In every team sport, players have a specific function—a zone that they play in that helps them build their team’s structure. Polo is no different. However, we are not restricted to specific zones, and every player has the freedom to move around the whole field in attack and defense. Positions are still key to success, though, and getting this right can make one team function so much better than another.
Probably the best example of team structure and functionality is the hugely successful and arguably the best team in history, La Dolfina. In their magical ten years together at the top of the game, they created the perfect team play based around having the best players in their favored positions, enabling them to play to the top of their skills.
One may ask: Where should you play in your team? What skills do you possess that might make you shine more in one position more than another? How can you get better at playing in a certain position for your team this season? Let’s have a closer look at what each shirt number means and where it puts you in the field; then, you can decide how to line up your team for your next match.
PLAYER 1: THE ATTACKER
The #1 is responsible for pulling the team forward—they are running forward in attack and stretching the opposition by creating space.
Position: Normally, the #1 will be at the front of the throw in. Once the ball has been thrown in, you will head towards attacking the goal, giving teammates a target to pass to.
Skills: Attacking mindset, enjoys firing at goal.
Responsibilities: Marking the #4 and making their life very difficult to defend the goal.
PLAYER 2: THE OFFENSIVE PLAYER
The #2 is a mid-field player, a work horse that sets up plays and clears the man. This is a very active role and you will be busy for seven minutes of every chukka!
Position: The #2 will be slotted in second in the throw in, but if they are really focusing on marking their opposite man, they may well slot in at 3 to go straight into marking mode!
Skills: An ability to create space for your teammates to control the ball and give them time. Quick around the field and great at marking.
Responsibilities: Marking the #3 in most cases. You will be making passes and setting up your #3 and #1. There is very little rest as you will need to protect your teammates and feed them passes.
PLAYER 3: THE TACTICAL LEADER
The #3 is the engine of the team, often compared to the Quarterback in American football. They set up the rhythm for the team, get the attack going, and equally aid in defense. Possession of the ball is critical in this role!
Position: Ready to pounce at the back end of the throw in and, generally, looks for the ball rather than the man. Marking is equally important; you have to keep an eye and mark the opposing team’s #2. The #3 is everywhere on the field, and you can attack or defend.
Skills: Focus, stamina, and a good game vision. You will need to make passes to your forward running teammates and be confident to run the ball yourself to the goal.
Responsibilities: Your responsibility is passing and setting up the plays, dictating, and directing the game for your team.
PLAYER 4: THE DEFENDER
The #4 is your team’s defense, often referred to as the “back” of the team. Not much opportunity to attack in this position unless you and your teammates have a plan for one of your other players to cover the “back door” for you when you go on a run!
Position: Out at the back of the throw in ready to pick up the first player in attack. You don’t want to get stuck in the middle of the throw in traffic—you need to be positioned out in the space where you have a clear view of the ball and anyone pushing through to receive the pass.
Skills: Backhands are key for this position. They don’t need to go miles, but they need to have an angle to be really beneficial in setting your teammates up for their push down field.
Responsibilities: You will constantly look over your shoulder, ready to ride off anyone who comes through and play a solid backhand! You will also be responsible for hitting the knock-ins from the back line.
Photo credit to Amazon Polo, Dominic James, and Katerina Morgan