We, more than often, focus on the offensive play when we are learning. Everyone wants to be able to score the goals for their team, but defense is just as important, and every Polo team needs a good number 4 to keep the team structure together.
Backhand is an essential shot in your arsenal, even if you’re not playing number 4. A backhand can change the direction and speed of the game within seconds and make for some superb team Polo.
A lot of people struggle to get power out of their backhands. But in reality, it is not the distance that matters—it’s all about the angle.
By putting angle and direction on your backhand shot, you can change the line of the ball and make a defensive play into an attacking play with ease, giving you the upper hand over your opposition. There are two angles to play your backhand shot:
Tactically, a tail shot is often the better of the backhands to play. The angle of this shot makes it very hard for an attacking player to pick up the line of the ball behind you, as they will have to cross the right of way in order to get to the next play.
An open backhand can often be intercepted by the attacking team, so it is very important that you are always hitting this shot to your teammates. Otherwise, your defensive efforts may be short-lived.
So how do you create these angles? Well, it’s all about ball placement and the plain of your swing. Remember, don’t force your swing or change your grip. You want to create a nice big arch out in front of you, like you are casting a fishing rod. Relax your grip, and as you swing through, the head of the mallet will automatically flatten out as you swing through the ball. Don’t try and help it by twisting your hand at any point in the swing.
The Tail shot is aptly named as the ball is directed under your ponies tail.
Plain of the swing: Starting your swing in the line you want it to finish on. The starting point for this swing must be out to the side, not directly in front.
Positioning of the ball: Play the ball late and close to the horse. If the ball is hit too early or too far away, you will not be able to get the desired angle.
Or, Open shot the ball away from your horse.
Plain of the swing: It is fairly difficult to start this swing in the line where you want it to finish as your horse’s head is in the way. So we cast the stick out straight in front of us for this one. The key to achieving the angle is where we position the ball and by finishing the swing by pushing the mallet head away from us.
Positioning of the ball: Out wide and early is the key to this shot. By hitting the ball early, the face of the mallet head is still at an angle when we hit the ball so it slices the side of the ball and helps generate the open angle we are looking for.
How to get more power
Once you have mastered the dynamics and positioning of the swing, you can get more power out of the shot by getting as much height out of the swing as possible. Getting the head of the stick to start high and create a nice big arch in front of you. As you swing through, push your upper body down through the swing, keeping your chest with a low profile to the ball.
Don’t forget—it’s all about the angle!