As a coach, I’d rather see my team lose than to play so dirty. That’s what I was thinking to myself watching an arena polo match last night featuring two of the top two intercollegiate men’s teams in the nation. The talent level in the arena was immense, but it was one of the most stressful games to watch as a fan and horseman. Going into the game, I already knew who I was cheering for, a powerhouse team with a tradition for talent, discipline and winning. Pregame, I was getting a feel for who others were cheering for and they were on my wavelength. These individuals had played against strong teams and had lost but still had fun. The dirty rotten player team wins but does in all of the wrong ways. This game featured horses being hit with mallets in a very serious way as well as retaliatory boarding of the opponents horse and bumping the rider off.
Let’s talk about what makes a player I’m averse to. This player pushes the limits of the rules, testing the umpires. That’s okay normally, but they take it beyond simple cheating to extreme danger to the horses and other players. Watching this game, you are constantly cringing and even close to gasping for the horses. When faced with good umpires, these players start to get called disproportionally to their opponent. They see themselves as the victims and react poorly to these calls against them. Despite this, they don’t change their tune and keep up with their dirty ways.
All of that said, this team won last nights game. After yellow cards, red cards, constant poor sportsmanship and even spouting swear words, the result went into their favor. Unfortunately, even with good umpiring, this team prevailed within the parameters of the rules. Despite this talented team, they didn’t have one supporter outside of their own families and coach. The crowd which felt the same way I did about all of this dirty play was loudly cheering for every goal of their opponents. This was just not the polo one wants to see.
Dirty rotten players take it beyond cheating and go to the extreme which puts players and horses in grave danger. Polo and polocrosse can be won in another way. If you’re talented, you can play within the rules and you don’t have to stoop to their level. Ultimately, we all know these players and don’t respect them and we shouldn’t just reward greatness for the score on the board. We should recognize greatness from talent and disciplined game play. As a coach, we should steer our players (especially our youth) from partaking in such dirty play. As a player, we should recognize that we can play aggressively without constantly putting horses and players in danger.
Take a moment to recognize players you know which are dirty and players which are clean. Please COMMENT below your take on dirty players.