Meet a woman who justifies the hyphen in the oft-overworked term, multi-hyphenate. Pamela Flanagan sits neatly at the intersection of her passion and career, balancing her law practice as a property tax attorney with her stint as an international polo player.
Pamela shows that it is possible to balance professional responsibilities and personal interests with flair. It is highly dependent on knowing her priorities. “I’m just finding the right balance. I’d love to just travel the world and play in every tournament, but I have to work a little bit, too,” Pamela explains. “Mainly, the tournaments that I play in are the ones that are more accessible, ones that I can participate in easily while still working full-time.”
Being aware of key dates and schedules helps her manage her time better. “There’s a two-month spring period that’s really busy for me. During that time, I will not be able to play polo. Then, I have a two-month period that’s really open and free. During that time, I’m going to capitalize as much as I can and play as much polo as I can.”
It also helps that Pamela can find ways for these two worlds to intersect seamlessly. As a sport that involves galloping horses, several mallets flying in the air, and balls whizzing by a player’s head at speeds of 100 miles per hour, it seems highly unlikely that Pamela’s skills as a lawyer would contribute much to her prowess as a polo player. She quickly refutes this notion by pointing out how she leverages her law practice successfully while playing in tournaments. “Being an attorney entails having clear-cut direction and being disciplined. I think that shows on the field,” she says.
“I don’t take things offensively. If someone says, ‘Hey, look, your best role would be to take out this player the entire time and forego the ball and do the best you can to make sure they don’t touch the ball,’ that doesn’t offend me. I think that’s a testament to my riding ability and my discipline on the field. Both are wonderful qualities to have; I would say that they are my strengths within polo,” Pamela adds.
Her roles as an international polo player and as a lawyer give her numerous travel opportunities. “My career is based here in the US. We focus on property tax work nationwide, so I travel a lot within the country,” Pamela shares. Meanwhile, the sport allowed her to hop on the plane and play polo in other places, including China and Manipur, India, where she joined a tournament for Team USA.
Pamela leverages this aspect to serve her well in both fields, recognizing how traveling expands her exposure to different cultures and gives her more opportunities to develop fresh perspectives. “I think it helped shape me by broadening my horizons and my community. It is a unique sport where you meet people of all ages and backgrounds from all over the world; if I were just living in Dallas and working as an attorney there, my community might be limited to the people in Dallas. But since I am involved in polo, I’m meeting people from Argentina, Mexico, England—I’m meeting people from all over the world.”
This also has the unintended benefit of helping her diversify her clientele prospects. The multi-hyphenate shares, “A lot of friends in the polo community have asked me to draft various contracts for them. I’ve also acquired new clients through the sport, which is part of the benefits of networking within polo.”
This concept of polo as an avenue for community and inclusivity is something that Pamela hopes to foster further. “Polo is one of the most inclusive sports, which is why it’s frustrating for it to be portrayed as something exclusive,” she says. This is most apparent in fostering gender equality, the lady player notes, adding that although polo has its roots as a male-dominated sport, it has since evolved to embrace females. “Men and women playing together in the same field is really unique to the sport of polo. What other sport in the world can men and women play together on an equal playing field, without having to play in different tournaments or games?”
As more ladies take on more active participation as spectators, athletes, and even as team owners, Pamela feels that this growing interest in polo is a logical progression, especially for women equestrians.
“There’s already this affinity between women and horses. There’s already a natural connection. Women who already ride horses transitioning to the sport of polo are so much more fluid and streamlined than trying to take someone who’s never been around horses and get them into horses, then into polo,” she explains.
Multiplying women’s involvement in polo also helps in the growth of the sport. “Women are sociable creatures by nature, and so, introducing them into this kind of vast community helps perpetuate what polo is about—building friendships, building social ties,” Pamela prompts. Thus, leading her to launch an initiative that would have a broader, more meaningful impact on the sport. Together with Dawn Jones and Erica Gandomcar-Sachs, she established the Women’s International Polo Network, an online platform that provides a community where women polo players can flourish.
“I think it is and has been a wonderful way to bring women in polo from around the world together,” she muses.
With women like Pamela, who see hindrances as motivation to pursue their goals further, there is no doubt that ladies’ polo will keep on thriving throughout the years.