Polo is still a niche sport in Ireland. However, the Irish Polo Foundation (IPF) has been invigorating the field with numerous efforts to bring bigger crowds into the scene.
What began two years ago with creating opportunities for women in the sport of kings turned into a continuously expanding operation. Soon enough, the organization took small steps towards inviting more females as well as younger people into the picture, too.
Now, their goal is to keep driving enthusiastic youth into a sport that has been historically played predominantly by men. They also want to offer Irish people who may not have even been exposed to polo through grassroots organizations.
With this in mind, they consistently provide subsidized training sessions, trips abroad to international polo clubs, coaching days, tournaments, and financial support for retraining Irish thoroughbreds to polo ponies.
One of the projects that they’re proud to have mounted is the recently-launched Junior Training Programme. Last summer, the foundation trained over 50 children with coaches in the various clubs providing weekly lessons to children. Furthermore, these lessons were subsidized and equipment was provided to make polo accessible to children no matter their societal status.
Of course, IPF is primarily established for women players, thus a host of subsidized training days and tournaments for ladies. IPF’s Ladies Polo Director Kristina White shares this endeavor they successfully managed to pull through last year, despite the challenges of the pandemic.
“We launched these in the Curraghmore Polo Club in July 2020, and it received phenomenal support. Over 30 ladies from the four corners of Ireland came to attend our training day. It was followed by a weekend tournament that focused on an instructional style chukka setup. Playmakers were assigned to each team to coach on-field and keep play flowing,” she recounts.
It is as fun as the director relates, and it only added fuel to an already burning passion for polo. “Since the release of lockdown in 2021 and adhering to COVID-19 restrictions this year, we have hosted two of these weekends. We have two more in the pipeline for the
remainder of the field polo season,” Kristina adds. “The support is growing with more enthusiastic novices looking to get involved. The appetite for this is continuously growing with ladies tournaments now being hosted in clubs within Ireland.”
Further down the line, the organization dreams of being recognized one day as a brand that champions Irish children and women. But of course, they don’t just plan to remain local—they aim to go big and reach other corners of the globe.
“We have worked really hard to win the support of the local polo clubs to support us in our goal, with a view that in the long term, they will eventually become members and regular participants and, hopefully, go to an international level,” Kristina shares.
Currently, IPF focuses on their latest happenings, including the monthly ladies’ training days and tournaments, keeping them busy across the season. The following year, however, they’re looking into making that big move forward with a major project in the works.
“We are hoping, funding dependent, to take a group of ladies and children abroad to an international club in the USA next year for an intensive polo clinic and experience of playing abroad,” the director says.
Exciting times ahead, indeed!
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Mariel Abanes is the Managing Editor of POLO LADY Magazine.