Declining membership numbers in polo clubs are linked to much more than the declining state of the stock market. Take a look at successful sports that have had explosive growth over the past decade like baseball and soccer. Youngsters progress from youth or recreational leagues to traveling leagues that prepare a competitor for high school teams and can lead to scholarships at universities and take the most talented to professional status.
There are camps and clinics along the way to support this upward progression. Polo clubs must learn from these successful sports organizations and offer their own ladder of progression. Each level along the way builds a lasting foundation for the young person to be successful through each transition. Polo clubs that offer a clearly defined approach to nurturing a new player from developing riding skills and learning the basics to competing in entry level tournaments are maximizing the longevity of their club membership.
The USPA Houston Regional Polo Center has a recipe for success. Led by a strong team of teaching professionals, RPC Director Mark Prinsloo and veteran instructor Barlee Flanders have a proven track record. They offer introductory polo school packages on safe, reliable mounts each spring and fall. These players then go on to a “Margarita League” where their skills are refined, and lessons take the form of a lesson combined with instructional chukkers. There are summer and winter coaching leagues that prepare these new players for actual competition. When students are ready, they are assisted in purchasing the proper beginner level horse and placed on teams in 2 or 4 goal competition.
Many players remain in the coaching leagues due to restrictions of ability or finances, but many progress to full playing members. Each type of player adds to the culture of the polo club. The students who remain in coaching leagues and schools are part of the incubator for new students to play with and of course the students who progress on to becoming new members of the club add enthusiasm, new ideas, and are the right fit for older, reliable polo ponies that may need to retire from more demanding players. The polo ecosystem is now renewed in everyway.
Take an objective look at your club and evaluate if your training program may need an overhaul. It may be missing a few rungs on the polo ladder of progress!
USPA Regional Polo Center Directors Mark Prinsloo in Houston, Jolie Liston in Atlanta and Erik Wright in L.A/San Francisco are available to lend valuable advice to clubs looking for new ideas. National Club Development Director, Kris Bowman is always available to get you connected to the right program or person to help your club grow. Please contact Kris at firstname.lastname@example.org
USPA National Club Development Director | Director of Team USPA Programs