition then you party together afterwards win or lose! Everyone is welcome to polo and each club has it's own personality. I just played at a club outside of Seattle where everyone camped out fieldside overnight and had a huge BBQ and bonfire.There were no big hats and high heels at that match but there was plenty of fun!
TPT: What's the state of Polo now?
KB: Polo is booming. We now have 110 Interscholastic and Intercollegiate teams competing.We have programs in place to teach adults polo and riding skills and the resurgence of affordable Arena polo has ignited growth as well.
TPT: Tell the readers a little about the difference in Polo Ponies from other ponies?
KB: Polo ponies are extremely versatile and brave. They are quite hardy as compared to other more delicate breeds.It is more of a state of mind, or disposition than a specific breed.Recycled Thoroughbreds from the race track and American Quarter horses make excellent polo ponies.
TPT: What equipment is needed?
KB: Most polo schools provide the horses,saddles, polo mallets and helmets for beginners. You do however need to come in jeans and wear a pair of hard soled boots with a heel.
TPT: Who should absolutely not be playing Polo?
KB: Anyone who doesn't like outdoor sports or animals.You will get your hands dirty!
TPT: Does USPA have a criteria for clubs to be admitted? And can anyone start a club?
KB: Anyone can start a USPA club if they have access to a safe facility and at least 3 USPA members and liability insurance.
TPT: Polo has an unusual handicap system, 0-10. Can you explain that?
KB: Our handicap system is more like golf. It has nothing to do with the number of goals you score. You can be rated a AM which is amateur member that denotes you are just learning the sport or you can become a -1 which is entry level to compete and the highest rating is a 10 goaler.
TPT: Polo seems to be big in other countries. Of course England, India, Africa come to mind.
I've also been noticing how it's really hot in Argentina. I mean they have excellent
players. Do you think here in America our players will have that type of caliber?
KB: Our numbers are comparative to most countries with the exception of Argentina. They have the luxury of having so much countryside. Kids in Argentina still ride horses to school and it is not unusual to see people going to church in a horse drawn wagon. Cheap access to horses makes a big difference.They do not put as much emphasis on their children to attend college as we do either.
TPT: Lately, I've noticed in some stores, USPA apparel. Has the
organization gone into the fashion world? If so how can readers get official apparel?
KB: Yes our USPA logo is now sold world wide and in the US. We have our own outlets now in Prime Outlet Malls all over the country, that is, “our” actually meaning our Licensee, Jordache. The very first was in Orlando, and there is even one near San Fran, but nada in Wyoming (yet!).
Otherwise, you can find them at Sears, Stage, Beall’s, Burlington Coat Factory, Marshall’s, Ross, TJ Maxx, Big & Tall, Foot Locker. My favorite place to look is Sears.com. They have the best and most current selection, especially for juniors and misses.
TPT: What advice would you give people considering Polo as a sport or hobby?
KB: Go to uspolo.org and you will gain alot of direction. There is also a website called Polo101.com which has alot of information for beginners.
TPT: Last question, Adolfo Cambiaso, overrated or not?
KB: Many people say that a special rating of 12 should be given to him, or perhaps everyone else in the sport should be lowered. He is a phenomenon!
TPT: Thank you Kris for your insight, it's been a pleasure.
For all the readers who are interested in the USPA apparel, Kris informed me of all the outlet stores.
Outlet stores open now (and more to come):
Prime Outlets of Orlando Orlando FL
Jersey Gardens Center Elizabeth NJ
The Outlet Shoppes of El Paso Canutillo TX
Tanger Outlets of Deer Park Deer Park NY
Great Mall of the Bay Milpitas CA
Ontario Mills Mall Ontario CA
Jersey Shore Premium Outlets Tinton Falls NJ
Houston Premium Outlets Cypress TX
Atlantic City Outlets/The Walk Atlantic City NJ
Katy Mills Katy TX
Bergen Town Center Paramus NJ
Las Vegas Outlet Center Las Vegas NV
Las Americas Premium Outlets San Diego CA
Prime Outlets San Marcos San Marcos TX
For all who have watched from the side lines like myself, or have always had an interest to learn the game, I suggest you find a good club in your area. Help on this is just one click away over on http://www.uspolo.org/. Hell, I'm thinking about taking a swing myself. How about you?
Until then check out this video from the United States Polo Association. If this exciting video doesn't get your blood pumping for a great match of Polo, then I don't know what will.
See you guys soon!
Posted By O. Cavanaugh