Do the Math!

As we are gearing up to “save” the development of polo players in America, has anyone done the math on that prospect?

Do you realize that if the number of American players rated at 5-goals or above represent only 11% of the high goal ranks. More importantly, if you removed all of the foreign players (yes, both Canadians included) from the depleted ranks of 20-goal teams (down to only nine teams in 2009) you would be eliminating 17 positions, with only 15 American players rated at 6-goals or above to replace them. Now the reason this won’t work is because of those 17 foreign players, one of them was rated at 9-goals; three were rated at 8-goals; four were 7-goals; four were rated at six goals and five of them were 5-goalers.

Now neither Nick Roldan nor Adam Snow participated in last year’s 20-goal competition at the International Polo Club, and 7-goaler Tommy Biddle sat it out as well. Six-goalers Joey Casey, Kris Kampsen, Tiger Kneece and Alan Martinez sat out as well, but therein lies the problem.

In order for us to return just nine teams to the fields for the Joe Barry, Ylvisaker and Iglehart Cup, we would need to replace one 9-goaler; three 8-goalers and four 7-goalers. We simply don’t have them, and there aren’t any in the works that I can see developing. Of our current 5-goalers registered with the USPA only nine of forty-four are US citizens!

We have been fed this PTF crap about how “the future of polo is in our youth”, yet we see our grasp on the development of high-goal players continually eroding. The USPA speaks of a membership of 3,000 players yet we find a growing percentage of that to be foreign.

I have no idea why the USPA is unable to look around and review what other associations are doing and try to adapt some of their programs in an effort to develop our players. I don’t know why the marketing wing of the association isn’t actively soliciting corporate sponsorship of international competition (PLEASE take a look at what Hurlingham has accomplished); why our II ranks don’t look to the SUPA program in Great Britain that fields more teams and touches more schools and universities than we would ever consider or the attempted development of SAPA, a program designed to keep young players in the game after they leave school but before they are able to properly afford to support a polo habit.

In the meantime, do the math. It doesn’t work.

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Filed under Argentine Polo Association, Hurlingham Polo Association, International Polo Club Palm Beach, International polo Federation, North American Polo League, Polo, Polo, Polo, United States Polo Association, United States Polo Associction

Canadians are foreigners!

That’s the bottom line.  Forget the fact that they operate no legitimate national association of their own (only a creation that would allow them to compete in the FIP) or that they rely upon the USPA for handicaps and rules.  Forget that a number of Canadians have served, and continue to serve on many of our committees or host some major USPA tournaments, in the world of international polo, and in an effort to save jobs for American professionals we are considering cutting the cord with our northern neighbors.

The fact that this potential move would affect less than a half dozen professional polo players matters not at all as the USPA will work tirelessly to ferret out any non-US professionals.

Does it matter if they are residents?  No.  Does it matter that they are married to US citizens or pay their taxes in the USA?  No. 

The point being made by the USPA is, although we have been your lifeblood for decades, we’re going to cut you loose to prove a point.  That point is “Canadians are foreigners”!

We’re sorry if you’re offended or that we have been happily taking your money as members of the USPA without helping you to grow into an association of your own.  We’re sorry if we never prepared you for this day or are comfortable as we continue to take money from you-you’re foreigners!

We just can’t have three or four Canadians coming to America to take the jobs of our professionals.  Argentina?  That’s a different question.  But Canada, it’s full of foreigners.

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The National Polo League? What a joke!

Go to www.nationalpololeague.com and you will be startled by the opening four notes of Monday Night Football.

You will be told that the National Polo League is identical to the structure of the NFL (National Football League), but you won’t be told that there are no stadiums to house each of the seven “franchises” listed.  You won’t be told that there is no television contract that pours millions of dollars into the community coffers of the league and you won’t be told the names of the “owners of professional sporting franchises between the NFL and the NHL”.

You will be erroneously told that the NPL is the first for profit professional sports organization in the world for polo” and you will be expected to believe this with the nonchalance of a Madoff investor plunking down five million dollars.

You will be told that “seven major cities have been unveiled” (not quite sure what that is supposed to mean), “working in partnership with Economic Development Authorities” (I know that I don’t understand what they are trying to convince me of here) “and business men and women seeking to either sponsor, purchase or co-own a franchise in the NPL”.

Does anyone remember the ill-fated NAPL?  The investors are still trying to find out where their money went.

They tell you that it is going to be identical to the structure of the NFL yet offer it (NPL) as “the governing council for pro-am polo”.  Just what we need, another self-appointed authority on polo.  They don’t seem to offer any credentials of the organizers or rosters of the teams (Washington D. C. Patriots, New York Empires, Miami Sharks, Chicago Wind, Dallas Spurs, Los Angeles Stars and the San Francisco Shakers).

They tout the buildup to the “Superbowl of the Polo Games” as being held in May of each year, yet for the 2009 calendar year, May 9 is the first of four games scheduled (followed by one game in June, one game in September and one game in October).

The tell you that it will attract a television viewership of 5 million people and attract 20,000 spectators!

They are recruiting players with a US handicap of 1 or greater” which should give you some idea of the caliber of play and definitely eliminates the prospects of being “identical to the structure of the NFL”.

The “Commissioner of the NPL” is mentioned-but not by name, hmm, could it be Bernie Madoff?

The opening page also states that part of their “mission is to bring the sport of polo back to the Olympics”, like the NFL is, I guess.

You’re going to have to read the rest of it yourself, I’m beginning to gag. 

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!  How gullible do you think the polo community is?  You waltz in with no credentials and one of the flimsiest of plans and expect people to line up to buy into this crap?  Give me a break. 

I fear that you might find the same person at the bottom of the NPL as you do for the “historic” America’s Polo Cup-Tareq Salahi. A self-created bit of window dressing that has been created to make you believe that there is something “official” about it.

(This is where Roger Stern is introduced as the National Polo League & Sports Commissioner)

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Filed under Allison Kelley, Argentine Polo Association, camacho cup, Hurlingham Polo Association, International Polo Club Palm Beach, International polo Federation, North American Polo League, Polo, Polo, Polo, polo lessons, polo on governors Island, Polo Training Fountaion, polo umpires, Rules Committee, United States Polo Association, United States Polo Associction, USPA Constitution Committee, USPA Polo Properties, westchester cup, women's polo

No player left behind

This post has been offered by a reader of ths blog:

Clubs must keep established players. But too many players not only drop out, they drop out with a bad taste in their mouths. Established players are polo‛s history. Their presence creates a richness and atmosphere that would otherwise be lacking. On a more tangible level, each established player is an opinion leader. They are in the center of a network of people with an outstanding polo demographic. Do we want these people talking up polo, dropping out completely or worse — and as happens all too often — bitterly relating their bad experiences?
It is absolutely necessary to keep these people involved, if only as social members. The friends a former player brings to watch a match on Sunday afternoon may well end up as players and patrons in their own right. If nothing else, each of these former players is a valuable pair of eyes that a corporate sponsor will want to reach.
Consider opera. Opera traditionally draws corporate sponsorships from many of the same companies that would make ideal polo sponsors. While the top of the opera pyramid include many people who would be financially able to be polo patrons, the real demographic draw is the very much greater number at the lower levels of the pyramid. While an opera subscription may cost as little as three or four hundred dollars, these subscribers are immensely valuable to corporations who want to reach them. As a consequence, opera companies make every effort to retain committed opera afficionados.
It would be incredibly foolish for an opera to mistreat its biggest donors or even its smallest subscribers. Yet this is exactly what polo often does. Rather than cherishing current and former players as an extremely valuable resource, too many clubs exploit, pressure, and discard them once the well runs dry and they are no longer willing to “invest in polo.” These players, consequently, walk away from polo and do not return, even as spectators.
This is extraordinarily bad marketing. Anyone who is willing to pay club dues for even one season is an incredibly rare and valuable commodity. Every player who leaves with a bad taste in their mouth will discourage at least one person among their friends and acquaintances from trying polo. By the same token, every player who stays active in the game at some level, even if just as a spectator, can be counted on to introduce many others to the game, even if just as Sunday afternoon spectators.
The key to retaining these people is to shift the focus in polo from money to creating a sense of community. No one, not even the very wealthy, like to be viewed in solely in terms of the money they are willing to spend. Everyone wants at least the illusion of being valued for themselves. In the long, and even medium, term, creating this sense of community and camaraderie will bring much more money into the game, both in the form of active participants and corporate sponsorships.
This is going to be particularly true in these difficult economic times. Many players will feel obliged to cut back on their commitments. Some may even drop out of the game completely. But every effort should be made to keep these players active at some level. Patrons who no longer feel able to sponsor teams should be both encouraged and assisted to play lower-goal polo. Players who haven‛t been sponsors should be encouraged and assisted to keep playing, even with a single horse. Arena programs should be expanded and players encouraged to play there even if that‛s all they are economically comfortable in doing. Every player who stays active is a player who will be able to expand their polo playing when things get better. Every player kept active is also a player who is generating at least some revenue for the club.
Finally, polo needs to be like the Marines, “Once a polo player, always a polo player.” Every person who has been a playing member of a club for even one season ought to be made a social member for life. Special match days ought to be organized where former playing members are specifically encouraged to attend. Everything ought to be done to make these former players feel like an important part of the polo community even if they‛re not spending a dime on polo.
Steps like these would cost clubs nothing to implement. But they would radically transform the current what-have-you-done-for-me-lately atmosphere prevalent at many clubs. In the present climate, pretty much anyone who knows that polo isn‛t just a clothing brand is someone we should be reaching out to. There are few enough of them and even fewer who have actually played.
The Marines have another motto, “No Marine is left behind.” That ought to be polo‛s motto, too. We need to make sure that not one single player loses their connection to polo, ever — and certainly not because of the current economic mess. We are going to get through this as a community or not at all.

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Filed under Polo, Polo, Polo, Polo Training Fountaion, United States Polo Association, United States Polo Associction

Kris Bowman, Because the USPA Staff Isn’t Big Enough

Most of us received a letter from the PTF pleading for contributions so that it wouldn’t have to trim its (bloated) staff, but apparently not enough of you felt the compulsion to support a PTF staff that has grown tenfold over the same time period that our membership had been decreasing in size.

Well, the USPA has managed to pick up the tab on this one, adding to a staff that begs the question-“What are all these people doing?”

The PTF couldn’t make any adjustments to its oversized staff so the USPA brought Kris Bowman aboard its already overloaded boat.

I’m not calling to question the altruistic motives of Kris Bowman or any other USPA or PTF employees.  I am merely asking that their positions and salaries be justified.  Is this the best way to use the financial resources at hand?  What impact does this have on the long-range plans of the USPA and polo in America.

I have mentioned time and again that we are investing a great deal of time and money promoting youth polo when little research has been done to prove that these programs are doing anything to promote the game or grow the membership.  These efforts have been going on for decades now and we find the membership has been decreasing over the years.  I’ve said it before, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and getting different results”.  That, in my opinion, is what we are doing.  There has been no tracking system put in place to follow up on these programs to see what their affect is on the growth of polo, and to me that’s just bad business.

There was a time when the USPA and the PTF were each operated by a single person.  Today we find twenty people doing those same two jobs for a diminishing membership.

Transparency and accountability!  That is what is called for, and that is what the USPA needs to offer.

I have found that subtle hints don’t seem to work well with the USPA, and in fact, not so subtle hints don’t work well either.  The fact is that the USPA Board is made up of a number of stubborn, small-minded, closed-minded individuals who have no real understanding of the needs and/or wants of the membership.

I’m sorry, I forget that the USPA considers only clubs as members, but they don’t seem to understand those needs either. 

Their hierarchy balk at the concept of getting any information form the many polo blogs that are out there yet an open and positive blog on Polozone allowed the Eldorado Polo Club to sort through its many concerns in an open and anonymous (if so desired) format.

I will continue to ask for the USPA to become transparent and accountable and hope that someone in a “leadership” role will develop a sense of responsibility and morality that will allow the true membership of the association to be informed of the Association’s doings.

We have seen the Association’s constitution reworked over the years to better serve those in official positions, yet we cling to an outdated concept of membership that was created in the late 1800s.

We’re dealing with fantasyland when we look at the moves of the USPA.  In my opinion, if this were a movie, the “leadership” of both the USPA and the PTF would be the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz-looking for a brain.

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Changing of the guard at Eldorado PC

From time to time I will post a comment from a reader.  This is one of those times.  Thank you Polo Mafia:

Rumor on the exercise track is that there has been a new Board of Directors elected at Eldorado PC. What does this mean for the Club? It does conjure up a few threads of HOPE. Hope that there will be some improvements in communication between the polo playing community and the Club. This winter it feels like the players (pros and patrons) have been ignored . . . turned away from the door during a bad economic storm.

In the recent past, the Puppet Masters (just a couple), have made the management and staff dance like little puppets controlled by thin wires, lifting limbs into unfriendly and unrhythmic gestures. There have even been reports of a puppet cutting the strings of other puppets in the play . . . traitor or narcissist? Maybe a red flag or whistle should have been called when that foul occurred. Oh, that’s right, this is a puppet show not a polo game. There are no umpires or even a third man to ensure safe or fair play.

As we continue to bury our own . . . our pros, our vendors and our good people, we must ask ourselves what we can do to make a difference? Silence is not the answer.

Will the show go on? Of course it will. The question is “how will the story unfold?” Will the sequel include a heart transplant for the Club since the old one stopped beating? Will the new Masters open the door and let the players in from the cold? Will the puppets develop friendly personalities as the wires are handed over to a new Board of Directors? Will they open the front door and stall doors so pros can leg up their horses early and so patrons can play polo for a partial season at a reasonable rate? I guess we just need to get front row seats to this puppet show and see how it plays out.

The West Coast polo playing community hosts a large number of low goal teams who are price sensitive. The Clubs in California rely on this market for a portion of their sales and income. This fact combined with the economic crisis has led to a lack of teams playing this winter and possibly this summer. This has left many pros without jobs. Less teams, means lower membership sales, lower hay sales, lower farrier sales, lower food and beverage sales and an overall lower moral around the Club. FYI – the Club is negatively affected too!

In hope of getting a voice directly to the powers above, I will pose a few questions to the polo playing community. Post your ideas, comments and feedback so that your words (your voice) will be heard.

What do you suggest that Clubs can do, in general, to help polo players (pros and patrons) during the economic crisis?

What do you suggest that Eldorado Polo Club can do specifically, to help pros, service providers and themselves during this economic crisis?

What suggestions do you have for Eldorado Polo Club on how they can improve their facility, polo leagues and staff in an effort to provide better services all around?

polo_mafia@yahoo.com
Polo Mafia
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What is the AIPF?

It really is about time you asked questions and held your “leaders” accountable for the decisions they make (or in many cases don’t make).  It is time you looked into the budget of the USPA, it is time you examined the decisions that are being made regarding the investment of USPA monies into flawed or failed philosophies. 

What you also need to be made aware of are some of the programs that find their way into mainstream USPA policy, and one of those examples is the AIPF.

What is the AIPF? You might ask, and I’m sure most of the membership is unaware that this “charitable organization created to help fund American teams going to international competitions” is not much more than a slush fund to send a US team into FIP competition-at your expense.

Understand that this “nonprofit” isn’t anything that the USPA could come up with on its own.  I believe it was the brainchild of self-appointed FIP big-wig Pat Nesbitt, the Chairman of the International Committee, the man who has had no contact with either group staging either the Westchester Cup (being organized by the Museum of Polo-nothing to do with the USPA) or the Camacho Cup (being staged by The Villages Polo Club in Central Florida).

In case you don’t remember, our last FIP team didn’t even make it to the competition, being eliminated in zone competition by Canada.  Don’t even begin to ask about the method of team selection.

What interests me, however, is the fact that the USPA has committed some $90,000 to the AIPF over the course of three years with no public hearings or accounting of where this money goes or how it is spent.  Although if you read carefully it appears to rest all of the power in the hands of the “sitting Chairman of the USPA”, that would be Tom Biddle. 

Any word from you Tom?  I didn’t think so.  Let’s continue to keep this information to “ourselves”.  Business as usual.

As I understand it, when the “good ol’ boys get together for their spring meetings in Florida the issue of funding the AIPF is put off until the morning after a late night cocktail party where it is slipped under the noses of some very hung-over delegates and board members.

What I didn’t notice right away was its appearance on the menu of the USPA website.  If you click the AIPF name you will be greeted with by-laws of this Illinois not for profit organization and little else.  There is no accountability for the funds collected or spent, and no tracking of the success of the program (although we are all well aware of the fact that the USPA doesn’t appear to track the success or failures of any of its programs).

You just think about that $90,000 that is being withdrawn without your knowledge when you are finding it hard to get through these lean times and ask yourself why so much emphasis is being put on FIP activities and not on the storied international tournaments that are a part of the history of the USPA. 

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Filed under camacho cup, International polo Federation, United States Polo Associction, westchester cup