A couple of Marlboro Lights and a can of coke used to be considered standard preparation for many polo players prior to a match and I’m very glad to see that a few still uphold this truly cavalier approach!
Many in the game would admit that it’s been somewhat slow in its grasp of professionalism, however as professional players are now vying for shrinking numbers of playing jobs, more importance is being placed on physical and mental preparation.
High goal players have for years had trainers to look after their fitness, whilst some players practice Pilates to maintain flexibility and balance. Running is a favoured by many as it is proved to increase stamina, fitness and burn fat. Others prefer to stay fit by purely riding and stick and balling. Many amateur players, the so called “weekend warriors” are also working on their fitness. “I’d love to be able to ride everyday but with my job it’s just not possible” says James, a 36 year old company director who plays only at weekends. “I make sure I go to the gym three times a week, if I’m not fit enough then I’m letting my ponies and my teammates down and not realising my full potential”.
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If hitting the gym or personal training isn’t your bag, there are alternatives. A number of clubs are now addressing the ever increasing demand for “complete preparation”. Beaufort Polo Club in Gloucestershire – base of England captain Luke and fellow England international, Mark Tomlinson – run a two day course in April that is designed to give attendees a more rounded approach to the game.
The course is aimed at players of all levels and has been designed to meet the needs of individual players and their horses by examining the basic skills of each player, starting with their riding and hitting. Tactical play is then gone through with before being put through their paces by a fitness coach. The course is then rounded off with a talk from a sports psychologist. “We have assembled the top coaches in their fields and his is an amazing opportunity” says Mark Tomlinson, course designer. “It’s not often you get this sort of expertise all together in one place”.
The game is changing, and some would argue not before time………