Thursday, January 21, 2010

Young Players, High Hopes

Those with an interest in the future of polo often wonder out loud where we will get our next generation of great players. Polo is a difficult sport to play well, and an expensive one, since to improve one generally needs to play with and against better players, riding high quality horses. Unless you are a young person whose father or mother happens to be a high goal player, coaching is often hard to come by.

With these things in mind, the United States Polo Association instituted a new program this year called Team USA. Young people between the ages of 19 and 25 were invited to apply for the program. Twenty-four successful applicants will attend a three-day training and evaluation event in Wellington, Florida from February 13-15. Of the original 24 players, six to eight will be selected to enter an internship with a top-ranked polo professional. The idea is to give talented young players the chance to improve, with the goal of creating more homegrown high goal players.

Of the 24 players selected for the program, six have an Aiken connection. Cristina Fernandez, who just graduated from the University of Virginia where she was the captain of the national championship women’s intercollegiate team, lives and plays in Aiken. Taylor Freeman, who is known for his incredible stickwork in both horse and bicycle polo, is also an Aiken resident. Two brothers chosen for the program, Carlos and Nicolai Galindo, have recently bought property in the county and put up a barn. Jacob Brown, who played here in the Ford Trucks Arena Polo Championship last spring, can occasionally be found playing on Aiken fields with his father Scott and his sister Martha. Finally, Nick Snow, a recent Harvard graduate and an accomplished all-around athlete, is the younger brother of Adam Snow, one of Aiken’s highest rated and most illustrious players.

If the players chosen for Team USA are the future of American polo, then Aiken will clearly continue to play an important role.

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