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17 Questions With Ballito Polo Club’s Kayla Swart

17 Questions With Ballito Polo Club’s Kayla Swart

17 Questions is a feature series where we introduce different women polo players around the world. In this feature, we talked to Ballito Polo Club’s Kayla Swart. The family-owned club coaches up-and-coming polo players, most of which are ladies. “I am blessed enough to say that my family’s life revolves around polo and I wouldn’t change it for the world,” she says.

  1. Since when have you been interested in horses?

“My mom had me on the back of a horse from the first moment I could walk and ever since then, I’ve always had a love for horses and the sport of riding in general.”

  1. How did you get into polo?

“I was an avid showjumper and, after having a bad fall, I lost my confidence. My stepfather had been playing polo since a child, often asking me to stick and ball with him. One day when I did, I definitely caught the polo bug shortly after my first practice.”

  1. Who is your first coach?

“My stepfather, Lionel Foster, was my first coach and still to this day coaches me. I, then, went onto playing practices where the former South African captain, Clive Hill, would help me out wherever I needed improvements made.”

  1. Who are your heroes on the field?

“In ladies, Nina Clarkin. She just makes ladies polo look so effortless by the way she controls and opens up the game. In men, Ignatius du Plessis. ‘Nachi’ is a South African, the only South African to achieve what he has in the polo industry. I have seen how his hard work, dedication, and pure talent has gotten him to where he is and I look up to him for that.”

  1. What’s the best training tip you’ve ever received?

“To read the game and not to just follow it. Use your head and not your body. Also, the ball should always be hit diagonally and not in a straight line. This happens by playing to the boards (or sides) , and then bringing the ball back in and aiming for goals.”

  1. How do you bond with your horse?

“A big one for me is trust and reassurance. The mutual trust between rider and the horse and the ability of both horse and rider being able to provide reassurance. The bond between horse and rider often shows in uncomfortable situations where both put their trust and reassurance into each other. There is no bond like a horse and rider with trust.”

  1. Best horse care tip?

“Leg care and tack. Ensure that when playing, all your ponies are bandaged correctly all round and have tendon boots on top and that all tack has been put on correctly. With all our weight being pushed down into our stirrups, it is important to have saddles which fit correctly to ensure no injuries to the horse’s back.”

  1. Who is your polo best friend?

“Soss Santini! She is just amazing and I absolutely love playing with her. She also makes stunning polo kit bags. Her company is called ‘Soski’. She inspires me both on and off the polo field.”

  1. Which position do you love playing the most in and why?

“I love playing #2 or #3. I feel like you’re in the midst of it all. I love the defense side of the position and also the fact that you can go up and help your #1 with offense plays as well.”

  1. What is more important in a team: trust or communication? Why?

“I feel like neither is more important than the other, as for a team to work well, both trust and communication go hand-in-hand in creating a cohesive team. You can communicate but also have to trust that your teammate is going to follow through.”

  1. What’s your ultimate must-have when playing?

“My helmet, glasses, and knee guards. And of course my ponies, teammates, and opposition.”

  1. Would you rather play mixed or women’s polo? Why?

“I love playing both for different reasons, but mostly women’s polo, as I feel like I have to work a lot harder and get more stuck in. In comparison to mixed polo, the lady is essentially passed the ball with a long shot and scores the goals. Whereas in women’s polo, that goal has to be to work harder and for every team member to back each other up and make more tactical plays to achieve those goals. Both women’s and mixed polo have completely different tactics to make the team work.”

  1. For you, what makes polo the best sport?

“Polo is the best sport not only because of the beautiful sport itself, but also because of your polo community. No matter where you are in the world, your polo community ends up becoming your family. I also love the sport because of the adrenaline it gives me, the fact that I have the privilege to play a team sport and also on such amazing animals.”

  1. What’s your best win throughout your career?

“Recently, I got selected to play for my province in a ladies interprovincial tournament alongside three amazing ladies and we won. Also, coming third in the French Open!”

  1. What’s the worst polo misconception you’ve ever heard of?

“That polo is a ‘gentlemen’s sport’. 25% of polo players are now women – a number which is still to increase. Polo is also the only contact sport in the world which both women and men can play together.”

  1. If you could live the life of one polo player for a day, who would it be and why?

“Probably Hazel Jackson. She lives the polo life I’ve always wanted through travel and her pure talent.”

  1. Complete the sentence: “I love polo because ________.”

“It is the passport to the world.”

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