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The Positions


12. The Positions 12.1. UNDERSTANDING THE POSITIONS ON THE FIELD PLAYER #1 The secret of being in the #1 position is anticipation – getting ahead of the defendant. It is almost impossible to pass the defendant with the ball. Therefore, the idea is to move forward, stretching the field and giving your teammates more space to create different plays. Remember, however, that the #1 player must go back and help in defense when his team loses the ball, taking the last man of the opposing team.

PLAYER #2 We could call this player the team’s “engine”. He has to be quick to resolve what to do both in defense and attack. This player’s two main jobs are to make the ball reach the #1 player and put pressure on the opposite #3 player. This player needs very good horses that can endure 7 minutes of non-stop running, turning and bumping. Player #2 will also have to sacrifice himself in many plays, bumping opposing players out of the way so that his #3 player can go through with the ball. Last but not least, he will have to pick up the line of the backshots hit by his #3 and #4 players in defense, quickly creating a new attack. 101

PLAYER #3 This player is considered the team’s quarterback. He needs to be able to anticipate the different plays of both teams. He is in charge of organizing the attack, deciding when to go forward, and releasing the ball to his #1 and #2 players (whoever is unmarked) as quickly as possible. He should also help his #4 player in defense, holding the ball or taking out the opposing player so that his #4 can get control of the ball. To be effective, a #3 player must always play facing the opposing goal, playing forward and pushing his team into attack. As is commonly said, the best defensive play is a good attack.


PLAYER #4 This player is in charge of the defense. He must always anticipate what will happen if his teammates lose the ball, looking to see where his opponents are and where they will go if they gain control. The #4 player must be able to hit good strong shots from both sides. In attack, he has to see his teammates’ positions when he picks up a loose ball and hit it immediatly to the open player with the best chance of scoring. When defending his goal, the #4 player shouldn’t just hit the ball anywhere to get out of a difficult situation; it could have a worse outcome if an opponent player gets the pass. He should keep the ball, quickly creating a new attack by passing it to one of his teammates with his first shot. Last but not least, this player has to remember to keep the opposing #1 player on the outfield. The #4 should control the center.


The Throw-In


13. The Throw-In 13.1. UNDERSTANDING THE THROW-IN A throw-in takes place when the ball goes out of bounds. It is thrown in from the side, at the point it went out, by one of the umpires. Both teams line up facing the umpire as shown in the diagram below.

The #1, #2 and #3 players are formed in a straight line, but the #4 player is outside at an angle. - If the ball goes through, this #4 player can easily go and make a play, but he must be very careful not to make a foul by crossing the line. - He is in a good defense position in case the other team gets control of the ball.

- If his #1 player doesn’t get the ball, he should go forward quickly, assuming that another of his teammates will get it and pass it to him. - He should never turn around and try to get the ball himself. Instead he should try to get in front.


The Knock-In 109

14. The Knock-In 14.1. UNDERSTANDING THE KNOCK-IN The knock-in takes place from the back line on either side of the goal posts. It is very important to understand that a good start will help to organize the team for the rest of the game. Usually the knock-in should head towards the boards to avoid a turnaround in the middle of the field. However, if the opposing team isn’t paying attention to the center field, and your #3 player is clear, you can pass the ball to him and make a very good play. The #4 player making the knock-in should do it in two shots so that the #1 player of the opposing team can get as close to him as possible, leaving only three players marking the rest of his teammates. The first tap must be short so that the opposing #1 player won’t have a play on the ball, but long enough so that he can look up and see where his teammates are on the field. When #4 feels the need to knock in with only one shot because of the pressure that #1 is putting on him, we can say that #1 has won half of the game against #4. Also, when #4 is forced to hit one long shot, there will likely be three outcomes: I. He will give the ball to the other team because it’s very hard to be accurate in longer shots. 2.He will find himself out of position because he’ll be too far from the play. 3.If the opposing #1 is very quick, he will not let #4 get into a good defensive position when the oncoming team attacks the goal. 111

The #3 player should be between the 30 and the 40 yard lines, right in front of his goal. He should start his attack through the center of the field, leaving more space for his teammates to create different plays, and also, giving his #4 more options in case he wants to play the ball to the middle. It is very important that player #2 not be anywhere near his #3 teammate. He should take the boards, leaving at least 20 yards between him and the side line, making it easier for him to move and giving his #4 a better chance to send him a good pass. Again, it’s important for #2 and #3 to run parallel but not close to each other until one of them has control of the ball and heads towards the goal. Only then is it O.K. for one to follow behind the other. The #1 player should line up between his #2 and #3 teammates, just a few yards ahead. It is important that he start moving early so that he can avoid his opposing #4. If the opposing team gets hold of the ball, he should turn around and mark the opposing #4 to prevent his attack.


A. Here is #1 waiting 20 to 30 yards from the line of the goal post. #4 has to play the ball with enough angle so that #1 can’t make a play, giving his teammates time to mark their opponents. However, #3 in white must see that #4 doesn’t play the ball to the middle.


B. In this situation, #1 is lining up straight in front of the left goal post so #4 has to play the ball to the boards because it would be dangerous to play it to the middle if horse #1 were to get in the way.


C. Crossing the goal: When #1 lines up in front of the goal post, #4 may attempt to cross the goal in the knock-in. This is a very risky play. He needs to be quick and have his #3 ready to receive the ball. Then #4 can follow behind in an offensive play. On the other hand, #4 can also hit the ball to #2 who is waiting by the boards.

Remember!!!! The man without the ball must create the opportunities. 115


The Train 117


Whenever I’m giving a lesson, I always say, “Get behind the train.” What I mean is that when you are in attack, you should create a train behind the player that has the ball to back him up. However, there should still be someone up front to receive the pass. I emphasize on the “train” to make it clear that riding parallel beside one of your teammates is a waste of time and energy. If he misses the ball, you have lost your chance of picking it up and continuing the play. Being behind your teammate, you can also take out the man coming to hook him. Therefore, you win the position of the ball. You should bump him as far away from the play as possible so that when you get in line to hit the ball he doesn’t come right back and push you over the shot. Even when you are playing #1 and one of your teammates has the ball inside the 60 yard line, lowering the probability that it will be passed to you, it’s best to contribute to the game by getting in line behind your teammates and being ready to bump opposing players out of the way or pick up the ball if your teammates miss it. When in defense, the objective is to break up the train that the opposing team is forming. Although some players find it hard to turn around quickly and help in defense, this is no excuse. Go back and do it as fast as you can. 119

Penalty Shots


16. Penalty Shots 16.1. Penalty Shots UNDERSTANDING PENALTY 4 (60 YARDS) The following line-up works only if the rule allows the player to tap the ball.

The Defending Team: The #1 player in grey is standing 30 yards from the ball, open, just in case the hitter decides to tap it. The #2 player in grey is standing across the mouth of the goal, but he must also be prepared for a tap. In that case, he must go and help his #1, turning around and trying to hook the other player. Remember that once the hitter taps the ball, he is not allowed to make a full swing to hit it again. The #3 and #4 players stay inside the goal to try and stop the shot. If the hitter decides to tap the ball and play it, they must try to get it without crossing the hitter’s line and fouling.


The Attacking Team: Let’s assume that #4 is taking the penalty shot. #3 should stand on his left at the 40 yard line. If the ball stays low on the ground and doesn’t make it to the goal, or bounces off a horse, #3 should quickly get into the new line of the ball. If #4 decides to tap the ball, he may come back and follow his teammates. Often the attacking team may provoke a foul by following each other while tapping the ball because the defending team is desperately protecting their goal. When a player from the defending team hooks a player from the atacking team, it is likely he will cross the line of the opponent following behind and a foul will be called. The #I and #2 players must be aware of this kind of play. They should line up 3 or 4 yards behind the goal post and should start moving as soon as #4 (who is hitting the penalty shot) approaches the ball. They can also bump any of their opponents that are standing inside the goalposts. Remember that bumping or hooking the #3 or the #4 players when the ball is heading towards the goal is a much better play than trying to stop the ball and then hit it, which rarely happens.

Think “team work” not trying to make wonderful plays on your own. It doesn’t matter who scores. What matters is getting the job done.


UNDERSTANDING PENALTIES 2 AND 3 These penalty shots are also known as the 30 and 40 yard penalties respectively, and are both open goal shots so there isn’t much the defending team can do. Just make sure that you are standing in the right place: 1. Behind the line of the goalposts. 2. To either side of the goalposts, not between them. If you take the opportunity to change your horse, make sure you don’t come back on the field while the opponent is making his penalty shot. Wait until he is done. If he happens to miss and you were riding onto the field at the moment he was taking the shot, the umpire will blow the whistle and make him hit again, so pay attention!!! If you are on the attacking team, be sure that you are behind the ball.

IDEAL POSITION IN ATTACK You can use this type of formation during penalty 5, for example, which is taken from the center of the field. The attacking team goes forward, controlling the middle of the field. It is very difficult to achieve this position every time, but it is what you should constantly look for.


UNDERSTANDING PENALTY 1 Due to the seriousness of this offense, the team fouled is automatically awarded a goal. Then play is resumed with a throw-in at a point 15 yards in front of the center of the goal defended by the fouling team. The umpire throws the ball towards the side boards with the fouling team’s goal to his right.

The Foul


17. The Foul 17.1. FOULING IS NOT THAT BAD Lots of beginners are too worried about fouling. Polo is a game of permanent motion, not like football, where the game is stopped after every play. In this sport, you must constantly be deciding what to do next as the game continues. So I think it’s very important not to go for a specific play when you know you are going to foul. However, if you’re not sure that the play is a definite foul, you should “go for it”. If you are called on, it won’t be a big deal. As much as everybody tries to find their timing when hitting the ball, they also need to learn which is the right distance between players when making a play, and the only way to do this is to make mistakes and fouls. If you think about it, polo pros that have been playing forever foul quite often and don’t worry too much about it. When a player is a beginner or does not have much experience, he tends to think fouling is unforgivable and influential on the outcome of the game. This is absolutely not true. Worrying too much about fouling will prevent you from improving your game. So when in doubt, go for the play.


Quick Reminder


18. Quick reminder 18.1. QUICK REMINDER

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Every time you hit the ball, name the player to receive the pass.

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The player that gets M.V.P. or who makes the most goals in a game or tournament has his teammates’ sacrifice to thank for.

When your team is in possession of the ball, the men without the ball must create the opportunities. Take the man before the ball. If you eliminate the man the ball can’t travel. In defense always try to keep your man on the outside. Most players go where the ball is. Anticipation is to go where the ball is going to be. When your attitude is right, your ability always catches up. Always hit the ball to one of your teammates. If you just hit the ball, you’re probably going to give it back to the oposition. Remember that the player that passes the ball has time to think, get back into position and get the ball again. We need to turn every defense into a great attack. Trust your teammates and turn before they hit the back-shot. That way you will get to the ball first.

This is a team sport. It doesn’t matter who makes the goals, just that they are made. Always leave the ball to the player who is in the best position to make a good play.

Try to be on the field in time to give yourself 15 to 20 minutes of warmup. 133


Make sure that your horses have raps on and their tails done. Not only does it look better, but it is also safer because your mallet won’t get tangled up in their tails.


Play your practice games as you play your real games. It will not only help you but your horses as well. What you don’t do during practice games, you won’t be able to do in real games either.


When you tell one of your teammates to “leave it”, it should be because you have a much better shot at the ball than he does. Otherwise, don’t ask for it.


When you finish the game, shake the hands of all the players on the field, and thank the umpires. It doesn’t matter what the score is or if there were discussions among any of the players. “Polo is still considered a gentleman’s’ sport, so we should try and keep it this way”. Whatever happens on the field must stay on the field when the game is over.

Sticking-Ball Drill


Start cantering easily around the field so that you warm up your horse.

2 3

Make very easy swings and don’t try to hit the ball hard. Just look for solid contact.

Always try to aim at different targets: spots of different colored grass, or cones that you may set. This will help you control distance and accuracy.

4 5 6

Increase speed as you gain confidence. When practising near-side forward shots, hit one off-side and one near-side so you will be able to remain more relaxed. Remember to practise your back shots on both sides. Usually when we stickingball alone we turn the ball and forget the back shots.



Essential Polo Tips (Part 2) - Justo del Carril  
Essential Polo Tips (Part 2) - Justo del Carril  

Polo, the sport of kings and the king of sports. It is elegant, exclusive and dangerous. But, like many other sports, it is also becoming mo...