HELLO GIRLS !
I’ve been asked to write a piece on fitness specifically for ladies in polo …..however, …..before I bore you all with some lame motivational speech on how important it is to do 40 push ups a day at the gym , let me firstly just address a couple of issues that will justify my recommendations when it comes to fitness and training !..
So , allow me to begin with a question ….
So , Whats the difference ?
Adolfo Cambiaso , in fact any pro for that matter has 2 arms , 2 legs and a torso … the same as you. So why is it that they can do what they can do , and you can’t …yet ?
Well quite simply the answer is , you can … If you where to use the exact same technique ! And let me share with you now the fact that as an instructor I train men exactly the same way I train woman.
Using Cambiaso is perhaps a little too much of an extreme comparison , so for the purpose of the exercise let us use a 12 year old male Argentine player.
With this analogy, the question still stands – why can he do what he can do and yet the majority of adult players can’t ?
It is important to note at this stage th at the 12-year-old 2 goal HCP kid is still a child
with a small bodily frame , no significant muscle development and is not necessarily very tall . So not that dissimilar to the make up of an average adult woman in basic principal. So let’s go back to the original question …
Firstly, in my experience, aspiring players often take up polo when they can afford it ! – which would generally suggest they are adults . The problem with adults is that on the approach to the ball , they absolutely , 100 % , TOTALLY want to HIT that object like it is their worst enemy !
As a result they will purposely ‘aim ‘ the mallet head AT the ball – worse still is by having controlling adult strength they can indeed manipulate course and direction. ( we will address this mis placed intention and technique a little further on )
Secondly, more commonly than men , woman seem to have greater previous riding experience as kids. The vast majority having spent many years developing the perfect EQUESTRIAN position in the saddle.
Intrigued ?well there are several explanations:
And here – in lies the problem . The disastrous art of using a riding position and technique borrowed from a different horse discipline and attempting to apply it to polo !
The art of hitting a ball successfully in the direction you want and achieving the distance you require all depends on the technique used. The majority of clients that come to me for a ‘rebuild’ arrive with a completely different way of swinging the mallet than that of how a pro swings it .
Amateur players will almost always use their arm to swing the mallet to achieve distance whereas pros uses a pelvic rotation together with their bodies . To the untrained eye both techniques looks remarkably similar however , the difference is , INTENTION. On the approach to a ball a pro will intend to create elastic and energy and use a technique with the body to send the stored power down the shaft and transfer it to the ball.
An amateur on the other hand without the energy creation will instinctively try to hit it harder and faster to achieve distance . The consequence is that the ball will only travel based on how strong the human is , and in the case of a slightly framed lady the desired result is rarely achieved . And yet let’s revisit the 12 year old Argentinian child built smaller and slighter then the average lady player . He is still able to loft 60 – 100 hundred yard balls down the field.
Finally the third crime scene is linked to my first point about ‘ aiming at’ but more so the ability to do just that based on the weight of the mallet. It is interesting to note that male players who wander around in a cloud of testosterone will always aspire to a heavier weight stick!
Lady’s on the other hand always aspire to use something lighter …why …..? …. So they can control it ….
THE BIGGEST CRIME OF ALL!
To put this into perspective , the Argentinian children more often than not play with adult weight sticks but child size grips. The consequence is when they swing it 2 things happen – firstly they simulated that the mallet is like a heavy weight on a piece of rope and they swing it from their shoulder thus never having the ability to interfere with course or direction.
Secondly , due to the sheer weight of it they have no choice but to use all the might of their bodies to swing it but more importantly they pull away from the created force consequently sending the energy down the shaft of the stick …. Pure physics! It is fair to say that pros become pros because they start very young . However it’s not because they have been playing for years that they become great players but more so to do with the fact that when they first started they where using a perfect technique because as little people , with no strength … They had no choice but to get it right ! As they grow they know exactly how it feels to be correct and its THE FEELING of swinging that pros aspire to when attempting to hit which is different to an amateur who just intends to hit the ball harder or faster . Interesting to note that one of the UK’s top rated lady players Sarah Wiseman rated at 2 goals plays with 200 g sticks …..and she isn’t that tall or that strong either ..
But WOW can she play !
Now , I could have made this article on fitness for ladies in polo very easy and answered the question by commenting ” sure , go to the gym and get stronger “! However I hope that it is now apparent that actually , it’s not strength that you need. Well to be more correct , we are not talking about big bulging muscles we are talking about core strength. Core strength is the boring one that no one will ever see .. It’s not like having big gun biceps to show off but it’s the one that will allow you to create elasticity and the more elasticity the more energy and power you will create. Picture a catapult being pulled back – stretching the elastic to its extreme will project the object further than a catapult that’s only pulled back in a weak manner.
When it comes to polo , anyone reaching for the big long shot should aspire to a similar feeling of stretching the whole body and releasing the energy down the shaft to the ball. A weak core will just not produce much elasticity and as a result instinctively the player will just try and hit harder, consequently absorbing most of the energy .
Coupled with core work- and there are a multitude of exercises which a good personal trainer can work with you on is Pilates . I have seen miraculous changes in a players ability when they have conformed to a regular Pilates session .. It really is the way forward !
Here at the Academy we took things one step further and developed these core trainer mats. Each mat has the image of a horse of perfect size and proportions to present spacial awareness and they also come with electronic foot plates that sound an alarm with excessive leaning and also when the energy from the stick is going ‘with ‘ the ball instead of being transferred ‘to’ the ball.
After only 10 minutes on theses mats with a ball between the legs swinging a specific nearside and offside routine you can really feel the benefits and accurately pinpoint the exact muscle groups you would need to continue to work on to improve core strength and overall stability.
Finally as a coach and trainer , as I have already mentioned I purposely do not ever train woman any different than I train men . As far as I am concerned , there is no difference…we are back to the fact of ” 2 arms , 2 legs and a torso ” ….
The only difference is the mental state …and in my opinion , woman are so much more strategic, multi tasking , capable , and observant and distinctly less reckless than most aspiring male players! …..so step up to the plate girls and bring it on !
Good luck , stay safe …and always remember … “
It doesn’t matter if you miss the ball , it’s polo – so you just need to LOOK fantastic “
Following the overwhelming response received from his YouTube training video ( The Essential Guide to Polo) International coach and trainer Steve Thompson was encouraged to document his methods and techniques in a new book.