The week preceding the weekend of Saturday 9th June typified the great British summer of 2012. Holidaymakers’ caravans were being swept away by flash floods in Wales, while flooded tube lines caused commuter chaos across the City. It was against the background of the continuing deluge that the HAC arrived at Rugby Polo Club in Warwickshire for the June training weekend. The course was run by Phil Baker, the polo manager at the club. The unseasonal conditions forced practise on Saturday into one of the clubs two large indoor arenas, where Phil put the HAC through a series of drills developing shots on both the near and offside of the pony. The mechanics and reasoning behind each swing were explained in detail before players attempted the swings at a stand still, progressing to a walk and then a gentle canter.
After a tactics session in the clubhouse in front of the whiteboard came club chukkas, and an opportunity to execute the swings taught earlier in match play. For many members of the HAC this was their first taste of competitive arena polo, a bewildering transition for those used to the pace and flow of the outdoor game. Players have to adjust not only to different rules but also to a fundamentally different style of play; the game commences and turns at a much faster pace than on grass, and rapid adjustments have to be made for the constant movement of the ball off the walls.
Blue skies and sunshine on Sunday heralded the move outdoors onto grass. Fresh ponies, (used to a summer season spent indoors), were brought out, and after a warm up session with Glyn – a former 6 goal Kiwi instructor - Phil elaborated on new drills and stick & ball techniques to improve both coordination and timing. After lunch, another tactical brief and plenty of coffee in the clubhouse the focus shifted to positional play and team tactics, often a weak point in the HAC’s game. Despite the darkening skies and a perceptible drop in temperature the rain held off for the remainder of the afternoon, and after a long day in the saddle the tired players gathered in the clubhouse for a final cup of tea and cake before the drive back to London.
The instruction and facilities at Rugby were excellent, and the players finished the weekend imbued with new skills and tactical insights into the game. HAC Polo would like to thank the Baker family and Rugby Polo Club for looking after us so well, and we look forward to future weekends in Warwickshire.