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Coach Kelly Wells and Her Polo Lessons

Coach Kelly Wells and Her Polo Lessons

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I started coaching girls’ polo at Garrison Forest School (an all-girls high school) from 1997 to 2003. I opened up my current polo school, Marlan Farm, in 2004, and have been teaching polo lessons here for the past 12 years. I coach the Maryland Polo Club interscholastic teams (both boys and girls). I have a master’s degree in Special Education but never really worked in the classroom. I did soーfor two yearsーat a juvenile delinquent facility for girls in upstate New York with very difficult girls.

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 I enjoy working with kids and developing players. It is always my goal to get each player to reach their potential throughout the season, and by the time they graduate, to be the best that they can be at the game.

At my farm, I have an indoor arena, an outdoor stick and ball field, an enclosed hitting cage, and 29 polo ponies. In addition to the boys’ and girls’ high school teams, I teach young beginner polo players and beginner adults.

My goal each year is to take my girls’ high school team as far as I can. They work with me two to three times a week and their efforts paid off this year.

This year was my 11th girls’ Nationals title win: we earned the titles in 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

I had a number of mentors who helped me to become the coach I am today. First, I had exceptional riding instructors growing upーJean and David Raposa from Clinton, New York. They pushed me to reach my potential in the equitation world; it was a very disciplined area of riding, and I showed a 17.2 hand TB in the Medal and Maclay classes. I attribute my knowledge of strong riding to them. 

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My father Dale Chambers learned to play polo at Cornell and played polo when I was growing up, as did his two brothers, Mike and John. I would watch outdoor polo games in upstate New York as well as at Cornell (arena polo) all throughout my childhood, so I think some of the strategies of polo were forming at a young age. That, and the knowledge of walking sweaty horses and cleaning polo tack. I went on to Cornell where David Eldredge taught me how to be a strong arena polo player. I could ride well, but he taught me to play the game, work with a team, and win. I have always been very competitive and analytical. I have taken numerous Rege Ludwig clinics as an adult as a way to learn how to improve my own outdoor game, and it has definitely helped me teach students the swing and the best way to ride to be successful in polo. I have taken all of the advice and knowledge over the years from the instructors who have been in my life and developed a style that works.

My 1998 girls’ team won the Open Interscholastic title, against boys’ teams. In 1998, GFS defeated both Valley Forge Military Academy and Culver Military Academy in the National tournament, both military school boys’ teams.

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Back in the ‘90s, the winner of the girls’ National tournament was offered the opportunity to play in the Open tournament and challenge the boys’ teams. This ended after the 2007 season, I believe, because there were so many girls’ teams and so many boys’ teams being formed that the girls’ Nationals were thought to be big and prestigious enough to stand alone. High school polo has definitely grown throughout the years.

I remember when I first started, there were just a handful of girls’ teams nationally. Now, there are preliminary tournaments and regional tournaments with teams qualifying for nationals. There are 20+ girls’ teams now.

My primary focus in coaching has been the girls’ side. We celebrated the 25th anniversary of girls’ high school Nationals this year. I have coached teams in the last 19 consecutive girls’ Nationals tournament. I have had teams in 15 final games, won 11, and lost four (by goal margins of 2 in 2004, 1 in 2008, 3 in 2011, and 1 in 2013). This year’s team was the youngest to ever win a Nationals and the youngest that I have coached to such a great feat. I am very proud of the dedication and hard work they put in to reach this goal. They are incredible girls.

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I have a very active barn with a lot of young girls learning to ride and play polo. I teach a young group of girls polo each week that includes 7- 9 years old little girls!

A good way to see some cool photos and videos of our program is to check out Marlan Farm Polo on Instagram. My son is the producer and he is very good at it!

My team was very young this year, the youngest ever to win a girls’ National, with Catie Stueck and Sophie Grant (both 12), Abbie Grant (15), and Maddie Grant (16). The entire team returns next season. 

My team went in as a wildcard because we got beaten at Regionals by 2 points in the finals. For the weeks in between Regionals and Nationals, my team buckled down and worked on what they needed to win the title. Their efforts paid off as they played extremely strong in both the semis (22-5 over Central Coast) and finals 15-8 over Garrison Forest. Maddie Grant was named the No. 1 all-star at both girls’ Regionals and Nationals. She has been playing with me since she was in sixth grade. Her two sisters are also on the team and very committed. 

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